For the past few weeks, we’ve been running a series of award prediction pieces leading up to Opening Day. We’ve featured the major ones such as: Rookie of the Year, Cy Young, and Most Valuable Player. Today, The Sports Post’s Baseball Editor Mike Carlucci along with the section’s lead writer, Shaun Ranft, will start making theirA�own picks on an acknowledgement or two. First up, the Comeback Player of the Year.
Comeback Player of the Year is an interesting award. How successful does the comeback need to be? How good did the player need to be be before the down year to justify a comeback narrative? What if the player was never really that good but has a big year after an injury; can they be a comeback player? It’s not always clear. It’s more of a a�?call it like you see it” awarda��it’ll feel right.
When Hanley RamA�rez was traded for Josh Beckett in the winter of 2005, Peter Gammons said something along the lines of a�?this winter will be remembered not for Josh Beckett coming to town but for Andy Marte.” Beckett went on to lead the Sox to a World Series while Andy Marte amounted to nothing for several teams over the next few seasons. Ramirez was the one that got away.
After going hitless in his two-game call-up in 2005, the shortstop prospect hit .292/.353/.480 with 17 homers, 51 steals, and 46 doubles for the Florida Marlins in a Rookie of the Year winning season.
From ages 22 to 30 he averaged .300/.373/.500 with 21 homers and 29 steals per season. Sure in 2011 he was limited by injuries to 92 games. Ditto an 86-game 2013 campaign. But when he was healthy, he hit. That 86-game season saw him finish eighth in NL MVP voting!
When the Red Sox signed Hanley after 2014, it was a homecoming. Third base was open, RamA�rez was no longer a shortstop (and the Sox had Xander Bogaerts), and with the signing of Pablo Sandoval, Hanley agreed to move to left field. It didn’t go well. After hitting .293/.341/.659 with 10 homers in April, a short battle with an outfield wall derailed his shoulder and season. Turning 32 in December, RamA�rez is young enough to recover. Buzz about his defense at first base has been positive. And the Red Sox, with the two Davids (Ortiz and Price) teamed up with the two young stars Betts and Bogaerts, are counting on him to help with another worst-to-first turnaround.
If he’s healthy, he’ll hit. Few can hit as well as Hanley RamA�rez.
It’s tough to be a young player these days. Still just 25, Anthony Rendon has been a hyped prospect, an injury disappointment, an MVP candidate, and a forgotten man. Mike Trout and Rendon’s teammate Bryce Harper have already become a�?the best player in baseball” in their respective leagues at two years his junior.
Coming off a fifth-place finish in the NL MVP voting in 2014 thanks to a batting a strong .287/.351./473 with 21 homers and 17 steals, plus a league-leading 111 runs scored, Rendon looked like he was ready to succeed Ryan Zimmerman at third base. While playing in 153 games, he seemed to shake off his injury history and become a cornerstone of one of the best teams in baseball.
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An MCL tear and an oblique strain cost Rendon half of the 2015 season. When he was on the field, at second base rather than third, his bat was inconsistent. Hitting .264/.344/.363 the drop was most evident in slugging percentage, a mark that fell over 100 points from 2014 to 2015.
2016 Rendon is a different case. He’s healthy, has third basea��rather than the more straining seconda��open for him, and is raking in spring play. Twenty-nine at bats is a minuscule sample and against competition that has varied considerably but .379/.457/.517 can be a useful indicator only in the sense that Rendon is healthy. A healthy, top of the order bat in front of
the reigning MVP will put his name right where it needs to be for this type of award. The Nationals are trying to rebound as a team, Dusty Baker is trying to rebound after washing outa��potentially forevera��with the Reds a few years ago, and Anthony Rendon is primed to be the face of that resurgence.