Coming into the 2023 season, there are some players, some dudes who were just amazing once upon a time. For one reason or another, they fell off and fell off hard. They once were surefire top-100 players for some, fantasy baseball locks, and just top-100 MLB players year in and year out. However, today, we look at these players with many grains of salt, and I eat all that salt, and I still believe in them. Let's jump right in today with some pitchers.
Chris Sale, the man with the most tantrums, has the worst injury luck we have seen recently. Sale is only 33 and is a 7x all-star. Sale has missed 2020/2021/2022 due to injuries, Tommy John, and others. However, we don't have to look back far; 2019, his worst year 25 starts, 4.40ERA, 218K, 3.39FIP. Look back a little further at 2012-2018 top-6 or better Cy Young finishes and top-22 or better in MVP voting from 2015-2018. He also has the all-time career record for SO/9 with 11.1 and SO/BB at 5.33. If luck is on his side, he makes 20-25 starts; I fully expect Sale to return to ACE form in 2023
Hyun Jin Ryu, the Blue Jay's once ace when he signed ahead of the 2020 season for $80MM, enters the final year of that four-year pact. The long-time Dodger hurt his UCL in 2022 and underwent surgery in June 2022 to repair the ligaments and is scheduled to come back at some point during the 2023 season, like after the trade deadline. I am a big fan of the Korean southpaw, and I hope when he returns to action later this season, he tears it up and continues to pitch in the MLB for the next few years. I still have hope that at 35 going on 36, he has a few more years to give to a competitor. With the track record of consistency, strike-throwing, and a repaired arm, it's two ways it goes, either age catches up hard, or he finishes his career solid and likely, I imagine, back in Dodger blue in 2024.
Madison Bumgarner, MadBum, as we know and love him. The former Giants ace signed with the D-backs ahead of the 2020 season for five years and has two seasons left to prove the $85MM was well spent by the club. So far, after the three seasons in the desert, he has accumulated a 0.3WAR, with a -0.8WAR coming from the 2022 season. MadBum has been out there pitching for his club as he has made 26 and 30 starts over the last two seasons, and he is entering age 33 season and his 15th season. The Dbacks are putting a much more competitive product on the field going into 2023, and the stuff will return a sub-4 ERA. The age, the improved offense, and the player all give me confidence that the future Hall of Famer will return to form.
Stephen Strasburg, the 2019 world series champ and MVP, cashed in on his strong playoff performance and years of excellence with a 7yr, $245mm deal, the 2nd worst deal currently on the Nationals *cough* Patrick Corbin *cough*, excuse me. The 34 going on 35yo has thrown 31.1IP since signing this deal. This means he has earned $105MM and approximately $3.3MM per inning pitched on the deal thus far. Stras, as we know him, has had a recurrence of the thoracic outlet symptoms that have caused him rib and shoulder issues over recent seasons. The other injuries that have limited him were carpal tunnel surgery in 2020, thoracic outlet surgery in 2021, and now the TOS symptoms and nerve pain in the ribs. Pre-injury Stras is among the elite pitchers in the game as we look back to 2019, with 33 starts, 3.32 ERA, 251K, and 3.25 FIP in 209IP. "He knows in his heart he wants to pitch," Dave Martinez said. In my heart, I want to see Stras beat the injuries, and TOS beat the odds, and return to dominance to finish the back half of this deal and likely end his career.
Former A's- AJ Puk, Cole Irvin,
Don't get me wrong; I am a Mariners fan. However, I grew up in Oakland and attended many A's games at the O.co Coliseum; thanks, Adam.
AJ Puk is now with the Marlins; Cole Irvin is now with the Orioles. I have watched both of these beat up on the Mariners over the years, and these are two quality arms. I want nothing but success and believe in them 100% with their new teams, as both are in good to extraordinary situations for a starting pitchers. As both are now without All-Star Sean Murphy behind the plate, Puk finds himself with Jacob Stallings and Irvin with Rutch. Best of luck, guys; Oakland will miss you!
Christian Yelich, oh Yeli, the 2018 MVP and 2019 runner-up for the award, has been anything but an MVP/silver slugger since. The two dominant years came with incredible power, slugging, and OBP numbers that led the NL/MLB. A combined 80HR, 217RBI, 55SB, OPS+ of 164/179 pure and utter dominance. These two seasons led to him signing an unheard-of deal in Milwaukee for 9yr and $215MM ahead of the 2020 season. The 2020 season saw a dip in BA; however, a solid .356OBP, .430Slug along with 12HR and only 22RBI, very lackluster.
2021 was riddled with injuries as he only played in 117 games and hit 9HR and 51RBI. Now, in 2022 we saw occasional signs of life and health return as he played in 154G. However, 14HR, 57RBI, 19SB, .252/.355/.383 and an OPS+ of 111. Hopefully, a season of the yips has them all gone now, and we will see the same Yeli that is the only player in baseball history to have two seasons with at least a .325 Batting Avg, 30 HR, and 20 SB. That player is still there in Milwaukee, and 2023 proves it for all of us.
Cody Bellinger, the 27yo,2019 MVP, 2017 Rookie of the Year, Gold Glove, 2018 NLCS MVP, 2x All-Star, Cody Bellinger was non-tendered by the Dodgers ahead of the 2023 off-season, which came as a surprise to few. Belli signed a 1yr/$17.5MM deal with the Cubs with a 2024 mutual option, aka a prove-it deal. 2020 saw a year sharp down-turn in production as he hit 12HR, 30RBI, .239/.333/.445 in 56G in 2020, which many of us throw out, while he struggled in the NLCS and World Series in 2020 as well. In 2021 Belli faced injuries as he played in only 95G, hit 10HR, .165/.240/.302, and was just wrong. In 2022, Belli was able to find his health again as he played in 144G with 19HR, 68RBI, 14SB, .210/.265/.389 is better but still below league average at best and nowhere near MVP numbers. With the young age, shift restrictions, a change of scenery, less pressure to perform almost, and an entertaining Cubs team, I have confidence in Belli returning to near MVP form.
Javy Baez, better known as El Mago, arrived in Detriot as part of the star-studded SS class of 2022. The glovework for Javy is next level, and I am a big fan of how many highlight plays he will have this season. However, the most exciting thing to watch for Javy is if the Tigers are not good, and he per se can replicate 2018 2nd place MVP Javy or 2019/2021 numbers, he can opt-out of the remaining 4yr/$100MM. The Tigers are such an exciting team, and Baez was only 30 and with when he said when he signed, "I'm excited to be a Detroit Tiger," Baez said in a statement. "This is a team that is on the rise, and I've heard the fans in Detroit are hungry for a winner. We have a strong mix of veterans and talented young players, and I'm looking forward to joining this group to make a run at the playoffs and bring the city a World Series championship." If all that is true, then Javy stays for security. However, this is a player coming off a down year, his first year in Detroit, who can easily hit 30HR, 100RBI, 15SB, .280/.320/.540 on a season. Don't sleep on Javy.
Marcel Ozuna, baseball world, please do not hate me. However, Ozuna returned to action in 2022, played in 124G, and struggled to find the power stroke and plate discipline that has controlled his career. The Braves are on the hook with the 32yo DH/OF for two more years and a total of about $30MM, so he isn't going anywhere. The 2022 season was rough as he posted a -0.8WAR, 23HR, 122K-31BB, which is, more often at worst, 144K-64BB, as we saw in 2017. The jump to a 4/1 rate from slightly above a 2/1 rate is concerning. However, with the group of players, coaches, staff, and culture the Braves have, I don't see this sticking for Ozuna into 2023. With the massive power, the entire season, DH full time, the staff, and the team, Ozuna has a massive year for the Braves as they look to outpace the Mets and Phillies for the NL East once again.
Kris Bryant, 2015 rookie of the year, 2016 MVP/WS champ, 2017 top-10 MVP, 2019/2021 All-star KB. KB cashed in last off-season with the Rockies on a 7-year/$182MM deal that runs through 2028. He didn't exactly find his footing in the mile-high city in 2022, with the transition to LF full-time finding him on the field for only 42G, which he didn't disappoint. In that 42 G he played in, he hit 5HR, 14RBI, 27K-17BB, with a .306/.376/.475 slash line and 127OPS+. Hall of Fame candidate Todd Helton is being held back because of playing at Coor's field in Colorado. However, that should be even more of a plus for KB going into a healthy 2023 as the everyday LF for the Rockies, a team that shows signs of promise around the diamond overall.
All right, yall, those are my guys who I still have some hope and belief in heading into the 2023 season. Do you agree, disagree, or want to gauge how I feel about someone you believe in? Leave me a comment, and follow along for excellent baseball content coming in 2023.