Everyone loves getting a great deal, and that goes double for us fantasy gamers when we sit down to draft. A few draft day steals here and there combined with solid drafting elsewhere can win you a league. One way to get a deal is to go after this year’s Mike Trout – a previously unknown rookie commodity waiting to explode. The second and more reliable way is to look for established players that fell victim to a down year, and are therefore being drafted later than their talent would otherwise suggest as a result – bounce-back guys. Today, we’ll look at ten bounce-back possibilities for 2013. We’ll examine their outlook for this year, factors that should help them to bounce back, and also check into their ADP (average draft position) as it stands right now. Without further ado…
I really like Ike this year, for a couple reasons. One, he’s projected 30 HR power every year he’s been in the majors. Even in 2011 when he was struck with Valley Fever (whatever that is) he already had 7 jacks in about 30 games. Last year he hit 32 while still recovering from the disease, and that’s playing half his games in MetCo. Guess what? They moved the fences in this year, and he’s rumored to have his usual energy back. If you’re a SaberDork, recognize that his BABIP last year was .246, so even finding the mean would equal a huge spike in production. I’ll leave you with this: Ike hit 27 of his 32 homers after June 11. I’m predicting big things for a small price tag.
Poor Ryan Howard. First he ruptures his Achilles tendon while running out a ground ball, which just happened to be the final out of the Phillies season. As he laid on the ground writhing in pain the Cardinals (justifiably) celebrated their series victory around him. Nice. Surgically repaired, Howard makes his triumphant return late in 2012, only to break his toe, ending his 2012 campaign. How did he break it? He swung a lead pipe in the on-deck circle, dropping it directly on the aforementioned toe. You can’t make this stuff up, folks. Assuming he isn’t randomly assaulted by a condor, or struck by lightning, it seems we can predict a bounce-back campaign here. Teams shift dramatically against Howard, and it has sapped his batting average, but I feel that setting a floor of 25+ HR and 80+ RBI and Runs, with his usual crappy AVG, leaves a ton of room for profit potential. Fun fact: Prior to last season, Howard hadn’t ever had a full season where he hit less than 31 bombs, 100 RBI, and 80 Runs scored. If you miss out on the first round 1B bonanza, don’t panic – fill your other needs and consider Howard late.
This one seems pretty easy to me. Wainwright underwent Tommy John surgery and missed all of 2011. In his first year he struggled to regain his form for the first few months. Most-to-all TJ surgery cases do this before righting the ship, and Waino made good – his second half ERA was 3.28, down from his first half 4.56 and he halved his home runs allowed. He’s a former 20 game winner, on a great team, in a pitchers league. He’s going to deliver #1 or 2 starter numbers at a #3 or 4 price. I’m all in on this steal.
After getting off to a slow start in 2012, Jayson was dubbed ‘Werth-less’ by many in DC, and talk of silly $126 million contracts was rampant. When he broke his wrist diving for a short fly ball (at a game I attended, no less), things just got worse. In the end, Werth played only 81 total games, missing most of May, all of June and July, and the first week of August. Once he returned, the recovering wrist sapped most of his power…that is until his epic walkoff-bomb against the Cardinals. Why do we care? Projecting Werth’s 2012 season would leave us with 10 HR, 16 SB, .300 avg – which is useful as an OF 5 anywhere. Add in his slow start and sapped power, and there’s definite room to grow to 20/20 or more in 2013. Finally, check out the ADP – you can snag him for a song at the end of your drafts as a low-risk, high upside OF flier.
Choo is an interesting case to make at his draft position. Some might even argue that he’s at even value or overvalued, or that he’s not a bounce-back candidate. I say nay. Let’s consider: he’s played three full seasons in his brief MLB tenure. He’s never hit under 16 HR, and never stolen under 21 bases, and his average generally hovers around .300. He’s taking his talents to Cincinnati in 2013, a tremendous hitters park where he projects to lead off in front of Brandon Phillips, Joey Votto, and Jay Bruce. Cincy is going to contend for the NL Central crown again, and when they do, you’ll want to be all-aboard the Choo train. I’m predicting something alone the lines of 20 / 25 / 85 / 85 / .295 – which makes Shin-Soo a very strong value at his current ADP.
After the flurry of North-of-the-border-trading this offseason, fantasy circles are abuzz about R.A. Dickey, Josh Johnsons, Jose Reyes, and how much of a slug Jeffrey Loria is. Nobody is talking about one Brandon Morrow, post-hype sleeper extraordinaire. Let’s examine: We’ve always known he can throw gas, but the question has always been ‘can he pitch’, and the answer has generally been no. But Morrow seemed to finally work things out in 2012, posting a 2.96 ERA to go with 10 wins and a 1.11 WHIP over 21 starts. He’ll have to get things worked out against those Tampa Rays though – they scored fully 44% of his total runs allowed. But this 2013 Blue Jays team looks strong on paper, and they don’t need Morrow to be their ace or #2. I’m projecting 15 wins, 175K, 3.35 ERA, 1.15 WHIP – strong numbers from a starter being taken outside the top 100.
Let me be clear – if you drafted Ellsbury last year, there’s no way I’m talking you into a bounce-back draft pick, so go ahead and skip to the next candidate. I feel your pain, but it just isn’t happening. For everyone else, this is a guy who had an average ADP of 8.9 or so last year. In his last full season, he posted a 32 / 39 / 119 / 105 / .321 line. Now that smacks of a career year to me, so let’s project in some regression for age, luck, etc. We’re still left with around 20 / 30 / 90 / 90 / .280, and I feel those numbers have some room to grow. Jacoby has earned his ‘DLsbury’ moniker fairly, but he still won’t be 30 until September. He’ll bat leadoff again for the high-powered Sox in a hitter’s park, in a hitter’s league. I can understand if you want someone less risky, but he makes for a hell of a tempting fourth round OF pick.
It would seem rational to ask how a guy who went 20 / 90 / 90 is a bounce-back candidate. Thanks for asking, me! Freeman was raking his way through his sophomore campaign until May 5th. While playing the field, a wind gust blew dirt into his eyes. If you wear contacts, you know this is a major issue. Freeman ended up changing contacts 6 times during that game, and suffered a scratched right cornea in the process. His vision blurred badly, he tried to fight through the injury for the rest of the season. His average plummeted 50 points, his counting numbers were toast, and he racked up DNP’s because he simply couldn’t see the ball. When I look at his 2012 numbers with that story in mind, I’m simply amazed. And, of course, I see a draft day situation to exploit. You can write Freeman in for 20+ homers, 85+ Runs and RBI, and at least a .275 average, and you can also pick him up in the later stages of the first ten rounds. What will Freeman do in 600 AB’s, in a stacked Atlanta lineup, when he can actually see? I want him to be on my squad when we find out.
Can VMart do anything but bounce back after losing his entire 2012 season to microfracture knee surgery? The question here is twofold – what kind of production should we be expecting, and assuming that production, where can you play him? Well, if you’re planning to draft Victor as a C-eligible player, take 5 seconds to check and make sure your league considers him a C, and not just a UTIL. He played enough C in 2011 to qualify in most leagues, but the rule of thumb is generally games played at a position the previous season, of which he had none. Different games are handling this in different ways – know the rules of yours as it makes a huge impact in this situation. If he qualifies only at UTIL he’s overpriced at best, so we’ll work under the assumption he’s catcher eligible in your league. His last healthy season (2011) saw him drive in 103 runs, bat .330, and score 76 times – very strong numbers out of the C slot. He won’t actually play C except in an emergency, mind you – Detroit will DH him, making it much more likely he’ll get AB’s every day. If he approaches these numbers, he’ll be a hell of a bargain at his current ADP. Reports this spring have been good, and make him worthy of consideration if he can play C for your fantasy squad.