As the season draws closer, we’ll be examining several prominent players around the majors who are hoping for bounce-back years. Let’s start with a group of well-known American League West position players whose numbers dipped dramatically in 2019…
Justin Upton, LF, Angels: The 32-year-old Upton has been terrific for the majority of his career (otherwise, the Angels wouldn’t have given him a five-year, $106MM guarantee after 2017), but last season was a nightmare. A foot injury kept Upton out until June, and his season ended prematurely in September on account of a right knee issue. When Upton was healthy enough to take the field, he batted a disappointing .215/.309/.416 with 12 home runs and a career-worst 30.5 percent strikeout rate (5 percent worse than his lifetime mark). Compared to 2018, his fly ball percentage and launch angle went way up, but his average exit velocity dropped almost 4 mph, and his hard-hit rate plummeted. The banged-up Upton was even worse in left field, where he accounted for minus-13 Defensive Runs Saved and a minus-5.2 Ultimate Zone Rating. Upton recently told Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register that he’s healthy and aiming for a rebound. The Angels will likely need one from him if they’re going to break a five-year playoff drought; if they get one, Upton should form a lethal offensive quartet with Mike Trout, Anthony Rendon and Shohei Ohtani.
Andrelton Simmons, SS, Angels: Like his teammate Upton, Simmons missed a significant number of games last year because of injury issues. Ankle troubles limited Simmons to 103 games, his fewest since 2012, and his effectiveness at the plate waned compared to the prior couple years. While Simmons has never been an offensive force, the defensive maven’s slightly above-average work with the bat from 2017-18 helped him combine for 10.4 fWAR in that span. Simmons only put up a .264/.309/.364 line in 424 PA last year, though he did continue to avoid strikeouts (8.7 percent), and his wizardry in the field helped him to a respectable 1.7 fWAR. However, he still finished near the bottom of the majors in several key offensive Statcast categories. For instance, Simmons’ xwOBA (.265) ranked in the bottom 2 percent of the league and fell 59 points from 2018. The ankle may have been holding Simmons back, but regardless, a return to form in 2020 would aid the Angels and the pending free agent’s bank account.
Khris Davis, DH, Athletics: Yet another injury case from 2019, Davis’ normally elite power was sapped during a season in which he fought hip, oblique and hand problems. After three straight 40-home run seasons (and four in a row in which he hit .247), he finished with a .220/.293/.387 line and 23 HRs over 533 PA. His ISO sunk like a stone, going from .302 in 2018 to .166 last year, and his hard contact went way down in the process. The 32-year-old has already been slowed by a calf injury early in camp, but indications are that it’s minor. Oakland will need that to be the case, especially considering the commitment the low-budget club made to Davis before last season. It still owes him $16.75MM on a two-year, $33.5MM contract that hasn’t worked out for the team so far.
Stephen Piscotty, RF, Athletics: The missed time theme continues. Piscotty’s 2019 ailments ranged from frightening (a melanoma on his right ear) to more conventional (knee and ankle injuries). The 29-year-old made just 93 appearances as a result, and he didn’t produce like the big-hitting, 3.0-fWAR player he was in 2018 when he did play. Piscotty hit .249/.309/.412 with 13 homers and 0.6 fWAR in 393 PA, though his hard-hit percentage and average exit velocity both increased. There may be hope for return to his career-best output, then, but Piscotty will first have to get over yet another health issue. He’s dealing with an oblique/rib cage injury that could jeopardize his status for Opening Day.
Mitch Haniger, RF, Mariners: Haniger was quietly great in 2018, but his playing time and his numbers sagged last season. He sat out 99 games after suffering a ruptured testicle at the beginning of June, didn’t play again after that and still hasn’t returned to health. Haniger just underwent his second surgery in the past few weeks – a microdiscectomy on his back – leaving it up in the air when he’ll debut in 2020. The 29-year-old is the Mariners’ best player, though, and if they can get a healthy version back sometime in 2020, he’s as logical a bounce-back candidate as anyone.
Mallex Smith, OF, Mariners: Smith looked like a quality pickup for the Mariners when they acquired him from the Rays after the 2018 campaign. At that point, the speedster was coming off a 3.5-fWAR, 40-steal showing in Tampa Bay. Smith amassed even more stolen bases in is first year in Seattle (46), but the rest of his stats tanked. The 26-year-old hit a weak .227/.300/.335 in 566 trips to the plate, while his defensive output was similarly poor (minus-12 DRS, minus-9.5 UZR). The combination of subpar offense and defense led to a replacement-level fWAR for Smith, who also fell victim to a massive decline in batting average on balls in play. He logged an inflated .366 BABIP in ’18 and a .302 mark in that category last season, which partially explains the drastic difference in year-to-year production.
Rougned Odor, 2B, Rangers: If you’re a Rangers fan (or even part of the organization), you may be tired of Odor’s inconsistency. He has been a 2.0-plus-fWAR player three times in his career, most recently in 2018, but a replacement-level or worse performer twice. That includes last season – even though Odor walloped 30 homers, he was only able to slash .205/.283/.439 in 581 tries. Along the way, the left-handed Odor posted his worst strikeout percentage (30.6) and was eaten alive by righty pitchers, who held him to a dismal .190/.260/.417 line. If there’s a silver lining, it’s that Odor was much better in the second half of the season, ending the year with a flourish after general manager Jon Daniels expressed frustration with his production in late August. The Rangers still owe Odor $36MM through 2022, making it all the more important for the club to receive at least passable production from him.
A ruptured testicle is an injury no man should have to suffer.
Ruptured testicle?????? OW-OW-Ow!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Two words that should never be said in the same sentence
Love Haniger. Too bad he has had some very bad injury luck ! Upton has always been streaky. Odor is baaaaaaaaaad!
Odor has promise, but even in passable offensive years he had a 10 cent head on the base paths. Would love to see Rangers unload him and play Solak at 2b but likely no takers unless they included prospects or take on another bad deal like Belt in SF or Myers in SD. Unsure if either of those move help Rangers much.
Belt actually played pretty good last year so that’s not gonna happen
I mean he was average way better than Odor last year
Definitely a head case and has been since 2014. U can see the talent, just cant put it all together. 1 week looks like an allstar and mvp contender and hits 6 Homer’s, then goes into a 3-5 week slump.
I can’t explain it but Rougned Odor and Kole Calhoun are two players who come into Seattle and absolutely CRUSH Mariner pitching. Odor=death to Mariner Pitching. I realize a lot of ppl do that but I have MLB At-Bat, I watch a lot of games, and both Odor and Calhoun come into town scuffling then leave on hitting streaks!
Well can rangers play 150 games against Seattle, then?
Dude, trust me, I’ve often wondered how good their numbers would be if they played more games in Seattle. Strange thing is Globe Life Park was a significantly better hitters park too!
Yes, Khris Davis of the A’s. Hope you’re not thinking of Chris Davis of the Orioles, no chance of a bounce back there.
Upton was limited in Spring Training last year, too. He was simply never healthy. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him close to career norms.
Simba had a gruesome injury. I’d love to see him rebound as well.
I think Odor starts for 1-2 months then Solak becomes the starter for the rest of the year. It’s way past time to just admit the contract sucks and move on
If Khris can stay healthy 35+ homers and .247 is the likely outcome.
the sterling don
.247 very likely indeed!
For him, .247 is the new .300. However, not for anyone else, especially the people that suck up to batting average, which obviously does not include me.
I’d take that for a 13th-15th draft pick in 10 person H2H fantasy league! I’d burn a 14th rd pick on a bounce back!
13-15th round pick
I think Simmons is in decline at the plate (I don’t expect him to “bounce back”)…..but, I’m thinking Upton has a chance to have a monster season in 2020.
RyÅn W Krol
How do figure Simmons is declining at the plate when his numbers have gone up with the Angels, including more power? 2019 was his first injury plagued season in his career. We can’t really judge that until we actually see a physical decline over about a 2-3 year period.
As a guy who doesn’t really walk or have much pop. Simmons is going to be a victim of year to year BABIP fluctuations. He may bounce back or post another offensive season like this year. There’s not much of an offensive floor with a guy like that. Especially as he gets older and naturally slows down.
His quality of contact (.265 xWOBA )last year was abysmal. If he’s hitting the ball like that again—the offensive numbers will only get worse.
Upton is looking good in camp. He is moving as well as I have seen him in year. His timing is still off at the plate, but that is understandable.
Simba still looks like he is a step slower than usual. That is still better than any other SS in the field. It will be interesting to see how that translates at the plate. Even league average production at the plate makes him a 5-6 WAR player.
RyÅn W Krol
At their very best, Trout, Simmons, Upton, and Rendon alone have all combined for the entire total of oWAR that FanGraphs is projecting the Angels as a team within the last 3 years. Imagine catching them all in those seasons with Ohtani on top of that.
I have faith in upton .. simmons not so much
RyÅn W Krol
I don’t understand why Simmons would not be able to bounce back when his numbers have done nothing but elevate with the Angels, including more power. The article even says it’s still nearly impossible to strike him out.
A’s were lucky last year make canha made up for piscotty injuries and lack of production. They do have some outfield depth in seth brown, skye bolt and dustin fowler if needed, although they are getting older and likely headed again to AAA unless a spot opens up. Dont really care for grossman who I wouldve nontendered.
Rougie is gone, I think he is the only 30 homer hitter with the Yips. When he makes contact, it goes far, but he swings and misses way to many times, plus swinging at balls. If he got patient, he could be effective, and that’s the same thing everybody else has been saying about him for a while. At some point the Rangers staff has to realize that Rougie needs to go, I just don’t know when that will be. I really want Solak to be a great Ranger, and putting him at 2b full time would really help. At this point, all you can do is pray for the best…
Everything you say is on the mark, but I’m thinking it’s not so much as case of the yips as it is being incredibly stubborn. Different Rangers’ coaches and managers have worked with him tirelessly but he just won’t use the information he’s given.
It would be a Rangers’ fan dream come true if the team was able to trade him for anything of value, including sunflower seeds, a case of bats and maybe a low minor league player or two.
The reality is that no other club wants that albatross of a contract. And in the meantime, he’ll continue to swing out of his shoes, pile up strikeouts and remain the anchor that helps sink any chance the already weak lineup has of scoring runs.
think it thru
Probably could squeeze Jed Lowrie and Yoenis Cespedes into this list.
think it thru
Oops- NL list for Lowrie and Cespedes. So sorry
Haha. Your name is think it’s thru.
Next year same article will have half the Astros lineup