Every year, Major League Baseball names a “Comeback Player of the Year”. This award is usually given to a player who under-preforms expectations, or a player who was out all year the previous year, and comes back with an All-Star caliber season. Here are my grades for MLB’s Comeback Player of the Year.
5. Johan Santana (Mets)
Johan Santana sat out all of 2011 due to injuries to his arm, he came back a little late in the 2012 season with the Mets, and has had some bumps and bruises along the way. However, in those bumps he has found a way to throw the first no-no at Citi Field, and the first no-hitter in Mets history! Johan posted a 3.24 ERA before the All Star break and a 19.29 ERA after, which is why I have him rated as #5 on my list.
4. Adam Dunn (White Sox)
Adam Dunn had one of the worst seasons a player has put up in Major League Baseball’s history. He hit .159 with 8 homeruns and had a horrific .569 OPS. When Ken Williams signed Dunn to the 4 year $56 million dollar deal, he was allowing Ozzie Guillen (now Miami Marlins Manager) to pencil in 30 HR and 100 RBI in the clean up spot. However, that never happend, and Dunn threw last season away, coming out this year hitting 31 HR and 76 RBI both leading all designated hitters. It looks as if Dunn is back, and the White Sox, arguably couldn’t be in the standings how they are today if it wasn’t for Dunn’s bat. Adam Dunn comes in at #4 on my list.
3. Ryan Ludwick (Reds)
Last season with the San Diego Padres, Ryan Ludwick slashed .237/.310/.363 with 13 HR playing at a revolving door in left field for the Padres in 2011. Ludwick along with Votto has really surged the Reds lineup, and in the absence of Votto Ludwick has slashed .351/.419/.727 with 7 HR, 8 doubles and 24 RBI (all in 25 games that Votto has been absent on the DL). Ludwick is projected to finish the season with 29 HR’s, 30 doubles, and 86 RBI — according to ESPN. Ryan Ludwick has turned it around, and I will grant him that. He earned his #3 spot on the list.
2. A.J. Burnett (Pirates)
Fun fact: Did you know that the New York Yankees are actually paying Burnett to NOT pitch for them? In 2008 all seemed well with the Yankees. They spent over $420 million ($423.5 if you are taking notes) for three players in the likes of, C.C. Sabathia, Mark Texiera, and A.J. Burnett. However, Burnett was never the pitcher he was with the Blue Jays. He would go through stretches of brilliance, and stretches that would make one wonder how he ever was an effective Major League Starter. Fast forward to 2012; out of the New York spotlight, and in the small market of Pittsburgh, Burnett has shined. So far he has pitched to 138.1 innings, and a 3.32 ERA, with a 1.19 WHIP; compared to last year’s performance (190 innings and a 5.15 ERA in New York). So far the 35 year old veteran has everything clicking for him in Pittsburgh, and if the Pirates have any hope of staying in the race, Burnett will be a huge factor. A.J. Burnett ranks at #2 on my list.
1. Fernando Rodney (Rays)
It seems as though every year the Rays have a bullpen of “cast-off’s” and every year those so called “cast-off’s” and “washed up players” turn out to be the best deal of the winter. Once known for his blazing fastball that can reach close to 100 mph and a knee buckling change up, Fernando Rodney had lost it in 2011 with the LA Angels. He posted a 4.50 ERA in only 32 innings to go along with 3 saves, coming from a veteran who saved 37 games in 2008 with the Detroit Tigers. However, at 35, Rodney is having a career year, if that’s what you want to call it. So far in 55 games he has 36 saves, and a truly microscopic ERA and WHIP of 0.84 and 0.76, respectively. Also according to FanGraphs Rodney has averaged a 96.1 fastball the season, and on multiple times he has hit 98-99. Call it a fluke, or a “lucky” year, but I think at 35 Rodney still has another year left in the tank. For his efforts so far, lets face it, without a closer that can shut the door, the Rays might not be fighting for a playoff spot right now, Fernando Rodney is my #1 Comeback Player of the Year.