Which Player Will Bounce Back In 2023?
This is one of eight burning questions comprising Baseball America's 2023 MLB Season Preview. To see the full preview, click here.
Josh Norris—Joey Gallo, OF, Twins. After a disastrous stint in New York and a short spell with Los Angeles, the 29-year-old Gallo will try to re-discover the form that made him a two-time all-star in Texas. He should be helped by a much less pressurized media market and rules that put the kibosh on dramatic, hit-stealing shifts. Plus, it can’t hurt to go back to the place where he put on an eye-popping Futures Game spectacle.
Carlos Collazo—Ronald Acuña Jr., OF, Braves. Now further away from a 2021 knee injury that required ACL surgery, Acuña Jr. should be fully healthy and poised to remind baseball fans of the five-WAR caliber player he was in 2021. He’s entering his age-25 season and is the most talented player on one of the best teams in the game—a 40-40 season should surprise no one.
Matt Eddy—Jonathan India, 2B, Reds. The 2021 NL Rookie of the Year stumbled badly as a sophomore in 2022, but injury was a contributing factor. India hit .269/.376/.459 (116 OPS+) with 21 homers in 150 games in his ROY season, but he tailed off badly last year, compiling a 91 OPS+ with 10 homers in 103 games as he worked around hamstring injuries. With a clear bill of health in 2023, the 26-year-old India should return to being one of the best leadoff hitters in the game.
Kyle Glaser—Marcus Semien, 2B, Rangers. Semien wasn’t awful last year, but he was far from his best self. With additional comfort in his new surroundings and fewer games in Seattle, Oakland and Anaheim with the balanced schedule, look for him to return to MVP contention.
Ben Badler—Ozzie Albies, 2B, Braves. In 2022, Albies hit .247/.294/.409 in 64 games, registering career-lows in both OBP and slugging. A broken left foot and right pinkie limited his playing time last year, and he had surgery after the season on his right shoulder. There’s a chance those injuries linger and continue to drag on his performance. There’s also a chance that he stays healthy in 2023, shows that he simply wasn’t operating at full strength throughout last season, and returns to form more in line with his career norms, perhaps even more as a 26-year-old entering a player’s typical prime years.
Geoff Pontes—Cody Bellinger, OF, Cubs. Bellinger’s 2019 MVP season feels like a lifetime ago. After bottoming out over the last three seasons, Bellinger moves to Chicago where he’ll look to rekindle his previous superstar form. Bellinger moves to the best hitter’s park he’s played in, faces lowered expectations and will get to work with Cubs hitting sage Justin Stone, as well as Dustin Kelly whom he’s familiar with from their time together with the Dodgers. If Bellinger can find health and his former plate skills, the former NL MVP can get his career back on track.
Savannah McCann—Michael Conforto, OF, Giants. Conforto could have been a bounce-back candidate in 2022, after having one of his worst professional seasons the year prior. However, the outfielder didn’t play last season due to recovering from shoulder surgery and didn’t want to rush a comeback heading into free agency. Now a key member of the Giants lineup, the outfielder looks to return to prior form. From 2017 to 2020, Conforto was one of the most consistently productive hitters in the majors. He makes hard contact and walks at an elite rate. Just having a healthy season would be a huge bounce back for Conforto, but he should contribute in a much larger way.