As Opening Day approaches, many baseball fans' thoughts turn to their upcoming fantasy drafts, because, well I have no idea, and I say that having participated in one straight 4x4 roto league for over two decades. With that in mind, Sportsthodoxy is pleased to offer free, utterly worthless fantasy baseball advice to any and all of our readers. Today's topic, the first in an occasional series, is bounceback players you should target in your draft:
A.J. Burnett, Fungo Bat, Pittsburgh Pirates - Burnett is now out 8-10 weeks after bunting a ball off his face and breaking an orbital bone. Yankees fans will say that this guarantees he will have, at least for the next 8-10 weeks, more value than he did last year as a member of the New York Yankees. Bargain hunters will note that Burnett is moving from the AL East to the functional-first-baseman-less NL Central, from a hitters park to a pitcher's park, and from the seething media crucible of New York to Pittsburgh. Plus, Burnett's got the reputation of being damaged goods, all of which should make him available for bottom-feeders on draft day.
Adam Dunn, Continental Massif, Chicago White Sox - Dunn was considered one of the best free-agent signings of the off-season, going into 2011. Averaging 40 HR per year over roughly most of your career and moving to a ballpark that could double as a slingshot for orbital payloads will do that. Instead, he hit .159 and produced less offensive value that Neifi Perez1. So this year, he's a perfect buy-low target. Why? Because one of two things is going to happen. Either he's going to figure out what the heck happened and go back to being the homer-mashing Doc Samson clone we all know and love, or he's going to continue playing like he has been, and a couple of drunken fans are going to leap out of the stands and break his legs before he does too much damage to your hitting rate stats. (What? The dude does play in Chicago, after all.) Either, as they say, works.
Joe Blanton, Fifth Beatle, Philadelphia Phillies - Remember Joe Blanton? The merely solid (OK, really, really solid, but that's the cheesesteaks talking) guy who was going to hold down the fifth spot for the Phillies' quartet of starters for the ages last year? The guy who got hurt roughly fifteen minutes into the season and got bypassed by "Cousin" Vance Worley? The guy everyone kind of forgot was on the Phillies, who still figure to have at least a league-average offense? Yeah, him.
Bobby Abreu, Ronin, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Which Happens To Be In California On The West Coast Of North America And Oh God Can We Please Let This Joke Die Already - On the surface, Abreu looks fork-ready. His stats last year were down, he plays the outfield like a Roomba, and the Angels have loaded up on 1B/DH types. That being said, you look at some of the warm bodies that were wheeled out there to serve as DHs last year and Abreu can outhit at least half of them with his eyes closed. (Which, to be fair, is the way the Mariners' DHs played all year). He may not be getting younger or faster, and he may not have guaranteed PT in Anaheimangelsifornia, but sooner or later somebody's going to need a bat, and Abreu will be waiting.
Frank Francisco, Vulture, New York Mets - Frank Francisco is not a particularly good closer. That's all right, because the Mets aren't a particularly good team. As a matter of fact, they're probably going to be a terrible team, and one that struggles to score more runs than, say, the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs. That's terrible news for Mets fans, but good news for whoever falls into the closer role for the team (most likely Francisco) because low-scoring teams generate a disproportionate number of save chances, and none of the Mets' starters are the sorts of guys who are likely to throw a ton of complete games, even the six-innings-shortened-by-rain sort. So the Mets may not win a lot, but those games they do win will more likely generate save chances. And when they do, Francisco will be there. Waiting.
1I know Neifi didn't play last year. That's kind of the joke.