With rosters starting to take shape before Opening Day, let's take a look at which players might be candidates for MLB's Comeback Player of the Year in 2013.
I've put together a list of players. Now it's your job to vote on which player you think will win the award in 2013 (vote at the bottom of the post). Buster Posey (NL) and Fernando Rodney (AL) were last year's winners.
Posey, who also won the NL MVP, returned from a devastating ankle injury in 2011 to lead his team to the World Series.
Rodney went from bullpen dud with the Angels in 2011, posting a 4.50 ERA with 28 walks and 26 strikeouts in 32 innings, to an All-Star closer with 48 saves in 50 chances for the Rays. Amazingly, this was done during his age-35 season.
Returning from a major surgery or bouncing back from a poor season doesn't automatically qualify someone for the award. Like Posey and Rodney, they had to have been successful before the injury.
We know about Posey and his rookie season heroics during the Giants' World Series run of 2012. Rodney saved 37 games back in 2009 and has been at least an adequate setup man throughout his career.
Here is a list of players to watch in 2013. Chances are that only a few of these guys will have a great season again. But who will it be?
Take your best guess and vote at the bottom of the post. If you think I’m leaving someone out, let me know in the comments section.
Lance Berkman, DH, Texas Rangers
Credentials: .296 BA, 360 HR, 1,200 RBI, six All-Star selections
The 37-year-old, who missed all but 32 games in 2012 due to injuries to his calf and knee, won’t see the field much as he’s expected to be the primary designated hitter for the Rangers.
Carl Crawford, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers
Credentials: .292 BA, 118 HR, 114 3B, 432 SB, four All-Star selections
Crawford will be back on the field sometime in April after missing several months recovering from Tommy John surgery. The 31-year-old is now two years removed from a career season with the Rays in 2010 (.307 BA, 19 HR, 90 RBI, 30 2B, 13 3B, 110 R, 47 SB).
Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, Boston Red Sox
Credentials: .296 BA, 56 HR, 261 RBI, 189 SB, one All-Star selection
Ellsbury missed nearly all of 2010 with a rib injury and more than half of 2012 with a shoulder subluxation. In between those two seasons, he was second in AL MVP voting after he hit .321 with 32 homers, 105 runs batted in, 119 runs, 46 doubles, and 39 stolen bases and won Comeback Player of the Year.
Ryan Howard, 1B, Philadelphia Phillies
Credentials: .271 BA, 300 HR, 920 RBI, Rookie of the Year, NL MVP, Three All-Star selections
After rupturing his Achilles’ tendon on the last play of the 2011 season, Howard didn’t play his first game of 2012 until early July. While he did provide some power (14 HR in 71 games), he hit just .219 with 25 walks and 99 strikeouts. He’ll return to the middle of the Phillies lineup with Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Michael Young in front of him.
Ubaldo Jimenez, SP, Cleveland Indians
Credentials: 69 career wins, including 19 win in 2010; one All-Star selection
Jimenez went from being one of best pitchers in baseball in 2010 for the Rockies (19-8, 2.88 ERA) to mediocre, at best, over the past two seasons (5.03 ERA in 63 starts) with a career-low 7.3 K/9 and career-high 4.8 BB/9 in 2012.
John Lackey, SP, Boston Red Sox
Credentials: 128 career wins, including 19 wins in 2007; one All-Star selection
Recovered from 2011 Tommy John surgery, it will be interesting to see if Lackey’s 2011 struggles that season (6.41 ERA in 28 starts) were a result of the elbow injury. He was good enough previously for the Red Sox to give him an $82.5 million free-agent deal.
Tim Lincecum, SP, San Francisco Giants
Credentials: 79 career wins, four All-Star selections, two NL Cy Young Awards
Maybe the most unpredictable case in 2013, the 28-year-old Lincecum could revert to his previous dominant form (69-41, 2.98 ERA, 3.3 BB/9, 9/9 K.9 from 2007-11) or continue to be as bad as he was in 2012 (5.18 ERA in 33 starts).
Victor Martinez, DH, Detroit Tigers
Credentials: .303 BA, 143 HR, 741 RBI, four All-Star selections
Sitting out 2012 with a torn ACL, Martinez had to be anxious to return to a lineup hitting behind Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder. The 34-year-old has posted at least an .844 OPS in all but one season since 2004.
Mariano Rivera, RP, New York Yankees
Credentials: 2.21 ERA, 608 saves, 12 All-Star selections
Rivera wanted to retire from the game on a high note, not after missing most of the 2012 season with a knee injury. Winning the Comeback Player of the Year award would probably qualify as a “high note.”
Brian Roberts, 2B, Baltimore Orioles
Credentials: .280 BA, 84 HR, 482 RBI, 275 SB, two All-Star selections
They should just give him the award if he’s able to avoid the disabled list for the first time since 2009, when he posted an .807 OPS with 56 doubles and 30 stolen bases. So far, so good this spring. The 35-year-old is 10-for-30 with a homer, two doubles and a stolen base.
Ricky Romero, SP, Toronto Blue Jays
Credentials: 51 career wins, one All-Star selection
How’s this for taking the pressure off? Romero goes from Opening Day starter in 2012 to No. 5 starter in 2013. Unfortunately, his spring numbers look just as ugly as they did in 2012 when he posted a 5.77 ERA with 105 walks and 124 strikeouts in 181 innings.
Ervin Santana, SP, Kansas City Royals
Credentials: 96 career wins, one All-Star selection
Santana had a 5.16 ERA in 2012 while giving up a league-leading 39 homers, including 17 in pitcher-friendly Angels Stadium. The Royals are hoping they get the guy who had posted a sub-4.00 ERA in three of his previous four seasons.
Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Colorado Rockies
Credentials: .292 BA, 130 HR, 470 RBI, two All-Star selections
As long as the hamstring injuries that decimated his 2012 season don’t recur, Tulowitzki should have his typical season, which averages out to a .295 BA, 24 homers, 87 runs batted in, 85 runs and 30 doubles over his previous five seasons (2007-11).
Michael Young, 3B, Philadelphia Phillies
Credentials: .301 BA, 177 HR, 984 RBI, seven All-Star selections
At age 35, Young had the worst season of his 12-year career. So is he done, or did he just have a bad year? If you believe in how he finished the season (.298 BA, five HR, 22 RBI, nine 2B, 11 BB, 19 K in last 43 games), there’s still hope he has something left in the tank in his first season with the Phillies.