At the end of every baseball season, fans gather around and debate which player had the best season, which pitcher was most dominant, and which rookie broke onto the scene in the most dramatic fashion. But among all of the awards given out each year, I feel like the Comeback Player of the Year is one that gets overshadowed.
But think about it. Comeback Player of the Year is quite an impressive feat. It means you were a player whose play had declined and no one expected much out of you anymore, but you were able to battle back through adversity and get back your usual form.
Take Josh Donaldson last season with the Braves. He had only played 52 games in 2018 due to injuries and no one expected him to be great again. But he returned to his pre-2018 self and hit 37 home runs and 94 RBIs.
Or Mike Moustakas in 2017. The year prior, he tore his ACL. No one knew if he could ever be the player he was. But he came back and hit a career-high 38 home runs.
So this is an impressive award to win. And this season presents us with quite a few candidates.
The first, and I think most obvious candidate, is Yoenis Cespedes. The former All-Star slugger has played just 119 games since 2017. He missed all of 2019 due to injuries. The last time he played 100+ games was during the 2016 season.
By all accounts he's back and fully healthy going into this season with the Mets. It might actually be better for him that the season got delayed, as I'm not sure he would've been ready in March.
Projections have him hitting around .250 this season, which isn't bad, but could be a lot better. The home run projections have him hitting anywhere from 5 to 13, and I would bet he ends up on the higher end.
When Cespedes joined the Mets in 2015, he played 57 games with the team. In those 57 games, he hit.287 with 17 home runs and 44 RBIs. I doubt we'll see that kind of production from him this season, but if he even comes close he should be in consideration for NL Comeback Player of the Year.
Another New York slugger plagued by injuries, Stanton played just 18 games last season. He's back in the Yankees' lineup, and he's already mashing home runs in the Bronx.
Stanton's projections have him hitting .254 with 14 home runs and 36 RBIs, which would be a great improvement for the 30-year-old. After just three home runs last season, anything seems like an improvement. If he's able to stay healthy for all 60 games, he should be back to usual form this year.
Ohtani's is a bit of an interesting case, as he had a solid 2019 season at the plate. The 26-year-old hit .286 with 18 home runs and 62 RBIs, although his season did end prematurely due to knee surgery.
It's the pitching side of things where Ohtani has a shot at being named Comeback Player of the Year. A two-way player, Ohtani didn't pitch at all in 2019 due to undergoing Tommy John surgery in October of 2018.
His projections for the 2020 season show that he's expected to go 3-2 with a 3.83 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP. Ohtani is expected to strike out 48 batters in 40 innings pitched.
For a player that hasn't pitched in over a year, that would be quite the season, especially while doing damage at the plate as well. If Ohtani is as good as he can be this season, he's a legitimate MVP candidate.
Bard could be in line for Comeback Player of the Year no matter the stats he puts up in 2020. Bard pitched for the Red Sox from 2009-2013, but struggled in 2012 and made just two appearances during the 2013 season.
The Red Sox designated him for assignment in September and he was claimed off waivers by the Cubs. He bounced around a couple teams, but lost his command while with the Rangers.
He retired in 2017, but announced in February of this year that he was making a comeback. The Colorado Rockies signed him to a minor league deal, and announced on July 17 that he had made the Opening Day roster.
He's not projected to even pitch that much this season, but the fact that he's come this far is commendable. If Bard finishes the season on the Rockies' active roster, he deserves consideration for this award.