Stephen Strasburg

Lance Berkman of the St. Louis Cardinals was the NL Comeback Player of the Year for 2011 as he had a near-MVP type of season for his new team. The Cards took an $8 million chance on a player who had a down year in 2010 and he proved worth the investment as he helped carry them to the World Series Title. So who’s up next?

This year is interesting because there are some players that are coming back from season-ending injuries in the National League. Players to watch for this year are Stephen Strasburg of the Washington Nationals, Buster Posey of the San Francisco Giants, and Berkman’s teammate Adam Wainwright of the Cardinals. All three of these players suffered devastating injuries that kept them from playing for most of the 2011 season. However, each of these three will bounce back big in 2012.

Stephen Strasburg

Few pitchers taken in the MLB Draft have had as much hype as Stephen Strasburg, a San Diego State phenom, but this kid had huge expectations and lived up to them. In 2010, he got his first win in his MLB debut against the Pittsburgh Pirates throwing 7 innings, allowing 2 runs, and striking out 14 batters. Talk about baffling! He continued his success in the rest of his 11 starts as he finished his rookie season with 92 K’s and a 2.91 ERA. Unfortunately, in his last start of that season he tore a ligament in his throwing arm and needed Tommy John Surgery that shut him down for over a year. People were afraid he might lose his blazing fastball that he was known to hurl over 98mph. In 2011, he came back to prove them wrong with five strong starts to give fans a preview for what is to come in 2012. In his final start, he left all baseball fans hungry as he threw 6 innings, got greedy and gave up one hit, no runs, and racking up 10 K’s against the Florida Marlins.

He will be a player to watch closely and a player that can bring 40,000 fans to their feet, and he can dominate a lineup on any given day. With an overpowering fastball, nasty curve, and his injury a thing of the past, look for Strasburg to once again regain the magic that he had in his rookie season.

Buster Posey

It’s hard to believe that a team can rely so much on a rookie as the Nationals did with Strasburg. If you think they relied on a rookie so heavily, then Buster Posey was the MVP of the Giants last year. The Giants won the World Series in 2010 and were thought to be a strong playoff contender with the pitching staff they brought back for the 2011 season. In his rookie year, Posey took over as the Giants starting catcher as well as cleanup hitter in the batting order. He helped them win their 2010 WS Championship and they relied on his ability to handle the bat and more importantly handle their talented pitching staff. However, on May 25th of last year, the Giants suffered a knock-out blow. If you don’t believe me, ask Giants fans about Scott Cousins. Posey broke his ankle trying to block Cousins from scoring and ended up sitting out the entire season.  Without Posey, and a plethora of other injured players, the Giants offense was abysmal and their pitching staff was unable to carry the load as they missed the playoffs entirely.

The Giants are excited to have Posey back and I’m sure they would be happy if he does even half as well as when he won the NL Rookie of the Year Award in 2010.  Watch out for the Giants to bounce back this season, with Posey leading the charge.

Adam Wainwright

After winning the World Series last season, The Cards suffered a huge blow this off-season.  Albert Pujols couldn’t play the “first-team” loyalty card as he left the Cardinals after getting his second World Series ring. He signed with the Angels and the Cardinals went out to sign Carlos Beltran to try and replace the huge hole that Pujols left in their offense. Their pitching staff is going to have a heavier load to handle if they want to have a chance at even making the playoffs again without Pujols in the lineup. Yes, they do have good players in their lineup with Berkman and Beltran back together; as well as Matt Holliday and rising star David Freese, but Adam Wainwright’s return is the most crucial in their quest to return to October baseball. Wainwright missed all of the 2011 season, as he needed reconstructive surgery for an elbow injury that he suffered while throwing batting practice in the 2011 off-season. Before that he was considered a Cy Young Award candidate, going 20-11 with 213 K’s and a 2.42 ERA in 2010.

If he returns to 2010 form, the Cardinals may have back-to-back NL Comeback Players of the Year in their roster as he can reinvigorate fans in St. Louis and help propel them into the playoffs again. Will Cards fans be asking ‘who needs Pujols anyway?’ Maybe, but one thing is certain, they will not miss him if they win another World Series soon and Wainwright could be a huge X Factor as he’s a lights out type of pitcher when he’s on his game.

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