Here we are just over a month away from the highly anticipated commencement of the 2011 regular season.
Looking back, 2010 finally laid to rest the notion that power hitting parallels championships—when in fact it could be the exact opposite.
A season in which pitching prevailed over forceful hitting, 2010 granted us the sentiment that maintaining brilliant, emphatic pitching can equate to championships.
Some say it's good for baseball; others disagree. Either way, the game proceeds.
As we look towards a season that could become a duplicate of recent past, let's inspect the prospects of 10 potential eye-opening pitchers who could become X-factors in pennant races coming down the stretch.
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2010 Statistics: 3.23 ERA, 15-9, 171 SO, 1.31 WHIP
If he hasn't become a household name just yet, he will surely transform into that type of talent this season.
But for now, Oakland's up-and-coming superstar prospect Gio Gonzalez focuses on completing the task at hand—all while becoming just another part of Oakland's talented group of starting pitchers.
Gonzalez began his 2010 campaign on a path towards mediocrity. However, a late series of compelling starts put him on the map as one of the most prominent, seasoned young talents the game has to offer.
2010 Statistics: 13-12, 3.55 ERA, 157 SO, 1.34 WHIP
The 28-year-old California native Ricky Nolasco has built himself a respectable reputation as a confident performer on the mound at the most unexpected of times.
Last season, Nolasco had somewhat of a down season to his standards with just 147 strikeouts in over 157 innings of work.
For success to be sustained for a season's length, Nolasco must cut down on his ERA and continue to progress through his September surgery on the meniscus in his right knee.
Most would see an aging, underachieving pitcher. However expect a rejuvenated, explosive Nolasco to take to the mound this spring.
2010 Statistics: 1.93 ERA, 32 HLD, 76 SO, 1.00 WHIP
At 30, Jonathan Papelbon could see his fastball begin to take a turn for the worse as the years come and go, and age could also begin to add questions to Papelbon's foreseeable future.
Young Daniel Bard could potentially become Papelbon's replacement should the perennial All-Star be traded away for raw talent.
With the ability to make batters miss with either his fastball or slider, Bard maintains one of the best strikeout rates in the majors among fellow AL East relievers, along with furnishing the second most holds in the entire league last season (32).
Judging by statistics alone, Bard makes a strong case for one of the most compelling under-the-radar pitchers heading into 2011. Expect great things out of Boston's young hurler this season and in years to come.
2010 Statistics: 3.22 ERA, 40 HLD, 89 SO, 0.83 WHIP
Leading the majors in holds last season (40) is only the beginning of the story for San Diego's ace relief man Luke Gregerson, as he's also part of arguably the best bullpen in the National League with the Padres.
In just his second season, Gregerson has accumulated 67 holds and 182 strikeouts and has appeared in 152 games with 153.1 solid innings of work under his belt to boot.
If the Padres rotation can put him in somewhat manageable spots in 2011, Gregerson will put his nearly 4-to-1 strikeout to walk ratio to work.
2010 Statistics: 1.47 ERA, 25 SV, 42 SO, 0.96 WHIP
Although an All-Star selection may bolster one's reputation around the league, Andrew Bailey still has yet to show his full potential to the league.
As deceiving as yielding just 25 saves a season ago may be, his importance to Oakland's talented bunch of pitching prospects is second to none throughout the league.
Since sustaining an oblique injury and cleanup procedure on his elbow towards the end of last season, Bailey may be behind schedule for 2011. However, expect great things from Oakland's closer of the future this coming season.
2010 Statistics: 12-9, 4.99 ERA, 137 SO, 1.38 WHIP
Since unofficially being named Milwaukee's fifth starter in an ever-expanding and improving Brewers rotation behind the likes of Zack Greinke, Yovani Gallardo, Shaun Marcum and Randy Wolf, Chris Narveson has soundly taken the cold shoulder of the media hype.
However, for an unknown and unrecognized talent, Narveson has vastly improved his stuff on the mound. Although his early-game struggles trump his consistency, Narveson will be playing with the proverbial "chip" on his shoulder that so many lack.
However, the stats don't lie. Narveson's career 4.74 ERA will be a primary reason why so many disregard his talents on the mound.
Still, look for Narveson to make huge strides under Milwaukee's new pitching coach Rick Kranitz.
2010 Statistics: 4.22 ERA, 15-7, 117 SO, 1.33 WHIP
Toronto's most talented young hurler, Brett Cecil made immense strides in his sophomore season of 2010.
A solid ERA complemented by a 15-win season certainly puts Cecil in an elite category amongst his fellow young gun pitchers in the majors.
If the Blue Jays are in any position to make a playoff run, pitching must improve tenfold. With Cecil moving into his destined role as Toronto's ace of the future, the Blue Jays will have a Cy Young-caliber talent on the mound when Cecil hits the field.
Look for Cecil to make even more remarkable achievements in just his third year as a starter.
2010 Statistics: 2.45 ERA, 8-2, 84 SO, 1.00 WHIP
Despite a dismal team effort from the Arizona Diamondbacks last season, one such player saw his stock rise towards national prominence over the course of just three months.
Daniel Hudson, the 23-year-old, under-appreciated and often overlooked phenom of 2010, will take on a much more serious role within Arizona's rotation this spring and into the regular season.
With a fastball topping out at just under 95 mph, Hudson is able to impose his will on opposing batters with a great changeup, while still getting a fair number of swings and misses. Last season was only his introductory year, and 2011 looks about as promising for him as it does for any young pitcher out there today.
2010 Statistics: 3.00 ERA, 7-6, 86 SO, 1.31 WHIP
Another addition to San Fransisco's array of pitching talent, Madison Bumgarner preserved an extremely important role in the Giants' World Series run.
Fairly impressive in just his rookie season, wouldn't you say?
In his four postseason starts for the Giants, Bumgarner sustained an eye-opening 2.18 ERA and 1.11 WHIP—officially asserting himself as a force within the Giants rotation.
This season, Bumgarner must transfer his momentum and success from 2010 into the regular season for the Giants to maintain consistent, reliable pitching.
2010 Statistics: 3.75 ERA, 14-9, 153 SO, 1.41 WHIP
Drawing high praise from the likes of scouts and analysts everywhere, San Diego's youthful talent Clayton Richard can be found dominating many National League opponents.
Accumulating over 200 innings of work for the first time in his career is only the steppingstone of what is yet to come. Being just a fragment of San Diego's prosperous group of young pitchers, Richard will get his fair share of success in 2011.
If he can spread out his success over the course of an entire season, Richard could potentially become a dominating postseason threat for years to come.