Tha Sports Junkies 101

2017 MLB Comeback Candidates

Comeback Jon Gudorf via


After disappointing seasons in 2016, here are some players positioned for a comeback in 2017

Jason Heyward

Before the 2016 season the Chicago Cubs signed Heyward to an 8-year, $184 million contract, the largest in Cubs history. He was an All-star, a three-time Gold Glove winner, and was coming off a season in which he slashed .293/.359/.439, perhaps the best season of his young career. He was only 26 years old. Expectations were high, but unfortunately Heyward was unable to live up to those expectations in his first year as a Cub. In fact, he had arguably the worst season of his career at the plate, batting to the tune of .230/.306/.325. Heyward maintained his Gold Glove caliber fielding, but his problems at the plate were glaring and continued into the postseason. Fortunately for him, his team was still able to win the World Series.

Now, Heyward and his coaches have spent the offseason working on his approach at the plate. There was even news that he moved to Arizona to work with assistant hitting coach Erik Hinske on a regular basis. As he prepares for his second season as a Cub, this time as a world champion, Heyward should have renewed confidence. He is one of the top candidates for a comeback season in 2017. Don’t forget he’s still only 27 years old. With his prime years ahead of him and playing for one of the best teams in the game, I like his chances.

Bryce Harper

I know. I know. How do you make a “comeback” from a season that included 24 home runs, 86 RBI, and 21 stolen bases? Well, when your name is Bryce Harper you set the bar a bit higher than most players. Coming off an MVP season in 2015, Harper failed to repeat his success at the plate. In that 2015 season Harper’s slugging percentage was a robust .649. He followed that up by slugging .441 last year, the second lowest mark of his career. There’s a reason Harper was considered a superstar before he even stepped on a major league field, and at age 24 I think it’s safe to say we haven’t seen the best from Harper. Not yet. Look for him to continue his progression at the plate as he matures and continues his pursuit of greatness in 2017. But don’t call it a comeback if you don’t feel the need to do so.

Andrew McCutchen

Like Harper, we all know that McCutchen is an All-star caliber player, but last year we saw him post a career low in slugging (.430) and a career high in strikeouts (143). Battling injuries may have had something to do with it, but playing for a team that plays the role of perennial bridesmaid in the NL Central might also be to blame. Rumors of a trade have been swirling this offseason, and I believe a change of scenery might be exactly what Cutch needs for a return to dominance at the plate. Both the Toronto Blue Jays and the New York Yankees have been tied to McCutchen recently. Can you imagine what he could do in those ballparks?

AJ Pollock

Heading into the 2016 season, Pollock was a rising star. He was coming off an All-star 2015 campaign in which he hit for a .315/.367/.498 slash line, including 20 home runs and 39 stolen bases. He was the kind of dual threat that any team would love to have as a catalyst atop their lineup. Expectations were high, but unfortunately for him, and Arizona, his season ended before it even began due to an elbow injury. Now Pollock has his sights on 2017, and if he can stay healthy he has the tools to make a comeback and fill the stat sheet once again. Playing in a hitter-friendly ballpark with Paul Goldschmidt behind him in the lineup, I expect him to do just that.

Matt Harvey

Like Pollock, The Dark Knight will need to prove that his injury problems are behind him this year. In 2013 Harvey finished 9-5 with a 2.27 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, and 191 strikeouts across 178.1 innings pitched, earning him his first All-star game appearance and fourth place in the Cy Young voting. Unfortunately he missed the chance to build off that as Tommy John surgery knocked Harvey out for the entire 2014 season. In 2015 he came back strong, going 13-8 with a 2.71 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, and 188 strikeouts over 189.1 innings. But the injury bug hit Harvey again in 2016. He pitched through the loss of feeling in his fingertips, posting a 4.86 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, and just 76 strikeouts over 92.2 innings. He would eventually opt for season ending surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome. Now with 2017 in his sights, Harvey says that he feels healthy and will be ready for spring training. If he can somehow put his injuries behind him and stay healthy, the Dark Knight will rise to dominance once again. Sorry, couldn’t resist.

Dallas Keuchel

In 2015, Keuchel pitched one of the greatest seasons in Houston Astros history. He posted a 2.48 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, and 216 strikeouts across 232.0 innings, earning him the Cy Young Award and his first trip to the All-Star Game. 2016 was not so kind to Keuchel, as he struggled to find his dominant stuff. In 168.0 innings, he went 9-12 with a 4.55 ERA, 1.29 WHIP and 144 strikeouts. Keuchel later admitted that he had pitched through a shoulder injury for most of the season. On Tuesday he tweeted his excitement about being pain-free in his first throwing session. It looks like the time off may have been just what he needed to regain his form. If that’s the case, opposing hitters will have their hands full when Keuchel steps on the mound again.


Whether they’re simply performing below expectations, or battling injuries, major league players understand that the season is a grind. To perform consistently takes hard work and a little bit of luck avoiding injury. I believe these players mentioned above have the grit and determination to bounce back in 2017 after disappointing seasons last year. Two things are certain: only time will tell which of them can accomplish the comeback, and it will be exciting to watch them try.