The Players Choice MLB Comeback Player of the Year isn’t a very prestigious award, as it doesn’t have the legacy or weight of any of baseball’s other major awards. Yet, the announcement of the final candidates for the trophy has officially kicked off MLB Award season.
Mike Moustakas and Greg Holland for the AL and NL, respectively, were the recipients of the award last year. Other big names to win the award are Prince Fielder, Rick Porcello, Matt Harvey, Buster Posey, Cliff Lee, Jim Thome, Mariano Rivera, and Ken Griffey Jr.
Let’s take a look at each of the nominees for both leagues and examine their cases.
- David Price
- Edwin Jackson
- Michael Brantley
David Price is likely the front-runner for this award, and there’s no bias behind that. The 32-year-old Price rebounded from his injury-plagued 2017 season where he only made 16 starts. Coming into this season, the threat of still having to undergo Tommy John at some point was a real possibility. So for Price to make 30 starts and throw 176 innings, all while being an effective pitcher on a team with the best record in baseball. Price had a 3.54 ERA and, minus one truly shitty start against the Yankees in the Bronx, was statistically one of the best pitchers in baseball over the last half of the season.
Who honestly saw Edwin Jackson pitching in the bigs this year? Edwin Jackson used to be one of my favorite pitchers back in the day and even I forgot he was a person until he was picked up by the Athletics in mid-June. Jackson, 34, stepped in when the A’s rotation was decimated by injury and became one of the Athletics best pitchers down the stretch. Jackson had a 3.33 ERA over 90 innings and was seriously considered to be the A’s starter for the Wild Card game, and even though he didn’t get the start, it’s a huge bode of confidence in a man who had been in the minors for the majority of the past two years. This was Jackson’s 16th major league season with his 13th different team, and he likely did enough this year to warrant a contract from another team next year.
Michael Brantley finally had the bounce-back year that we all have been waiting for since his 2014 3rd place MVP year. Brantley looked ready to be the next great outfielder in this league after that 2014 season where he hit .327, had 200 hits, and had a 20-20 season. The next year he hit over .300 again but missed close to thirty games. 2016 and 2017 were both unmitigated disasters. Brantley played exactly 100 games over the two years and was pretty shite while on the field. He finally got healthy this year and it showed in the stat sheet. He hit .309, had 36 doubles, over 170 hits, and had an OPS over .800. Brantley is the embodiment of having a comeback season.
- Clay Buchholz
- Mike Mikolas
- Matt Kemp
Clay Buchholz had a rough go during his first season out of Boston. He only threw seven innings and his only season in Philly was marred by injury. So, similar to the case of Edwin Jackson, when the Diamondbacks starters began to get hurt, they were in need of some outside help. In steps Claydro. Buchholz’s first start came on May 20th, and from then on he would make 16 starts and pitch to a 2.01 ERA, as well as a 215 ERA+. Over his 16 starts, Buchholz would only give up 3 or more runs twice. Even though he was hampered by another injury that ended his season in mid-September, it seems Buchholz may have revived his career.
I like to pride myself on my baseball knowledge but even I didn’t know who Mike Mikolas was before this year. After three pretty bad major league stints between the Padres and the Rangers, Mikolas did what any smart baseball player does to get right and reinvent themselves; he went to Japan. Mikolas killed in it the JCPL, posting a 2.18 ERA over three seasons. He did good enough to impress the Cardinals into signing him to a two-year deal worth $15 million. Mikolas made that look like a bargain, as he led the National League in wins with 18 and sported a very nice 2.83 ERA. Mikolas is my pick to win the Award.
Matt Kemp is the outlier here. He didn’t, by most standards, have a bounce-back/ comeback season. Sure, his batting average went up 20 something points back into the .290’s and his OPS jumped up 30 points but he didn’t have a great year. I think his 2016 campaign, where he hit 35 home runs and drove in 108 runs was much more deserving of a comeback player of the year award nod than this year.
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