MLB 2011 Preview: Top 10 Rebound Candidates for the Upcoming Season

Dan Hiergesell@DHiergesellFeatured ColumnistMarch 1, 2011

MLB 2011 Preview: Top 10 Rebound Candidates for the Upcoming Season

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    SCOTTSDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 25: (EDITORS NOTE: Image has been converted to black and white.) )Justin Upton #10 of the Arizona Diamondbacks warms up throwing before a spring training game San Francisco Giant at Scottsdale Stadium on February 25, 2011 in Scot
    Rob Tringali/Getty Images

    The 2011 MLB season is right around the corner.

    Spring training is upon us and players are looking to standout and build up momentum heading into the upcoming season. 

    While many of these players are rookies and young talents trying to land a roster spot in the big leagues, some are veterans and proven players who are trying to rebuild their reputation.

    Whether they've been traded from the AL to the NL, are finally healthy, or were unable to perform in 2010, these players are looking to prove their worth to the baseball community.

    The success of these players could make or break their teams success in the coming year, while the second half of their careers could hang in the balance.

    We take a look at those once "prime-time" players who are looking to rebound in 2011 after a disappointing 2010.

    The top 10 rebound candidates are...

"The Speedy Outfielder"

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    OAKLAND, CA - JUNE 06:  Denard Span #2 of the Minnesota Twins in action against the Oakland Athletics during an MLB game at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on June 6, 2010 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    OF Denard Span, Minnesota Twins

    Where has Denard Span's average gone?  It's gone South.

    After posting back-to-back seasons with at least a .290 batting line, Span's inability to hit in 2010 forced him to fall back form the "top 30 outfielders in the game" potential he was suppose to possess.

    His speed and ability to record extra-base hits is the reason why Span is so important to the Twins success this year, not to mention every year before that.

    On the plus side, 2010 featured a more aggressive run game for the 27-year old, swiping 26 bases.  Span not only increased his stolen base total but decreased the times he was caught by six.

    Last year, he recorded a career high 629 at-bats.  At the same time, Span posted less hits, less runs, less home runs, less RBI, and less walks than the year before when he had 50 less appearances at the plate.

    Span is currently in the gray between early career and late career which has provided him with the chance to rebound in 2011 and reclaim his status as one of the best all-around outfielders in the game.

"The Young Shortstop"

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    ST PETERSBURG, FL - MAY 17:  Shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera #13 of the Cleveland Indians is helped from the field after an injury to his left arm against the Tampa Bay Rays during the game at Tropicana Field on May 17, 2010 in St. Petersburg, Florida.  (Photo
    J. Meric/Getty Images

    SS Asdrubal Cabrera, Cleveland Indians

    Cabrera was one of the most promising shortstops in the game after his 2009 season, in which he posted an impressive .308 average with 42 doubles and 17 stolen bases.

    However, after being rushed back from a forearm injury in 2010, the 25-year old is finally healthy and ready to reclaim his status as one of the young talents at his position.

    Unfortunately for Cabrera, he no longer has a lineup bolstered by Grady Sizemore and will find it difficult to produce a high number of runs and RBI.

    On the other hand, considering his age and ability to get around the bases when it counts, Cabrera could be in for repeat season of '09.

    With a healthy and productive year for the Indians infielder, there's no reason why Cabrera can't hit .290 with 20 stolen bases and 35 plus doubles.

"The Veteran with Everthing to Prove"

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    KISSIMMEE, FL - FEBRUARY 24:  Carlos Lee #45 of the Houston Astros poses for a portrait Spring Training photo Day at Osceola County Stadium  on February 24, 2011 in Kissimmee, Florida.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
    Al Bello/Getty Images

    OF Carlos Lee, Houston Astros

    Lee was one of the biggest disappointments in 2010.

    His age would suggest this decline was on the horizon, but his production over the last five years shows something else.  From 2005-2009, Lee hit at least 26 home runs with 100 RBI and averaged a .300 batting line.  So where did last year's fall-off come from?

    Lee's production from last year compared to 2009 is quite alarming considering he still recorded 600 at-bats in 2010.

    His home runs only dropped by two, but his average dipped from .300 to a horrendous .246, not to mention that his strikeouts went up and his walks went down as well.

    Lee's struggles last year are highly unknown.  He's been unbelievably healthy throughout his career and has been one of the most consistent and trusted players in all of baseball. 

    Losing Astros' great Lance Berkman didn't help, but Lee still has Hunter Pence and some serious young talent to help him create runs in 2011.

    There is no reason why the 34-year old can't rebound with the best of them and reclaim his stake as a .300/30/100 player.

"The Newly Acquired Power Hitter"

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    MESA, AZ - FEBRUARY 22:  Carlos Pena of the Chicago Cubs poses for a portrait during media photo day at Finch Park on February 22, 2011 in Mesa, Arizona.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    1B Carlos Pena, Chicago Cubs

    If there was anything to take from Carlos Pena's 2010 season, it would be his .196 average.

    That number is absolutely astonishing. 

    Don't get me wrong, Carlos Pena is a career .241 hitter, but who would of thought that a power hitting, 40 home run potential guy, would fall so far down the food chain past the Mendoza line?

    Nobody could of predicted that low of an average for a guy who has been a menace in the AL East for the past few years. However, Pena is no longer matching up against the Yankees and Red Sox, instead he's taking his batting average to Chicago where the Cubs are hoping for a rebound season.

    2011 could be a make or break season for Pena.  He is currently under a one-year contract with Chicago and will be playing for a long-term deal if he could produce like everybody hopes he will.

    If the 32-year old first baseman can't re-channel his plate presence, Pena could fall into the depths of baseball.

    That is why he comes in at no. 7 on the rebound candidate list.

"Mr. Sophomore Slump"

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    CHICAGO - AUGUST 29: Gordon Beckham #15 of the Chicago White Sox hits the ball against the New York Yankees at U.S. Cellular Field on August 29, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. The Yankees defeated the White Sox 2-1. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    2B Gordon Beckham, Chiacgo White Sox

    Everybody knows who he is, what he's capable of doing, and that 2010 was more than likely a sophomore slump. 

    However, Beckham needs a big campaign this year to rejuvenate his career and superstar potential.

    After cruising through big league pitchers in his rookie season (.270/14/63 in 378 at-bats), Beckham's power numbers and run production fell off considerably, making him one of the most disappointing players in 2010.

    On the other hand, during a 54-game stretch last season, Beckham batted .331 with eight home runs and 31 RBI.  That is the kind of production he's capable of sporting while playing consistent defense in a closely-knit division.

    After adding Adam Dunn this off-season, the White Sox are only hoping for half of that potential in 2011.  With an outstanding lineup up and down, the 24-year old will have a chance to climb the ranks of second basemen and potentially become a perennial all-star.

"Mr. AL Turned NL"

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    SCOTTSDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 26:  Jose Lopez #22 of the Colorado Rockies watches batting practice before the game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Salt River Fields on February 26, 2011in Scottsdale, Arizona..  (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
    Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

    2B Jose Lopez, Colorado Rockies

    What could be better than a power hitting second baseman moving from the Seattle Mariners to the Colorado Rockies and Coors Field?

    Not much.

    Lopez has been nearly forgotten among baseball fans and fantasy experts.  While the 27-year old had a huge drop off least season compared to his previous four as a Mariner, Lopez has the ability to become the biggest rebound candidate in 2011.

    He averaged a .285/21/92 stat line from 2008-2009, making him one of the best hitting second baseman in the game.  Also, remember that those numbers were posted while hitting for one of the worst lineups in all of baseball.

    In 2010, Lopez was unable to reach his break-out potential, posting a .239 average with only 10 home runs.  Very disappointing numbers for a young power hitting infielder who rarely strikes out.

    For the Rockies, if they end of giving Lopez the nod at second base over Eric Young and Ty Wigginton, the former Mariner could end up posting huge stats at comfy Coors Field.

"The Young and Hyped"

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    PHOENIX, AZ - FEBRUARY 27:  Matt Kemp #27 of the Los Angeles Dodgers smiles as he leaves the field during spring training at Camelback Ranch on February 27, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
    Harry How/Getty Images

    OF Matt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers

    OF Justin Upton, Arizona Cardinals

    There's really nothing to say about Kemp and Upton.  Each have the potential to be top 10 outfielders in the MLB, but produced more than disappointing seasons in 2010.

    The problem with Kemp could be the media and fan attention he's received by becoming one of the best all-around players in the league.  Same thing for Upton.

    Kemp's 2010 average dipped nearly 50 points lower than his previous two seasons, recording 15 less stolen bases and striking out 30 more times than 2009.

    For Upton, not only did his average drop, but his home runs, RBI, and stolen bases all decreased from the year before.

    Kemp, 27, and Upton, 23, have all the potential in the world.  Power, contact, defense, speed, and good decision making is the exact mold that both players fit.

    However, with the spotlight on both of them to lead their teams not only offensively, but verbally, Kemp and Upton are up against the wall heading into the season.

    Will they rebound?  Probably, but the perennial all-star potential they each possess is highly in question.

"The Healthy Veteran"

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    CHICAGO - JULY 21: Aramis Ramirez #16 of the Chicago Cubs takes a swing against the Houston Astros at Wrigley Field on July 21, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. The Astros defeated the Cubs 4-3 in 12 innings. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    3B Aramis Ramirez, Chicago Cubs

    If Ramirez is healthy, he's dynamite.

    One of the most consistent hitting third baseman in the game over the past decade, the 32-year old has had back-to-back injury plagued seasons.

    In 2010, Ramirez still managed to hit 25 home runs with a lingering thumb injury.  That not only shows his outstanding talent at the plate, but his dedication to the Cubs.

    After signing Carlos Pena in the off-season, Ramirez finally has some significant power he can count on.  Also, considering he'll be batting clean-up in 2011, A-Ram could be ready to re-emerge as the player he once was.

    Keep an eye on him early in the season, because if he's as healthy as he's claiming to be, the Cubs could bust out of the gate in the NL Central

"The J Starters"

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    FORT MYERS, FL - FEBRUARY 27:  Pitcher Josh Beckett #19 of the Boston Red Sox pitches against the Minnesota Twins during a Grapefruit League Spring Training Game at Hammond Stadium on February 27, 2011 in Fort Myers, Florida.  (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Ima
    J. Meric/Getty Images

    SP Josh Beckett, Boston Red Sox

    SP James Shields, Tampa Bay Rays

    SP Javier Vazquez, Florida Marlins

    SP Jair Jurrjens, Atlanta Braves

    SP Jake Peavy, Chicago White Sox

    This could be the season of the "J" pitchers.

    Josh is coming off an injury plagued season in which he posted a career worst 5.78 ERA, while throwing no complete games.  For Beckett, a healthy season is exactly what he needs.  He may not return to his dominate self in 2011, but you better bet he's going to get back on track.  Look for a 17W/4.00ERA/180K stat line.  Let's just hope the concussion problem goes away before April.

    James is ready to prove to the Rays that their rotation is still one of the best without SP Matt Garza.  "Big Game James" has been one of the most consistent pitchers the Rays have had over the past five years.  He has a solid offense behind him and if he can control his pitches and decrease his home runs, Shields could rebound more than any pitcher in 2011.

    Javier is moving back to the NL East after having another disappointing stint with the New York Yankees.  He'll be pitching under the radar for a small market team and that could be exactly what the 34-year old needs.  200IP and 200K is a sure thing.

    Jair will be returning for hopefully a complete season after starting only 20 games in 2010 due to a shoulder injury.  The 25-year old has serious potential, especially pitching for the Atlanta Braves.  Jurrjens could rebound for a repeat of his '09 campaign, in which he won 14 games with a 2.60 ERA.

    Jake is ready to go.  Peavy has thrown successful bullpen sessions over the past few weeks and is hoping to ready for the start of the 2011 season.  We all know what he can do if he's healthy.  We've seen it when he pitched for the Padres and looked like the best pitcher in baseball for a three year span.  The scary thing, he now has a serious offensive behind him with the White Sox.  Let's hope he doesn't turn into the next Rich Harden.

"Mr. Rebound"

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    TOKYO - DECEMBER 15:  Prince Fielder of the Milwaukee Brewers visits Minamisuna Junior High School as part of the Major League Baseball (MLB) International Ambassador program to promote the game of baseball on December 15, 2010 in Tokyo, Japan.  (Photo by
    Kiyoshi Ota/Getty Images

    1B Prince Fielder, Milwaukee Brewers

    Here is your "Rebound Player" of the 2011 MLB season.

    The main reason in why he comes in at no. 1 is that the elite power hitter is currently in a contract year.

    You know what that means?  Career numbers.

    Players always tend to play their best when the money is on the line and that is exact scenario that Fielder is being thrown into.  To think that he might improve on his 2009 season, in which he hit 46 HR and 141 RBI, is down right terrifying.

    When Fielder wants to play, he can play.  Being one of the best power hitters in the league, the 26-year could be in line for a huge pay day if 2011 goes the way he wants it to.

    In 2010, Fielder's "disappointing" season still produced 32 HR and 83 RBI.

    Cecil Jr. is still extremely young for what he has done in the sport already.  If he can manage to keep his head on right in the midst of contract talks and off-season speculation, the idea of a possible NL MVP and league leading production is something that nobody should overlook.