Baseball season is finally back and Opening Day is upon us. Between pandemic concerns and the winter lockout, fans are more excited than ever to get a full season of normal baseball back. 2021 was a rough season of injuries for some of baseball’s best and with all the chaos of the past year but baseball fans should be excited because some of the game’s best players are returning to action.
Here are five returning stars you can’t miss this year:
1. Mike Trout
2021 was the year of Shohei Ohtani being (arguably) the best player in baseball. And yet, while the AL MVP was tearing up both sides of the ball, his predecessor was waiting patiently to return to the lineup. MLB fans have been deprived of a full season of former MVP Mike Trout for 3 years and barring more injury troubles, Trout is ready to return with that same level of dominance. The league better watch out because the Angels have come to play this year.
2. Stephen Strasburg
It was a difficult season for the Washington Nationals last year. Despite the success of Juan Soto, they traded away Trea Turner and Max Scherzer. Ryan Zimmerman, a lifelong National, also retired as the Nats finished in the basement of the NL East. The team was also without star pitcher Stephen Strasburg for most of the year as he dealt with nagging neck issues. While it sounds like he won’t be ready to start the year, Strasburg will be a big name for the Nationals to get back in their rotation. And perhaps an interesting piece to keep an eye on at the Trade Deadline should the Nationals struggle once again this year.
3. Justin Verlander
18 months after Tommy John surgery, Hall of Famer Justin Verlander is ready to return to the mound on Opening Day for the Houston Astros. At 39, it will be difficult for Verlander to get back to his All-Star form but if there is anyone who can fight against Father Time, it’s him. Definitely a sleeper pick returning to the Astros rotation this year as they try to hold down their spot atop the AL West.
4. Noah Syndergaard
After missing all of 2020 and all but two starts at the end of 2021 from elbow and COVID issues, Noah Syndergaard signed a one year, $21 million deal to join the Los Angeles Angels. “Thor” wasn’t able to return to form in his two “starts” (2 IP), but a full spring, fresh start, and new team could be just the thing for Syndergaard. The Angels will certainly look for him to return to his ace potential in their rotation this year.
5. Ronald Acuña Jr.
“I’M BACK!”. Ronald Acuña Jr. said it himself after crushing a ball in his first BP session of the year. 2021 saw the Atlanta Braves win the World Series without arguably their best player and most promising young phenom. The centre fielder is more than excited to get back on the field. Without Freddie Freeman, Atlanta will need Acuña to perform more than ever. Major League Baseball better beware, Acuña is back and ready to destroy opposing pitching.