Major League Baseball has awarded the 2023 Comeback Player of the Year Award to Liam Hendriks (American League) and Cody Bellinger (National League). Both players represented Chicago last season, with Hendriks playing for the White Sox and Bellinger for the Cubs.
Bellinger improved in all major statistical hitting categories from 2022 to 2023. He increased his batting average from .210 to .307 and OPS from .654 to .881. His year-to-year run total increased by 25 (70 to 95), while his RBI rate went up from 68 to 97. Bellinger had seven more home runs last season (26) than in 2022 (19). The improved numbers earned him his second Silver Slugger Award.
NL Comeback Player of the Year Cody Bellinger improved his stats across the board during his impressive 2023 campaign. pic.twitter.com/BWjz3wTIF6— MLB (@MLB) November 29, 2023
The Arizona native has been a can’t-miss prospect since he entered Major League Baseball in 2017. Aside from being the National League Rookie of the Year, he became an All-Star in his first MLB season. Bellinger also won the 2019 NL Most Valuable Award and was included in the All-MLB First Team. He also won the 2020 World Series with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
His improved play makes him one of the coveted players this off-season. Hence, he declined his mutual option with the Cubs to test free agency earlier this month.
Meanwhile, Liam Hendriks’ 2023 stats don’t look impressive, finishing with a 2-0 record and a 5.40 ERA in five innings pitched. However, his journey makes him a hands-down winner of this year’s AL Comeback Player of the Year Award.
After overcoming Stage 4 non-Hodgkin Lymphoma through off-season treatment, he returned to the mound in May 2023. However, his stint was cut short after suffering a torn UCL that required Tommy John surgery. The Australian-born player recovered to pitch five games this year.
The special moment when AL Comeback Player of the Year Liam Hendriks returned to the mound for the first time as a cancer survivor. pic.twitter.com/UCl6Pl1rJ7— MLB (@MLB) November 28, 2023
Before the tough stretch of his career, Hendriks was a three-time MLB All-Star. He has also received votes for the Cy Young and the AL MVP awards.
Bellinger and Hendriks followed Albert Pujols and Justin Verlander as Comeback Player of the Year winners in their respective leagues. Hendriks is the second White Sox player to win the award after Jim Thome in 2006. Conversely, Bellinger is the first Cubs player to get the distinction.