Fantasy Baseball: 2012 Busts Who Will Make Huge Comebacks in 2013

Dan KuklaCorrespondent IIIOctober 9, 2012

Fantasy Baseball: 2012 Busts Who Will Make Huge Comebacks in 2013

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    Several fantasy baseball busts in 2012 will make great draft day steals in 2013.

    This is because fantasy baseball owners treat their players like high school boys treat girls. Burn them once and they're not likely to invest in the relationship anytime soon.

    Injured stars are generally an exception to this rule. Matt Kemp, Troy Tulowitzki, Jose Bautista, Joey Votto, Evan Longoria and Pablo Sandoval all fell well short of expectations, but they aren't likely to fall too far in drafts next spring (although I can't make that same promise for Jacoby Ellsbury).

    The players who tanked our seasons while still healthy and in our lineups, however, will receive the cold shoulder.

    Don't make that mistake. Use it to your advantage.

    Here are five studs you can draft at a discount in 2013 because they were busts in 2012.

Roy Halladay, SP, Philadelphia Phillies

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    Yahoo's Preseason Rank: 16

    Final Rank on Player Rater: 286

    Roy Halladay's shoulder sprain doesn't excuse him from the "bust" label because he still performed poorly when healthy.

    He went 1-3 with a 6.11 ERA and 1.36 WHIP in May before straining his shoulder. His marks of a 4.93 ERA and 1.29 WHIP once he came back weren't much better.

    Eh, what's up, Doc?

    We will never know for sure, but it's likely that Halladay pitched injured for most—if not all—of his starts this season. He never seemed right from the moment this season started—not during a lousy spring training, not during the month leading up to his DL stint and not after his return.

    His velocity was down from Day 1, which is why I made the bold call to drop him as a fantasy asset when he sat out.

    A full offseason will help Halladay reset his health and thus his performance. Trusting a 36-year-old pitcher with possible rotator cuff damage is tough to do in the post-steroid era. The good news is that you no longer have to invest one of your top picks to do so.

    Chris Carpenter, Curt Shilling, Randy Johnson and Greg Maddux are a few names that come to mind when thinking of starting pitchers with success at or after the age of 36. Halladay is old and banged up and his reign as fantasy's best pitcher is clearly over, but he's not dead yet. Feel free to take a flier on him at a serious discount in the middle to late rounds next spring.

Carlos Santana, C, Cleveland Indians

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    Yahoo's Preseason Rank: 44

    Final Rank on Player Rater: 224

    Trusting Carlos Santana as fantasy's top backstop after just one full season was a bit overboard. Granted, it was a fantastic first full season, but history shows us that most young players go through an adjustment period once they produce enough data for league scouts to study and exploit.

    As great as Santana's breakout season was, his adjustment period was equally brutal. He flirted with the Mendoza Line while batting .221 with only five home runs before the All-Star break. His .162 average during a homer-less June landed him on many waiver wires.

    Unlike several other slumping sophomores, however, Santana's adjustment period only lasted half a season. He made 13 round trips while batting .281 after the All-Star break. Tallying more than 90 walks for the second season in a row made him a true joy to own in leagues that count on-base percentage.

    Any managers doing lazy research by just looking at Santana's final numbers will see 2012 as a drop off for this stud catcher. Anyone who drafted him and suffered through those first three months may not even have him on their draft board next spring.

    Let him slide in your draft a little, but then be sure to scoop Santana up before anyone else. Any discount on this patient slugger will return a major profit.

Brett Lawrie, 3B, Toronto Blue Jays

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    Yahoo's Preseason Rank: 45

    Final Rank on Player Rater: 238

    Brett Lawrie's season took the exact opposite path of Carlos Santana's. He started out just as hot as everyone expected, but then turned ice cold after the All-Star break.

    Lawrie slugged eight homers and stole 11 bases while hitting .291 during the season's first three months. Those numbers fell off to three, two and .240 in the second half.

    Santana already had a full season under his belt while Lawrie entered 2012 with only 150 MLB at-bats. Naturally, his adjustment period came a little later.

    The sophomore's second-half slump will likely cool all of the incessant hype surrounding this future star. He was over-drafted this past spring, but the industry's value adjustment may over-correct to provide a discount in 2013.

    Be ready to pounce if it does.

    Lawrie is still the ultra-talented prospect everyone drooled over this past offseason. Don't let his very normal and predictable adjustment period scare you away.

Eric Hosmer, 1B, Kansas City Royals

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    Yahoo's Preseason Rank: 62

    Final Rank on Player Rater: 334

    Eric Hosmer is a third top prospect that received an overdose of hype this past spring. Unfortunately for those who bought in, he combined the wrong ends of the season splits produced by his two counterparts.

    Hosmer completely tanked after a rookie season filled with so much promise. That's what it felt like, at least.

    A closer look at the numbers reveals that Hosmer's sophomore slump was not as far off from his first year as his fantasy owners may think. That the youngster's struggles landed him on many fake benches and even some fake waiver wires gives the false impression of a lost season.

    Let's compare his two stat lines from each of his first two seasons. He had 523 at-bats as a rookie and 535 as a sophomore, so comparing counting numbers in addition to ratios is a fair practice.

    2011 66 19 78 11 .293
    2012 65 14 60 16 .232

    The only category in which Hosmer significantly fell off was batting average, which can be explained by a drop in batting average on balls in play from .315 to .255. He also recorded 22 more walks and 13 fewer strikeouts, showing maturity and improved plate discipline. A difference of five home runs and 18 RBI isn't trivial, but it's also not the complete catastrophe that many like to remember.

    Hosmer's bad luck on balls in play won't continue forever. That wasn't the sole reason for his drop off, but it played a major role. Count him due for a serious bounce back year as you enjoy a healthy draft day discount.

    Like Lawrie and Santana, the talent that had so many analysts all hot and bothered last spring is still there. Hosmer can easily match or surpass his rookie season numbers, which would turn a huge profit on his plummeting price tag.

Brian McCann, C, Atlanta Braves

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    Yahoo's Preseason Rank: 72

    Final Rank on Player Rater: 454

    Despite their differences in experience, Brian McCann and Eric Hosmer shared similar fates.

    Like Hosmer, McCann actually remained very close to his annual production levels while seeing a huge dip in batting average, and again like Hosmer, McCann can also blame his batting average on BABIP.

    Atlanta's primary backstop hit only .230 in 2012, far below his .279 career average. His BABIP checked in at .287 or .297 in each of the previous three seasons before dipping to .234 this year.

    Expect a luck correction in 2013 and a return to his usual reliable self. McCann will be yet another reason why waiting to draft a catcher remains a sound strategy every season.