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MLB 2013: Five Under The Radar American League Cy Young Award Candidates

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MLB: Five Under The Radar American League Cy Young Award Candidates

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

David Price of the Tampa Bay Rays led the American League in wins (20) and ERA (2.56) in 2012, so it was no surprise he took home the Cy Young Award. At age 27 he still has plenty of good years ahead of him, so he is virtually certain to be a Cy Young contender for many years to come.

The 2013 American League Cy Young race got a bit more interesting this winter, with the Toronto Blue Jays acquiring 2012 National League Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey from the New York Mets. Perennial contenders like Justin Verlander, Felix Hernandez and CC Sabathia will certainly be in the conversation for the award this season. Dickey's move to the American League, and any negative affect that has on his numbers, will be worth watching as well.

Being on a winning team certainly helps a pitcher’s Cy Young candidacy. But those that find themselves on bad teams, like Dickey last season and Hernandez in 2010, can still win the award despite not pitching for a playoff contender.

In putting together this list, as I did in the National League, I have tried to uncover pitchers that have not won a Cy Young Award in their career and may fly under the radar for casual fans. With better health, or more experience in some cases, I feel all five of the guys I have chosen have a chance to come out of nowhere and win the American League Cy Young Award in 2013.

With that, here are my top five under the radar Cy Young Award candidates in the American League this season.

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5. Jon Lester, SP, Boston Red Sox

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Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

Lester followed most of his Red Sox teammates to a dismal 2012 season, going 9-14 with a 4.82 ERA along with a notable dip in K/9 rate (7.3, down from 8.5 in 2011). But he did top 200 innings pitched for the fourth time in five seasons, and former Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell returning as manager this season should be beneficial to him as he looks to recapture his previous form. Lester may be the biggest reach on this list, but if he goes on to win the Cy Young Award you heard it here first.

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4. Brandon Morrow, SP, Toronto Blue Jays

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Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports

Injuries and underachievement have marked Morrow’s career thus far, and missing over two months with an oblique strain last season makes his solid campaign (10-7, 2.96 ERA) easy to overlook. His K/9 rate did drop-off a lot last season (7.8) after being over 10.0 in both 2010 and 2011, but a rebound there along with the improved control he had in 2012 should yield nice results. Being bumped down a couple spots in the starting rotation by Toronto’s offseason acquisitions should also help Morrow succeed.

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3. Yu Darvish, SP, Texas Rangers

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Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Darvish struggled in his first major league start last season (five runs allowed over 5.2 innings) but was able to turn things around and put together a solid rookie campaign (16-9, 3.90 ERA, 221 strikeouts). Walks held him back some (4.2 BB/9 rate), but he only allowed 14 home runs despite making his home starts in hitter-friendly Arlington and a strong finish (2.35 ERA, 67:15 K/BB ratio over his final eight starts) bodes well for improvement in 2013.

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2. Max Scherzer, SP, Detroit Tigers

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Kelley L. Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Justin Verlander is the ace of Detroit’s pitching staff, but Scherzer took some big steps toward that level in 2012, setting career-highs in wins (16), strikeouts (231, with an 11.1 K/9 rate) and K/BB ratio (3.85). If not for a bad April (7.77 ERA) and late-season shoulder and ankle issues his numbers could have been even better, creating high hopes for 2013. Scherzer may lose some Cy Young votes to Verlander if both have strong seasons this year, but I still like Scherzer as a darkhorse to win the award.

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1. Chris Sale, SP, Chicago White Sox

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Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Sale had an excellent 2012 season, going 17-8 with a 3.05 ERA over 30 appearances (29 starts). The White Sox have every reason to keep him in the starting rotation now after using him exclusively out of the bullpen prior to last season, but his huge innings increase (192 in 2012, 71 in 2011) means his workload will be closely monitored this season. As long as he can remain healthy, Sale should take a big step to becoming one of the top starters in the American League in 2013.