Fantasy Baseball Sleepers 2013: Stars Ready for Bounce-Back Seasons
Baseball is a game that is designed for failure, at least from a hitter's perspective. Even the best players are going to be successful just three out of 10 times. But sometimes things never come together for a player, which leads to a bad season.
When examining this year's crop of fantasy talent, there are many players who struggled in 2012 with the talent, age and skills to make a big turnaround this season.
There are a lot of reasons for the issues, some mechanical, some mental, some just bad luck, but all of them resulted in disappointed fantasy owners in 2012. Here are the players who appear ready to make a comeback in a big way.
Eric Hosmer, 1B, Kansas City Royals
Hosmer was supposed to emerge as a superstar in 2012. His rookie season two years ago was quite good, as he hit .293/.334/.465 with 19 home runs and 11 stolen bases in just 128 games.
Spring training last year had everyone thinking big with Hosmer because he was hitting anything and everything near the plate. Then the regular season started and Hosmer went silent. He hit just .232/.304/.359 with 14 home runs in 152 games.
It was not a complete regression, as his strikeout-to-walk ratio was fine. Something changed with his swing, as his hands were moved up for reasons unknown, resulting in less hard contact than he made last year.
Hosmer's BABIP went from .314 in 2011 to .255 last season. He also saw his ground ball-to-fly ball rate go from 1.57 to 1.92.
The Royals traded Wil Myers in the offseason, leaving Hosmer as the most important hitter this team has heading into 2013. The team did hire two new hitting coaches in the offseason, whose first order of business has to be getting Hosmer's swing back to where it was in 2011.
Obviously, at just 23 years old and still loaded with raw talent, I am a believer in what Hosmer can do. He is a great athlete who can hit for average and good power, while also providing double-digit stolen bases at a position where that is an added bonus.
Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Colorado Rockies
Tulowitzki is an interesting case because when he played in 2012, he was his usual self. He hit .287/.360/.486 with eight home runs in 181 at-bats.
Which potential fantasy star do you trust the most in 2013?
Therein lies the problem with Tulowitzki. He only had 181 at-bats due to a groin injury that took a long time to diagnose, and by the time it was, he had no chance to recover before the season ended.
In his five-year career, Tulowitzki has missed at least 40 games three times. If you believe in trends, which I don't, when he does miss at least 40 games in a season, he comes back the next season to play a full season.
In 2008 he played in just 101 games, then he played in 151 in 2009. In 2010 he played in 122 games, then he played in 143 games in 2011. He played in just 47 games last year, so something has to give, right?
It is always going to come down to health with Tulowitzki. If he is on the field for 140-150 games, he is going to hit for a high average with power and drive in runs. I still have faith in him because he is so talented, is just 28 years old and will enter spring training ready to go.
Expect Tulowitzki to be the most valuable fantasy shortstop in 2013.
Justin Upton, OF, Atlanta Braves
Thanks to the Arizona Diamondbacks, Upton has been made out to be one of the worst things to ever happen to that franchise. Maybe that's an overstatement, but the organization that drafted and developed him really fell out of love with him in a hurry.
Upton did have issues last season, namely his power production, but he was a right fielder who hit .280 and had a .355 on-base percentage. He only hit 17 home runs and slugged .429 in 2012, but he hit 31 home runs and slugged .529 the year before.
He also scored 107 runs, which is a function of players hitting around him, I know. He did steal 18 bases in 150 games, so it's not like he was dogging it out there.
One logical explanation for the drop in power is a hand injury that Jack Magruder of Fox Sports Arizona reported required him to see a specialist.
#Dbacks Upton to see hand specialist Dr. Sheridan today. Will get MRI. DL not out of the question, Gibson said.— Jack Magruder (@JackMagruder) April 17, 2012
Hand injuries are going to sap your power because it changes the way you grip a bat, your bat speed and ability to get through the zone to catch up to better velocity. As long as he is healthy now, and there is no reason to think he won't be, he should get back to his 2011 numbers.
Another reason to be optimistic about Upton this season is the change of scenery. He was on the trade block basically from the time Kevin Towers was hired as general manager, despite being the best player on the team.
Nobody knows what kind of mental toll that took on Upton. He signed a long-term extension under the previous regime to be the face of the franchise, and then a new group comes in and decides that it wants to entertain offers for him even though he was producing with the bat and in the field.
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