As we edge closer to the start of the new MLB season, there are a number of players itching to get back into action after lengthy injury lay-offs. Many of those fit-again players are being tipped to have a big impact on their respective teams’ seasons and it’s going to be particularly interesting to see how these star names return to the field after their injuries.
Here are five players who could have huge parts to play in 2016 after their time on the sidelines.
Devin Mesoraco (Cincinnati Reds): The Cincinnati Reds tried everything to manage Mesoraco through last season before accepting defeat and sending the catcher for surgery. Following a brief spell in left field due to his inability to squad, Mesoraco underwent surgery in June to repair the labrum and resurface the hip bone. After a six-month rehab process, the 27-year-old appears to be coming along nicely. He is currently on course to put himself in contention for selection on Opening Day. The catcher has been a consistent and ever-present in this Reds team in recent years and his injury for much of last season was certainly a factor behind Cincinnati’s dismal campaign.
Yu Darvish (Texas Rangers): While there were a few hints that the pitcher was beginning to deal with an elbow problem at the end of the 2014 campaign, Darvish wouldn’t have expected that to be his last taste of competitive baseball for over a year. A torn UCL forced the Japanese star to undergo Tommy John surgery at around this point in 2015, with the Texas Rangers pitcher now looking at a return date of May. Following his high-profile move to the MLB from Japan in 2012, when he chose Texas over the Toronto Blue Jays, Darvish was finally beginning to look the part before suffering his injury. He recorded a solid 3.06 ERA in 2014 before spending all of last season on the sidelines and his return will real boost to a Rangers team which as of early March are at 8/1 with the Bet365 MLB odds to top the American League in 2016.
Giancarlo Stanton (Miami Marlins): When the right fielder pulled up in June with a hand problem, which was later diagnosed as a fractured hamate bone, it was only thought he would be out of action for a couple of months. Stanton’s time on the sidelines ended up significantly increasing and it ultimately brought a premature end to his 2015 campaign in September with a .265 batting average. But while Miami’s season looked over before the Californian’s injury, having a fully-refreshed and fit-again Stanton back in the roster will be as good as a new signing for the Marlins. Having made a successful return to training at the turn of the year, the 26-year-old is now set to make his return to action for Miami’s opening game of the season against the Detroit Tigers.
Jung Ho Kang (Pittsburgh Pirates): Considering the severity of the knee injury Kang sustained in September, the fact the Pirates star has any chance of being involved in the early stages of the new season really is incredible. Expected to be moved to third base in a bid to take some of the extra pressure from his left knee, Kang will have to be managed carefully during his return to the game. In an impressive debut season in the MLB, the South Korean looked more than at home playing against the best players in the world on a regular basis. While his absence was a real blow to Pittsburgh’s postseason hopes last year, the Pirates won’t be able to rush Kang back early from such a nasty injury this season.
Ryan Braun (Milwaukee Brewers): Braun was forced under the surgeon’s knife last September after missing a run of games for the Brewers with a back problem during a season in which the right fielder had also suffered from a thumb issue. While the nine-season veteran is well aware he won’t be cleared to return to action until he’s swinging a bat again, the 32-year-old should be able to take part in some of Milwaukee’s spring training. In a Brewers team that isn’t expected to have much chance of making the playoffs this year, Braun is going to need to really step up and play the majority of the season if they’re going to upset the odds of 40/1 for the National League Central.