5 Players to Watch as MLB's Second Half Takes off

Spencer HarrisonContributor IIIJuly 26, 2014

5 Players to Watch as MLB's Second Half Takes off

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    1B Anthony Rizzo of the Chicago Cubs
    1B Anthony Rizzo of the Chicago CubsRoss D. Franklin/Associated Press

    With the All-Star Game behind us, it's time for the real season to begin. One advantage of Major League Baseball's extensive regular season is that it gives younger players plenty of time to develop.

    The second half of the MLB season always features the emergence of several star players. Whether they are on a team chasing a division title, or in the midst of a rebuilding process, they should now be comfortable and see an increase in their performance level. 

    Here are five players who will be making noise in the second half of the season.

5. Jacob deGrom, SP New York Mets

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    The New York Mets haven't had too much to smile about this season. They are 48-54 and 8.5 games out of first place in the NL East. However, rookie right-hander Jacob deGrom has been one bright spot. 

    In 13 games, deGrom has tallied a 4-5 record and a 3.01 ERA. Those numbers may not stand out, but his last six games should. During that stretch, deGrom is 4-1 with a 1.58 ERA. 

    One of the most impressive things about deGrom has been his ability to strike people out. The video showcases this ability during his big league debut against the New York Yankees. He struck out six Yankees that game, utilizing a devastating fastball/changeup combination.

    His fastball will get up to 95 mph, and his changeup averages around 83 mph. That 12-mph difference keeps hitters off balance, as evidenced by Mark Teixeira wildly chasing a high fastball and Yangervis Solarte having his knees buckled by the changeup.

    DeGrom has an 8.81 K:9 ratio, and he has recorded 11 strikeouts in a game twice this season. 

    Jacob deGrom became 3rd Mets pitcher to have a pair of 11-K games in his first 11 MLB games. The others are Dwight Gooden and Nolan Ryan

    — ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) July 9, 2014

     

4. Christian Yelich, LF Miami Marlins

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    The Miami Marlins are another struggling team. They are 48-53 and eight games out of first place in the NL East. Their hopes of making the postseason were pretty much derailed when SP Jose Fernandez was forced to miss the rest of the season due to injury in May.

    However, the Marlins are still a team full of young talent. One of the youngest, and most talented, of these players is outfielder Christian Yelich. Only 22 years old, Yelich made his debut with the Marlins in July 2013. 

    Yelich is a versatile player. He has speed and can hit for both average and power. His power is on display in the video. In a game against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Yelich hit a mammoth shot that landed in the upper deck. 

    He's not a guy who's going to hit 40 home runs in a season, but as you can see, he definitely has some pop in his bat. The Marlins hope Yelich can develop into a consistent 20-20 guy, and as long as he can avoid injury, this shouldn't be an unrealistic expectation.

    This season, Yelich is batting .278 with eight home runs and 12 stolen bases. He has missed some time this season due to a back injury, so he may not reach the 20-20 plateau. Still, Yelich has been impressive.

    In July, he is hitting .342 with two home runs, 10 RBI and two stolen bases.

3. Anthony Rizzo, 1B Chicago Cubs

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    After playing his first full season with Chicago Cubs last year, Anthony Rizzo has had a breakout season in 2014. He's hitting .284, and his 25 home runs are a career high. 

    .@ARizzo44 leads the NL with 25 HRs – including eight this month: http://t.co/r1HI3FsZRK pic.twitter.com/GPc2X2uHoj

    — MLB (@MLB) July 23, 2014

     The Cubs traded SP Andrew Cashner for Rizzo after the 2011 season, hoping that he could become one of the faces of the Cubs' franchise for years to come. Last season, Rizzo showed promise, hitting 23 home runs and 80 RBI, but the consistency just wasn't there as he hit .233.

    Rizzo's raw power is on display in the video, as he hits a ball completely out of the park in a game against the Pittsburgh Pirates last year. This year, Rizzo has been able to channel that raw ability into consistent success.

2. Nolan Arenado, 3B Colorado Rockies

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    Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado was playing well before he broke his left middle finger on May 23. Through 48 games, he was hitting .305 with six home runs and 28 RBI.

    The Rockies were 26-22 and in second place in the NL West, four games behind the San Francisco Giants, when Arenado went down. Since then, the Rockies have nose-dived. They went 9-27 in Arenado's absence and fell to last place in the division.

    The Rockies have fallen too far behind to make a legitimate run at the postseason, but Arenado's return should see the team improve in all areas of the game. He is an important bat for the Rockies offense, but he is also one of the best defensive third basemen in the game. 

    The video showcases one of his more spectacular defensive games this season. The effort took place on April 29 against the Los Angeles Dodgers. 

     

1. Madison Bumgarner, SP San Francisco Giants

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    Unlike the previous four, Madison Bumgarner has been a starter on his team for a while. He has been a regular member of the San Francisco Giants' rotation since 2011. Despite his experience, Bumgarner is still a very young player at 24 years old.

    Madison Bumgarner's 60 wins are most for any active pitcher under age 25. (via @EliasSports) Catch Giants-Phillies http://t.co/PXlSM04k80

    — ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) July 23, 2014

    He has been consistently good since he entered the league, but the Giants hope this season he can take his game to the next level. He has shown flashes of greatness this season, especially in May when he went 5-0 with a 2.08 ERA.

    The video shows Bumgarner at the beginning of that hot streak on May 4 against the Atlanta Braves. Bumgarner was in top form, holding the Braves to just one run in six innings, while striking out nine.

    The Giants are currently 57-45 and in first place in the NL West. If they are going to make a run at another World Series, they're going to need Bumgarner to return to his May form. In July, he has a 4.18 ERA in five starts.

    His last game was impressive, though. He dominated the Philadelphia Phillies, shutting them out for eight innings and striking out six. Expect Bumgarner to play like this down the stretch as the Giants push toward the postseason.