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Rebound….or Regress?

Everyone has an “off day”.  Whether you trip and fall on the way to the office or spill your beverage at a formal dinner with an important client, we have all been off our game.  Baseball is no different as even the most consistent performers may have a rough year that can be attributed to reasons including injury, new surroundings, or simply bad luck.  A generous share of players failed to meet expectations in 2011 and provided disappointing results for fantasy owners.  With many drafts already occurring or scheduled in the next week, it will be up to you to decide which players to take a chance on in hopes of a rebound.  Take a dive with me as we review several potential bounce-back candidates.  Who will return to form?  Who may be in danger of a slump?

Joe Mauer

 Year            G           Avg       R      HR       RBI          SB   

 2010         137        .327      88      9         75            1

 2011          82         .287      38      3         30            0

Remember 2009?  Many fantasy owners were reluctant to draft Joe Mauer after his preseason injury three years ago, which would delay his start to the season until May.  Mauer rewarded faithful owners by producing career highs with 28 HR and a .365 average along with an AL MVP award.  After battling injury and illness woes throughout 2011, the doubters have returned.  Minnesota’s prized backstop has been ranked on most draft boards between 6th-10th among catchers.  Although his leg injuries may plague his career, he is certainly over the pneumonia and respiratory symptoms that haunted him last season.  After signing a monster eight year contract extension in March 2010, you can bet the Twins will take care of their franchise cornerstone.  Mauer will see time at first base to help keep his body healthy.  I refuse to project another 28 HR season, but Mauer should return to being regarded as a first tier catcher with numbers around .325, 14 HR, and 90 RBI.

Adam Wainwright

Year            ERA       WHIP      W       L          SO   

2010            2.42       1.05        20      11         213

2011             DNP-Tommy John Surgery

2011 was a lost season for St. Louis Cardinals’ ace Adam Wainwright after undergoing Tommy John surgery in February.  Sadly, Wainwright was unable to pitch during the postseason and partake in St Louis’ miraculous World Series championship.  With concerns lessening regarding his health,   Wainwright’s average draft position is gradually rising from the 100’s to the 70’s as he appears to be fully recovered.   Wainwright has pitched 14 innings this spring without allowing an earned run while fanning nine.  If he continues to pitch at a high level, Wainwright may return to a top tiered ace and provide generous value for owners that decided to take a chance on him.   I predict 17 wins, 180 K’s, and an ERA around 3.00.

Francisco Liriano

Year            ERA       WHIP        W       L          SO   

2010           3.62        1.26       14      10         201

2011           5.09        1.49         9      10         112

Francisco Liriano may have thrown the first no-hitter of his career last season, but 2011 was far from brilliant. With an ERA over 5.00 along with only nine wins and 112 K’s, his season was a major disappointment after a solid 2010 campaign.   The Twins’ southpaw has not popped up on many bounce-back lists until spring training.  In 18 innings this preseason, Liriano has racked up 23 strikeouts with an ERA of 2.00.  Though this may be a small sample size, his performance must heed attention.  I expect a turnaround this season with 15 wins, 200 K’s, and a 3.75 ERA.  

Hanley Ramirez

Year           G         Avg        R        HR       RBI        SB   

2010         96       .300       55       21        72         32

2011        142      .243       55       10        45         20

Historically, Han-Ram was one of the first names off the board due to his rare power and speed production at the scarce position of shortstop.  2011 was a forgetful year as Ramirez struggled with injuries and played only nineteen games after the all-star break.  With incoming manager Ozzie Guillen, brand new logos and uniforms, and a transition to third base, Hanley Ramirez will be undergoing more than a few changes this season. After rumors of Ramirez’ reluctance to moving positions for newly acquired Jose Reyes, it appears he is now becoming adjusted to his new position and will be completely healthy for Opening Day.  Han-Ram should bounce back to elite with a .300 average, 20 HR, 80 RBI, 90 Runs, and 38 SB.

Adam Dunn

Year             G          Avg       R        HR        RBI        SB   

2010          158       .260      85       38        103         0

2011          122       .159      36       11          42         0

When Adam Dunn signed with the Chicago White Sox for the 2011 season, fans braced themselves for a monster season in the Windy City.  Dunn had strung together seven seasons in a row with at least 38 homeruns and 92 RBI in Cincinnati and Washington.  With the move to U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago, he would be headed to a hitter-friendly park and serve as DH.  The “dream” scenario resulted in a horrendous nightmare.  Dunn turned in one of the worst offensive seasons in history and chased records for lowest batting average and highest strikeout total until his playing time began getting cut. Many analysts believe his tenure as a feared slugger may have expired, but his spring training performance suggests otherwise as he is batting .333 with four homeruns, 12 RBI’s, and only one strikeout.  It would be nearly impossible for Dunn to not experience a turnaround, but “how much” is the million dollar question.  My prediction for the ChiSox slugger is a .245 batting average with 35 homeruns and 90 RBI’s.  

Alex Rodriguez

Year           G           Avg         R        HR       RBI        SB   

2010        137        .270        74       30       125         4

2011          99        .276        62       16         67         4

A-Rod has been making more headlines for his romantic relationships than his on-field performance recently.  At age 36 with a nagging leg injury, it seems doubtful that Rodriguez will return to stardom.  He did complete an experimental knee treatment in Germany during the offseason after a recommendation from Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers.  Bryant has not incurred any additional knee injuries during the NBA season, so it will be interesting to see if A-Rod also experiences these positive results.  Continuing to hit in the heart of the New York Yankees’ offensive batting order, A-Rod will certainly have significant opportunity to rebound.  I predict a moderate improvement from last year, but still see injuries hampering him.   Look for the Yankees third baseman to play around 130 games with 28 homeruns and 100 RBI.  I am not expecting a 180 degree rebound, but it would also be foolish to take for granted one of the greatest hitters of our time.

David Wright

Year           G         Avg        R        HR        RBI        SB   

2010        157       .283      87       29        103        19

2011        102       .254      60       14          61        13

It is difficult to show optimism with David Wright this season.  Wright possesses the talent to put up 20-20 or even 30-30 numbers, but may not reach this ceiling due to nagging injuries, a lackluster supporting cast, and a pitcher-friendly park.  The Mets’ third baseman has been slowed by an abdominal strain this spring.   The only positive news may be the fact that Citi Field’s outfield fences were moved in, which should translate to several more homeruns.  Without Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes ahead of him, it is difficult to predict a significant improvement for 2012.  If Wright can stay relatively healthy, look for 22 homeruns and 20 stolen bases with an improved average of .290.  Don’t let Wright fall too far in drafts, but don’t be overly optimistic for a full turnaround.

Ryan Zimmerman

Year           G         Avg        R        HR       RBI       SB   

2010        142       .307      85       25        85         4

2011        101       .289      49       12        52         3

Like David Wright, Ryan Zimmerman is way too familiar with abdominal strains.  In fact, Zimmerman suffered the same injury last April, which resulted in a shortened season of only 101 games. His power stroke was hindered by the injury resulting in only 12 homeruns.  The Washington Nationals remained loyal to their third baseman by signing him to a six-year, $100 million contract.   Already off to a hot spring start, Zimmerman will return to form this season with a .300 average, 25 homeruns, and 100 RBI.

Chase Utley

Year           G         Avg        R         HR       RBI        SB   

2010        115       .275      75       16         65         13

2011        103       .259      54       11         44         14

Chase Utley can’t get a break. He suffered nearly the entire 2010 season with a nagging right knee injury.   Thus far in 2012, Utley is bearing pain in his left knee and will miss opening day.  It may be a few weeks until we know Utley’s true prognosis as he is currently meeting with several specialists, but this news is certainly not exciting owners. Initially, it does not sound like Utley’s condition will cost him a major delay to the season, but I will conservatively forecast 15 homeruns, 10 stolen bases, and a .280 average.  

Carl Crawford

Year            G          Avg         R        HR       RBI       SB   

2010          154       .307      110      19        90        47

2011          130       .255       65       11        56        18

Carl Crawford’s contract with Boston last season led many fantasy managers to target him in the first round with hopes of a career year.  Crawford did produce unreal numbers; however, they were all career lows. After a slow start, Coach Terry Francona tested Crawford lower in the batting order unsuccessfully as his bat never showed consistency.  With a new coach and a chip on his shoulder, Crawford will experience a rebound this season.  Unfortunately, his wrist surgery in January may delay his debut this season. Expect Boston to be cautious with their star outfielder and ensure he is fully recovered before inserting him into the starting lineup.  Crawford will show more consistency this year and hit .275 with 14 homeruns, 80 runs, 75 RBI, and 30 stolen bases.  

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