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MLB Bounceback candidates for 2024

Image via Wikimedia Commons

There are plenty of players who had a bit of a step back in terms of production in 2023 compared to their previous seasons.

This list will focus on the players most likely to return to their usual level of performance. It's not meant to criticize any player's play from 2023, because many of these players still did pretty darn well, but instead to highlight their expected statistics that could be a good predictive factor for their 2024.

The way to cut through a lot of the noise that is normal production statistics is through Google Statcast. While I have many misgivings and problems with Google in other areas, boy howdy did they do a great job with this product; barrel %, exit velocity, chase %, and so many other ways to evaluate a player's actual process as opposed to just their results, something many have a lot less control over than a lot of people realize.

So thanks, Internet overlords! And without any more needless explaining, here's my list of 5 players poised for a bounceback season in 2024.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

Vladdy was not as bad as the general public would lead you to believe. Sure, his power production was a far drop-off from his MVP-level 2021, and it's a bit concerning that it's consecutive years of this trend.

But, his xwOBA was still among the league leaders and his quality of contact numbers are all still top-notch. His fielding numbers are never going to be great, because let's face it he doesn't have the athletic ability of his dad.

Regardless, put aside any misgivings about him being the cover athlete of MLB 24 The Show (I get it, he didn't deserve it, but let's move on, it's a video game) and focus on the fact that Vladdy is still entering his age-25 season and is incredibly talented. I'd guess he's going to be just fine this season, regardless of what his abysmal WAR from 2023.

Mike Trout

Trout is far different than Guerrero's case, or any other player listed here, mostly because of his severe injury history over the past few seasons.

Since 2020 he hasn't cracked 120 games played, and 2 of the 3 seasons he didn't reach 100 games played. Unfortunately, injuries may continue to play a big part of Trout's career, as he's going to be 33 in August and the injury bug doesn't seem to be getting any better.

The good news is that while his injuries will be hard to predict and his age isn't a good sign of things getting any better, his beneath-the-hood numbers are still among the elite hitters of the game.

His whiff and K-rates are both a bit low (a couple of process stats could be an even worse sign for an aging slugger as he loses his power) but his expected numbers and contact rates are all still part of the class of MLB. He's also still a solid centerfielder (although moving to a corner spot might help with the injuries) who has elite sprint speed.

Trout's previous accolades need no mentioning, but they're still a sign that the stuff is still there, it's just buried by a plethora of injuries.

Fernando Tatis, Jr.

Eek, I hate mentioning someone with a PED suspension, but Tatis, Jr. was a guy who ran into some tough luck (or some might say karma) by hitting the ball hard but not getting nearly as many quality results. He was also making the transition from shortstop to right field, one that was made quite easily as he was one of the best defensive players in baseball both in range and arm strength.

His performance wasn't nearly as influenced by a drop-off in power as you'd expect for someone who just served a PED suspension, but instead by someone who seemed rusty in a lot of the plate discipline aspects of hitting after a year off due to the suspension and injuries.

I assume he's going to be able to return to his MVP-caliber play from 2020 and 2021 (as much as I hate to admit), because he's not only going to continue to be an elite defender, it's safe to assume his chase and whiff rates (and subsequent walk%) will be given a bit of a boost for 2024.

He's also the same age as Vladdy, making injury concerns less of an issue than others.

Bryan Reynolds

Reynolds is not one of the guys on this list with a proven track record of being an elite-caliber hitter (he's been pretty good, but not quite Juan Soto), but he's a switch-hitter who's in the prime of his career.

His 2023 was not his best, and while his advanced metrics don't paint him as prime Mickey Mantle he could be an All-Star caliber player next season based on his expected numbers.

His expected numbers are pretty good and despite his below-average defensive stats at a defensive position that isn't super demanding his sprint speed and the defensive performance of his past suggest a regression to the mean.

So, all in all, Reynolds may not be one of the best players on this list, but I think his potential far outweighs his output from last year.

Rafael Devers

Brooks Robinson, Rafael Devers is not, but his ability as a lefty hitter for the Red Sox is still among the best of the best.

He hits the ball hard, giving him one of the best xwOBAs in MLB, and the weird dimensions of Fenway Park make Devers a fun candidate to build upon what was already a pretty strong 2023.

So sure, Devers might be pushing it when it comes to "bounce back" because of his already good-by-normal-standards 2023, but his 2024 season should be even better.

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