2019 Fantasy Baseball Bounce Back Candidates: Is The Juice Worth The Squeeze

by Samir Qurashi
2019 Fantasy Baseball Bounceback Candidates

It’s March 29, 2018. Opening Day! Your lineup is locked and loaded. That one sleeper you had a read on last September is going to fall right to you in round 8. That means you get exactly who you wanted at the exact positions in the first seven rounds. Every pick before, you stared at the queue, then at the clock.

“Damnit Feeney. Hurry up and make your pick. You don’t know biesbol like I know biesbol. I got the 2018 Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit from FantasySixPack.net.”

The draft clock keeps ticking down…

10 seconds … Please don’t pick him …

5 seconds … Check the queue ….

1 second … Eyes wide shut …

BAM!! Carlos Correa is yours!

JOKES. Cody Bellinger on the turn? They’re all f***ed now!

WHAT?! MadBum as your THIRD starter? Puh-lease. The trophy and the belt are all but yours.

Except nah.

Pitchers catch up to hitters, and hitters catch up to pitchers. It’s those damn useful advanced stats that J. Chan wrote about earlier this week.

But Fantasy is drama, and drama can be unpredictable. Players unpredictably regress. Busts happen.

Here we take a look at some of this year's bounce-back candidates we can squeeze some Fantasy juice from in 2019.

2019 Fantasy Baseball Bounce Back Candidates

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Take a Whiff Before You Sip: Expired? Juice Division

Matt Harvey, SP, Los Angeles Angels (ECR: 561, ADP: 387.5)

Already slowed by a glute strain, Matt Harvey presents an interesting draft day situation for Fantasy owners. Harvey hasn’t sported a WHIP near 1 since his 2013, the last season he had double-digit wins. Now with Jonathan Lucroy behind the plate and Brad Ausmus finally ushering in the post-Soscia era in LA, Harvey (1y/$11mil contract with $3mil incentives) may be on his final opportunity to start in the majors.

The pressure is on to deliver in a division that includes the heavyweight Showstros and the scrappy A’s. With Shohei Ohtani sticking to batting, Harvey has a good chance to be the 4th or 5th starter in front of one of the top fielding teams in the majors last season. The move to the AL furthers the risk in drafting him, but Harvey also moves from the 4th worst park (2018 Park Factor:1.128) for pitchers in the Great American Ball Park to the 12th best in Angels Stadium.

Harvey may never be a Cy Young candidate again, but you could do worse with a 5th or 6th starter at his current ADP who is going well after Lance Lynn, Kyle Gibson, and Wade LeBlanc, to name a few.

Jonathan Schoop, 2B, Minnesota Twins (ECR: 154, ADP: 177.3)

When Jonathan Schoop broke out with a .293/.338/.503 35 HR slash in 2017, the sky was the limit, or so it seemed. Oh how quickly things can change.

An abysmal 2018 was emphasized by owners being stuck with his draft day cost through July. When the trade to Miluwakee finally came, the odds are he was on your waiver wire. With eyes on Schoop during Milwaukee's playoff run, he responded to the tune of going 0-for-8 with two strikeouts and a GDP.

Schoop’s injury woes early in 2018 allegedly contributed to mechanical and mental setbacks that plagued him through the Milwaukee trade. If these factors truly were the primary cause of the seven percent dip in his hard-hit rate, Schoop is a prime bounce bank candidate worth snagging at his current ADP with confidence.

Miguel Cabrera, 1B, Detroit Tigers (ECR: 134, ADP: 168.3)

This one is simple: If he’s in shape, if he gives a damn, and he still loves beisbol, then he could be one of the better bench players for head-to-head leagues. His current ADP is too rich for our blood combined with his age, but Miggy will have the at-bats and still is projected to hit clean-up around a young lineup. If he falls on draft day, and you have the need, pull the trigger with the expectation that he has one more good season left in those old bones.

Brian Dozier, 2B, Washington Nationals (ECR: 123, ADP: 128.7)

The .215 batting average was a killer in 2018. But even in the down-est of years, Dozier had 21 HRs, 72 RBI, and 12 SBs between the Twins and Dodgers. He once again crossed the 70 BB mark and was right where he usually resides with 30 doubles.

We’re talking about a second baseman who averaged 32 HRs, 17 SBs, 72 BBs, and 105 runs across the previous four seasons. He’s projected to bat fifth in a lineup that has Adam Eaton, Trea Turner, Anthony Rendon, and Juan Soto slotted ahead of him. He’s moving to a home stadium with the fifth best park factor for hitters in 2018 with respect to HRs (Target Field was 20th).

Bet high on Dozier to fill the stat sheet once again across the board in 2019 and bounce back in a big way.

Madison Bumgarner, SP, San Francisco Giants (ECR: 106, ADP: 72.7)

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MadBum has not looked the same since his dirt bike injury and last season’s pitching hand fracture. Compounding this is the Giants laughably built roster, combining dwindling and fading veterans with low-tier prospects (apologies to Joey Bart, we believe).

Alas, the Giants potential struggles could actually play into Bumgarner's Fantasy favor in the 2019 season. Entering the final year of his contract, MadBum will be on display for contenders through the July trade deadline with eyes on securing one more long-term deal next offseason. By now we all can agree that he is the ultimate gamer. He's already been vocal about the opener non-sense plaguing our fantasy pitcher decisions going forward, before backtracking days later.

The biggest question coming into 2019 is what’s next for his fastball. As the SF Chronicle’s Henry Schulman laid out perfectly, the dip in velocity (92.8 in 2015 à 90.9 last season after his return from the DL) led to opponents smashing his 4-seamer to the tune of a .299 BA, 43 points better than they did in 2017. Bumgarner went with his fastball a career-low 34.2%, increasing his off speed stuff in his game-to-game repertoire.

Now a full year removed from the fracture of his pitching hand, he may be the toughest bounce-back candidate to buy on the pitchers side of Fantasy Baseball at this current ADP. If he is far enough removed from his injury woes, and given his gamer and workhorse nature, Bochy, Buster, and Bart are sure to put him in position to win with their adjustments.

There’s no reason why he can’t be the 2019 Cole Hamels, heating up as the season goes on and lighting it up for the home stretch and Fantasy playoffs. Like Hamels, after a deadline deal to a contender under the bright lights he so effortlessly performed under during the Giants’ “even years” World Series run earlier in the decade, he’s a bounce-back candidate that is a pure gamble: high-risk, highest reward.

Millenial Fusions: Orange-Strawberry-Kale Division

Jake Lamb, 1B/3B, Arizona Diamondbacks (ECR: 213, ADP: 267.7)

A lost season due to shoulder surgery has led to Jake Lamb's fade from our collective Fantasy memories. Admittedly, injury or not, Lamb scraped to a career-worst strikeout rate (~27%) before hitting the DL for good in 2018, ending with a .222/.307/.348 slash with 14 XBHs across 238 plate appearances. Not Good.

2019 can be a whole different story for Lamb. Opportunity has come calling as he makes the switch to first base after Paul Goldschmidt's trade to St. Louis. Slated to bat fifth in a young lineup with a lot of players with a lot to prove, Lamb enters a pivotal prove it year. With averages across the 2016 and his 2017 all-star season of 29.5 HRs, 98 RBI, 30.5 doubles, 6 SBs, and 75.5 BBs, Lamb is a solid bounce-back buy given the opportunity and expectations.

If you can overcome the .250 batting average or if you're in an OBA league, Jake Lamb is a player that can push you over the top with value production.

Billy Hamilton, OF, Kansas City Royals (ECR: 166, ADP: 170)

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Steals, steals, steals. One of the most elusive head-to-head stats there is with respect to consistent week-to-week production. Balance your lineup, they may evade you. Enter Billy Hamilton and his polarizing worth in Fantasy Baseball leagues from season-to-season.

The Royals and manager Ned Yost have one of the fastest base running team's in modern memory. Yost's tenure with the Royals has been highlighted by small ball, with the Royals attempting the fourth most steals in the MLB last season. With Whit Merrifield and Adalberto Mondesi holding down the top of the lineup, the heat is off Billy Hamilton to produce at the plate as he acclimates to Kauffman Stadium.

Any concern you may have with respect to playing time may be addressed by Hamilton's glove work out in Center Field. He should secure an everyday role due to his defensive talents and the Royals dearth of talent. He's a one-dimensional Fantasy player, but his one dimension brought an average of ~57 SBs across four seasons before last year. At his current ADP, and given the change of scenery and manager, this may be the cheapest draft price Hamilton will have while he still has the wheels.

Miguel Sano, 3B, Minnesota Twins (ECR: 167, ADP: 213.7)

We highlighted Sano as a unique riser in our third base positional preview, and we maintain he has the potential to bounce-back strong. With an all-star appearance and 30 HR campaign already under his belt, the Twins slugger enters his age-26 season slimmer and focused. He's now learning under the tutelage, and with lineup protection, via free agent additions Nelson Cruz and CJ Cron.

He's off to a terrible start, injuring his foot suspiciously, and is set to miss time during spring training. Even if the injury isn't serious from a long term perspective, it should lead to a further drop in ADP. He's a bounceback candidate worth snagging to fill out your bench for power production from the hot corner.

Michael Pineda, SP, Minnesota Twins (ECR: 354, ADP: 369)

Remember him? Michael Pineda is back, and is cautiously healthy heading into his first live action since the 2017 season. The 6 foot 7 hurler broke out in 2011 with the Mariners, garnering an All-Star selection and finishing fifth in Rookie of the Year voting.

After undergoing Tommy John in 2017 with the Yankees, Pineda was nearing his return late last season when he tore the meniscus in his right knee.

Freshman manager Rocco Baldelli has already stated he expects a healthy Pineda to be a member of the Twins rotation come April. Pineda reached a 10.6 K/9 rate in 2016, showcasing some of the Fantasy promise he maintains.

With his contract set to expire after the season, Pineda's career as a regular starter may hinge on what he shows in 2019. Moving from the hitter-friendly confines of Yankees Stadium (Run Factor: 1.126, HR factor: 1.166) to the more neutral Target Field (Run Factor 1.004, HR factor: 0.916) is a good start.

It's been a long time since we saw Pineda on the mound. But he's another bounceback gamble that could pay dividends in head-to-head leagues come June, if he's truly healthy. Whether you have the patience and roster space to find out is up to you.

Ole Reliable(s)? Tropicana Homestyle Fortified with Calcium Division

Jose Quintana, SP, Chicago Cubs (ECR: 180, ADP: 185.7)

Expectations were high for Q’s first full season as a Cub in the National League. His 4.43 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, and a career-worst 9.2% walk rate made him mid-season Fantasy trade bait and a playoff land mine.

Everything was down for him in 2018, from his strikeout rate (-4.8%) to a career-low 1.29 HR/9. Yet Quintana differs from most of our bounceback pitchers. He continued to showcase his durability by crossing the 174 innings mark for the sixth straight season.

Interestingly, Quintana has approached the 2019 season aggressively by working with new pitching coach Tommy Hottovy to expand his pitch arsenal. He is specifically focused on increasing on his 2019 6.8% change-up rate.

It’s sink or swim time for Quintana’s prospects as a high-end Fantasy starter, and we think he has the potential to bounce back in a big way.

Michael Wacha, SP, St. Louis Cardinals (ECR: 332, ADP: 296.7)

All 30 teams looking towards the 2019 offseason will have their scouts sizing up Cardinals pitcher Michael Wacha. After perhaps the best start of his career in 2018 (8-1, 2.47 ERA), he imploded before hitting the DL with an oblique strain. He had eight strikeouts in three of those 13 starts, and at least five in nine of them.

Wacha has had an up and down tenure with the Cardinals. With a shallower rotation then we're used to seeing, only his health and subsequent consistency remain an issue. He enters a potential contract year (he has to stay healthy to accrue the time) with all the talent and a potent lineup behind him. Yet he's only crossed 180 innings in one season (2015).

His current ADP makes him a high value and an ideal bounce-back pick, but you are gambling on health, not talent.

Joey Votto, 1B, Cincinnati Reds (ECR: 49, ADP: 60.7)

Votto said it best himself; the Reds have bolstered their entire roster and are ready to compete for the NL Central crown. Votto enters his age-35 season reinvigorated after uncharacteristically struggling to a pedestrian by his standards: a .284/.417/.837 slash with a paltry 42 XBHs (a career-low 12 HRs for a full season).

The patience at the plate is obviously still there. He led the National League in on-base percentage for the seventh time in his 12-year career. Though he failed to hit .300 for the first time since 2014, Votto has taken accountability for his efforts last season.

Votto was a league winner as recently as 2017, filling up all categories across the board. If his ADP holds at 60.7, jump the gun and take him in the third or fourth round. The first base market is weak this year, and Votto might be a steal.

Wil Myers, 3B/OF, San Diego Padres (ECR: 85, ADP: 111)

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Coming off a season plagued with back and oblique injuries (83 games played), Myers enters this season hoping to regain his 29 HR/20-plus steal efforts.

With Manny Machado and his $30 million/year finally locked in as the resident face of Petco Park, Myers’ future becomes an even bigger mystery.

Moving back to left field, Myers price tag combined with the glut of younger, cheaper outfield competition (Franmil Reyes and Hunter Renfroe) may lead to a combination of spotty playing time and the persistent trade rumors tend to lead to inconsistency at the plate.

The plus side for Fantasy owners here is the aforementioned peak potential. The idea he is and can once again stay healthy, and the fact he would most likely hit fifth or sixth in a potentially sneaky good lineup. The hope is Fernando Tatis Jr. and Luis Urias join the big league roster full time. Couple that with an Eric Hosmer bounceback and Myers offers the same early round value at a major discount.

Cody Bellinger, 1B/OF, Los Angeles Dodgers (ECR: 41, ADP: 43.3)

Quit on a 23 year old who hit 39 HRs his rookie season? Not us.

Bellinger hasn't seen a season end before the World Series. Suffice to say, he's played through huge moments under bright lights.

Sophomore Slumps happen. But take a look at his tale of two seasons:

Cody Bellinger's 2018 Season Splits


Pitchers adjust to hitters. Hitters adjust to pitchers. Bellinger will need to propel the Dodgers with Manny Machado and Yasiel Puig gone. He remains the future of the Dodgers lineup. In a murky first baseman year, draft him with confidence as he enters year three, expected to bounce back in a BIG way.

2019 Fantasy Baseball Position Previews
CatcherFirst BaseSecond BaseThird BaseShortstopOutfieldStarting PitcherRelief Pitcher

Check out the rest of our 2019 Fantasy Baseball content from our great team of writers.

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