AL bounceback canidates for the upcoming MLB season


After a disapointing last season, these players look to bounceback.

In baseball, some players gain contracts on name recognition and past performance alone but don’t exactly perform up to expectations once they hit the field. Let’s look at a bounce-back candidate for each American League MLB team for the upcoming season.

AL East

Orioles: Kyle Gibson

Kyle Gibson, the veteran right-handed starter, is coming off a season he’d rather forget with the Philadelphia Phillies. Having notched a 5.05 ERA over 31 starts in 2022, he finished with the second-highest ERA for ESPN’s stat-eligible pitchers1. Having previously enjoyed a decent 3.71 ERA in the prior season, Gibson looks to prove himself in the up-and-coming Orioles lineup.

Red Sox: Adalberto Mondesi

The former career Royal shortstop has never enjoyed a ton of success, especially in his slugging performance and games played. With career years in 2018 and 2019 featuring a career-high number of home runs and games played, respectively, Mondesi has never seemed to regain any sort of his prior success, likely due to the multitude of injuries he’s faced since. He has suffered multiple oblique, shoulder, and groin injuries and, worst of all, tore his left ACL early last season, attempting to steal second base. With prior franchise cornerstone shortstop Xander Bogearts gone, if Trevor Story isn’t fully healed in time, and if Kiké Hernandez needs backup, Mondesi should likely have a decent year for the Sox.

Yankees: Josh Donaldson

Donaldson was, by all means, a star in the early-to-mid 2010’s, even gracing the cover of MLB The Show 16 when he was a member of the Toronto Blue Jays. However, in the years since, the former catcher, and current third baseman has struggled to find the performance that made him such a sought-after player in the past. He went from slugging .521 and hitting 37 home runs in 2019 with the Atlanta Braves, to, three years later, only slugging .374 and hitting 17 homers with the Yankees. His batting average has steadily decreased as well. While some Yankees fans view his 2 year, $42 million salary as somewhat of an albatross, his past performance on a squad as deep as the Yankees, alongside the addition of some of his previous seasons having ebbed and flowed as well, should indicate the potential for a bounceback for him.

Rays: Brandon Lowe

The Rays are known not only for having one of the lowest payrolls in the league but also for excelling despite it. One of the pieces they’ve retained despite their financial woes has been home-grown Brandon Lowe, who has slowly become a cornerstone piece of their franchise. However, while he played in 149 games in 2021, slashing .247/.340/.523 and hitting 39 home runs, he only played in 65 games in 2022, slashing .221/.308/.383 and only hitting eight home runs. This lack of playing time can be attributed to a stress reaction in his back, which later would back up to his complete shutdown due to more injury in September. There’s no reason to expect that the 28-year old shouldn’t have a good year this year, and continue his prior success.

Blue Jays: Brandon Belt

Brandon Belt was a lifelong San Francisco Giant, and signed with the Blue Jays in free agency this offseason in the wake of a disappointing offensive season. He had a career season in 2021, 10 years after his MLB debut, slashing .274/.378./.597 and hitting 29 home runs in only 97 games. However, his 2022 season wasn’t nearly as successful, with a slashline of .213/.326/.350 with only 8 homers in 78 games. While the veteran is getting older, he should have a good year at the very least with the Jays before retirement, and hopefully regain some of the numbers that made him a star in the first place.

AL Central

White Sox: Yasmani Grandal

Grandal had a fantastic 2021 in retrospect; despite playing only 93 games, which can be considered a lot for a catcher, he slugged .520 with an OPS of .940, hitting 23 homers along the way. Then, injuries of the legs and back derailed his 2022 season, which, despite seeing him playing six more games, saw his home run count drop drastically to 5, his slugging almost cutting in half to .269, and his OPS nearly halving as well, going down to .570. He desperately needs to bounce back in ‘23, especially to justify the tail-end of the 4-year $73 million contract he signed with the Sox in 2019.

Guardians: Mike Zunino

The former 2021 AL all-star catcher was let go in free agency by the Rays over the offseason, allowing the Guardians to scoop him up, hoping to procure him back into all-star form. Back in 2021, he slugged .559 and hit 33 home runs; however, in 2022, his batting average dropped by .068 points down to .148, and he only slugged .304 before getting diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome, ultimately being sidelined for the rest of the season after only 36 games. His Guardians contract is somewhat of a gamble, but he’s still relatively young, and it’s logical to state that his poor performance last year may have been because of preexisting medical conditions that may have been relieved as of now.

Tigers: Austin Meadows

The former Rays slugger had fantastic 2019 and 2021 seasons, hitting 33 and 27 home runs respectively, while also slugging .558 and .458. However, in both 2020 and 2022, he found himself sidelined with injuries, playing in 36 games apiece, which was slightly over half the season in 2020. However, his stats did take a sharp downturn, hitting a combined .227 over the two years and only hitting 5 home runs in 2020, and none in 2022. Having been cleared of all injuries in November 2022, Meadows has no reason not to have a bounceback season.

Royals: Nicky Lopez

The Royals’ rookie contact hitter Nicky Lopez had a fantastic breakout 2021 season, hitting .300 even and having slightly better-than-average OPS and OPS+ of .744 and 104, respectively.  He didn’t take that hard of a downturn in 2022; however, he didn’t hit any home runs, compared to the measly 2 he hit the year prior, and batted 63 points lower. His OPS and OPS+ also dipped below league average. While he’s not expected to gain any sort of light-tower power anytime soon, he’s paid for his ability to get on base with his bat, and he didn’t entirely showcase that last season.

Twins: Joey Gallo

The former all-star and gold-glover hasn’t been known for a high batting average over his career; however, he’s more of a high power, slugging percentage hitter. Having touched a slugging percentage of up to .598 and a BA of .253 over his career, Gallo is a classic low-average high power guy. However, with the infield shift becoming a more popular move in past seasons, Gallo repeatedly fell victim to having his shots swiped by the moved-in infield, leading to lower slugging averages and batting averages. With the restriction of the shift in 2023, Gallo is expected to have both a higher batting average and a better chance to excel offensively in general.

AL West

Astros: Mauricio Dubón

Dubón hasn’t been a massive part of the teams he’s been on; however, he’s proven that he can get on base and hit for contact. In 2019 and 2020 with the Giants, he slashed a combined .277/.322/.412. In 2022, however, he only slashed .239/.245/.391 with the Giants in the first half, and, after being traded to the Astros in the second half, slashed .208/.254/.294. If the Astros are looking for someone to get on base, Dubón could be their guy – if he’s able to rebound.

Angels: Anthony Rendon

Rendon was a hero for the Nationals in the 2019 postseason, helping them secure their first World Series in franchise history. At the conclusion of the season, however, the free-agent Rendon found himself with the Angels on a 7 year, $245 million contract. He played the majority of the shortened 2020 season, but his batting average, home runs and slugging percentage all struggled in comparison to the previous year. Between 2021 and 2022, he only played 105 games for the Halos, averaging a .234 batting average and only hitting 11 homers, slugging .381. While some believe that his contract is quickly becoming an albatross for the Angels ownership, his poor performance can be attributed to injuries the aging Rendon has suffered, and allegedly recovered from as well. In spring training, he already has a .333 batting average and a home run, being promising signs for Rendon’s season ahead.

Athletics: Trevor May

A rarity from the tight-fisted Athletics, the team picked up Trevor May, the free-agent relief pitcher from the New York Mets. With 2.94 and 3.59 ERA’s in 2019 and 2021 respectively, May is one of the better relievers in the game. However, his 2022 season, mired by stress reaction injuries, was one of the worst of his career. He played in 27 games, with an ERA of 5.04 and a H/9 of 9.7. There’s no reason that a newly loosened-up May can’t be an effective reliever for the A’s this year; however, he’s simply cleaning up for the rear of a team in disarray.

Mariners: AJ Pollock

Well-known for his ability to hit for contact and get on base, Pollock signed with the Mariners coming off one of his worst career years ever. With an average slashline of .281/.338/.482 over his lengthy career, Pollock only hit .245/.292/.389 last year, having the second lowest batting average of his career. He was picked up in free agency this offseason by the Mariners on a one-year deal, and should have more than enough in the tank to have a season in which he enjoys stats reminiscent of his prior successes.

Rangers: Mitch Garver

Garver was a Silver Slugger during his time in Minnesota; during the 2019 season, despite playing in only 93 games, mostly as a pinch-hitter and designated hitter, he hit 31 homers, matched with a .273 average, .630 SLG, and .995 OPS. Think about it this way; Garver had a higher OPS in his 2019 season than Mark McGwire had in his entire career. Since then, he hasn’t cracked the 70 game limit, and also hasn’t hit more than 13 homers in a season. There’s no reason for him to not bounce back this season; the Rangers may just need to slot him into some more games from time to time.