Fantasy Baseball: 10 players who could unlock a draft advantage due to bounce-back potential
Each season, some of the best bargains on fantasy draft day come in the form of players who had surprisingly poor seasons the previous year. While most drafters don’t have the nerve to target those who might have bounce-back campaigns, the brave managers who make calculated guesses on resurgent players can gain a massive advantage.
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Here are the players I expect to have a major rebound this year.
Fernando Tatís Jr. (SS, San Diego Padres)
Tatís is the ultimate bounce-back option, as he didn’t play at all last season due to a combination of injuries and a lengthy PED suspension. The Padres superstar underwent two surgeries (wrist, shoulder) after he was ruled out for the remainder of the season, and he will need to show that he is fully healthy once eligible to return to the active roster in late April. The risks with Tatís are obvious, but he could be the No. 1 fantasy asset from the date of his return through the end of the season.
Jonathan India (2B, Cincinnati Reds)
India endured the classic sophomore slump when he missed 59 games and watched his year-over-year OPS drop 130 points in 2022. A hamstring injury lingered throughout the first half, and though he improved after the All-Star break, he couldn’t replicate his rookie-year production at any point in Year 2. Still, India has the on-base skills of a class leadoff man (career .356 OBP), and he enjoys the benefits of playing his home games in one of the most hitter-friendly parks in baseball. I love the idea of drafting India at his current Yahoo ADP (pick 196.2).
Brandon Lowe (2B, Tampa Bay Rays)
I love Lowe as a buy-low option this season. The slugger dealt with back and triceps injuries last season, which limited him to a .691 OPS across 65 games, and he has dropped to a current Yahoo ADP of 152.1 on the merit of his recent struggles. Lowe was a fantasy star in 2021 (39 home runs, 99 RBIs, 97 runs), and he was more than a one-year wonder, as he logged an .869 OPS across a three-year stretch from 2019 to '21. As long as Lowe can move past the back woes, a massive bounce-back is in order.
Tyler O'Neill (OF, St. Louis Cardinals)
O'Neill can stuff the stat sheet in bunches, as we saw in 2021, when he accumulated 34 homers, 15 steals and 89 runs scored. He dealt with three separate injuries last season (right shoulder, right hamstring, left hamstring) but produced a respectable .780 OPS after June 1 and racked up 14 steals in 96 games overall. I’m hesitant to predict a full rebound to 2021 but am willing to consider him at his current Yahoo ADP (pick 105.6).
Kris Bryant (OF, Colorado Rockies)
Fantasy managers were really digging Bryant during 2022 draft season. After all, what’s not to like about a former MVP who was still in his prime and had just joined the team with the best launching pad in baseball? But then the 31-year-old dealt with back and foot injuries, and having the words “plantar fasciitis” in his injury history should cause 2022 drafters to worry. Still, a healthy Bryant is capable of hitting .300 with 25-30 long balls.
Nick Castellanos (OF, Philadelphia Phillies)
Castellanos was a surprising disappointment last year, as he had been remarkably consistent throughout his career and joined a team with a solid lineup and hitter-friendly home park. The soon-to-be 31-year-old struggled throughout the regular season (.694 OPS) and was even worse in the postseason, but he still owns a solid lifetime .801 OPS and could've been influenced last year by his signing with the Phillies near the end of the spring training.
J.D. Martinez (OF, Los Angeles Dodgers)
Typically a metronome for power production, Martinez collected just 16 homers and 62 RBIs across 139 games last year. And he will face an uphill battle in his quest for a rebound, as he has lost his access to the friendly confines of Fenway Park and must now play half his games in a pitcher-friendly home stadium (but there is reason for hope there). Still, the 35-year-old owns a lifetime .872 OPS, and the Dodgers have a habit of getting the most out of their players. At his current Yahoo ADP (pick 190.3), Martinez is a great option.
Max Muncy (2B/3B, Los Angeles Dodgers)
Muncy posted a sub-.200 average for the second time in three seasons, and after hitting at least 35 homers in each of the previous three 162-game seasons, he went deep just 21 times. The lefty slugger is someone who should benefit from the limitations on defensive shifts, as he pulled nearly half of his batted balls last year. And at age 32, Muncy's power skills should still be intact.
[2023 Fantasy Baseball Rankings: C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | OF | SP | RP]
Wil Myers (1B/OF, Cincinnati Reds)
Myers would be a reasonable bounce-back candidate on any team after posting his lowest OPS (.713) since 2014, but his offseason move to the Reds has really piqued my interest. This will be the first time the 10-year veteran has called a hitter-friendly park home, which should enable him to swat 25 home runs, and he still has the speed to swipe a few bags. At his current Yahoo ADP of pick 254.4, Myers is definitely worth a minimal investment.
José Berríos (SP, Toronto Blue Jays)
Fantasy managers went into 2022 with Berríos slotted as an ultra-reliable starter who was unlikely to be an ace but would be no worse than a No. 3 in mixed leagues. Then the right-hander proceeded to ruin many fantasy squads by logging awful ratios (5.23 ERA, 1.42 WHIP) across 172 innings. His strikeout rate took a huge drop, and he had several starts in which he failed to finish three innings. Berrios tinkered with his mechanics and approach throughout the offseason, and at his current Yahoo ADP (pick 212.8), he is a worthy gamble.