Every spring, baseball fans and reporters love to gawk and speculate about which MLB players have gained or lost the most weight since last season. The phrase “Best Shape of Their Life” gets thrown around a lot, usually applied to somebody who appears to have shrunk his waistline and bulked up his biceps since the previous fall. And some attract attention for looking like they spent their off-season taking too many trips through the buffet line.
The following nine players made some epic transformations during their careers—in some cases for the better (holy forearms, Bryce Harper!), and in other cases, not so much (put down the pie and slowly walk away, Jesus Montero).
After being known as a hefty hurler, the New York Yankees pitcher got skinny before last season—very skinny. Sabathia, who at one point in his career weighed around 290, became diligent about his workouts, portion control and “eating the right things in the clubhouse”—and was said to weigh under 250. Well, skinny C.C. is a thing of the past, as the 34-year-old turned up at this year’s spring training weighing 305. “I lost a bunch of weight drastically, pretty quick was kind of off-balance,” Sabathia said recently, according to the New York Daily News. “I didn’t know really how my body was working.” Sabathia added that he felt stronger at his heavier weight. “I feel my legs under me…and being able to push off the mound.”
(Sabathia, January 2014)
Last year, catcher Jesus Montero showed up at training camp following a suspension 40 pounds over his previously listed weight of 230. “After winter ball, all I did was eat,” he said. General Manager Jack Zduriencik was particularly hard on Montero, saying “I have zero expectations for Jesus Montero. Any expectations I had are gone.” This January, NBC Sports reported that Montero is in “the best shape of his life,” having lost somewhere around 40 pounds, down to 235, and looking cut.
In the summer of 1999, when he tried out for the Mets, Toronto shortstop José Reyes was 19 years old and weighed 130 pounds. Although the Mets expressed concerned over his small frame, they signed him. By the time he made it to his first season in the Major Leagues, he was up to 180 pounds. Since then, the 195-pound Reyes has led the National League in stolen bases three times and triples four times.
José Reyes covering second base (2002)
Reyes, spring training 2015
In 2008, Marlon Anderson, a utility player who spent 12 seasons playing for six different teams (including two stints with the Mets), was rehabbing from a hamstring injury when he experienced a serious body transformation. Considered by some to be one of the best pinch-hitters of all time, Anderson used a cleanse regimen, portion control and liquids to lose 22 pounds in 25 days.
When Cardinals pitcher Lance Lynn showed up to 2013 spring training 30 to 40 pounds lighter, his teammates did not recognize him. Fellow pitcher Adam Wainwright asked him, “Where’s your other half?” “I’m lighter now than I was when I graduated high school,” said Lynn at the time. Since then, Lynn has maintained his new weight, gaining back only 5 to 10 of the pounds he lost. Lynn said he lost the weight (and kept it off) by “doubling down on vegetables” with the Paleo diet, which focuses on veggies and lean-protein meats and eliminates carbs and starches.
Before the 2010 season, catcher Geovany Soto showed up to Cubs training camp having lost 40 pounds during the off-season. Soto told the Daily Herald at the time, “I wasn’t strong; I was just fat. My whole life. I’ve had problems my whole life. Not problems, but I just wasn’t educated in a way…[now] I stick to a program, and it’s worked.”
In the spring of 2013, Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper showed up to camp weighing 230 pounds, 20 pounds more than the previous season. His goal for the 2013-2014 off-season was to “get as big as a house,” aiming for 240, 245, and noting that he “[loses] 20 pounds during the season.”
For what it’s worth, as Harper’s weight has gone up, some of his production has gone down. He played in 139 games in 2012 and was named NL Rookie of the Year. In 2013 he appeared in 118 games and was voted to the All-Star team. Last season he hit .273 with 13 home runs in 100 games.
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