|Big things could be ahead for Sandoval in 2014 (MSN)|
Sandoval's been something of an enigma throughout his first six seasons, showing incredible ability at times but having trouble staying consistent and on the field. A free agent at the end of the year, Kung Fu Panda could approach the heights he displayed in 2009 and 2011, when he earned MVP votes for hitting well over .300 with good power.
Like Sandoval, Rasmus has also been maddeningly inconsistent. His solid 2013 production matches up very well with his 2010 breakout, but in between were seasons of sub-.300 OBPs and batting averages in the .220 range. His plate discipline could still use some work, but he has the power to be a 30 homer guy if he can stay healthy.
The Rangers ace took a big step forward in 2013, his second big league season. Besides leading the major leagues in strikeouts (277) and strikeout rate (11.9 K/9), he lowered his ERA by more than a full run (3.90 to 2.83) and trimmed his walk rate by almost a batter per inning. It wasn't enough to take the Cy Young away from Max Scherzer, but Darvish did finish second. Don't be surprised if he takes home the trophy this year.
Gattis came out of nowhere last year, breaking in as a 26 year-old rookie catcher for the Atlanta Braves. Like most rookies, he didn't exhibit great discipline and had his ups and downs. But the power--21 home runs, 21 doubles (in just 105 games) and a .237 ISo--was tantalizing. Gattis might be a flash in the pan, as older breakouts tend to be, or he could go out and crank 30 homers this year.
Hanson's ERA has risen every year since he broke in with a 2.89 mark in 2009. Last year with the Angels, it jumped almost a whole run, from a not-good 4.48 in 2012 to an unsightly 5.42 in 2013. To be fair, shoulder injuries limited him to just 13 starts, but diminished velocity will likely keep him from becoming the star he appeared on track to be during early days with Atlanta.
Tommy John surgery caused Beachy to miss the majority of the past two seasons, but he looked pretty good in his handful of post-surgery starts last year. A healthy Beachy might be good enough to emerge as a sneaky ace in 2014.
The former first round draft pick broke out in his first season as a regular starting pitcher last year, posting a 3.09 ERA and 1.13 WHIP in 175 innings. He doesn't miss a ton of bats, so he needs to keep the ball in the park and limit his walks in order to maintain his success.
It feels like we've been waiting for Beckham's breakout forever, but he just hasn't come close to matching the promise he showed as a rookie in 2009. His OPS has been below .700 every year since then, and he's been worth three and a half wins total over the last four seasons. Then again, last year's .267 batting average and .322 OBP were his best marks since his rookie campaign, so maybe he'll have a delayed breakout a la Alex Gordon?
In many ways Holland's 2013 was his best, even if his 10-9 record didn't reflect that. The Texas southpaw set personal bests in pretty much every major category except wins and WHIP. It's hard to imagine him doing much better in 2014, but if he somehow improves he'll be a borderline Cy Young candidate.
'Cutch proved his 2012 leap to superstardom was for real, even if he did take small steps back in almost every important offensive category. There's no reason to expect anything less from the reigning NL MVP in 2014, and there's the distinct possibility he hits his ceiling and has a monster .300-30-30-100-100 season.
Niese has settled in as a solid and steady pitcher over the past four seasons. Nothing more, nothing less. He aint Matt Harvey.
Jennings handled himself well after taking over for the departed B.J. Upton as Tampa Bay's everyday centerfielder, showing improved power and patience at the plate while cutting down on his strikeouts. The similarities between his numbers and Upton's (pre-2013) are striking, and it looks like Jennings could be in line for his first 20/20 season in 2014.
Took a small step back from his good 2012, when he was runner-up to Bryce Harper in the NL Rookie of the Year voting.
Much closer to Orlando Cabrera than Miguel Cabrera, the Padres shortstop was having a career year before his Biogenesis connections curtailed his season.
20/20 potential but not much else.
Smoak's been unable to live up to the greatness everyone expected of him when he was a first round draft pick in 2008, but last year was a big step towards respectability. He smoked a career high 20 home runs and posted personal bests in all three triple slash stats, which yielded a 113 OPS+. Smoak probably isn't going to be a star, but at least he can be useful.
Great with the glove but terrible with the stick, Escobar's batted a measly .254/.292/.340 since becoming a regular in 2010. That said, there's 40 steal potential here if he can bat anywhere close to the .293 mark he hit in 2012.
Carter parlayed a strong part-time showing with Oakland in 2012 into a full-time job with the Houston Astros. Playing everyday exposed his boom-or-bust tendencies, as he swatted 29 home runs but also struck out 212 times, more than anyone else in the majors. A three true outcomes slugger in the same mold as Mark Reynolds, more than half of his plate appearances ended with a walk, whiff or homer.
Nova returned to respectability after an atrocious showing in 2012 (5.02 ERA). His three full seasons have yielded vastly different results which makes him somewhat difficult to project, but it looks as though his poor 2012 was an aberration.
Outside of his excellent 2011, Avila hasn't been very good. But there is a possibility he returns to form.
A-Jax wasn't able to replicate his 2012 success and ended up in the middle of that year and the rough season that preceded it. What's more frustrating is that his stolen base numbers have dwindled every year, falling from a high of 27 in his rookie season to just eight last year. He clearly has the wheels to steal more than that, so it seems he was reined in by Jim Leyland. Under him, the Tigers ranked last among all teams in stolen bases and stolen base attempts. Maybe Detroit will be more aggressive under new skipper Brad Ausmus?
An All-Star in 2013, Wood has made major strides in each of his first two seasons with the Cubs. Chicago can't afford for him to take any steps back.
Alvarez led the Senior Circuit in home runs (36) and strikeouts (186) last year after posting similar totals (30 and 180) the year before. His power is exceptional, so a 40 homer season doesn't sound out of the question.
After a disappointing 2013, Reddick is looking to rediscover the power that produced 32 home runs the year before.
See Reddick, Josh
Ryu was sensational in his major league debut last year, even as he was overshadowed by rookie teammate Yasiel Puig. It's going to be hard for him to stand out in a rotation headed by Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, so he may have to settle for a Hiroki Kuroda level of underratedness.
Posey will be hard-pressed to do much better than he did in 2012, when he won the NL MVP award and had the highest batting average and OPS+ in baseball. But he'll still probably be pretty darned good.
Could have a Jacoby Ellsbury-type season if he can stay on the field.
Kipnis has emerged as a terrific second baseman for the Indians. He strikes out a lot, probably too much to hit .300, but still brings good power, speed, and on-base skills to the table. His well-rounded game is not far off from Grady Sizemore's or, to make a positional comparison, Dustin Pedroia's. His power tailed off at the end of last year (just two home runs and a .346 slugging percentage from July 22nd onward), so with a stronger finish this year he could clear 20 home runs.
Bruce's development has plateaued over the last three years, as he's settled into a streaky .260 hitter good for around 30 homers and 100 RBI per season. Maybe those aren't the elite power numbers some expected from him, but they're still damn good and could go up to 40/120. As long as he keeps batting behind Joey Votto in Cincinnati lineup, he'll have plenty of opportunities to drive in runs.
Lots of speed, but not much else.
Hell-Boy's 2013 was a lot like Nova's 2012. They're similar pitchers, so maybe a return to form is in store this year?
His plate discipline is a mess, but second basemen with 20/20 potential don't grow on trees.
The two-time Gold Glover displayed decent power last year, stroking 43 doubles and reaching double digit home runs for the first time. If he could just turn a few more of those two-baggers into long balls, he might be able to put together a 20/20 season.
Might win 20 games if he could cut down on his walks.
Castro will look to build off a breakout year in which he batted .276/.350/.485 and made his first All-Star team. The Astros don't have many good players, but this guy's one of them.