If you play any fantasy baseball, then you know that the most exciting day of the season is draft day. You gear up, you call all the fellas to get together on a Sunday afternoon for some pizza and beer, and you daydream about all the cash you'll be raking in come September.
Or, if you were one of the poor saps who drew the overall No. 2 pick in your draft, you were saddled with Hanley Ramirez all year, and cursed that otherwise blessed day for all it was worth.
Why, oh why, you've asked yourself a thousand times since then, didn't you take Troy Tulowitzki instead? Good question.
Well, to avoid that unfortunate circumstance next year, pay attention now. Here are the 20 biggest flops of 2011, and we're buying or selling that they bounce back in 2012.
While Alex Rodriguez's season wasn't horrible, he didn't exactly light up the old scoreboard like he used to, either.
His .276 batting average and 16 home runs don't necessarily stink; they're just not the types of numbers we're used to seeing A-Rod put up—not to mention the significant amount of time he spent on the DL in 2011.
However, the fact of the matter is A-Rod is an aging superstar at 36 on the backside of his career. While we will probably never see another .300/40/125 line from him again, offensively, he is still one of the best third basemen in the league and still has plenty to contribute. Just don't go crazy drafting him in the top 20 in 2012.
What has happened to Justin Morneau is an outright shame. Though still relatively young at 30, Morneau's career seemingly hangs in the balance as he continues to struggle to get healthy after a concussion ended his season prematurely in 2010.
Now, the same concussion is threatening to end his career prematurely too.
This year, Morneau was horrible. He hit just four home runs to go along with his .227 batting average, and his season ended abruptly on August 28 after experiencing concussion symptoms. Unfortunately, this may signal the beginning of the end of a career that had a plethora of promise.
Looking at Chris Carpenter and his up-and-down season, it's difficult to pinpoint exactly what's wrong with the Cardinals right-hander. But clearly something is—or should I say "was"?
Earlier in the year, his ERA, H/9 and BAbip were all hovering around his career highs since joining the Cards in 2004, but he rebounded nicely in the last couple months of the season.
In his last five starts of the year, Carpenter went 3-0 with a 1.12 ERA, including a huge game on Wednesday night where he pitched a complete game shutout to deliver the Cards a playoff berth over the collapsing Atlanta Braves.
Still, Carpenter is 36, and while there is nothing to suggest his poor play will bleed over into 2012, there's also little suggesting he will return to his former self next year. Still, Carpenter is a tentative buy.
Poor Adam Dunn.
Well, not poor, exactly; he did make $12 million this year for the Chicago White Sox. But poor, in that, so much has been made of his horrific season. Everybody was waiting for him to turn it around in the second half, but he never got it going. And he has probably been the most derided player this side of Chone Figgins.
He ended the season with an unbelievably bad .159 average and just 11 home runs. To add insult to injury, Dunn hadn't homered since August 4, and toward the end of the season was benched for his poor play.
This is significant for a guy on the wrong side of 30, and earlier this year he threw out the idea of possible retirement if he couldn't get his swing turned around. That certainly shouldn't fill anybody with confidence if a season-long slump sends thoughts of calling it quits to his head—unless, of course, you're the Chicago White Sox and your $56 million man might be leaning toward letting you off the hook.
For your fantasy team though, if his potentially big bat is too enticing to refuse, at least wait for later rounds to pick him up.
In the first four full years of Hanley Ramirez's career in the majors, he continued to improve his excellent play as the Florida Marlins' superstar shortstop. But since an odd incident last year when Ramirez kicked a ground ball into left field and then proceeded to lazily jog after it, only to be benched later by then manager, Fredi Gonzalez, he seemingly hasn't been the same.
In 2010, he saw a decline in nearly all major offensive categories from the year prior. And the same holds true for 2011, except the decline has been much more dramatic.
Hanley Ramirez is still young and remains a superb major league talent, but he clearly has some issues to resolve in his young career. In 2012, maybe he can return to the road back to major league greatness.
Hanley is a buy, but can we agree to stop ranking him No. 2 overall in preseason fantasy rankings?
The sophomore slump has not been kind to Jason Heyward. But this guy has talent coming out of his ears, and I can't see a way he doesn't come back next season with a huge year. Physically, the guy is a freak, and he is immensely talented.
Although Heyward has seen nearly all of his offensive statistics take a significant dip this season—in addition to his playing time, where he surrendered his starting spot against lefties to Jose Costanza—he'll be back next year in a big way.
There's not much good to say about the Minnesota Twins this season. They finished this year with their worst record since 1999, and their two biggest sluggers (perhaps the two most exciting rising stars from a couple of years ago) Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer look like they may never return to their once MVP-esque forms.
For Joe Mauer, it's been the accumulation of a lot of small, nagging injuries that has unravelled his 2011 season. Typically those types of injuries are just annoying. But for Mauer who plays the most physically taxing position in baseball, injuries that pile up can start to become a big problem real quick.
And while the Twins have experimented with Mauer at first base (and even in right field), let's face it: his .300 average and seven to nine home runs per year start to look a lot more meager when he's not behind the plate. At that point, he's really nothing more than a glorified James Loney with an absurdly huge contract.
What further complicates the Mauer issue is his 28 home runs from 2009 look more and more like an aberration rather than a common occurrence. He's hit just 12 home runs in the two seasons since then.
If Mauer can stay healthy and stay behind the plate, he'll be fine. But if he's moved to first, or if he continues to struggle with injuries: sell, and sell quickly.
Entering into a season with a big contract already under his belt, I wasn't surprised to see Carl Crawford a little bit off balance this year. After a horrendous April when Crawford batted .155 with just one home run and six RBI, he rebounded nicely in the following months to finish out the year at a respectable .255.
What wasn't expected was his huge drop-off in stolen bases. This season, he ended up with just 18 stolen bases after swiping 47 last year.
Although Crawford is on the back half of 30, expect him to rebound next year. Another year of experience in Boston—with the added pressure of needing to perform—should serve Crawford well. While he will probably never be an MVP candidate again, he can still be expected to get back to his normal .300/11/75 stat line and become a major contributor in the Boston lineup.
In terms of expectations and the multiple sub-par seasons Gordon Beckham has turned in so far, his situation (and the frustration of hometown fans) reminds me a lot of the Alex Gordon situation in Kansas City before this season began.
After a good couple months in August and September of 2010, White Sox fans expected Beckham to explode this year. But again, as in previous years, Beckham continued to be unimpressive. If he wants to bounce back in 2012, he'll have to improve his poor K:BB ratio; he still strikes out entirely too much for a non-power hitter (111 K and 10 HR in 499 AB in 2011).
However, keep in mind that Beckham is still just 24 years old. And while it feels like the kid has underperformed forever, he's still just a kid—and it's only been a couple years.
I wouldn't plan on Beckham breaking out next year in Alex Gordon-like fashion, but he should improve bit by bit and become a productive major leaguer one day. That day is just not going to be next year.
Ubaldo Jimenez's poor 2011 has come on the heels of one of the best pitching seasons for a Colorado Rockies player ever. His fastball this year was topping out a few miles per hour slower than it was last year in the high-90s, and that has probably been the biggest hint that something is not right.
Even still, you have to wonder whether or not Jimenez is just having an off year, or if he really is just a one-hit wonder.
Strangely, his K/9 was almost as high, his BB/9 was as low as it was in 2010, he moved away from one of the most brutal hitters' parks in MLB, and yet he still continued to struggle.
Maybe he's dipped a few notches on the old radar gun, but something tells me Ubaldo may not be all we cracked him up to be.
They always say baseball is a game of inches, and in Mat Latos' case he seems to be just a little bit off. His walks this season were just a little up, his strikeouts were just a little down, but his win-loss record was totally upside down.
I'm not sure exactly what to make of Latos this season. Sure, he was not pitching like he did last year when he went 14-10 with a 2.92 ERA, but his numbers this year were still respectable (3.47 ERA/1.18 WHIP). And he plays on a terrible team.
Until Latos gets out of San Diego, you can't expect him to rack up a ton of wins, but next year expect the 23-year-old to earn back a little of that 2010 magic he lost this year. There's nothing to suggest he's lost any of the tools that will make him a big star one day.
Shin-Soo Choo didn't have a terrible season. He just struggled with injuries and, as a result, saw a significant shift in his batting average. After batting above .300 in each full season he's played in the bigs through 2010, Choo's average dropped to just .259 this year.
Still, his other offensive statistics dropped only slightly this season, and the small decrease may have more to do with nagging injuries than any career-threatening slump or drop in skill.
If Choo can stay off the DL, he should return back to 2010 form next year.
Francisco Liriano has earned a lot of slack from the stellar 2006 campaign he put together. But that was five years ago now, and since then (and after his Tommy John surgery in 2007), he seems to have just been running on fumes.
After struggling in '08 and '09, Liriano looked like he may have turned a corner in 2010 when he went 14-10 with a 3.62 ERA. His strikeouts were up (201 in 191.2 innings) and his ERA was down, but when he fell out of the starting gate this year, I don't know how many people were surprised.
Sure, he pitched a no-hitter earlier this season, but those flashes of brilliance are as unsurprising (because of his tremendous talent) as his propensity for injury.
What's most troubling about Liriano's future is he's beginning to have shoulder problems. If it's an elbow, that's one thing, but when injuries start to affect a pitcher up around the shoulder area, you have to wonder how long before it just blows out altogether.
It's a shame because Francisco Liriano was a young, exciting pitcher, but his days in the MLB just feel numbered.
If the expectations in 2012 for Alex Rios include that he is not a 30/30 guy, then he should rebound for a nice season.
He probably won't clear the low-20's in home runs and, in all likelihood, will be around the same number in steals, but when he does rebound, he should see a sharp increase in BA, OBP and SLG. This year, he had career lows in all three categories (.227/.265/.348) but turned it around in September (.307/.341/.533), hopefully signifying his 2011 woes are behind him.
Still, it would behoove fantasy owners to understand that Rios has always been (and always will be) a streaky hitter.
Grady Sizemore looked like such a phenomenal talent for so long that it's been hard letting go of the hope that he can return to the player he was before his severe knee injury took hold of his career in 2009.
He got off to a hot start at the beginning of the year, batting .378 with four home runs and nine RBI in his first 45 at-bats of the season, but then he followed that up with another stint on the DL and a number of horrendous months. He ended the season batting just .224 with 10 home runs and again battling nagging injuries.
I'd like to believe that Grady may be healthy enough one day to become even just a shadow of the player he was in 2008, but these nagging injuries seem to be making that an improbability. Still, while his speed has seemed to completely disappear, his power numbers remain there as he has compiled a .422 slugging percentage despite a terrible batting average.
He may have something left in the tank, but he is a huge risk for any team looking to put any sort of money into him at this point.
By now it's clear that much of Jayson Werth's success in Philadelphia the last three years had a lot to do with the sort of protection he had around him. Let's face it: batting behind Ryan Howard certainly doesn't suck—just ask Hunter Pence what it's done for his game.
But I think we can safely call Werth's unimpressive 2011 an aberration from the norm.
Plus, the Nats lineup looks like it could be loaded up with budding stars next season in Ryan Zimmerman, Ian Desmond, Michael Morse and (possibly) Bryce Harper—not to the mention (the old vet) Adam LaRoche's return. If that's the case, Werth could focus less on being the man in Washington and focus more on getting back to the .275/25/90 line he was used to putting up in Philly.
Delmon Young was lucky to get off that sinking ship we know as the Minnesota Twins, and apparently he knows it too. After being traded to Detroit, Young completely turned his season around, posting a .274 batting average, eight home runs, and 32 RBI in 39 games for the Tigers—all this after going .266/4/32 in 84 games in Minnesota.
What a difference 640 miles make.
Still, I think this kind of capricious play is exactly what makes Delmon Young an unpredictable player from year to year. As long as Delmon is happy (wherever he ends up next season) he can rebound from his soft year, but I wouldn't expect too much from him in the power department. His 21 home runs in 2010 are looking more like an exception to the rule than a rule itself.
Chase Utley's season looked to be in danger in March, and by the way the Philadelphia Phillies were handling information about the injury to his knee, it seemed that maybe his entire career was in jeopardy.
Here we are, seven months later and although Utley returned to the club, he posted only meager numbers with 11 home runs and a .257 batting average. While a winter off may do the 32-year-old second baseman some good, Utley has taken a definite backseat in the very deep second base position.
No one can question the fact that Carlos Marmol throws heat. Like last year, Marmol's strikeout numbers this season (99 K's in 74 innings) were superb and will always make him a valuable fantasy asset. But his 4.01 ERA was the worst of his career since his rookie season by a wide margin.
Add to the fact that the Chicago Cubs are questioning whether or not they'll bring him back as the closer next season, and suddenly Marmol may go from fantasy hero to fantasy zero. If he loses his closing job, his fantasy worth is marginal at best, and I wouldn't recommend taking him any higher than the 20th round or so.
Andre Ethier's 2011 campaign was sort of a strange one. While he had a huge April batting .385 with three home runs, 16 RBI and 10 doubles (all higher totals than any other individual month), he just wasn't very impressive the rest of the year.
Granted part of the reason for his loss of power may be attributed to the knee that ended his season early, but you also have to consider that Ethier may just be disillusioned with LA. He made it clear before the season began that he had some concerns about the direction of the franchise, and everybody knows he would love to join his best buddy Dustin Pedroia in Boston.
For a major fantasy player, it's just too many distractions to assume he'll put up the kind of numbers he did in 2010. If he can find his way out of LA this winter (particularly if he goes to Boston), I'd say he's a good fantasy commodity, but if he's stuck in LA, leave him be.