This year's breakouts will shake up stodgy franchises
No question 2013 was a been-there, done-that year for sports. The Heat atop the NBA? Been there. The Ravens winning a Super Bowl? Done that. Another title for Alabama? For the Blackhawks? For the Red Sox? Will the aughts ever stop repeating themselves? But 2014–with a World Cup, a wide-open NFL playoff picture and two relatively new head coaches in the BCS National Championship Game–promises a little more mystery. Below, four players who might shake up their sports.
CINCINNATI REDS OUTFIELDER
Blink and you’ll miss him. Hamilton stole 13 bases in 13 MLB games last year. (He was caught once.) He had 75 in the minors before his call-up and 155 in 2012, a theft rate unheard of in the slide-step era. Pitchers and catchers are praying he won’t hit enough to start.
UNIVERSITY OF KANSAS SMALL FORWARD
He can run and jump and dunk and shoot and spin. Boy, can he ever spin. The man they call Maple Jordan–Wiggins hails from Ontario–is stuck on a callow-seeming Jayhawks team until the draft rolls around. He should become one of the NBA’s elite scorers in the fall.
NEW ZEALAND GOLFER
In 2013, Ko won her second Canadian Open by a healthy five-stroke margin. She had turned all of 16 years old four months prior. After missing out on more than $1 million in prize money during her time as an amateur, she turned pro in October, and she’s already ranked No. 4.
UNIVERSITY OF LOUISVILLE QUARTERBACK
The NFL is a quarterback’s league, and there’s no prospect at the position quite like Bridgewater. In 2013 his Cardinals went 11-1 while he completed more than 70% of his passes–with 28 touchdowns and only four picks. His right arm will be the first off the board in April.