Happy New Year everybody! Since no one wants to read a huge, long post today as you recover from a long few days, I’m just going to make some predictions for 2013. Which athletes will break out this year and which athletes will slowly fade away from the spotlight, whether by a decline in performance or simply a decline in attention? Let’s do it!
- Marcus Mariota, Oregon QB. The second best freshman in college football this year was Oregon QB Marcus Mariota. Mariota’s stats this year were stellar; he threw for 30 touchdowns and was only picked off six times. He’s a dual-threat blessed with the combination of a very strong arm and breakaway speed. There is no doubt Marcus Mariota will be in the Heisman conversation next season. After he wins the Fiesta Bowl, that is.
- Bubba Starling, Kansas City Royals OF. Following Bryce Harper and Mike Trout as the next big things in baseball will be Bubba Starling of the Royals organization. Starling, the Royals first rounder in the 2011 draft at fifth overall, had a pretty good season at rookie ball at Burlington, batting .275 with 10 home runs and 33 RBI. Good power and good production that will improve when his much criticized swing improves. Scouts have said that Starling’s swing is too long, but that is a mechanics thing that can easily be fixed. You will see Bubba at the Major League level this year to help out the Royals.
- Jahlil Okafor. A high school teammate of Jabari Parker, Jahlil Okafor is expected to follow Parker’s footsteps as a highly touted recruit. A member of the class of 2014 and a distant cousin of Emeka Okafor, the 6-11, 280 pound big man can rise up and score and ridiculous numbers. Look for his recruitment to be a huge story in 2013.
- Max Wittek, USC QB. We saw a little bit of Wittek this year when Matt Barkley went down with an injury, and he showed that he can be a good college quarterback if used properly by coach Lane Kiffin. Some QBs behind him in the depth chart will threaten, but Wittek will be the guy in September. Can he lead the Trojans back to the top?
- Mason Foster and Levonte David, Buccaneers LBs. Mason Foster and Lavonte David had good 2012 seasons but are still being slept on by most of the National Football League. Foster had 105 tackles this season which was second on the team to David, who had 139, good enough for eighth in the league. These guys are explosive, powerful linebackers who are team leaders already. And did I mention Foster is 23 and David is 22? Look out for these guys when Tampa gets better in 2013.
- Any Olympian. Pretty easy to understand why Olympians won’t be high on the list in 2013 since there are no Olympics this year. If an athlete is only talked about when the Olympics are going on, you won’t hear much of them in 2013.
- Jeremy Lin. Lin is already falling off of his “Linsanity” popularity. That’s what happens when your numbers come back to Earth and you go from New York to Houston. Lin will fade from the spotlight, but not really through fault of his own.
- Blake Griffin. The dunks will get less spectacular, the Clippers will start to lose games again and Blake Griffin will fade out of the spotlight. Griffin was hyped up all year by ESPN and the NBA, but I find it extremely hard to believe that Griffin will continue to live up to that hype. I hope he proves me wrong.
- Johnny Manziel. No football fans, “Johnny Football” will not be holding up the Heisman Trophy again in 2013. I think my breakout guy Marcus Mariota has a better chance as well as just about any other star QB. Let’s be realistic, even Tebow didn’t repeat as a Heisman-winning QB. Manziel will start to be figured out in 2013.
- Mike Trout. Don’t get me wrong by this, I think Trout is an excellent player who will continue to be a star in the majors. But he won’t be the rookie sensation anymore, and fans will be more enthralled with Josh Hamilton’s LA debut as well as Pujols and his power than Trout’s hitting and outfield play. Fair or not, that’s how it is. Through no fault of his own, in this social media-driven world, Trout will step out of the spotlight for a while.
Agree? Disagree? Follow me on Twitter @chuckiemaggio or drop a comment. Happy New Year!