Five players with something to prove in 2015

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Sometimes having a chip on your shoulder is the best thing for a ballplayer. Having something to prove, or the desire to prove someone wrong, can sometimes be enough to push a guy into having a career year.

5 mlb players something prove 2015
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Five players with something to prove in 2015

Alex Rodriguez, Yankees:

Try putting aside all of the sideshow stuff that has followed A-Rod around over the last few years…okay, at least you tried. But the fact remains that Rodriguez, who’ll turn 40 this season, is still owed a staggering amount of money from the Yankees over the next three years and they’ll be expecting him to contribute something. He hasn’t played in nearly two years, he doesn’t have a position, and he’s a huge distraction no matter how many times he apologizes to the media for his actions.

But does he have anything left? Will he be able to prove his doubters wrong and still make meaningful contributions to the Yankees as a part-time DH? Of all the players on this list, A-Rod probably has the most to prove: to himself, to the media, to the fans, and to his teammates. It’s hard to find anyone who thinks he can be even a marginal major league player anymore. Will he be able to change any minds?

(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Pablo Sandoval, Red Sox:

A huge free agent contract can create unreasonable expectations; for instance, the expectation that Pablo Sandoval would come to spring training in amazing shape. Pablo has always been on the heavier side and that hasn’t stopped him from being a dangerous hitter. But judging from the reaction to a picture of Sandoval from last week that made him look downright portly, you’d think no one in New England had ever seen him before. That whole episode summed up the challenges facing Sandoval in his first year in Boston. He’s playing in a city where he hasn’t won three championships, in front of fans whom he hasn’t charmed enough where they’ll cut him slack if he struggles, with a press that may be significantly harder on him than in San Francisco.

What happens if he has another April like he did last year, when he hit .177/.262/.302 for the month? Will the fans look the other way because they love him, like Giants fans did, or will they turn on him? Sandoval finds himself with a lot to prove this year: that his decline in stats over the last four years isn’t a trend, that his weight isn’t an issue, and that he can help take Boston back to the playoffs. It’s a tall order.

(Photo by Michael Ivins/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Chris Davis, Orioles:

He suffered through a nightmare 2014, with injuries limiting him to 127 games and his numbers plummeting to rock bottom levels. Davis won’t be trying to prove he’s the same hitter he was two years ago, when he looked like Lou Gehrig at the plate. Instead, he’ll be trying to prove he’s still a valuable hitter at all. He still had his power in spurts last season, but Davis managed to hit a putrid .196/.300/.404 and was a liability more than anything by the time his season ended with a suspension for amphetamine use.

The Orioles need him to bounce back if they hope to contend this year, and Davis himself needs to show he’s still a feared power hitter as he enters his walk year. If his numbers are anything like they were in 2013 (or even 2012), he can expect to cash out next winter. If he flames out again, he’s basically another Mark Reynolds.

(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Brandon Belt, Giants:

Poor Brandon Belt. He’s enjoyed two above average seasons in the majors, helped the Giants win two rings, and has been one of the better first basemen in the league when healthy. That doesn’t seem to be enough for everyone, though: some fans still expect him to be the second coming of Willie McCovey, while GM Brian Sabean mentioned Belt by name as someone who needs to “break out” if the Giants are going to be in contention this year.

It seems odd to say that Belt has something to prove this year, but obviously he does. His own general manager doesn’t think he’s reached his full potential yet, and with Belt still two years away from free agency a monster season would go a long way in convincing the Giants he’s someone to commit to long-term.

(Photo by Michael Zagaris/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

Ryan Braun, Brewers:

Is he a washed up, nothing-without-PED ballplayer who’ll be a middling outfielder the rest of his career? Or will he show signs of his old self at the plate now that he’s finally healthy? Braun will never be able to fully wash off the stain that came from his ugly PED episode that saw him lie and try to blame everyone but himself, but a return to form as a hitter would go a long way in leaving it in the past.

Braun didn’t look anything like his MVP self last year, and whether or not his injuries were to blame is up for debate. But he’ll have no excuses this year and it’s up to him to show if he can come close to being worth the $109 million he’s due over the next six years.

(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

There are plenty of players who fit that criteria this year, whether it's guys proving they're worth the huge contracts they signed this winter, or guys returning from injury, or players who struggled mightily in 2014. There's potential for some great comeback stories this year; on the flip side, there's also potential for huge disappointments.

These are five players who just might have the most to prove in 2015.

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