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MLB Spring Training 2013: Fallen Stars Looking to Turn Heads

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - OCTOBER 14:  Tim Lincecum #55 of the San Francisco Giants celebrates after David Freese #23 of the St. Louis Cardinals hits into a double play in the fifth inning of Game One of the National League Championship Series at AT&T Park on October 14, 2012 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Timothy RappFeatured ColumnistFebruary 28, 2013

Every year a few players shock the baseball world, blowing up with huge seasons that make everyone stop and take notice.

And every year, a few of the Major League's best players and brightest stars post absolutely terrible seasons, making folks wonder what exactly went wrong.

Those are the players we're interested in here.

From an outfielder that hasn't done squat in two years to a pair of pitchers that were major busts last year, these players will be looking to prove they can return to the elite level they once occupied.

 

Carl Crawford, Los Angeles Dodgers

The past two seasons have been rough for Carl Crawford.

In 2011, he never adjusted to playing under the pressure of a massive contract, struggled playing left field in Fenway Park and was shifted all over the lineup.

The result was his worst season in years.

Then last year, he had to undergo Tommy John surgery and only played 31 games. Midseason, he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

So will a shift away from Boston be just what the doctor ordered for Crawford? Will we see the 2010 version of Crawford, who hit .307 with 19 home runs, 90 RBI, 110 runs scored and 47 stolen bases?

Or is his confidence shot for good?

 

Tim Lincecum, San Francisco Giants

From 2008-11, you could make a strong argument that Tim Lincecum was the best pitcher in baseball. He won two Cy Young Awards, struck out at least 220 batters each year and dominated National League batters.

So last year's regression was a pretty big surprise.

Lincecum finished 10-15 in 186 innings pitched with 190 strikeouts, a 5.18 ERA and 1.47 WHIP, and only started one game for the San Francisco Giants in the postseason. If you had predicted that Lincecum would have his worst Major League season and the Giants would still win the World Series, you would have been laughed out of the room.

So what happened? Was a player that had pitched over 200 innings in the past four seasons simply worn out? Or is this the beginning of a new trend for the hurler? 

This year, Lincecum will look to prove 2012 was an anomaly, not a trend.

 

Heath Bell, Arizona Diamondbacks

Hey, remember how Heath Bell tallied at least 40 saves in three straight seasons from 2009-11? Or how the Miami Marlins signed him to a three-year, $27 million contract last year?

Yeah, those days seem far away, huh?

Bell was dreadful for the Marlins last season, blowing eight saves in 27 attempts and posting a 5.09 ERA and 1.55 WHIP. In October, he was traded to the Diamondbacks, where he'll need to prove himself as a middle reliever before anyone thinks about giving him another shot at closing.

But if Bell regains his mojo and J.J. Putz struggles in the closer role, Bell could find himself back in the ninth inning.

That's a long way off at this point, however.

 

 

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