Cincinnati Reds: Ryan Ludwick Is NL's Comeback Player of the Year

Tyler DumaFeatured ColumnistAugust 10, 2012

CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 10: Ryan Ludwick #48 of the Cincinnati Reds hits a two run homer in the third inning against the Chicago Cubs  on August 10, 2012 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
David Banks/Getty Images

Considering his limited role with the team early on this season, you might have missed Ryan Ludwick and the impressive season he's putting together out in Cincinnati.

Last season, with Pittsburgh and San Diego, Ludwick slashed .237/.310/.363 with 13 HR, 75 RBI and 56 runs scored.

Behind Joey Votto, Ryan Ludwick has been the most productive player on the Cincinnati Reds roster.

In just 88 games played, Ludwick is slashing .266/.335/.549 with 20 HR, 60 RBI and 36 runs all while batting in the middle, or bottom of the Reds' lineup.

What makes Ludwick most deserving of the award is the way he's stepped up since Joey Votto went down with a torn meniscus.

In the 25 games without Votto, Ludwick is slashing .351/.419/.727 with seven HR, eight doubles, 24 RBI and 14 runs scored.

Ludwick seems to have firmly taken hold of the starting job in left field and with 49 games remaining, ESPN has him projected to finish the season with 29 HR, 30 doubles and 86 RBI.

Should he finish the way his stats project him to, Ludwick would more than double his home run total and his slugging percentage.

Playing in Cincinnati, in a hitter's park, on a potent offensive team, a legitimate title contender has revitalized the 34-year-old and he's having arguably the second-best season of his career.

The impressive thing about Ludwick's comeback season is that he'll have done all of this in just a little over 120 games. If he had been able to start all season he'd draw legitimate consideration for a Silver Slugger Award.

The only thing that seems to be standing in Ludwick's way, is Pirates starter A.J. Burnett. Burnett had a terrible campaign with the Yankees but in a smaller market, Burnett has turned it around going 14-3 with a 3.19 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and 109 strikeouts.

The Comeback Player of the Year Award race is going to come down to which of these two division foes makes the playoffs. In the event that both do, it will depend largely on what A.J. Burnett does in his last 10 starts.

If Burnett manages to win 20 games then Ludwick will have a tough time taking home the award.

However, if Ludwick continues to surge offensively, there's no reason to believe he won't be this year's Comeback Player of the Year.