Saturday, 10 March 2012

3 Fantasy Baseball Bounce-Back Candidates in 2012

By Kevin English, Special Guest Contributor to "Dear Mr. Fantasy"

Adam Dunn, White Sox: 
It’ll be tough for the 32-year-old to regress after posting career-lows in BA (.159 – yes, .159), HR (11), RBI (42), R (36) and OBP (.292) in 415 ABs last season. The scary-low HR total snapped his streak of 7 straight 35+ HR campaigns. And while a bounce-back to that magnitude is unlikely, Dunn still has plenty of promise heading into 2012.

Often times, much is made about a player’s switch in leagues, with the general concern about hitters’ unfamiliarity with new pitchers. I’ve never really bought into that notion, but maybe it applied to Dunn. Before landing in Chicago, Dunn spent his entire 10-year MLB career in the NL with Cincinnati, Arizona and Washington. One wouldn’t think he needed a whole season to adjust to AL pitching, but it’s possible. It’s also possible he simply wasn’t able to fix a flaw in his swing, the opinion of his then-manager Ozzie Guillen.
From a value standpoint, there’s little risk in investing in Dunn. According to Mock Draft Central, he’s going, on average, 261st overall in 12-team 5x5 mocks. So if you’re hunting for power in the later rounds, don’t hesitate to grab Dunn banking on a rebound season. He’s locked into the DH role and should have plenty of RBI opportunities hitting in the middle of the White Sox’s promising lineup. He’s looked promising early in spring training action too, starting 2 for 7 with a homer, 3 walks, and 0 punch-outs.  

2012 projection: 439 ABs, .262 AVG, 31 HR, 90 RBI, 74 R, 0 SB

Jason Heyward, Braves:
Heyward entered the majors in 2010 with a tremendous amount of buzz. While he didn’t disappoint in his debut, his sophomore campaign burnt plenty of fantasy owners that bought the hype; he hit just 14 bombs and tallied a .227 AVG in 396 ABs. Now entering his 3rd season in the bigs – and with 916 major league ABs under his belt – Heyward is poised for a huge leap in production. 

Heyward tweaked his swing in the offseason, and claimed in early February that the transition was “90%” complete. It’s looked about 9% complete so far in spring training, as he’s started just 3 for 14 with 5 strikeouts. Of course, it’s still really early, and I fully expect his bat to come around before the regular season.
He has all the tools to succeed, with impressive bat speed and serious power potential. Translation – the 22-year-old phenom is primed to post career highs across the board.  

His biggest obstacles remain staying healthy and moving up in the Braves lineup – heading into opening day, Heyward is expected to hit 7th according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. 

2012 projection: 522 ABs, .288 AVG, 27 HR, 97 RBI 99 R, 16 SB

It’s been a rocky road for EV. He was dominant in 2008, posting a 3.21 ERA and over a K/IP, but has pretty much fallen off a cliff since. He needed Tommy John surgery in 2009 and while rehabbing, was slapped with a 50-game suspension for using a performance enhancing drug. Volquez was downright awful upon returning, and didn’t improve last season when he went on to record an atrocious 5.71 ERA and 1.57 WHIP over 108.2 IP with Cincy. 

Now on to the good news. Volquez came over from the Reds this offseason in the Mat Latos trade and essentially has a rotation spot locked up. The obvious advantage is in the ballpark; whereas Great American Ballpark in Cincy is arguably the NL’s most hitter-friendly, PETCO’s spacious alleys have been a savior for many pitchers. 

Volquez has a track record of success too, and his mid-90s heater and plus breaking stuff make him a solid bet to at least help you in the strikeout department. He’ll give you a headache or two with his command, so you might be best served avoiding watching his starts. Just remember, it doesn’t have to be pretty to be effective.
One note of caution: wins are likely to be sparse since he pitches for one of the league’s worst offenses.

2012 projection: 28 GS, 186 IP, 9 W, 182 K, 3.69 ERA, 1.34 WHIP  

*Other noteworthy names: Chone Figgins (Mariners), Josh Johnson (Marlins), Francisco Liriano (Twins).
Who are you expecting a turnaround season from in 2012?

Kevin English is a blog contributor for Gold Star Games, a leading retailer of cornhole games.
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* Adam Dunn photo by Keith Allison on Flickr (Originally posted to Flickr as "Adam Dunn") [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
* Edinson Volquez photo by Keith Allison from Owings Mills, USA [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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