With Opening Day just over two weeks away, it's a good time to consider players who can go from good to great this season.
There has been plenty of action to get excited about, from the free agent frenzy to critical trades and rule changes that will substantially impact how the game is played.
Another exciting element about the leadup to a season is projecting who is going to take that next step.
In this exercise, we're looking at one player at each position primed to explode into stardom in 2023, based on their most recent production and expected roles this season.
SP Cristian Javier, Houston Astros
By now, you have probably seen plenty of Cristian Javier. He's pitched in the last two World Series, with nine strikeouts over six innings en route to a win in game four in 2022.
Last postseason, he pitched to a 0.71 ERA over 12.2 innings, including two starts in which he gave up just one hit against the Yankees and Phillies.
Javier should catch no one by surprise as he assumes a more prominent role in the Astros' rotation. It's the departure of last year's AL Cy Young winner Justin Verlander and the unreliable health of Lance McCullers Jr. that really puts Javier into focus.
Behind All-Star southpaw Framber Valdez, Javier is arguably the Astros' best pitcher. The team rewarded Javier's performance with a five-year extension worth $64 million this offseason.
Javier has one of the trickier fastballs to hit and you can expect to see a lot more of it in 2023.
C Sean Murphy, Atlanta
Sean Murphy's breakout year actually came in 2022 with the lowly Oakland Athletics. The franchise barely even tried to compete last year, but still had one of the game's best catchers in Murphy.
True to form, they traded him to Atlanta this offseason, giving the 28-year-old a chance to play for an actual contender. Atlanta took it a step further, buying out his arbitration years and then some with a six-year extension worth $73 million.
Murphy won a Gold Glove in 2021 and had the second-highest fWAR among catchers last year. But now, he gets to play for a team worth paying attention to, one that should be interesting from start to finish.
Atlanta is in arguably the best division in baseball, one of two teams to win 101 games last season. Once Murphy is playing in relevant baseball games, his profile and stardom should rise.