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5 MLB Players Looking to Bounce Back in 2021

| December 29, 2020 8:12 am PDT
5 MLB Bounce Back Candidates in 2021

2020 was a strange year for everybody, especially MLB players. I can’t think of another professional sport where routine and superstition are as heavily engrained.

Delaying the start, combined with the stop-and-go action, made it a year to forget for some of the game’s best players. The saving grace for the guys who struggled is they now have an opportunity for redemption.

Let’s zero in on five MLB bounce-back candidates.

Christian Yelich, OF, Brewers

Year BA OBP SLG AB per HR WAR
2019 .329 .429 .671 11.11 7.1
2020 .205 .356 .430 16.67 0.1
Christian Yelich

The 2018 NL MVP was on his way to winning the award again in 2019 until a fouled ball of his kneecap derailed his final month of the year. A fairly trivial freak injury like that surely wasn’t going to affect Christian Yelich at the dish in 2020, right?

Wrong.

It all went south for Yelich as his batting average plummeted by a whopping 124 points. And while Christian didn’t completely shy away from launching the long ball, the dramatic dip in his WAR (wins above replacement) tells you everything you need to know.

Nevertheless, Yelich is simply too smart and too talented of a baseball player not to figure it out during the offseason. Consider him a steal at the tail end of round one in your baseball fantasy drafts.

J.D. Martinez, OF/DH, Red Sox

Year BA OBP SLG AB per HR WAR
2019 .304 .383 .557 15.97 3.3
2020 .213 .291 .389 30.14 -0.9

Set to earn close to $20 million per over the next two seasons, Boston can ill-afford for J.D. Martinez’s slump to extend into 2021. Here’s a guy who appeared as a DH in 48/54 contests – alluding to the fact that he brings nothing to the table defensively.

With that being said, folks in Beantown were aware that he could be a liability in the outfield. J.D. gets paid to be a feared hitter at the plate who consistently delivers timely hits.

Well, Martinez didn’t get that memo in 2020 as he batted a paltry .213 and watched his power vanish into thin air. Of the 1,289 players who registered a WAR, J.D. clocked in at #1,287.

Yikes.

Before we write him off completely as an asset to the Bo Sox, let’s take a closer look at what this cat’s all about.

From 2014-2019, J.D. Martinez batted a cumulative .307 and averaged 34 homers per year. I’ll need to see more than a 60-game sample size of poor play before I concede that he’s finished.

Nolan Arenado, 3B, Colorado Rockies

Year BA OBP SLG AB per HR WAR
2019 .315 .379 .583 14.34 5.7
2020 .253 .303 .434 22.75 1.4
Nolan Arenado

Arguably the best two-player in baseball, nothing changed this past year regarding Nolan Arenado’s stellar defense at the hot corner. Completing his eighth season in the big leagues, Arenado captured his eighth straight Gold Glove award.

The big difference in 2020 and why Nolan is featured as one of my MLB bounce back candidates was his diminished production at the plate.

The Rockies third baseman entered 2020 on the heels of five consecutive seasons racking up at least 37 HR and 110 RBI. In the most recent truncated season, Arenado accounted for just 8 homers and 26 ribbies in 48 games. His .253 batting average was an anomaly compared to past years.

Rather than panic, remember that this 29-year-old is smack dab in the middle of his prime. And don’t forget that he plays half of his games in Coors Field.

Look for Arenado’s numbers to be on the uptick in 2021.

Jack Flaherty, SP, St. Louis Cardinals

Year ERA Innings/Start WHIP Hits/9 innings WAR
2019 2.75 5.91 .968 6.2 5.9
2020 4.91 4.46 1.215 7.4 -0.3

After turning in a Cy Young-worthy campaign in 2019, I was among the many who pinpointed Jack Flaherty as one of the top pitchers in baseball heading into 2020. Unfortunately, a series of postponements early in the proceedings never allowed Flaherty to get fully on track.

Jack pitched on opening day – striking out six batters across seven innings en route to a victory over Pittsburgh. Then he waited, waited, and waited – not pitching again for 26 days.

In what we can essentially chalk up as a lost season for Flaherty, Cardinals fans can find solace knowing he looked sharp down the stretch. After posting 11 strikeouts against the Pirates on September 20th, Flaherty ended his season on a high note striking out eight Padres in his lone postseason start.

When push comes to shove, Flaherty’s got one of the nastiest sliders in the business.

Joey Gallo, Of/DH, Texas Rangers

Year BA OBP SLG AB per HR WAR
2019 .253 .389 .598 10.95 3.0
2020 .181 .301 .378 19.30 1.2

If you are looking for a prime suspect, who is bound to bounce back in 2021, look no further than Joey Gallo.

Frankly, this glaring stat isn’t as big of a deal as you might think. The Rangers right fielder has never been known for being a contact hitter. He’s going to strike out in more than 30% of his plate appearances.

On the other hand, Joey’s a colossal home run hitter who, as recently as 2019, was being touted as a franchise player. Gallo took huge strides defensively in 2020, winning his first Gold Glove, and I promise, his power isn’t waning.

  • 41 homers in 2017
  • 40 homers in 2018
  • 22 homers in 2019 (70 games)

With a full season of games to look forward to in 2021, the 27-year-old Las Vegas native is positioned for a fruitful campaign.

Going Away

Pondering the MLB players who will bounce back in 2021 is a perfect segue into another category of individuals. I’m talking about the unheralded names who will emerge as break-out stars in the upcoming season.

Take a look.

MLB Players Ready to Break Out in the 2021 Season

Randy Arozarena burst onto the scene in early September and never looked back. In the span of two months, the 25-year-old Cuban went from a virtually unknown commodity to setting the record for the most hits and home runs during a single postseason....

Read More
Michael Wynn
Michael Wynn

As a former Division I collegiate golfer, Michael Wynn loves writing about golf. He's also an expert in most of America's most popular sports, writing extensively for GamblingSites.com on football, basketball, and baseball.

Michael's a Las Vegas native and has been with the company since 2017.

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