It's an exciting time in baseball. The Nationals are in first place in their division, the Dodgers have the third best record in baseball, the Orioles are second in their division behind the Yankees, and the Pirates are four games over .500. The Nationals have lived up to all the hype analysts have put on them as the up-and-comers and even gone beyond it. As we're looking at a new playing field in the MLB, let's look at the players who will emerge as its new stars.
Mark Trumbo (Angels): When the Angels signed Albert Pujols, Trumbo's future was up in the air. Trumbo had been primarily playing first base for the Angels in his first full year of baseball, and he has been playing the hell out of it. He ended up finishing second in AL Rookie-Of-The-Year voting, so signing another first baseman, even the El Hombre, was a bit of a blow to him. However, he's made a seamless transition to outfield/third base and has batted .320 this season with 15 home runs so far. He doesn't have a selfish bone in his body, and every one of those bones can swing the bat. I really hope to see big things from him. If the Angels manage to find themselves in the World Series, look for Trumbomania.
Andrew McCutchen (Pirates): Absolutely one of my favorite players in baseball. He makes the game look easy, and plays the outfield with a kind of grace you don't see much anymore. It's really a shame he's now stuck with the one of the worst sporting franchises of all time. He's 25 -- I'd say three years from his peak -- and he just signed a six-year contract with the Pirates. I love that he loves to play for the Pirates but he truly deserves better. I'm going to hope against hope the Pirates manage to field a good team again and give McCutchen a shot at a title.
Bryce Harper (Nationals): And now for a player with a little swagger in his step. As you no doubt know, he was the second consecutive first overall pick by the Nationals, and was the second most-followed prospect of all time, first being the National's first number-one pick Stephen Strasburg. Bryce is playing in his rookie season, and so far has lived up to all of the hype. He's batting .294 and has shown a lot of clutch. However, in the past he's also made headlines for what a lot of people consider arrogance. He's blown kisses at pitchers he hits dingers off of, argued with umps and yelled at opponents. But he hasn't done anything noteworthy since coming to the Pros, so let's hope he's found his bite and lost his bark.
Mike Trout (Angels): Another player who came in with big expectations. Trout was drafted by the Angels in the first round in 2009, and has been considered one of baseball's top prospects since. In 2011 he was most scouts' number-one prospect, but he underperformed, batting .220 in 40 games. This year, however, no one could accuse him of underperforming. He's second in AL batting average (.338), 11th in slugging (.528), and leads his team in runs (40). After a year that had a lot of critics doubting his potential, it's great to see a coming-out year from him. He's not been voted into the All-Star-Game yet, but I'd say he's as deserving as anyone.
Giancarlo Stanton (Marlins): And now for the most unproven of the bunch. When the Florida Marlins became the new look Miami Marlins and went out to sign as many free agents as possible, poor Giancarlo was lost in the mix. He had a very good overlooked 2011 season, batting .262 with 34 home runs. He has a swing-for-the-fences type of attitude that you don't see a lot anymore. He has a freakishly athletic body, standing 6"5 and 245 pounds, and owns one of the scariest batting stances and swings in the league. He looks like a tiger pouncing on the ball, and he hits it a long way. His batting average has fallen to .274 this year due to a bad June, but if he can get his feel for the plate a little better, look for him to become a monster all-around player.