3 baseball stars worth watching this season


Pitcher Masahiro Tanaka didn’t lose a single game last year. Of course, that was before he became a Yankee. (USA Today Sports/ Reuters)

Baseball fans around Washington are excited about their Nationals. But there are other baseball stories that fans should keep their eye on during the 2014 season. Let’s look at three.

Masahiro Tanaka: The New York Yankees needed help with their starting pitching. So they signed Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka for a lot of money.

Tanaka was a big star in the Japanese major leagues. How big? He had an incredible 24-0 (24 wins, no losses) regular-season record for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles in 2013.

The question is whether Tanaka will be as good in the United States. He will have to adjust to American batters and umpires as well as to pitching every five days. Starting pitchers in the Japanese major leagues usually pitch once a week.

He will also have to adjust to the American baseball: It’s slightly bigger than the one used in Japan.

I don’t think Tanaka will go 24-0; no one has ever done that in the American big leagues. But he should help the Yankees.

Mike Trout: Washington fans think the Nationals’ 21-year-old outfielder Bryce Harper is going to be a superstar. Mike Trout, a 22-year-old outfielder for the Los Angeles Angels, is already a superstar. Take a look at his eye-popping statistics for his first two full seasons in the major leagues.

2012

Batting average: .326

Runs scored: 129

Home runs: 30

Runs batted in: 83

2013

Batting average: .323

Runs scored: 109

Home runs: 27

Runs batted in: 97

One more thing: Trout stole 82 bases during those two seasons.

Some older fans compare Trout to New York Yankees Hall of Famer Mickey Mantle. Trout might be better than Mantle.

Billy Hamilton: The most exciting new player this season is outfielder Billy Hamilton of the Cincinnati Reds. Why? He might be the fastest player in the major leagues.

Hamilton set some unbelievable base-stealing marks during his minor league career. In 2012, he stole 155 bases in 132 games. He did not slow down much last season, stealing 75 bases in the minors and 13 more during a late-season call-up to the Reds.

Hamilton has a great name for a base stealer. In the early days of baseball, another player named Billy Hamilton stole 914 bases during his 14-year career. That Hamilton, known as “Sliding Billy,” stole 100 or more bases in four of those seasons.

Pitchers, sluggers, base thieves. There will be plenty to watch this baseball season.

Bowen writes the sports opinion column for KidsPost. He is the author of 19 sports books for kids, including nine baseball books.

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