Injuries are a big part of all major sports. And while baseball isn’t contact-heavy like football or hockey, players still fall prey to injury all the time.
Looking back at 2013, there are many star players who missed significant time due to injury—but could once again be a factor in 2014. Take Curtis Granderson, for instance.
Read on to see the five injured MLB players poised to make a huge comeback in 2014.
One of the reasons the Milwaukee Brewers underachieved in 2013 was in part due to Corey Hart’s absence. The outfielder missed all of 2013 with a knee injury, preventing the top hitter from producing for the Brew Crew. In fact, Hart averaged a park-adjusted 127 OPS+ and 29 home runs from 2010 to 2012.
But according to MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy, Hart expects to receive medical clearance on his knee on Tuesday, December 3. Subsequently, the interest in the 31-year-old’s services has been robust. Per ESPN.com’s Jim Bowden, the Boston Red Sox, Tampa Bay Rays, Colorado Rockies and Brewers have all contacted Hart's agent.
Even with a season lost to injury in between, it’s not unrealistic to think that Hart can return in 2014 and pick up where he left off in 2012.
The Cincinnati Reds won 90 games in 2013, but ace Johnny Cueto didn’t help the team with many of them. The right-hander only managed to pitch 60.2 innings this past season due to an ongoing right-lat strain.
And while Cueto ailed throughout the season, when the 27-year-old was able to pitch, he performed well. Cueto pitched to the tune of a 2.82 ERA (versus a park-adjusted 136 ERA+), 1.05 WHIP and 2.83 strikeout-to-walk rate in his injury-shortened season. His success wasn’t surprising, however, as Cueto combined for a 2.58 ERA (versus a 157 ERA+) from 2011 to 2012.
If Cueto can curb his lat injury, the young hurler could not only help his team win games, but also vie for the 2014 Cy Young Award too.
In 2012—for the second year in a row—Curtis Granderson collected more than 40 home runs. Even though his batting average and park-adjusted OPS+ took hits of 30 and 27 points, respectively, Granderson still proved to be an elite home run hitter.
But the 2013 season wasn’t kind to the Grandy Man. The 32-year-old only accumulated 245 plate appearances due to a broken forearm and pinkie. Granderson only managed to post a mere .229 batting average, 87 OPS+ and seven home runs in his shortened season.
That said, Granderson obviously felt confident in his health, as the outfielder rejected the New York Yankees’ qualifying offer, making him a free agent. With some health—or as a left-handed platoon (career .876 OPS), at least—Granderson could undoubtedly make an impact in 2014.
Tim Hudson was in the midst of a solid, Hudson-esque season. The 38-year-old posted a 3.97 ERA (versus a park-adjusted 97 ERA+), 1.18 WHIP and 2.64 strikeout-to-walk rate before enduring one of the most gruesome injuries, captured by MLB.com.
On a routine ground ball to first base, Hudson covered the bag as a hustling Eric Young Jr. busted down the line. But Hudson unfortunately left too much of his foot on the bag, which led to Young trampling the pitcher’s ankle. Hudson was carted off the field and missed the rest of the season with a fractured right ankle.
Even though the injury initially seemed like a potential career-ender, the San Francisco Giants inked the free agent to a two-year, $23 million contract this offseason. Assuming Hudson is in fact recovered from the fractured ankle, there’s little reason to doubt his ability to contribute in 2014.
Since 2003, Mark Teixeira has averaged 656 plate appearances per season. But after severely injuring his wrist practicing for the World Baseball Classic, Teixeira found himself missing most of the regular 2013 season.
The 33-year-old only posted a .151 batting average, park-adjusted 66 OPS+ and three home runs over 63 plate appearances in 2013—his lowest totals in his entire career.
But with an apparent clean bill of health, according to The Star-Ledger’s Andy McCullough, it’s not unreasonable to think Teixeira could again be a middle-of-the-order hitter for the New York Yankees. And after averaging 34 home runs from 2009 to 2012 for the Bombers, the team could certainly use the slugger’s bat.