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ESPY Preview Part 3: Best Breakthrough Athlete

By now you’re getting the picture, we’re chronicling the New York teams/athletes nominated for ESPY awards — and their chances to win. The ESPYs are on Wednesday so we keep on, keepin on!

Category: Best Breakthrough Athlete

New York Team/Athlete Nominated: Masahiro Tanaka, Yankees Pitcher

The Rest of the Field: Richard Sherman (Seattle Seahawks), Nick Foles (Philadelphia Eagles) and Damian Lillard (Portland TrailBlazers).

Masahiro Tanaka (Getty Images).

About Tanaka: Tanaka has been unbelievable during his rookie season in New York. He’s 12-4 with a 2.51 ERA. He has 135 strikeouts to just 19 walks in 129.1 innings. He was on track to start the MLB all-star game and was on his way to a Cy Young Award. He would be a great choice for this award, but now that he’s going to miss at least six weeks with a partial tear of his UCL, all of that is in jeopardy, as are his chances at winning.

About the Field: Sherman, the charismatic and talkative Seattle Seahawks defensive back, was already a name known by football fans, but his popularity soared in 2013. He had eight interceptions and one touchdown while leading the most vaunted defense in years. His big mouth is backed up by his big game, and a Super Bowl ring has helped make him a household name.

Nick Foles took over for an injury-plagued Michael Vick early in 2013 and promptly led the Eagles to the playoffs. He led the fun-style Chip Kelly offense at a blistering pace, tossing 27 touchdowns against just two interceptions. His game is just taking off, and because he’s a quarterback, he’ll get his share of votes, but he lacks the flash to win on Wednesday.

Lillard took the NBA by storm in 2013-14, He averaged nearly 21 points a game in his second season, up from 19 in his rookie year. He started all 82 games for the second straight year and helped lead Portland to the playoffs. He also averaged 22.9 a game in the postseason. The NBA is full of flash, and he should get a handful of votes, but again, not enough to win.

Prediction: Tanaka had a chance if he wasn’t hurt — but I think Sherman takes it no matter what. And if I didn’t think so, I couldn’t write it, because I don’t want to end up on his Michael Crabtree-hate list.

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