Comeback campaigns on tap for big Bay Area bats
Giants' Posey, A's Reddick have look of MVP candidates after subpar 2013
PHOENIX -- The best rebounders in the Golden State's Bay Area this year might not be Andrew Bogut and David Lee of the Warriors.
Keep your eyes on the Giants' Buster Posey and Josh Reddick of the Athletics. They appear poised to take flight and do some amazing things.
The final days of Spring Training traditionally are a time of fearless forecasts. The feeling here is that Posey and Reddick could rebound their way into Most Valuable Player Award conversations in their respective leagues.
For Posey, this is not exactly an outlandish suggestion. The gifted, resourceful catcher was the National League MVP Award winner in 2012, driving his club to the NL West title and through an improbable World Series championship run.
For Reddick, whose highest finish on an American League MVP Award ballot was 16th in 2012, it constitutes a serious leap of faith. But if anybody warrants that, it's Reddick, whose leaping, spectacular catches in the opening game of the Cactus League, robbing the Giants' Michael Morse of two homers, endured as the highlights of Cactus League play.
"Josh has shown what he can do," said teammate Coco Crisp, the center fielder who knows the sensation of stealing homers. "He's a great athlete capable of doing great things."
Neither Posey nor Reddick could find personal satisfaction in 2013. Intensely competitive Southern gentlemen, they were frustrated in different ways -- Posey by his team's plunge to sub-.500 territory; Reddick by a wrist injury seven games into the season that deprived him of the strength and bat speed needed to wheel on 95-mph fastballs and launch them.
Playing the same number of games (148) with 10 fewer at-bats, Posey watched his offensive production tumble across the board last year.
Only by Posey's elevated standards was his line of .294/.371/.450 a disappointment. During his 2012 NL MVP Award campaign, those figures were .336/.408/.549. Posey's home runs (24 to 15) and RBIs (103 to 72) declined, and his total bases fell from 291 to 234.
The team's leader by example more than voice, Posey went to work over the winter, adding 10 pounds of muscle. His focus is on lifting the team's 76-86 record, which left the Giants tied for third with the Padres in the NL West. Raising his own numbers can only help the club, whether Posey hits third or fourth in manager Bruce Bochy's lineup.
"I definitely think it served as extra motivation," said Posey, who blew out 27 birthday candles on Thursday.
Hitting .325 with 13 homers at the All-Star break, the catcher batted .244 after the Midsummer Classic, driving in only 16 runs. That's not Buster Posey.
"The focal point was more about being strong and explosive," Posey said when asked about the added weight. "That's our game. That's baseball. You have to be strong, but everything you do is explosive. Hitting is explosive. Pitching is explosive. Catching and blocking [pitches] are explosive. So I think that was more of the focal point, trying to get in good shape to maintain that throughout the course of the year."
At his peak, Posey is as valuable as any player in the game. A return to winning form by the Giants in a division the defending champion Dodgers are expected to rule would go a long way toward moving him back into MVP consideration.
Few players in the game are as explosive as Reddick, who, like Posey, is a 27-year-old Georgia native. Embarking on his third season in Oakland after coming over in the Dec. 28, 2011, five-player swap that sent closer Andrew Bailey to Boston, Reddick has the talent and drive to be an elite player.
Reddick's breakout 2012 season featured everything but a high batting average. Hitting .242, the slender, graceful athlete launched 32 homers and drove in 85 runs with a .463 slugging percentage while making the adjustment to Oakland's spacious dimensions.
Reddick claimed the AL Rawlings Gold Glove Award in right field, the advanced metrics reflecting his all-around skills. Only Jason Heyward and Gerardo Parra, both playing more games, have saved more runs than Reddick's 42 the past three seasons.
Reddick's 2013 season was derailed almost before it began. Aggressively pursuing a fly ball in Houston on April 7, he crashed into a metal bar in the right-field fence in Houston. Gritting his teeth and continuing to play in spite of the pain, Reddick went 27 games without a home run, finally going deep on June 6 in Chicago against the White Sox. His season average fell to .226, his slugging to .379, and he experienced a 20-homer loss to 12.
"I'm not going to use it as an excuse," Reddick said. "It was my third game in that park and I should have known that bar was there. I learned from that. I'm going to go out and check every wall before games from now on.
"I've put it behind me. I know what I can do when I'm healthy. That's the biggest thing for any player -- being healthy."
No self-respecting athlete wants to be accused of making alibis, but there is a difference between excuses and explanations. What happened in Houston explains why Reddick wasn't Reddick as the A's rolled to the AL West title without the thunder in his bat.
In 254 at-bats for Boston in 2011, Reddick hit .280 and slugged .457. If he bats close to .280 and the power returns, he can be an MVP-caliber player. The competition in the AL is fierce, obviously. Two-time MVP Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout are superstars. But if the A's roar and Reddick soars, who knows?
Lyle Spencer is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.