The 2020 season came and went in the blink of an eye, and some of the game's brightest stars were left with less-than-stellar numbers, because the pandemic-shortened campaign didn’t provide much of an opportunity for players to bounce back from early slumps.
But 2021 is a chance for a fresh start. MLB.com convened five reporters to draft 10 hitters -- five from each league -- who are likely to rebound from underwhelming performances last season.
Here are the selections:
Yoán Moncada -- 3B, White Sox
Key number: 47.9% hard-hit rate in 2019
Coming off a breakout ’19 campaign (140 OPS+, 25 homers, 4.8 WAR), Moncada tested positive for COVID-19 upon arriving at Summer Camp, and while he still went on to play in 52 of the team’s 60 games, Moncada admitted that he never felt like himself. Imagine dealing with a constant lack of energy and strength, while having to go out and hit Major League pitching. This stat probably tells the tale: Moncada’s hard-hit rate plummeted from the 90th percentile among MLB hitters, to the 23rd percentile. He still drew walks, but he hit .225 and slugged .385.
Fortunately, Moncada now appears to be fully recovered. The switch-hitter, who turns 26 on May 27, has all the tools, and he already showed in 2019 that he can be an elite performer. He just needs his health back. Moncada also could stand to be more aggressive at the plate, and if he takes advantage of his powerful bat by letting fewer fat pitches go by, look out.
-- Andrew Simon
Matt Olson -- 1B, Athletics
Key number: 92.3 mph average exit velocity
Olson did manage to smack 14 home runs while playing all 60 games in 2020, but his wOBA dipped to a league-average-ish .311, while his batting average cratered to .195. A big reason why? The slugging first baseman struck out a career-high 31.4% of the time, compared to a career rate closer to 25.0% through his first four seasons.
Strikeouts always will be part of Olson’s game given his patient approach, but he also walked at a career-high 13.9% clip last year, so his plate discipline remained strong. And when he made contact, Olson did damage thanks to his 92.3 mph average exit velocity -- a top-20 mark in baseball in ’20 and right in line with his career numbers. A case could be made that Olson was a little too passive a year ago, but as a 26-year-old in the prime of his career, he should be able to adjust to attacking hittable pitches more often. And don’t expect him to post a BABIP as low as .227 again, considering his pre-2020 figure was .285.
-- Jason Catania