When preparing for fantasy drafts, especially in deeper mixed and AL-only and NL-only leagues, one should not be afraid to target a few bounce back candidates. The bounce back candidates are players, hitters and pitchers, who for one reason or another, had a "down" year in the previous season. Some players had down years due to injury, poor performance, or even off-field issues (PEDs, others).
Every season, we see players in both leagues underperform expectation, and disappointing their fantasy owners. As a result, their ADP (average draft position) takes an unnecessary hit. That presents fantasy owners with an opportunity to take advantage of the improved value on draft day.
Today, I offer my 2014 All Bounce Back team for NL-only leagues. Tomorrow, I offer up my AL-only All Bounce Back team.
Catcher: Miguel Montero, ARI
Montero disappointed owners in 2013, struggling to a .230-.318-.344 slash line with 11 HRs, 44 runs and 42 RBI in 116 games. A down year from Montero, who had put up mid-teen home runs, 60+ runs and 80+ RBi in 2011 and 2012. His power has dropped in each of the last two seasons, as measured by SLG and ISO, so a bounce back is possible, especially playing in the hitter-friendly confines of Chase Field.
First Base: Ryan Howard, PHI
Howard has one of the worst contracts in baseball, and is on the downside of his career, but he still does two things well, not great. Hit for power and drive in runs. I know the story about driving in runs, but he gets it done. Howard was limited to just 80 games due to injury last season, but still put up 11 home runs and 43 RBI in 317 plate appearances. If healthy, he should be good for 25 home runs and 85-90 RBI in 2014, and will be drafted in the later rounds of most drafts.
Second Base: Aaron Hill, ARI
Hill has age going against him, but he can still hit. In 87 games, last year, he put up a solid slash line of .291-.356-.462 with 11 HRs, 45 runs and 41 RBI. His ADP will probably drop as a result, presenting an opportunity for owners on draft day. He has a chance to put up another 20+ HR, 80+ RBI season, with double digit steals in 2014.
Shortstop: Starlin Castro, CHC
Castro had his worst season as a big leaguer, hitting just .245-.284-.347 with 10 HRs, 59 runs, 44 RBI and 9 stolen bases in 161 games. His stats dropped in every category, including OBP and SLG. I have to wonder if he didn't get along with former manager Dale Sveum. He might be my top choice to bounce back in 2014, as he is too good a hitter. I recall reading the Cubs attempting to have Castro be more patient at the plate, taking more pitches, and the results weren't good. Let him be the free swinger he was in previous seasons, and he will return to the 2012 version of Starlin Castro.
Third Base: Aramis Ramirez, MIL
Ramirez is another hitter on this list that does not have age or injury on his side. He has recurring knee issues and will be 35 years of age on Opening Day. Even with the injuries and age, Ramirez was still productive when he was on the field last season, hitting .283-.370-.461 with 12 HRs, 43 runs and 49 RBI in just 92 games. Assuming good health from him in 2014 may be asking too much, but if he can stay on the field for 130 games, he could put up another 20 HR, 80 RBI season.
Outfield: Ryan Braun, MIL
Braun will enter the 2014 season with some owners questioning whether his performance over the last six season was tainted and aided by PEDs. I have some concern, but not enough for me to not draft him at #16 in the recently started Fake Teams Dynasty League draft. Braun's 2013 performance was impacted by his PED suspension, the off field issues that go with failing a drug test, and some nagging injuries. I think he returns with a chip on his shoulder and puts up a Braun-like season in 2014, or something very close.
Outfield: Matt Kemp, LAD
Kemp 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. He entered the 2013 season still recovering from his offseason shoulder surgery, and it showed in his performance at the plate and his power. Nagging hamstring injuries disabled him a few times prior to the ankle injury. He, again, had offseason shoulder surgery, but is already working out, so his shoulder should be fine for the start of the season. The ankle surgery is more worrisome, and it may result in him starting the season on the DL. Even still, he should be 100% for most of the season.
Outfield: B.J. Upton, ATL
Upton had a season to forget in 2013, and may need some changes to his swing. HIs ADP/draft day value will be down in a big way in 2014, and that presents a chance for huge value for fantasy owners who don't write him off and draft him late. He still has the skills to put up a 20 HR, 30+ stolen bases season, and you can get that very late in drafts next year.
Starting Pitcher: Matt Cain, SFG
Like the others on this list, Cain had a down year in 2013, but is too good to not return to himself in 2014. in fact, he was back to the old Cain last season, putting up a 2.36 ERA, and cutting his home runs allowed from 16 in the first half to 7 in the second half.
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