As far as baseball cliches, "hope springs eternal," ranks among the most tired. But it gets trotted out every year for a simple reason: the believe that everyone has a chance. It also applies to players trying to put forgettable seasons behind them. FOX Sports South looks at 10 who could do exactly that with bounce back 2014s. Photos: USA TODAY Sports
Cain was a lock to go over 200 innings, that is until last year when he only threw 184 1/3 and had his highest ERA since '06 and had his fewest strikeouts in eight full seasons and saw his WAR dip from 3.9 in '12 to 0.5. If there are positive ways to spin it, and ones that should be strong forbearers to a rebound, are that Cain's strikeout rate (20.8) and walk rate (7.2) weren't drastic increases over his norm and in the second half he allowed 0.87 HR/9.
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Starlin Castro, SS, Cubs
2013 stats: .245/.284/.347, 10 HR, 34 2B, 44 RBI
The batting average (.245) and on-base percentage (.284) were his career-lows and he had a career-high 129 strikeouts. His opportunities to get back on track were limited this spring after he strained a hamstring on March 2 sliding into second base. He's said he'll be ready for Opening Day, but after missing so much time, April could turn into his spring training. Nonetheless, manager Rick Renteria is forecasting a rebound. "He already looks more comfortable, more open," he told reporters. "You know Starlin will be Starlin."
It was an unimpressive first season in Toronto for the National League's 2012 Cy Young winner, who dealt with back and neck injuries. Those physical setbacks kept the knuckleballer from delivering the pitch with much authority. He's fully healthy and can at least hang his hat on a 3.56 ERA after the All-Star break compared to 4.69 before it. Another encouraging sign is that his velocity is inching closer to the upper 70s, which could make life tougher on opposing hitters.
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Josh Hamilton, OF, Angels
2013 stats: .250/.307/.432, 21 HR, 32 2B, 79 RBI
The first season of his five-year, $125 million contract, Hamilton produced a WAR of 1.5 or a minimum of 2.4 below what he did in any full season with the Rangers. But he did look much better late, with a .329 average, five homers and 28 RBI in his last 45 games and spent the offseason getting back to his natural playing weight after dropping 20 pounds with a natural-juice diet prior to 2013.
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Matt Kemp, OF, Dodgers
2013 stats: .270/.328/.395, 6 HR, 15 2B, 33 RBI
He never got going in his return from shoulder surgery, also dealing with hamstring strains and ankle problems, which resulted in another surgical procedure in October, followed by a second shoulder surgery. He'll be fighting for a spot in an outfield that already has a healthy Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier and Yasiel Puig, and told reporters last month "I'm not a fourth outfielder. ... I won't accept that role." If the NL MVP in 2011 can return to full health, there's no reason to believe he can't return to his productive ways.
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Albert Pujols, 1B, Angels
2013 stats: .258/.330/.437, 17 HR, 19 2B, 64 RBI
The Anaheim version of Pujols has been a shadow of his Cardinals days -- he has a .275/.338/.475 line compared to.328/.420/.610 in St. Louis -- but he's also been hit hard by injuries, most recently a partial tear to his plantar fascia that needed surgery, costing him two months. Subsequently, the Angels missed the playoffs for the second straight year with him in uniform. Pujols is healthy and saying all the right things, telling reporters earlier this month "the numbers are going to be there at the end because I know how to hit."
His significant weight loss opened eyes, but so too did his spring line -- 1.29 ERA and 0.762 WHIP with 16 K's and three walks in 21 innings. He's adapted his game after a season in which he had to come to grips with no longer being able to consistently throw a 95 mph fastball, never going above 92 in Grapefruit League action. At 34, he's relying more on his slider, changeup and cutter, with an M.O. of inducing ground balls. Is the revamped arsenal enough to make him elite again?
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Grady Sizemore, OF, Red Sox
2013 stats: DNP
The three-time All-Star hasn't played since 2011 due to knee and back injuries and is four years removed form hitting 33 homers as a 25-year-old. Now 31 and in Boston after eight seasons with the Indians, Sizemore showed flashes of his prime this spring, hitting .333/.381/.462 with a home run and two RBI in 39 at-bats over 12 games and is the defending World Series champ's Opening Day center fielder.
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Mark Teixeira, 1B, Yankees
2013 stats: .151/.270/.340, 3 HR, 12 RBI
The spring didn't elicit much faith as Teixeira hit .091 in 33 at-bats and has just one extra-base hit, a double. He's noted that he's not completely trusting his surgically repaired wrist is healed, meaning his swing isn't back to normal. But the Yankees need him to be there soon. After averaging 34 home runs and 106 RBI his firs four seasons in New York, he had just three in 53 at-bats in '13.
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B.J. Upton, OF, Braves
2013 stats:.184/.268/.289, 9 HRs, 14 2B, 26 RBI
He has readily admitted this spring that he pressed last season, trying to live up to a five-year $75 million contract (the riches free-agent deal in franchise history). It didn't help matters that his little brother Justin got off to the greatest power-hitting start the Braves have ever seen, hitting a team-record 12 April homers. B.J. worked this offseason to rework how he utilizes his legs in his swing and the results have been positive with a 267/.343/.383 line this spring. With the blows dealt to Atlanta's starting staff, a rebounding Upton -- and a similar comeback from second baseman Dan Uggla -- could be key to an offense that may need to provide more consistent production.