The strength of the Braves has always been their pitching staff. Even in a down year, that's still the case. Julio Teheran is the Braves’ ace, and Craig Kimbrel gets a lot of renown as the best closer in baseball, but Alex Wood is quickly moving up the ranks. With a funky, deceptive delivery style, he posted a 2.59 ERA, 8.69 K/9, 2.25 BB/9, and a .232/.286/.347 opponent slash line in 24 starts last season -- his first full year in the majors. Armed with three big-time pitches (a decent fastball, a filthy knuckle-curveball, and changeup), there is no reason to think that he will not take another leap forward. Don’t worry about his 11-11 record last year, because he got very little run support by the Braves’ offense.
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Christian Yelich, Marlins
Marlins right fielder Giancarlo Stanton is on the verge baseball superstardom, and ace pitcher Jose Fernandez looks like he will compete for Cy Young awards on a yearly basis. But left fielder Christian Yelich has flown under the radar. The Marlins wisely locked him up to a reasonable contract before he became a household name. 2014 was his first full year as a starter, and he posted a .284/.362/.402 slash line. His athletic ability defines him, as he stole 21 bases, and he also won a Gold Glove.
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Lucas Duda, Mets
With only one full big-league season under his belt in which he had to fight for a starting job, Duda is kind of a nobody right now. But that could all change if he improves on last season's breakout. With the right field fence moved in, and a year of improvement, the lefty could become one of the best home-run hitters in baseball.
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Ken Giles, Phillies
The only thing standing in the way of Ken Giles' ascension to big-time closer is Jonathan Papelbon, whom the Phillies just can't get rid of. As long as he's there, Giles will play the setup role, and nobody will talk about his 103-mph fastball. With Giles' 1.18 ERA, and 64 strikeouts in 45.5 innings (12.6 K/9), Papelbon’s days are numbered in Philadelphia.
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY SportsEric Hartline
Doug Fister, Nationals
It’s hard to get attention on a staff that already includes Jordan Zimmermann and Stephen Strasburg and now 2013 Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer. But Fister is so good, and so unrecognized, that FOX Sports’ Just a bit Outside named an award after him. Pitching isn't just about the fastball, and that’s Fister. Last season he finished in the top 10 in the National League in both wins (16) and ERA (2.41). That’s pretty good for a guy who doesn’t get much chatter.