Few players have been as consistently excellent at the plate as Miguel Cabrera in his prime.
That seems like a long time ago now.
Cabrera hit only 12 home runs last season and has just 31 over the past three years. He'll turn 37 in April, and there are plenty of indications that the Detroit star is in the middle of a protracted decline. From 2005-13, Cabrera batted at least .320 eight times in nine seasons — and hit at least 30 home runs in all but one year.
At this point, the Tigers would probably settle for a 20-homer season and an average around .300. That would be a step up from last year, but it remains to be seen if Cabrera — whose big contract lasts until at least 2023 — is capable of halting this slide in production.
Cabrera is one of a handful of players around baseball with a lot to prove this year. Here are a few more:
CLAYTON KERSHAW, DODGERS
Kershaw's 2019 season ended in agonizing fashion, when his failed relief appearance cost Los Angeles dearly in the Division Series finale against Washington. Postseason problems still hang over Kershaw, but the more pressing question may be about the regular season: Does he have another Cy Young Award-winning campaign in him? At age 31 last year, he went 16-5 with a 3.03 ERA — impressive by any reasonable standard, but also his worst ERA since his rookie season. Kershaw also hasn't reached 180 innings in any of the past four seasons.
JOSE RAMIREZ, INDIANS