Here’s a list of Atlanta Braves players who are most likely to win the 2023 Comeback Player of the Year Award.
The Atlanta Braves have had three players win the Comeback Player of the Year award since its inception in 2005. Tim Hudson won it in 2010, Johnny Venters won it in 2018, and Josh Donaldson in 2019.
Last year’s winners were Albert Pujols in the NL and Justin Verlander in the AL. The year of the old guys. Verlander was making a triumphant return from injury and Pujols’ glorious ride off into the sunset was an excellent rebound from not being very good.
Here’s a look at a few players coming off of an injury and/or a down season who have a shot at earning the award.
Atlanta Braves ’23 Comeback Candidate: Eddie Rosario
Eddie Rosario missed a huge chunk of the season due to an eye injury that required laser surgery. Vision problems left Rosario with a miserable .068 average through his first 17 games. Rosario was limited to just 80 games and a .212 average.
What Makes Rosario a Comeback Candidate?
Eddie Rosario finished 17th and 18th in MVP voting in 2019 and 2020. Between 2017 and 2021 Rosario hit 30 homers, 32 doubles, nine steals, and a .278 average per 162 games. He was a trade deadline acquisition in 2021 and became a huge part of the Braves world championship run. Rosario posted a .903 OPS (134 OPS+) during his time with the Braves that season. He would claim the NLCS MVP by posting an incredible .560/.607/.1.040 slash line in the series.
If Rosario’s vision is back to 20/20 and he can stay healthy in 2023, his resume would make him a prime candidate for Comeback Player of the Year.
Atlanta Braves ’23 Comeback Candidate: Ronald Acuna Jr.
We all know about Ronald Acuna Jr. and his return from a torn ACL. By most standards, Acuna’s 2022 was very good. A 114 OPS+ isn’t exactly a season one would need to “come back” from. However, as we have chronicled, Acuna hit several career lows last season. In his first three seasons (prior to his ACL injury in ’21), Acuna never finished lower than 12th in MVP voting. That includes his Rookie of the Year campaign in 2018.
What Makes Acuna Jr. a Comeback Candidate?
It’s hard to imagine a scenario where a player can post a 114 OPS+ and still be considered for such an award, but Acuna’s slugging percentage was a full .137 points lower than his career average. His OPS landed a full .161 points below his career norm. If Acuna’s knee is healthy in 2023 – and so far this offseason, it looks promising – then we could see his greatest season yet. Keep in mind, the pickoff rules are changing to encourage even more steals in 2023. Acuna has never been afraid to run and is among the fastest players in the league. If he rebounds to an OPS+ upwards of 150 again – he’s already done it twice – then Acuna may find himself on the shortlist of candidates for this award.