By: Noah Wright
Comeback player of the year is one of my more favorite awards. Sometimes, it makes for a great comeback story, or makes a contract that looked sour in its first season look better. So with that being stated, I want to name what I think are the best comeback player of the year candidates for 2019.
- Carlos Santana:
After the 2017 season, Carlos Santana left Cleveland and signed a long term deal with the Phillies. However, his time in Philly was not all that spectacular. He finished 2018 with a .229/.352/.414 line, 109 wRC+, 24 home runs, and a -.9 dWAR. This is all the more disappointing considering that Santana had batted .259/.365/.477 with 57 home runs and a 118 OPS+ between 2016 and 2017 (total 1355 plate appearances). During the past off season, Santana was packaged, along with J.P. Crawford, and sent to the Mariners in exchange for Jean Segura, James Pazos, and Juan Nicasio. Then only 10 days later, Santana was shipped back to the Indians in a 3 team trade between the Rays, Indians, and Mariners. At 33 years of age, Carlos Santana is having a career year. Currently, the first baseman is batting an impressive .291/.400/.491 in 198 PA’s, along with 8 home runs, and a 136 wRC+.
- Hyun-Jin Ryu:
Between 2013 and 2014, Hyun-Jin Ryu could have been considered a top tier starter. He produced a 3.17 ERA, 2.97 FIP, and 1.198 WHIP in 344 total innings. However, injuries struck, and Ryu sat out all of 2015, and nearly all of 2016 as well. Ryu came back more healthy in 2017, but produced so-so results. Last year, Ryu looked to have finally found it again, but played in just an injury shortened 15 games. This year, Ryu looks healthy, and ready to pitch to a Cy Young caliber. Currently, Ryu has a 1.52 ERA, 2.61 FIP, and an outstanding .741 WHIP. In 59 and a third inning, Ryu has walked just 4 batters, and struck out 59.
- Marcus Stroman:
The Blue Jays right hander struggled a lot in 2018. He had pitched in an injury limited 102 and a third innings to posted a 5.54 ERA, 3.91 FIP, and 1.476 WHIP. Stroman has seemed to bounceback in 2019. In 64 innings, Stroman has an ERA of just 2.81, a 3.34 FIP, and 1.344 WHIP. He has also raised his strikeout rate nearly an entire strikeout, has given up way less hits, and opponents have an OPS of just .672 against him this year, as opposed to his opponent OPS of .759 last year.
- Carlos Correa:
The 2015 AL Rookie Of The Year, and 2017 All-star was very disappointing in 2018. He limped to an OPS of just .728, and wRC+ of 101. However, 2019 has been a completely different story. Through 197 plate appearances, Correa has a .297/.360/.571 line, along with a strong 148 wRC+. He also has a 146 OPS+. Correa is also barreling up the ball at an impressive 49.6% rate, and he has also seen an improvement in his defense. At shortstop, Correa has 2 DRS, -1.3 UZR, and a .5 dWAR.
- Dexter Fowler:
After a strong debut season with the St. Louis Cardinals, Fowler took a large step back in 2018. His OPS fell below .600, and he suffered from injuries for most of the season. Fowler even had a bout of depression throughout 2018. But 2019 Dexter Fowler looks a lot like 2017 Dexter Fowler. Through his first 155 plate appearances of ‘19, Fowler has a .283/.413/.441 line. He has also racked up an impressive 139 wRC+. Although Fowler usually ranks as a negative defender, Fowler has had positive numbers in right field.
- Francisco Liriano:
Back in the mid 2010’s, Liriano was a top tier starter for the Pittsburgh Pirates. He even won Comeback Player Of The Year in 2013 with the Bucs. However in the past 3 seasons, Liriano had struggled, very much. He had a 4.89 ERA, 4.90 FIP, and 1.524 WHIP throughout 2016 to 2018. The Pirates picked up Liriano again, and made him a reliever. Needless to say, it’s worked out very, very well. Liriano has a .81 ERA, 2.50 FIP, and 1.075 WHIP through 22 and a third innings. He has decreased his hard hit % by over 10%, and his K/9 rate is at a career high 11.3. His HR/9 rate is also at just .4. Liriano has kept both lefty batters and righty batters silent, as both have an OPS below .600 against him. If Liriano were to win Comeback Player Of The Year in 2019, he would win it for the third time in his career.
- Jonathan Schoop:
Jonathan Schoop was a top 5 2B in 2017. He had 32 home runs, a .841 OPS, and positive defense at second. But 2018 was almost a mirror opposite of 2017 Schoop. His OPS dipped below .700, and was worth just 1.2 bWAR, a far cry from the 5.2 bWAR he had posted a year prior. He was so bad with the Brewers, they decided to non-tender him, and let him walk in free agency. The Twins decided to take a 1 year flyer on Schoop, and his bat has bounced back in 2019. Schoop is batting a decent .266/.310/.494, with 8 home runs, and a 111 OPS+. Schoop’s defense has also been slightly above average, with a .2 dWAR.