If you’re a die-hard fantasy geek, then you’ll know that more often than not, leagues are won by the sleeper picks and late draft selections that pan out.
In particular, those mid-to-late round picks often feature potential comeback of the year candidates. Here’s a top ten list of predictions for fantasy players that either struggled last year or dealt with injuries – and could easily have a bounceback year in a big way.
Fantasy: Top Ten Comeback of the Year Candidates
10. Ty Wigginton – Baltimore Orioles
Wigginton (11 HR, 41 RBI, .273 AVG in 2009) is the darkhorse on this list, especially considering that he’s not a starter entering the season.
However, if Garrett Atkins can’t have a turnaround season (or Miguel Tejada struggles at the hot corner), Wigginton could step in and get more at bats. With more at-bats, Wigginton could reach his 2007 or 2008 form, where he hit 20+ home runs.
Wigginton could also wind up a trade deadline candidate, meaning a boost in productivity playing for a contender after July.
9. Jake Peavy – Chicago White Sox
Peavy (9-6, 3.45 ERA, 101 1/3 IP in ‘09) would be higher on this list, but fantasy owners should remain tepid on his promise considering he’s not only moving to the American League, but also from pitcher-friendly PETCO Park to the hitter-friendly U.S. Cellular Field.
However, Peavy should get plenty of support from a playoff-caliber team – and in three late season starts with the White Sox – he proved that his move to the AL actually might not cause a bump in the road at all.
Expect the Peavy of old in 2010.
8. David Wright – New York Mets
Wright (10 HR, 72 RBI, .307 AVG in 2009) didn’t have a horrible year in 2009 – but did see a significant dropoff.
In 2007 and 2008, Wright posted 30+ HR and 100+ RBI seasons, so he was easily a fantasy disappointment in ’09, considering many took him in the first round.
His dropoff was for a variety of reasons – one being the added pressure hitting in a lineup that lost most of its stars due to injury. None however are major alarms – and Wright should see a boost in his numbers heading into 2010.
7. Stephen Drew – Arizona Diamondbacks
Drew (12 HR, 65 RBI, .261 AVG in ’09) had a lingering hamstring issue during the first half of 2009, which resulted in a decline of his productivity.
Entering 2010, Drew is healthy and has played well in the spring, batting .390 in 59 AB’s.
Expect this season to bring numbers closer to that of his breakout 2008 season – where he posted a .291 batting average and hit 21 home runs.
6. Cole Hamels – Philadelphia Phillies
Like Drew, Hamels (10-11, 4.32 ERA in ‘09) also had lingering injuries entering last season. 2009 was a major disappointment, featuring an ERA over a run higher than 2008, where he helped push the Phillies to a World Series title.
With one of the best offenses in baseball by his side, Hamels should have plenty of run support and opportunities to post a lot of victories – let alone add in 200 K potential.
5. Geovany Soto – Chicago Cubs
Soto followed up his rookie of the year 2008 season (23 HR, 86 RBI .285 AVG) with what many would call the exact definition of a sophomore slump.
In 2010, many fantasy managers are taking a pass on Soto after batting .218 with 11 HR and 47 RBI in 2009.
While Soto may not match his rookie numbers, all signs point to a quality year. In fact, he could easily crack the top 5 in fantasy catchers – so don’t sleep on him.
4. J.J. Hardy – Minnesota Twins
Hardy struggled in 2009 – batting .229 with only 11 HR and 47 RBI. This was a major decline from the 50 combined HR’s over the previous two seasons.
In the end, his struggles made it easy for the Brewers to trade Hardy away to make room for SS prospect Alcides Escobar.
The 27-year old Hardy joins a stacked Twins lineup that features Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Michael Cuddyer and Jim Thome. There should be plenty of protection and men on base that should lead to a bounceback year.
3. Chris Young – Arizona Diamondbacks
Young has seen some of the larget declines of any hitter in Major League Baseball, falling from 32 HR in ’07, to 22 in ’08, to only 15 in 2009. Combine that with the high strikeout totals (and low walk totals), and Young has slowly turned from promising young star to major disappointment.
Don’t give up on him just yet, as he’s only 26 years old and is showing a lot of promise this spring – batting .316 with 3 HR and 12 RBI as of April 1.
A bounceback season is a major possibility.
2. Francisco Liriano – Minnesota Twins
Many forget how nasty Liriano was just a few seasons ago. In 2006 – at the age of 22 – Liriano was 12-3 with a 2.16 ERA and 144 K’s in 121 IP.
In 2007, he was out for the year due to injury, and has since struggled to regain elite form. Last season, Liriano struggled – posting a 5.80 ERA.
It’s likely many fantasy owners will pass on him – but that doesn’t mean you should.
Many reports have stated the bite is back on one of Liriano’s best pitches – his slider. That, plus this spring, Liriano has 30 strikeouts in 20 IP, adding in a 2.70 ERA. Expect a solid season, sitting in the 5th starter position and having a solid offense backing him up.
1. Adrian Beltre – Boston Red Sox
Beltre has spent a lot of his career fending off the criticism of being an underachiever. Even with all the criticism, he’s still put on a defensive show and hit 250 HR in his 12-year career.
Last year, Beltre posted the worst offensive season since his rookie year – batting .265 with 8 HR and 44 RBI in 111 games.
In 2010, he joins the Boston Red Sox, and will be hitting in a powerful lineup at the very hitter-friendly Fenway Park.
Expect the biggest turnaround this season to come from Beltre – as long as he can stay healthy.