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2020 didn’t turn out to be the season a lot of players had in mind, but there are a handful of guys who should bounce back in 2021.
Athletes are creatures of habit. They have their routines and they generally like to stick to that routine as much as possible. Baseball players are no exception. So when the pandemic happened and cut the 2020 season down to 60 games, that threw a wrench in a lot of players’ preparation, including some of the best hitters in the game.
Whether it be mechanical, small sample size or no in-game video, there are plenty of explanations as to why certain players didn’t perform up their usual expectations. No one can really fault them for that, and it’s safe to assume they would much rather forget about last season entirely.
Baseball is a game of adjustments, whether it be on a per pitch, per at-bat or per game basis there are always adjustments to be made. Whether those adjustments bear fruit remains to be seen, but there are a handful of guys who’s adjustments should manifest themselves in 2021.
Here are eight players who are poised to bounce back from an abysmal 2020.
8. Kris Bryant
If there were a player who really wanted to forget 2020, it would be Chicago Cubs’ third baseman Kris Bryant. He only played 34 games last season due to injuries that ranged from gastrointestinal issues to oblique discomfort.
Any player who suffers the litany of injuries that Bryant did is bound to underperform in any season whether it be 60 games or 162. Bryant posted a career low 77 wRC+ to go along with a strikeout rate of 27 percent and a walk rate of eight percent. Those numbers won’t spell success for anyone.
Interestingly enough he hit 29 home runs in 2017 and then 31 in 2019 which makes his decline in hard hit rate somewhat surprising. It’s gone from 36 percent in 2017 all the way down to 31 percent in 2020.
If he’s able to bring his hard hit rate back up to close to what it was in 2017 then he should be in a good spot to rebound especially given the fact that his barrel rate had remained steady just above nine percent prior to 2020.
ZiPS only project him to have a 110 wRC+ in 2021 which seems low considering that prior to 2020 he’d never had a season with a wRC+ lower than 126. If he’s able to lower his whiff rate, especially on breaking balls then there’s no reason to believe he can’t bounce back this season.