5/20/2013 10:00 A.M. ET
The Week Ahead: Breakout players poised to stay hot
By Doug Miller / MLB.com
As baseball moves along into the week after the official one-quarter mark of the 2013 season, sample sizes are becoming more reliable every day. Teams are beginning to assert themselves. Players in the midst of breakout seasons are keeping the confidence going.
And, as always, there are plenty of great stories.
This week, as we sit in the ballparks around the country or in front of our TVs or computer screens or smartphones or tablets and wonder how many home runs Miguel Cabrera might hit over the next seven days, let's focus on a handful of teams and players who continue to open eyes and outperform preseason expectations.
OK, so there's Cabrera, for one. The only question is: How good can this guy be? After his 4-for-4, three-homer, five-RBI night in Texas, the reigning Triple Crown winner in the American League seems to be even better than last season. Cabrera is hitting .387. He has a Major League-leading 67 hits and 47 RBIs.
"I'm very happy that he's headed to the airport," Texas manager Ron Washington said.
Then again, Washington's Rangers are in the AL with the Tampa Bay Rays, which means at some point his club will probably have to face Matt Moore, the Rays' super-talented left-hander who happened to become the Majors' first eight-game winner while remaining undefeated on Sunday. This week, Moore is slated to try for No. 9 at home against CC Sabathia and the Yankees.
Speaking of Yankees, Moore, 23, made a bit of history on Sunday when his 8-0 start became the best by a player so young since Babe Ruth did it in 1917.
"If you compare [what Moore has done] historically, he ranks up there with Babe Ruth, and that's not a bad thing," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "I think from where he's coming from, he knows he can be better. He doesn't like those five-inning outings. He doesn't like that at all. So I'm sure he's deflecting based on that. As you see him get deeper into the games and more consistent with the wins, I think you might see him step out a little bit.
"But I like the idea that there's humility involved. I like the idea that he knows that he can get better. I love that. The accountability is tremendous. That doesn't surprise me. ... Historically speaking, it's been wonderful, but there is 'more' in Moore. And he knows that."
There's a lot more in the Braves, too, although unfortunately, this week, at least, we'll see a bit less. Lefty bullpen aces Jonny Venters and Eric O'Flaherty are most likely both lost for the year. But Jason Heyward is back and it won't be too long until starter Brandon Beachy will be pitching for Atlanta after coming back from Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery.
In other comebacks, Monday will see the return of Johnny Cueto to the Reds' rotation. Cincinnati has missed the ace who won 19 games last year.
Cueto, who was 1-0 with a 2.60 ERA in three starts for the Reds this season before going on the disabled list with a lat strain, will pitch against the Mets in New York.
"I'm happy, and thank God most of all, I'm healthy," Cueto said. "I will continue to work hard and see what happens."
That'll likely be the attitude -- with no guarantees -- for the new Rangers second baseman, who also is MLB.com's No. 1 prospect in all of baseball. His name is Jurickson Profar, he's a wiry and strong 20-year-old athlete from Curacao, and he'll be assuming the duties at second for Washington until Ian Kinsler comes back from the DL, where he's just headed with a strained rib cage muscle. Profar, 20, got some big league experience last year but has been in Triple-A all year. He's seen a lot of curveballs at that level, too.
"The key is, he recognizes what they're doing," Washington said. "That's pretty wise of a young man to be able to say that at 20 years old."
Elsewhere around baseball this week, more questions, but at least some are fun to answer.
Not this one, though: Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen was a late scratch from Sunday's game because of knee soreness, and he said he'll take advantage of his team's off-day on Monday and probably be back in the lineup Tuesday, but any Bucs fan has to be concerned in such a promising early season.
In Arizona and Baltimore, the fans of the D-backs and Orioles will be wondering if some of their young guys are too good to be real and in uniforms.
For Arizona, slugger Paul Goldschmidt (12 homers, .335 batting average entering Monday) and pitcher Patrick Corbin (6-0, 1.52) ERA are bewildering observers with their exploits in 2013. In Baltimore. Manny Machado is living up to every expectation for him as Chris Davis keeps tearing it up.
Seems like everywhere you look, there's a young, exciting player either on the rise or about to figure it out at this level: Jean Segura in Milwaukee, Josh Donaldson in Oakland, Shelby Miller in St. Louis, and it goes on.
We'll see many of these players, hopefully this week. And more stories will be written.