With quite a few teams fortunes tied to players coming off of injury I felt it important to highlight a few I felt were primed for the biggest bounce back seasons in 2014. Some (Corey Hart) will be relied upon to give much-needed lineup protection while others (Pujols) will be counted on to co-anchor their teams offensive attack. Here are the five, I see, as ready to get back after it in 2014.
Albert Pujols, Los Angeles Angels: Allow me to be the first to hop on this bandwagon. He’s healthy, he’s motivated, and in just 2012 he put up a 30/105/.285/138 (HR/RBI/BA/OPS+) line. While injuries have kept him out of the Angels lineup for the majority of 2013, all reports out of Arizona have Albert ready to rake again. And if his recent interview flap is any indication he also has a bit of a chip on his shoulder. That means bad things for the American League West.
Derek Jeter, New York Yankees: After 19 years I’ve learned my lesson with Jeter. With this being his last season in major league baseball I’m to going to omit him from this list. Although he is coming off an ACL injury that wiped out all but 17 games last season I expect him to come out swinging in 2014. He still has top-of-the-order ability in a Yankees lineup that now features Jacoby Ellsbury at the top of it. I’m gonna pencil him in for .290/.350/.390 for his swan song campaign.
Matt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers: Matt Kemp is one of those players that can make or break a franchise depending on his ability to stay on the field. The Dodgers have the luxury of having a number of those players which has hidden the fact that Kemp hasn’t been the same since 2012. At 29, Kemp would be hard pressed to have 40/40 potential anymore. I do see him as a 30/30 guy and MVP candidate in 2014. His shoulder and legs (huge parts of Kemp’s swing) are healthy heading into Spring which is a good sign for Los Angeles. The Dodgers will be rewarded for not acting hastily and trading a franchise changing player in his prime.
Curtis Granderson, New York Mets: Granderson’s 2013 started with a fractured forearm in spring training and a fractured pinkie finger in May. Not ideal. Lets remember that Granderson hit 40+ home runs in the two seasons prior to his nightmarish 2013. I think you see what I’m getting at here. He signed with the Mets and should provide some much-needed pop to their lineup in 2014. I don’t know if he has 40 home runs in him, but 25-30 isn’t a stretch. I foresee a nice bounce back year from him.
Corey Hart, Seattle Mariners: Call it a hunch if you want, but I feel strongly that after missing all of 2013 recovering from micro fracture surgery he can put up numbers close to what he did in 2012. Hart has legitimate power to all fields and he’s capable of giving you 20/80/.275/.335 (HR/RBI/BA/OBP). This would be a nice start for him year one post surgery (and a good sign is that through four games this Spring he’s getting on base at a .417 clip). Provided he stays on the field, I can see him producing at a high level for a lineup that really needs it.