The comeback players of the year won’t be announced until after you’re done with your Thanksgiving leftovers, but there is no shortage of early candidates. Obviously, the real trick is to keep this up for five more months, but these guys all have done a great job of returning from injuries, disappointing performances and even other continents.
And as proof that the number isn’t always unlucky, here are the 13 best comeback stories from the first month of the 2017 MLB season:
USA TODAY SportsBenny Sieu
Eric Thames, 1B, Brewers
Five years after his last major-league at-bat, Thames is back from a trek that took him to South Korea and he is absolutely crushing the ball (and, specifically, the Reds). Eight of his MLB-leading 11 homers came against Cincinnati, and his .904 slugging percentage, 1.393 OPS and 27 runs also lead the majors. And his plate discipline is other-worldly. Let's hope this hamstring injury is minor.
USA TODAY SportsJeff Hanisch
Michael Brantley, OF, Indians
Unfortunately, it had been setback after setback for the 2014 All-Star – so much so that not even Cleveland really knew what to expect from Brantley because of his chronic shoulder problems. Much to the Indians’ delight, Brantley is off to a terrific start (.318/.384/.561, four homers, 15 RBI) and has handled a pretty heavy workload (he has played in 17 of the team’s 20 games).
USA TODAY SportsJordan Johnson
Dallas Keuchel, SP, Astros
He went from the 2015 AL Cy Young winner to Exhibit A of what can happen to a starter who gets taxed from a large regular-season (career-high 232 innings pitched) and postseason (14 innings pitched) workload. The result: a 4.55 ERA and just 168 innings pitched in 2016. But Keuchel is back in top form this season (4-0, 1.22 ERA, 0.84 WHIP).
USA TODAY SportsLance Iversen
Luis Severino, SP, Yankees
The bullpen? The minors? Those were legitimate options this season for the 23-year-old Severino, who spent time in both of those places during a disappointing (5.83 ERA, 1.45 WHIP) 2016 season. However, his spring training success has carried over into the regular season, much to New York’s delight. After blanking the Red Sox over seven innings Wednesday, Severino has a 3.00 ERA, 0.78 WHIP and 33 K’s in 27 innings.
USA TODAY SportsGreg M. Cooper
Jason Heyward, OF, Cubs
While he likely never will live up to the eight-year, $184 million contract he signed before the 2016 season, the early results are encouraging in 2017. Heyward’s revamped swing has produced numbers (.284/.346/.432, 111 OPS+) more closely resembling his career averages, and his glove never will be an issue – even in center field.
USA TODAY SportsDavid Kohl
Greg Holland, RP, Rockies
The Rockies’ revamped bullpen has a very respectable 3.51 ERA (sixth in the NL), thanks in large part to its new closer. Holland missed the entire 2016 season as he recovered from Tommy John surgery, then curiously chose Coors Field to host his comeback. So far, so great. He has an MLB-leading nine saves (no blown saves) and is striking out more than a batter per inning.
USA TODAY SportsRon Chenoy
Jay Bruce, OF, Mets
Rarely has a player fallen more quickly out of favor than Bruce, whose acquisition was cheered by fans last August and whose departure was demanded by many of the same people two months later after Bruce hit. 219/.294/.391 in 50 games. But he is making the most of a fresh start this season (.292/.386/.569, six homers, 14 RBI) and is one of the few productive bats in New York’s struggling lineup.
USA TODAY SportsAndy Marlin
Ryan Zimmerman, 1B, Nationals
Unable to stay on the field because of myriad injuries the past three seasons, there was mounting evidence that Zimmerman’s days as an everyday player were numbered. After an offseason spent working out with teammate Daniel Murphy, Zimmerman is hitting a lot like his former self (and a lot like Murphy). Zimmerman has eight homers and a .387/.439/.800 slash line.
USA TODAY SportsAnthony Gruppuso
Mike Moustakas, 3B, Royals
Moose’s 2016 season lasted 27 games before he tore an ACL, and his bat and presence were sorely missed as Kansas City finished at .500. Like Bruce with the Mets, Moustakas is carrying a woeful offense with his seven homers and .905 OPS. And it’s come at a very convenient time for him – and possibly the Royals if they look to sell – as he is in his free-agent season.
USA TODAY SportsDenny Medley
Avisail Garcia, OF, White Sox
Remember when he was called “Little Miggy” as a rookie in Detroit? Seems like a million years ago. But Garcia is still only 25 and is making the most of what literally was his last chance on a rebuilding Chicago squad. His .373 batting average is tops in the AL, and his 1.020 OPS is more than 300 points higher than in the previous five seasons (.695). Staying healthy – he has played in more than 120 games in a season only once – will be just as important for Garcia as staying consistent.
USA TODAY SportsCaylor Arnold
Brandon McCarthy, SP, Dodgers
Injured (63 innings pitched) and inconsistent (5.29 ERA) during his first two seasons after signing a four-year, $48 million deal with LA, McCarthy has gone from the yips to the yeps through four starts this season. His 2.25 ERA actually is better than Clayton Kershaw’s, and his 1.08 WHIP (so far) is the best of his career.
USA TODAY SportsJoe Camporeale
Wade Miley, SP, Orioles
Five years ago, he was an All-Star and the runner-up in the NL Rookie of the Year voting with Arizona. Three organizations later, Miley appears to have solved the problems that resulted in a 4.68 ERA between the 2014 and 2016 seasons. In four April starts, the lefty sports a 2.08 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and 11.1 K/9 ratio.
USA TODAY SportsNick Turchiaro
Jason Vargas, SP, Royals
Always an underappreciated lefty, Vargas made only nine starts in 2015 before going under the knife for Tommy John surgery and returned to make three abbreviated September starts last season. This season, he has become Kansas City’s unexpected ace: 3-1, 1.40 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, 9.8 K/9 and an AL-best 0.7 BB/9.