Major League Baseball has a very small amount of players who successfully turned their careers around from forgettable to memorable.
No one can predict how a player's career will work out. Not every player comes out of the gates as a top prospect and immediately turns into an All-Star—in fact, very few do.
The reality of the matter is that most players will just be another name in a box score at the end of the day.
But there are those few players who take the long way to becoming a star. They grind their way from being a name in a box score to becoming the headline above the article.
So let's take a look at some of the players in MLB history who made that headline just a little more special thanks to the way they changed their careers.
Greg Maddux began his career with the Chicago Cubs and in his first full year in the Majors, he didn't show much of the stuff that would make him one of the game's most dominant pitchers.
In 1987 Maddux posted a very pedestrian 6-14 record with a 5.61 ERA for the Cubs as the youngest player in MLB at that point in time.
However the next season, he went 18-8 with a 3.18 ERA. From then on out, he was one of the best and most respected pitchers in Major League Baseball.
New York Mets left-hander Johan Santana has suffered multiple injuries the past few years, including a shoulder injury that kept him from playing at all in 2011.
But before he became so injury-plagued in New York, Santana was a force to be reckoned with in Minnesota with the Twins. He won the Cy Young twice while also leading the American League in wins, ERA, strikeouts and win percentage at various times during his eight-year tenure in the Twin Cities.
However, the Twins weren't his first organization. In 1999, they picked him up from the Houston Astros with the first pick in the Rule 5 draft. Santana had been signed in 1995 and even after joining the Twins, he didn't become dominant until 2004.
Current Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz has been one of the biggest names in the league ever since the 2004 ALCS, when he played a huge part in bringing the Red Sox back from the verge of elimination to winning the pennant.
But before 2004, he was a fairly unknown player, having been signed 12 years earlier by the Seattle Mariners. Big Papi never made it to the big leagues with the Mariners and got traded to the Minnesota Twins in 1996. Ortiz was very inconsistent at the plate during his tenure in Minnesota and suffered multiple injuries.
In 2003, he signed a contract with the Red Sox and will forever be a hero in Boston after playing integral roles in the Red Sox's 2004 and 2007 World Series titles.
In 2011, we saw one of the greatest career turnarounds in Major League history when San Francisco Giants right-hander Ryan Vogelsong finished the year 13-7 with a 2.71 ERA and his first selection to the All-Star Game.
Vogelsong did all of this during his second stint with the Giants—10 years after the first. In between those 10 years, he bounced around from the Pittsburgh Pirates to the Hanshin Tigers in 2007 and later to the Orix Buffaloes in 2009.
Finally in 2010, he signed a minor league deal with the Philadelphia Phillies and after being released, spent time with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. To start the 2011 season, he signed another minor league deal with the Giants and made the roster to replace the injured Barry Zito.
Before left-handed pitcher Cliff Lee led the Philadelphia Phillies and Texas Rangers to World Series appearances, he was a Cleveland Indian.
Lee spent eight years with the team after coming over from the Montreal Expos in a trade for Bartolo Colon. He put up good numbers and even finished fourth in the voting for the Cy Young in 2005.
However, in 2007, things began to fall apart for Lee. He was injured to start the season and at one point, gave up seven runs in four innings to the Boston Red Sox. He got sent down to Triple-A and spent the rest of the season there until September call-ups.
The next year, Lee returned to the Indians rotation and pitched his way to a 22-3 record, a 2.54 ERA and the Comeback Player of the Year Award. His success continued through 2009, when the Phillies traded for him. Today, Lee is still an elite pitcher in a dangerous Philadelphia rotation.
Just like Johan Santana, Shane Victorino was a Rule 5 draft selection.
Victorino, the current center fielder for the Philadelphia Phillies, was selected by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the sixth round of the 1999 draft. In 2002, he was left unprotected and was selected by the San Diego Padres. He failed to stay in the Major Leagues and was returned to the Dodgers.
Three years later, he was drafted by the Phillies in the Rule 5 draft and again couldn't stay in the majors. But when he was offered back to the Dodgers, they declined and let Victorino stay in Philly.
Victorino became a starter in 2006 and has since won three Gold Gloves and been selected to two All-Star teams while helping lead the Phillies to the 2008 World Series title.
Current Texas Rangers owner, president and CEO, Nolan Ryan put together one of the greatest careers ever seen during his 27 years in the Major Leagues—but it didn't always look so promising.
When he first broke into the big leagues with the New York Mets in 1966, he was simply known as a flame-throwing right-hander. After missing almost all of the 1967 season with an injury, he finally stuck in the majors beginning in 1968.
Even then, he was still fairly unreliable and after posting a 10-14 record in 1971, he asked for a trade from New York after contemplating retirement. He got traded to the California Angels and the rest is history.
When most people hear the name Sandy Koufax, arguably the most dominant left-hander the game has ever seen, they think of his four no-hitters, four World Series rings, three Cy Young awards, two World Series MVP awards, perfect game and Hall of Fame plaque.
But all of that occurred in the final six years of his arthritis-shortened 12-year career. What happened in the first six years?
The early part of Koufax's career with the Dodgers was very different from the second half. Koufax struggled to see much action at all and battled multiple injuries. But he showed flashes of brilliance despite his control problems—enough so that Jackie Robinson got angry that Koufax wasn't in the Brooklyn Dodgers rotation. Despite that, Koufax asked for a trade in 1960 and even threw away his glove and cleats after the final game of the season, signaling his retirement.
Thankfully, Koufax returned the next year and gave baseball six of the greatest years that the game has ever seen.
Dave Stewart will always be remembered for leading the Oakland Athletics to three consecutive World Series from 1988 through 1990 and winning at least 20 games in each of those seasons. He was named the World Series MVP in 1989 when he led the A's to a championship over their Bay Area neighbors, the San Francisco Giants.
But it took Stewart a very long time to finally reach the limelight. He won three World Series: one in Oakland and another in Toronto just a few years later. But the other ring? That came with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1981 when he split time between the rotation and bullpen.
The Dodgers, Texas Rangers and Philadelphia Phillies didn't know whether to use the converted catcher as a starter or reliever; because of that, Stewart could never adjust to his environment and pitch accordingly. Finally in his second year in Oakland, he hit his stride and became a four-time 20 game winner.
Rick Ankiel has a very fascinating story on his absolute career turnaround.
In 1999, he made his debut as a left-handed pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals but didn't stick around full-time in the majors until 2000, when he had a great 11-7 season at only the age of 20.
However in the playoffs that year, he began to lose his ability to find the strike zone during an appearance against the Atlanta Braves. He threw five wild pitches in one inning and the struggles continued through to 2001. Ankiel sat out the 2002 season and underwent Tommy John surgery in 2003. In 2004, he unsuccessfully tried to make a comeback.
In 2005, he finally decided to give up pitching and take up playing the outfield.
Ankiel made his second major league debut in 2007 with the Cardinals and hit a home run in his first game back.
While Ankiel is not a superstar, he has completely turned around his career by playing a new position and wielding a bat full time.
Throughout his career, 10-time All-Star Randy Johnson was one of the most feared pitchers in MLB—especially at the start of his career.
After breaking into the league in 1988 with the Montreal Expos, the lefty led the American League in walks from 1990-1992 and in hit batsmen in 1992 and 1993 with the Seattle Mariners. His records during that time weren't terrible, but it was clear that his erratic delivery and the unpredictable nature of his pitches was holding him back.
In 1993, he turned a corner and walked only 99 batters while compiling a record of 19-8 with a 3.24 ERA. Johnson would keep improving and eventually win five Cy Young awards and a World Series championship.
In 1999, right-hander Pedro Martinez put together one of the greatest seasons ever seen from a pitcher. As the ace of the Boston Red Sox, Martinez won the Cy Young, started the All-Star game at Fenway Park, finished second in the MVP voting due to controversy and won the pitcher's Triple Crown.
But when Martinez came up in 1992 with the Los Angeles Dodgers, manager Tommy Lasorda viewed him as too small and skinny to ever be a quality starting pitcher. Lasorda then shipped him to the Montreal Expos after a strong 1993 season as the Dodgers' setup man for second baseman Delino DeShields.
That trade quickly became viewed as one of the worst in major league history after Martinez pitched nine perfect innings the next season and won the Cy Young just two years later. After his stint in Montreal, he became a premier pitcher in Boston, helping the Red Sox win the 2004 World Series.
Texas Rangers center fielder Josh Hamilton has one of the most interesting success stories in all of sports.
Hamilton was the first pick in the 1999 draft by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. He was a top prospect until 2001 when he began using drugs and alcohol following a car crash. As he abused them more and more, he fell out of favor with the Devil Rays.
Hamilton continually showed up late for camp, left his team for personal reasons and was suspended for drug abuse. Finally he hit rock-bottom and walked away from the game in 2004 and didn't return until 2006. When Hamilton did return after becoming sober, he was left off of the Devil Rays' 40-man roster.
That left him eligible for the Rule 5 draft. In the draft, he was indirectly selected by the Cincinnati Reds, who used him as a fourth outfielder. After a solid rookie season, he was traded to the Texas Rangers where he has been an All-Star each season, won the 2010 American League MVP and led the Rangers to the World Series in both 2010 and 2011.