Major League Baseball released their finalists for the American League and National League Comeback Player of the Year Award earlier this afternoon. The league named three players, and Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Sonny Gray was among the group. Atlanta Braves infielder Josh Donaldson and Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu were the other two finalists in the National League.
The competition is very strong this season. Hyun-Jin Ryu missed four-and-a-half months in 2018. When he was on the mound he dominated, posting a 1.97 ERA – but he only made 15 starts during the season and threw just 82.1 innings. This season the South Korean native led the league in ERA with a 2.32 mark. He made 29 starts for the Dodgers and threw 182.2 innings. His ERA+ of 179 also led the National League.
Josh Donaldson only played in 52 games in 2018 between his time with both the Toronto Blue Jays and the Cleveland Indians. He was solid, but unspectacular as he hit .246/.352/.449 on the season. He signed as a free agent with the Braves on a 1-year deal in the offseason and it paid off. Donaldson hit .259/.379/.521 with 33 doubles, 37 home runs, 94 RBI, and he walked 100 times in 155 games played.
Sonny Gray was the only player of the three who didn’t miss significant time in 2018. He’s not coming back from an injury. He is coming back from below-average performance with the New York Yankees. The Reds bought in to the idea that it was how the Yankees were using him and that their plan would correct many of the issues he was having in New York. They weren’t wrong.
The Reds right-handed starter made the All-Star team, but was even better in the second half than in the first. He posted a 2.87 ERA on the year, good for a 158 ERA+. He made 31 starts – which was every single one that Cincinnati asked of him. In his 175.1 innings he allowed just 122 hits and just 17 home runs while racking up 205 strikeouts. His strikeout rate was easily the best of his career, as was his ERA+.
This award is one voted on and given out by the Major League Baseball Players Association. The MLBPA Awards will be announced next week, starting on Monday.