The shortened MLB season could serve as a benefit to players this year.
Baseball is scheduled to come back at the end of July, marking the first official MLB regular-season games since 2019’s season ended. A lot will be different this time around, as there will be a universal designated hitter, extra-inning games will have a player on second to start for both teams, and of course, there will only be 60 games. That’s 102 less than a normal season, meaning anything can truly happen. Last year, the World Series champion Washington Nationals wouldn’t have made the playoffs in the first 60 games.
And while yes, some teams you may not expect to make it will make it, there are also players who may perform better or worse than you would usually expect. It takes players a month or more sometimes to find their groove. But there’s also the fact that a short 60 games can be better for those coming off a tough season or have dealt with injuries in the past.
Here, we explore five players who will benefit from the shortened season, setting themselves up for a potential comeback or bounceback season.
Aaron Judge, NYY
The New York Yankees’ right fielder will continue to be questioned as a possible “what if” depending on his health moving forward. It was 2017 where Aaron Judge was setting himself up to be the next face of baseball. He had everything going for him. Playing for the Yankees, playing some incredible baseball as he led the league in home runs, came in second for the AL MVP in his rookie season. It was all great. Then 2018 saw the beginning of a great number of injuries. It was just this year that he was expected to miss time in the 2020 season had it started on time due to an injury suffered in the postseason.
With the long layoff and expected start at the end of July, Judge will come in healthy to the season and ready to go for the Yankees. A Yankees team expected to make a deep run at a hopeful World Series. The 60 game season gives Judge the chance to return to form and hopefully prove he’s not a “what if.”
Andrew Benintendi, BOS
The hair is back and hopefully, for Boston Red Sox fans, that means Andrew Benintendi is as well. Benintendi, 26 as of Monday, still has plenty of time to figure out the player he is for the Red Sox. Their fans would prefer it to be soon with no more Mookie Betts. After an excellent 2018 that saw him hit .290 with 16 home runs, 87 RBIs, and 21 stolen bases, he managed to reach none of those numbers in 2019. Benintendi hit a career-low .266 and saw all of his other numbers drop in a bad away. 2020 presents the chance for him to find his game and be the player so many thought he could be just two years ago.
He is expected to slot into the leadoff spot this season, one he has struggled at in the past. In the short spring training during March, he seemed to have found his bat and was destined for a bounce-back season. A 60 game season could be what it takes for Benintendi to find his game.
Corey Kluber, TEX
Corey Kluber has been one of the best pitchers in baseball during the past decade. And in 2020, he sees himself on another team other than the Cleveland Indians for the first time in his career. The two-time Cy Young winner had a tough go before his injury in 2019. His ERA inflated to a career-high 5.80, one year after his 20 win season. For Cleveland, it presented a chance to move him and his contract and for the Texas Rangers to get the ace they needed. These 60 games can be the perfect opportunity for him to prove he was worth the move for the Rangers and he still has the Cy Young form.
Miguel Cabrera, DET
Already locked in as a first-ballot Hall of Famer, Miguel Cabrera has nothing more to prove. But when you’re as good as he has been for a long time, the only thing you want to do is show everyone you can still deliver. The former Triple Crown and two-time MVP had one of his worst years in 2019, and he knew that. Down some weight heading into Spring Training, it was a year for “Miggy” to bounce back. Already back in camp, he seems determined to accomplish that feat no matter how many games are in a season. 60 games could be perfect for his body as well.
Yoenis Cespedes, NYM
“He looks like a monster.” These were the words out of New York Mets outfielder Michael Conforto when talking about the returning Yoenis Cespedes. The outfielder who re-signed with the Mets for big money in 2016 has played 119 games total since signing. The last time he played in an MLB game was July 20, 2018. The idea that he could be coming into summer camp as a monster is what makes this so exciting for the Mets. A team that is borderline wild card would get a huge leg up with Cespedes back in the left field. So much so that it could lead to it being a special year for the Mets and Cespedes.
There are plenty of other players who have something to show in these 60 games, and if the season does go down, it will be fun and one of the most interesting to watch in recent memory.