1. Mike Moustakas, 3B, Kansas City Royals
After showing tons of promise in his sophomore season, Moustakas fell off a cliff in 2013, refusing to hit for power and slugging an abysmal .364 (to put that in perspective, Zack Greinke slugged .379 last season).
Never one to take a walk, Moose also struggled mightily against left-handed pitching, hitting .196 against southpaws. However, he did post a .228 batting average on balls in play in the first half of 2013 resulting in a .215 average at the break, so maybe luck just wasn’t on his side.
That BABIP regulated in the second half of last season, and while he didn’t exactly take off, he did post a respectable .259 average and his OPS shot up over 100 points to finish out 2013.
Still only 25, there’s no reason to believe the former 2nd overall pick can’t make a nice step forward in 2014. Expect Moustakas to post a repeatable average and return to hitting for power next season.
2. Chase Headley, 3B, San Diego Padres
For most of his career, Headley was mostly known for his ability to get on base, without providing much else. But in 2012, Headley did it all, smacking 31 home runs, driving in an NL-leading 115 RBI, and even winning his first career gold glove.
But in 2013, amidst trade rumors, injuries, and contract talks, Headley struggled, hitting just 13 home runs and even posting an uncharacteristically low .347 OBP (for him, anyway, Moustakas would kill for that OBP) after spending the last two seasons in the .370′s.
Frankly, the talent is still plenty evident. The power should return with a full offseason to recuperate from the thumb injury that likely zapped some of the 29-year-old’s pop in 2013, and his ability to control the strike zone is among the top five in baseball.
Expect Headley to return to all-star form in 2014.
3. Matt Kemp, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers
Once one of the games most durable stars, Kemp let sticks, stones, and baseballs break his bones over the last two seasons (kudos to everyone that got the Rhianna reference) and couldn’t stay off the disabled list.
The MVP-runner up and one home run short of the 40/40 club during the 2011 season, Kemp still played well when he was on the field during the 2012 season, but a shoulder and ankle injury was too much for him in 2013, reducing him to a punch-line for most of the season.
Now set for a season where he might be in some sort of odd four outfielder rotation that should provide plenty of off days, he’ll should be healthy enough to last a full season and put up the numbers he has the potential to put up and silence his critics next season.
4. Corey Hart, OF/1B, Seattle Mariners
A Brewer for his entire nine year career, Hart has been one of the steadiest offensive players in baseball over that time-frame, producing 162 averages of 26 home runs, 87 RBI, and an .824 OPS.
As far as Hart’s 2013 goes, however, it was the season of the setback. Hart hoped to return in May of last year after offseason surgery to his right knee, but rehab went slow. By late June, Hart was still sidelined, and because of compensating for his surgically-reparied knee, Hart began to feel discomfort in his other knee that required surgery as well, effectively ending his season.
Needless to say, it was a long, frustrating process for the 31-year-old veteran heading into free agency.
But he landed on his feet, and after signing a one year/$5 million deal with the free-spending Seattle Mariners this offseason. Reportedly healthy, Hart should hit in the middle of a Mariners lineup featuring Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager. With that in mind, it seems likely that Hart returns to his normal offensive production with a full compliment of at bats in 2014.
5. Curtis Granderson, OF, New York Mets
Granderson put a whole new meaning to throwing his hands to the baseball in 2013.
Grandy was hit by a pitch and broke his right forearm during spring training, forcing him to miss the first six weeks of the season. That was rough enough.
But just eight games after Granderson returned to the lineup, the center fielder was struck with an inside fastball again, fracturing the fifth metacarpal on his left hand. Granderson didn’t play again until August.
Not exactly what he had in mind in a contract year, the 32-year-old still inked a four year/$60 million contract with the Big Apple team of the National League variety, locking him into the middle of a weak lineup.
I’m not saying Granderson will hit 40+ home runs a la 2011 and 2012–his new ball park doesn’t exactly support that. But a 30 HR, 15 SB, 100+ run season will be plenty good enough for the Mets to be happy about their marquee free agent pick up.
Shawn Ferris is a MLB, NFL, and Fantasy Sports writer for sportstalkflorida.com Follow him on Twitter @RealShawnFerris for more sports news and updates.