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2018 Fantasy Baseball Bounce-Back Candidates

March 16, 2018
A short-term memory is crucial in fantasy sports, as it allows owners to roster players at a better draft-day value. It's human nature to avoid a player who was a disappointment the year before. But if you can identify these players and take advantage, it will help in the long run.

Last season, we made the right call on starting pitchers Zack Greinke and Andrew McCutchen. Hopefully, we'll have similar luck this season. Here are your 2018 bounce-back candidates: 

1. Detroit Tigers First Baseman Miguel Cabrera

One of the greatest right-handed hitters in baseball history finally showed signs of slowing down in 2017, as he battled injuries and inconsistencies throughout the season. The future Hall of Famer had the worst season of his career, batting .249 with 16 home runs and 60 RBIs. It was the first time he finished with a batting average below .292.

Being injured and having the worst season of your career in your mid-30s is never a good sign, but there are a few indicators that point toward a rebound season for Cabrera.

If we look at his hard-hit percentage from 2017, which means how often he was actually hitting the ball hard, it was more than 40 percent, which is what it has been for the previous five years. This is a big indicator for me because it shows his skills aren't diminishing. Cabrera's batting average with balls in play was .292, which was way off his career average of .344. We use this stat to see how lucky or unlucky a hitter is. Since Cabrera was way under his career average, we can reach to the conclusion that he was unlucky throughout the 2017 season and is due for positive regression.

Another positive is that Cabrera is currently being drafted as the 12th first baseman and 87th player overall. That is too good to pass up. We know the upside is tremendous and the risk is worth it.

2. San Francisco Giants Starting Pitcher Jeff Samardzija

There's a lot to like about the veteran starting pitcher, including his ability to pitch a lot of innings while recording a lot of strike outs. At a time in which starters are throwing less and less innings, Samardzija has thrown at least 200 innings in four straight seasons. The right-hander has also struck out at least 200 hitters in three of his last five seasons.

Samardzija hurt a lot of fantasy owners in 2017, as he finished with a 4.42 ERA and only won nine games. His average draft position is currently 150, which is too low for a pitcher who will eat up innings and strike out hitters at a strong rate. We can't predict wins, but that total should be higher in 2018, and there are enough indicators that suggest the ERA will decline as well.

Let the other members in your league avoid the veteran, and jump on the opportunity to draft a pitcher for the middle of your rotation at a great value. 

3. Pittsburgh Pirates Outfielder Gregory Polanco

Polanco has been a frustrating player for fantasy owners. He has shown flashes of being a top performer, but inconsistencies have prevented him from reaching that level. We were all hoping the outfielder would build off his 2016 season in which he hit 22 home runs and stole 17 bases. But last year the 26-year-old only managed 11 home runs and eight stolen bases in 108 games. Polanco did steal 27 bases in 2015, so he's had separate seasons of hitting 20 home runs and stealing 20 bases. I think he has the chance to put it all together in 2018. 

Polanco is hitting his prime, so now is the time to become the complete player many envisioned. The good news is that due to his inconsistencies, many fantasy owners have given up on the outfielder. Polanco is currently being drafted 152 overall and as the 45th outfielder. 

It's far from a given, but this is the perfect player to draft in the later stages of the draft, as there will not be many players available who have the ability to contribute in multiple categories like Polanco. 

Photo Credit: Mitch Stringer/PressBox