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Players Choice Awards Comeback Player Finalists

   11-03-2017
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The six finalists for the 2017 Players Choice Awards as Comeback Player provided a series of unique examples of the kind of persistence and perseverance that so often make a difference in the careers of players in Major League Baseball.

In the American League, the three finalists in player balloting were Mike Moustakas (Royals), Justin Smoak (Blue Jays) and Jason Vargas (Royals), while Greg Holland (Rockies), Eric Thames (Brewers) and Ryan Zimmerman (Nationals) received the most votes among NL players.

For the seventh consecutive year, Players Choice Award winners will be announced exclusively on MLB Network on Wednesday (Nov. 8) from 8 - 9:30 pm ET. 

The Players Choice Awards benefit the Major League Baseball Players Trust, the collective charity created and administered by the players themselves.  Players Choice Award winners in all categories will designate charities to receive grants totaling $260,000 .

The winners of the 2017 Players Choice Awards as AL and NL Comeback Player will each receive $20,000 grants for the charity of their choice.

Moustakis, a 29-year-old third baseman affectionately known as “Moose,” suffered an ACL tear in May 2016 but returned for the best of  his seven MLB seasons this year, batting .272 with a franchise-record 38 home runs and 85 RBIs for the Royals and made the AL All-Star team for the second time. Moustakas, the second overall draft pick in 2007, also had a career-high in runs (75), RBIs (85), slugging percentage (.521) and OPS (.835) in his seventh season with Kansas City.

Smoak, a soft-spoken, switch-hitting first baseman, returned from a frustrating 2016 campaign (112 strikeouts in 299 at-bats), to have the type of breakout year fans have been expecting since he was the 11th overall draft selection out of South Carolina in 2008. The 30-year-old achieved career highs in doubles (29), home runs (38), RBIs (90), walks (73) and batting (.270) during an All-Star season for the Blue Jays. He also made just two errors in 1,312 chances at first base.

After missing most of 2016 after Tommy John surgery, veteran left-hander Jason Vargas returned better than ever at age 34. With a release point about two inches lower than it was pre-surgery, the movement on his fastball improved and his change-up, his best pitch, got even better. He led the AL with 18 wins, while posting a 4.16 ERA over 179 2/3 innings and 32 starts for the Royals.

Greg Holland, 31, recorded 125 saves and made two AL All-Star teams as the Royals' closer from 2013 through 2015 before missing all of 2016 following “Tommy John” surgery, then signed with the Rockies and tied for the NL lead with 41 saves in his first year back. He also had a 3.61 ERA, made the NL All-Star team and led the league with 58 games finished over his 61 appearances.

Returning from South Korea where he batted .349 with 124 homers and 974 RBIs and became a superstar over three seasons for the NC Dinos, even winning the KBO Most Valuable Player Award in 2015, slugging first baseman Eric Thames had a breakout MLB year with the Brewers. The 30-year-old, left-handed hitting first baseman took the NL by storm when he banged out 11 homers in 24 games in April before settling in to bat .241 with 31 homers and  63 RBIs for the season.

First baseman Ryan Zimmerman, who has spent time on the disabled list over the past three seasons with shoulder, wrist, thumb, foot, hamstring and oblique injuries, returned to the All-Star Game after an eight-year absence in 2017 and became the first Nats player to bat over .300 with at least 30 homers and 100 RBIs. The 33-year-old, who was the fourth overall draft pick in 2005, the year the franchise moved to Washington, D.C., has been a fan favorite ever since, finished the season with a .303/.358/.573 slash line to go with 36 homers and 108 RBIs.

Now in its 26th year, the Players Choice Awards annually honor the outstanding player, rookie, pitcher and comeback player in each league, as well as an overall Player of the Year and Marvin Miller Man of the Year awards, which are selected by players in both leagues.

Balloting for the 2017 Players Choice Awards, which are being presented by MLB The Show and sponsored by Majestic Athletic, was conducted in all Major League clubhouses on Sept. 19, under the supervision of accounting firm KPMG.

The Players Trust raises funds and attention for issues affecting the needy and promotes community involvement, and it has recognized the outstanding on-field and off-field performances of Players Choice Awards winners by contributing more than $4 million to charities around the world. For additional information, please visit www.PlayersTrust.org