Every new season brings with it new challenges. But challenges are nothing new for the players on this list.
These players – including some of MLB’s best players – have gone through tough times and deep recessions in recent years. Some of these people have also become victims of injuries. Others failed to live up to expectations. You may have already started to have doubts about some of them, but they are all integral to their respective teams’ success in 2024. He just has to prove his ability on the field.
Below, 11 players who have a lot to prove this campaign.
Chris Sale, LHP, Braves
The Braves took a risk by acquiring Sale, but the reward could be great. The club expressed confidence in the left-hander’s health and gave him a two-year, $38 million contract extension, a deal that includes a team option for 2026 worth $18 million. With Sale, their starting rotation could be headed for a clash with someone else in the majors. Sale came to Boston from the White Sox in December 2016 and appeared on the Red Sox’s injured list nine times, mostly due to shoulder and elbow problems. He underwent Tommy John surgery on March 30, 2020, and was scheduled to return to the Major Leagues on August 14, 2021. Since August 2019, the experienced left-hander has played only 151 innings. So, for this trade to work for the Braves, they need Sale to do something he hasn’t been able to do often lately: stay on the mound.
Trevor Story SS, Red Sox
In exchange for the sale, Boston received Vaughn Grissom, who would be Story’s new double play partner. Story came to the Red Sox ahead of the 2022 season having hit at least 24 home runs in each of his first five full seasons in the Major Leagues and posted an OPS+ of at least 120 in four of those years. From 2017 to 2021, the shortstop missed only 60 games overall. But in 2022, he missed 68 games due to injuries and saw a decline in his overall production (102nd OPS+).
In 2023, Story was out for the first four months of the season while recovering from right elbow surgery. Upon his return, his slash line was .203/.250/.316 (OPS+ of 52) in 43 games. Entering the third year of a six-year, $140 million contract he signed with Boston, Story needs to be a key part of Boston’s lineup.
Shane Bieber, RHP, Guardians
Bieber has seen his name involved in trade rumors since the middle of last season. But inflammation in his right elbow diminished any chances of a trade before the 2023 deadline, and despite being a strong candidate for a trade throughout this winter, Bieber is coming off a very important year for himself and the club. The first remains with Cleveland.
If he can stay healthy, Bieber could lead a promising rotation in the American League Central Division that looks winnable. Although he hasn’t been able to recapture the level that earned him the American League Cy Young Award in 2020 – the 28-year-old right-hander remains an above-average starter. Bieber will become a free agent at the end of next season and, if he wants to get a good contract, he will have to prove that his 20.1% strikeout rate (the worst of his career) and high rate of hard hits received are just enough. It was a shock…
Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 1B, Blue Jays
The Dominican’s stats last year – 26 home runs, 117 OPS+ – aren’t bad at all; They don’t live up to the expectations of a player who, at just 22 years old, finished second in voting for the American League’s Most Valuable Player award in 2021.
Now set to begin his 25-year-old season, Guerrero may still have his best years ahead of him. Although his 2023 stats were a bit confusing, Guerrero’s plate skills and expected stats indicate he could be a terrifying elite hitter once again. This is exactly what the Blue Jays need if they want to advance in the postseason this year.
Tyler Glasnow, RHP, Dodgers
When Glasnow is at his best, opposition batsmen don’t have a good time. His 35.3% swing rate and 33.4% strikeout rate ranked in the 96th percentile and 97th percentile, respectively, last year. His 2.91 FIP among starting pitchers (minimum 100 innings pitched) was the best behind only Spencer Strider and Sonny Gray.
As a pitcher who has been plagued by injuries his entire career, the only question surrounding Glasnow is: Can he surpass his career-high 120 innings pitched last season? The Dodgers are almost bound to win the World Series, but their current rotation is surrounded by uncertainty. This includes the fact that Japan’s Yoshinobu Yamamoto has never thrown a pitch in the majors, that Shohei Ohtani will not be able to pitch this year and that Walker Buehler is returning from Tommy John surgery, to name a few concerns. Are. The last thing the Blues need is for Glasnow to be sidelined again. The health of the young right-hander will depend on the club’s hopes of winning.
Nestor Cortes, LHP, Yankees
The left-hander – with his unique antics and mustache – took another level of excellence in 2022 with a 2.44 ERA in 158.1 innings and finished eighth in voting for the American League Cy Young Award. After a hamstring injury in spring training and then a left shoulder ailment prevented him from repeating that performance, Cortes will now have to prove that his spectacular 2022 was not just a fluke.
Byron Buxton, CF, Twins
The Platinum Glove winner was demoted to designated hitter last year because of right knee pain. He saw no action after August 1 and underwent knee surgery for the second consecutive winter. His repertoire – largely an innate thunderbolt and the ability to negotiate walks – still shows good signs, but it remains to be seen whether he will have the durability in center field and whether his offense can offer more. .
Jazz Chisholm Jr., CF, Marlins
He played 97 games last year and is recovering from toe surgery. Over the past three seasons, the outfielder has averaged 29 home runs with 33 homers in 162 games, so now that he turns 26 next month, Chisholm will need to make the most of his prime.
John Means, LHP, Orioles
With less than a month until spring training begins, Baltimore needs an arm to get back to the top of the rotation. But Means can satisfy that requirement. After a stellar 2019 as a rookie and a successful 2021 before undergoing Tommy John surgery, the left-hander pitched 23.2 innings last September, but it will be difficult to gauge whether he will be the same type of short-inning pitcher after surgery. Will come back.
Ty France, 1B, Mariners
Seattle will need threat in its lineup after not offering a contract to Dominican Teoscar Hernandez and trading Venezuelan Eugenio Suarez. Although France does not have the same strength of these players, he has shown a great level recently: an offensive line of .311/.385/.476 from August 2021 to July 2022. Regardless of how the roster is composed, the lineup the Mariners will have will be more complete if they know what type of production they will get from their first baseman this year.
Michael Conforto, LF, Giants
In 2023, he was a far cry from the kind of player who slashed .459 with the Mets from 2017 to 2020. He had the opportunity to return on the free market, but Conforto decided not to exercise the opt out option on his contract. He is now expected to return as San Francisco’s starting left fielder. However, due to a decline in his fumble and defense, Conforto’s career may be facing a crossroads at the age of 31.
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