Jim Bowden of The Athletic recently wrote an article highlighting his top 10 candidates for the Comeback Player of the Year award. Clocking in at #2, right behind Fernando Tatis Jr., was Ronald Acuna Jr. Bowden writes:
It’s been four years since Acuña’s breakout 2019 season, when he hit 41 homers, drove in 101 runs and led the NL with 37 stolen bases. Acuña, 25, hasn’t played more than 119 games in a season since. He underwent ACL surgery in July 2021 and started last season on the injured list as he continued to rehab his right knee. Once he was activated, he held his own but hit just .266 with 15 home runs and 29 stolen bases (and was caught stealing a league-leading 11 times). Acuña looked like he was operating at about 85 percent last season, but this spring, for the first time since the surgery, he’s moving the way he did in 2019. I think he’ll get back to playing at his accustomed level. In fact, he’s my early pick for NL MVP.
Fernando Tatis Jr. and Ronald Acuna are the top candidates on this list for totally different reasons. Acuna was still recovering from an ACL injury that clearly held him back last season. By all accounts, everybody expects him to be a much better version of himself in 2023. Alex Anthopoulos, his teammates, and people around the league have raved about how he looks compared to where he was this time last year. Acuna isn’t just a top candidate for the Comeback Player of the Year award, he’s a legitimate threat to win MVP.
So is Fernando Tatis Jr., but he missed all of 2022 with an injury that was followed up by a PED suspension. Like Acuna, Tatis is among the most talented and exciting players in the game. His decision-making has been rightfully scrutinized, but when talking about his ability on the field, there is no debate. Tatis is among the best in the business and should also be mentioned in MVP discussions.
There are some other candidates on Bowden’s list that could be in the conversation for the award in the National League. Jack Flaherty has the story and talent to make a case with a great year. Cody Bellinger could also be in the mix if he can find his groove in Chicago, but my money is heavily favoring Tatis and Acuna. I would be shocked if one of them didn’t take home the Comeback Player of the Year award for 2023.
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