MLB: Comeback Player of the Year Candidates
There are many players who either suffered injury, received a suspension, or struggled for the entirety of the 2014 season, only to bounce back with a strong 2015 campaign. These players have created a very tough competition in a race to see who will be named the American League and National League Comeback Player of the Year. Three viable candidates from each the NL and AL are listed below:
Prince Fielder – Texas Rangers:
After being traded to the Texas Rangers in 2014, Fielder was shut down for the season and made a trip to the disabled list for the first time in his career. A neck injury held the first baseman to just 42 games, hitting .247 with three home runs in that span. However, after missing the year and undergoing surgery, Fielder bounced back with a season that may even put him in MVP talks. The 31-year-old has hit .328 with 15 home runs and 59 RBI in 100 games, earning yet another All-Star appearance.
Though his power has been dropping steadily over the years, Fielder has proven that he can become a solid contact hitter and get on-base while keeping the ball in the park. He is having an astounding season and if he produces in similar fashion the rest of the season, he will definitely be in Comeback Player of the Year discussions.
Mark Teixeira – New York Yankees
When Teixeira entered MLB, he was one of the best power-hitting first baseman in baseball. He hit for average and for power, and his glove just added to how valuable of a player he was. Over his career, his numbers began to take a large dip. Most recently, he could not stay healthy and found himself on the disabled list constantly. When he was healthy he struggled. Last year, he only hit .216 with 22 home runs in 123 games.
However, the 2015 Teixeira has seemed to found a stride similar to his first year as a Yankee. He is hitting .269 with 28 home runs and 73 RBI. Teixeira is in the top three for both home runs and RBI and while his average is not as high as it used to be, he is a huge threat at the plate. Yankee fans have rallied behind the first baseman, who made his first All-Star appearance since 2009, calling his home run a ‘Tex message’.
With the first place Yankees doing so well and Teixeira playing a huge role in the success, he may be the most viable candidate as of now.
Alex Rodriguez – New York Yankees
Yet another Yankee who has re-birthed to his former dominant self is Alex Rodriguez. Rodriguez was all over the news with the Biogenesis scandal and was nicknamed ‘A-Fraud’ for the past few years after being caught with PEDs yet again. He was slapped with a 212-game suspension and missed the entire 2014 season. With others calling for a career-ban ,and others angrily yelling for retirement, Rodriguez seemed unfazed and focused on returning strong, which he has done.
Through 95 games in 2015, Rodriguez is batting .282 with 24 home runs and 61 RBI. He was snubbed from the All-Star team – though fans will have trouble admitting so – and used it to have an even stronger performance out of the gate in the second half of the season in which he is batting .306 with six home runs. He, like Teixeira, has been a huge part in the Yankees’ success. The Yankees may finish first and second in the Comeback Player of the Year category.
Matt Harvey – New York Mets:
Harvey had an astounding year in 2013, being named to the All-Star team and finishing in the top five for the National League Cy Young. His 2.27 ERA was pristine and his dominance over hitters was clear. However, painful news broke out the Harvey would have to undergo Tommy John surgery. As Mets fans cringed around the world, Harvey vowed to be back with dominance. He then spent the 2014 season on the bench, rehabbing and working hard towards making his first start back from surgery.
In 2015, he was picked up his dominance where he left it. Though his ERA has dipped – 2.91 – he has been the leader of this young, dominant New York rotation. He is one of the most reliable pitchers in baseball and after missing the previous year with injury, is an obvious candidate for Comeback Player of the Year.
A.J. Burnett – Pittsburgh Pirates:
Unlike most players on this list, Burnett played in 2014. However, he struggled mightily and was a non-factor in the Philadelphia Phillies’ rotation. After his solid campaign with Pittsburgh in 2013, Burnett would go on to finish 8-18 with a 4.59 ERA through 34 starts. To keep it short and simple: he was among the easiest pitchers to hit off of on a very weak Philadelphia squad.
However, after joining Pittsburgh yet again, Burnett has been among the best pitchers in baseball. Though he was just recently placed on the disabled list, his numbers have taken such a strong spike upwards, that he should be in consideration for this award. In 21 starts, Burnett boasts a record of 8-5 with a 3.06 ERA. He was so dominant that he was even selected to the National League All-Star team, the first time ever in his 17-year career. He has been excellent this far and will look to contribute to the Pirates’ playoff run when he returns from the disabled list.
Carlos Gonzalez – Colorado Rockies:
Gonzalez has bounced back from a weak 2014 campaign in which the outfielder played just 70 games, hitting .238 with 11 home runs. The 29-year-old is notoriously known for his struggles to stay healthy and that, paired with his struggles at the plate in 2014, makes him a viable candidate for the Comeback Player of the Year award.
Gonzalez has tore it up in 2015, as he is batting .279 with 21 home runs and 52 RBI in 94 games. He even bounced back from a very slow beginning of the season and has been one of the hottest hitters in baseball as of late. If Gonzalez can continue the hot streak and stay healthy for the remainder of the year, he may give Burnett and Harvey a run for their money.
If the season ended today, the players that would receive the Comeback Player of the Year award would be New York Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira and New York Mets starting pitcher Matt Harvey. New York will be able to boast the Comeback Player of the Year in both leagues as Teixeira and Harvey look to finish out the year strong.