A big part of winning your fantasy baseball leagues is not buying into the hype of a players decline and identifying the right targets for a bounce back season.
These guys can make or break your drafts, but if you nab them at the right time, you can reap the benefits all season long.
I’ve identified 12 candidates (of many) that I can see having a big bounce back in 2014 after disappointing in 2013 in one way or another.
Albert Pujols, 1B, Los Angeles Angels
Puljos won’t likely fall out of the third round of drafts as his ADP right now is 44.5, however I expect a big bounce back campaign. He is coming off his worst season of his career, but also played all of 2013 on one foot so fantasy owners should forgive him.
Is Puljos likely to put up the insane MVP numbers he did with the Cardinals? Not likely, but a 30 homer, 100 RBI season is not out of the question. Most of his declines have been age related. Don’t buy into last year’s sharp decline. That was injury related.
His triple slash line is in a five year downtrend, but he is still capable of a big year if he can stay healthy for a full season.
Justin Verlander, SP, Detroit Tigers
One thing I always look for are players who didn’t have their typical season, but finished the prior season very strong.
Verlander falls into that category.
He had a tough season in 2013, and injuries played a part in his decline. Verlander had surgery in the offseason, and those injury concerns are the reason he is only the ninth pitcher off the board in most drafts.
While Verlander got roughed up in the regular season, he was untouchable in the playoffs. He pitched three games in the postseason and he only allowed one run in 23 innings. There are signs that point to the fact that Verlander is now in the declining period of his career, but that doesn’t mean he is no longer one of the best pitchers in baseball.
He finished August and September strong and if you can grab him in the third or fourth round, where he has been going in most drafts, he could turn out to be a steal at that value. He’s still a top five pitcher and I would expect a 15-plus win season, an ERA in the low-three’s and over 225 strikeouts.
Matt Kemp, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers
Kemp has burned me two years in a row so I am likely to avoid him at all costs. Based on that theory alone, I expect a big season.
He hasn’t been able to stay healthy over the last two seasons, but before going down with the ankle injury late in the season, he started to hit like the pre-2013 Kemp. When he is right, Kemp can be a game changer.
Even if he starts the season on the DL, once he gets to be 100 percent, I expect something big from Kemp. He has been going in the fourth and fifth rounds of many mocks and I can see him getting back to being a fantasy stud, as long as he is running.
One thing I do like is that with four outfielders in Los Angeles, Kemp is going to have to perform to stay in the lineup. That could be all the motivation he needs.
When he is healthy Kemp can easily get back to being a 20-20 guy.