Contrary to popular belief, MLB's Comeback Player of the Year Award is not reserved solely for players returning from injury. The award simply goes to the American League and National League players who have best “re-emerged on the baseball field during a given season.”
By that definition (and with a nod to Brodie Brazil for the inspiration), A's outfielder Stephen Piscotty deserves serious consideration.
In 2016, Piscotty slashed .273/.343/.457 with 22 home runs, 35 doubles, 85 RBI, and 3.0 WAR as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals.
The following May, his mother Gretchen was diagnosed with ALS, and baseball was suddenly an afterthought. Understandably, Piscotty's numbers dipped in 2017, as he slashed .235/.342/.367 with just nine home runs, 16 doubles, 39 RBI, and 0.6 WAR. How he even put up those stats, given what he was going through, is incredible.
Following the 2017 season, the Cardinals and A's combined to create one of the most heartwarming sports stories in recent memory, agreeing to a trade that would bring Piscotty home to Northern California so he could care for his mother and be with his family. Sadly, Gretchen passed away in May of 2018 at the age of 55.
After grieving for his mother and celebrating her life, Piscotty has been able to refocus on baseball and find a rhythm with the A's. And it has shown. The 27-year-old is slashing .265/.321/.481, setting career-highs with 24 home runs and 39 doubles, along with 76 RBI and 2.1 WAR.
That's an increase of 15 home runs and 23 doubles from 2017 to 2018, and the season is not over yet. Even more impressive, Piscotty has hit 21 home runs since June 13, third most in the American League. He has also played excellent defense in right field, making numerous highlight reel catches throughout the season.
There are certainly other qualified candidates in the AL, including Gerrit Cole, David Price, and Matt Duffy. Cole has improved his ERA from 4.26 last season to 2.88 this year. Price has recovered from elbow troubles to go 15-6 with a 3.42 ERA. Duffy is hitting .297 after missing all of last season.
But none of them have been through what Piscotty has. Throughout this entire devastating period, he has shown tremendous poise and mental toughness. A's manager Bob Melvin has said Piscotty has an angel on his shoulders now. Based on his performance, that's hard to argue.