Fantasy Baseball 2013: Stars Poised for Big Bounce-Back Seasons

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Fantasy Baseball 2013: Stars Poised for Big Bounce-Back Seasons
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When you are dealing with the uncertainty of sports, especially baseball, you have to be open-minded enough to realize that sometimes players are going to have a bad year, or an incomplete year, due to performance or injuries. 

Even though my personal fantasy philosophy is to bail on an older player who might have a productive season or two left before the inevitable drop-off happens, I am not so rigid in my thinking that I can't be talked into giving them another shot. 

You need to put aside any doubt or fear that you might have about a player when you are preparing to draft them, otherwise you will question yourself and make a hasty trade afterwards you probably shouldn't. 

Here are the stars whose 2012 season ended in disaster, either because of their performance or an injury, ready for big things in 2013. 

 

Mariano Rivera, RP, New York Yankees

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For most relief pitchers, missing most of a season with a torn ACL would be cause for concern. But Mariano Rivera is not most relief pitchers. He is the greatest relief pitcher of this generation, and even at the age of 43 he will be his great self. 

Until we have hard proof that Rivera's cutter and command of the pitch have completely abandoned him, which we don't right now, there is no reason to think he won't save at least 35 games, post an ERA around 2.00 and strikeout a hitter per inning. 

Playing for the Yankees will certainly help Rivera rack up save chances, but I do think manager Joe Girardi will try to limit his innings this season to ensure that he is in top shape in September and October. 

Regardless, don't be afraid to bet on Rivera over some relievers who are going to regress like Fernando Rodney and Rafael Soriano.

 

Mike Napoli, C/1B, Boston Red Sox

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One of the great mysteries this offseason involved Napoli's hip and his contract situation with the Red Sox. Eventually the two sides were able to work out a one-year deal for $5 million (via MLB.com), or two years and $34 million less than what he originally agreed to. 

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Despite the hip issue in the physical, not to mention the fact that he has missed at least 49 games in each of the last two seasons, there are a few reasons to like what Napoli can add to your fantasy team this year. 

For starters, Napoli playing first base will ease the burden his body takes during the season. Since he still has catcher eligibility, you can plug him into that role if you so choose. 

Second, Napoli's power has never been hurt by all the injuries. He has hit at least 24 home runs in each of the last three seasons and at least 20 homers in five straight seasons. He has slugged greater than .500 twice in the last five years and at least .468 every season since 2008.

Finally, there is a lot of incentive for Napoli to have a big season. He is fighting to earn the multi-year deal he thought he was getting this year.

I am not big on predicting players to do big things because they have "something to prove," but I do think Napoli has a lot that he wants to show everyone this season. 

 

Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Colorado Rockies

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If you were making a list of best and most frustrating players in baseball, Tulowitzki would sit near the top of the former and comfortably at the top of the latter. 

Show me another shortstop who can hit .300, get on base at a .360 clip, slug more than .500 and play Gold Glove-caliber defense. Bueller...Bueller...Bueller?

But in Tulowitzki's six full seasons, he has also missed at least 40 games three times, including 115 games in 2012. It is so hard to bet on him playing an entire season because there is ample evidence to suggest it won't happen, especially as he moves closer to the age of 30. 

However, you look at the offensive upside Tulowitzki can provide when he is out there, and you can't help but fall in love.

I am going to give Tulowitzki the benefit of the doubt for at least one more year, because no other player can be as head-and-shoulders above the rest of baseball at his position as Tulowitzki can at shortstop. 

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