Who doesn’t love a good comeback story? Who doesn’t want to hear about a player that is coming off of an injury, and shocks the world in spite of it? Or how about when a player just can’t get it right in one season, just to come back better than ever in the subsequent season? Let’s be honest, we all relish a good comeback story.
Since the MLB Comeback Player of the Year award was introduced in 2005, it has been rewarding players who come back from an injury or a mediocre season and perform far above expectations, and ever since Jason Giambi and Ken Griffey Jr. took home the honors in 2005, every player that has struggled in the year antecedent has hoped to win the award. In 2017, Greg Holland and Mike Moustakas made the biggest comebacks and won the MLB Comeback Player of the Year Awards in their respective leagues.
There was a boatload of players in 2017 that were injured, or who had absolutely awful seasons. So, without additional suspension, let’s take a look at some players that desperately need a big-time comeback in 2018, and are in the biggest need of a Comeback Player of the Year Award.
*Note: None of these players are in any particular order.
Mad-Bum is in need of a comeback in 2018, after getting injured in a 4-wheeler accident that cost Bumgarner nearly half of his 2018 season.
Madison Bumgarner had pitched in at least 200 innings in his last four seasons with a consolidated 2.86 ERA in 130 starts. During his injury-riddled 2017 season, Bumgarner posted a 3.32 ERA in 111 innings for the last-place San Francisco Giants. Bumgarner needs a great season in 2018 to make up for the lost time in 2017.
Rick Porcello followed up his 2016 season in which he controversially won the AL CY Young Award over Justin Verlander, with a less than satisfactory season. In 2017, Porcello posted a 4.65 ERA in 33 starts and 203 1/3 innings while leading the American League in hits allowed with 236 and home runs given up with an unimpressive 38 dingers conceded.
If Porcello were to make a comeback and win the 2018 MLB Comeback Player of the Year Award, it would not be his first. Porcello had a meager 2015 season with a 4.92 ERA in 172 innings but followed it up with a CY Young Award winning 2016 in which he amassed 22 wins.
Big things were expected from Joc Pederson in 2017 after he accumulated a 119 OPS+ with 51 homers and 5.7 WAR in his first two big league seasons. Unfortunately, it was not meant to be and Joc had a meager 95 OPS+ (100 is league average) with 11 home runs and -0.4 WAR in 102 games for Los Angeles during the 2017 season.
While Pederson went on a tear in the 2017 Postseason, he will have to prove that he is worthy of a starting job with the stacked NL Pennant winning Dodgers.
Miguel Cabrera is a generational talent who will waltz into the Hall of Fame without much contention, despite this, Cabrera had a horrendous 2017 and will need a comeback in 2018 to keep his career afloat.
Cabrera has been the face of the Detroit Tigers since the first game he played in a Tigers uniform. Unfortunately for Cabrera, he is going to be playing for one of the worst teams in baseball in 2018 and will need to make a big comeback just to keep his job.
Miguel Cabrera was slightly worse than your average replacement player in 2017, with a -0.8 WAR with 16 home runs, 92 OPS+ (100 is league average), and a .249 batting average to accompany his 60 RBI.
Miguel Cabrera is not getting any younger, and if he keeps up this pace, he will not be playing in the big leagues for long.
Noah Syndergaard is well on his way to becoming one of the best pitchers in the game, and many believed that the 25-year-old would be competing with the likes of Max Scherzer and Clayton Kershaw for the NL CY Young Award in 2017. Unfortunately for Syndergaard, or “Thor” as he is affectionately called by Mats fans, he suffered a right lat injury in late April and was restricted to just 30 1/3 innings in 2017.
If Syndergaard goes back to 2016 form or better in 2018, the NL Comeback Player of the Year Award will be his to lose.
The Colorado Rockies made a miraculous postseason appearance after years of mediocrity in 2017, but in a cruel twist, the Rockies made it to the Wild Card Game in spite of 3-time All-Star Carlos Gonzalez rather than because of him.
In 2017, Gonzalez slashed a mediocre .262/.339/.423 with a -0.2 WAR as a right fielder, while playing half of his home games a mile above sea level. No Bueno. CarGo also hit a career worst (in a full season) 14 home runs with a career-worst (in a full season) 87 OPS+ (100 is league average).
“I know what it feels like to be the best player in the game and the worst player in the game,” Gonzalez stated in early July, via Thomas Harding of MLB.com. “Right now, I feel like I’m the worst player in the game.”
Carlos Gonzalez is a free agent this offseason and will have to prove that he is worth more than the inevitably small contract he will receive this offseason.
The ageless wonder showed us that he is not invincible in 2017 with a -2.2 WAR with a 6.48 ERA, a 7-14 win-loss record, and a 1.587 WHIP. Colon has been contemplating retirement, and it is very likely to take place in this upcoming season if Colon cannot manage to fix what he is doing wrong.
One of the greatest and most feared sluggers to ever put on a uniform had the worst season of his career in 2017, along with some of the worst statistics in all of Major League Baseball. Albert Pujols is a guaranteed First Ballot Hall of Famer, but sadly, has not been aging too gracefully.
There is not much not to like about Albert Pujols, “The Machine” went from a 13th round draft pick to one of the greatest home run hitters ever. Pujols was one of the most likable players in baseball as a Cardinal and took that with him when he was traded to the Angels in 2011. Pujols is a great leader in the clubhouse and has a veteran presence that few can match.
The unfortunate truth of the matter is that Pujols was one of the worst players in baseball in 2017 and is not getting any younger.
Pujols had a disastrous 2017 in which he hit just 23 home runs and a .241 batting average. Additionally, Pujols garnered a -1.8 WAR and an 81 OPS+ (100 is league average). The only good stat that Pujols put up in 2017 was 101 RBI, which shows us that he still has his moments, but they are becoming fewer and farther between.
Pujols desperately needs a comeback in 2018, to prove that he deserves to be on an Angels team that is pushing for the playoffs while they still have Mike Trout in their Possession and that he is in some way still worth the over-$100 million that he is still owed through 2021. While he is never going to live up to his gargantuan contract, at least he can make it somewhat worth it.
It is unfortunate that these players had poor 2017 seasons due to injury, age, or just simply losing their touch, but let’s look on the bright side. With every new MLB season, there are new possibilities and things that could happen. Players that play horribly come back better than ever or older players prove to us that they still got it. Regardless, 2018 is a new season and all of these players can get out of whatever funk they are in, and that is a fact.
Who do you think is set for a breakout season in 2018?