2023 Fantasy Baseball Bounce Back Candidates

by Josh Stevens
2021 Fantasy Baseball - Ozzie Albies

Lots of players took a leap forward in 2022. We saw many young stars, such as Seattle Mariners outfielder Julio Rodriguez, take the league by storm. There were players who made jumps in their third or fourth years, and even the Orioles finished with a winning record! However, not every player enjoyed a great 2022, as some are looking to rebound after a bad year. Below are three 2023 Fantasy Baseball Bounce Back Candidates.

2023 Fantasy Baseball Bounce Back Candidates

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Akil Baddoo, OF, Detroit Tigers.

On April 4th of 2021, Akil Baddoo made his major league debut. Leading off the bottom of the third inning, Baddoo sent the first pitch he saw over the left field fence at Comerica. It was a storybook beginning, and had Baddoo destined for greatness. While the rest of the season obviously wasn’t as great as that moment, Baddoo still enjoyed a very solid rookie campaign. Over 124 games, Akil Baddoo hit 13 long balls while swiping 18 bags.

This was a very promising start for Baddoo. His 13 homers and 18 stolen bases had me predicting 20/20 seasons for years to come. This production would not only elevate a depleted Tigers team, but would have fantasy owners salivating for points galore.

However, Baddoo took a giant step back in 2022. Over 73 games, only two homers were hit and nine bags were stolen. Baddoo looked lost at the plate to a tune of a .204/.289/.269 triple slash, amassing a .558 OPS and 65 OPS+. While Baddoo had a 2.2 war in year one, he only had 0.3 in year two.

Was Baddoo’s downfall merely a sophomore slump or something more serious? Baddoo’s tendencies were similar in both years, as his flyball (39.1 to 40) ground ball (40.1 to 42.2) and line drive (20.7 to 17.8) percentages stayed around the same, as did his pull rate. Baddoo also maintained a walk percentage of around 10 and a k rate of around 26.5. The biggest difference was hard hit rate, which fell from 31.3% to 22.6%.

Will 2023 be different?

However, the Tigers made big changes to the dimensions of their ballpark this offseason, making it far more hitter friendly.  This not only allows for more homers and less long flyouts, but decreased the emphasis on outfield defense, something Baddoo struggled with.  This will result in more plate appearances for Baddoo, who should be able to do more with the shorter dimensions in the outfield.

Additionally, our own Dap Scout detailed on how the new size of the bases will help increase stolen bases and stolen base rate. Baddoo had 18 steals to four CS in 2021, but struggled to a 9/6 split last year. The new increase in base size will hopefully get Baddoo to return to his efficient base stealing ways.

All in all, these new changes, coupled with an offseason to improve and help "figure out" big league pitching puts Baddoo in prime position to have a 20/20 season and be a bounce back candidate.

Lucas Giolito, SP, Chicago White Sox

Man, what happened to Giolito last year?

There were many people who had Giolito penciled in as a Cy Young winner before the 2022 season. This made sense, as Giolito had gotten better each of his first four full seasons. He seemed primed to make the jump into elite territory in 2023.

However, just about the exact opposite happened. Giolito gave up three more hits per nine innings, walked about a batter more per nine, and increased his era by a run and a half. Many fantasy owners dropped Giolito, as plenty of better pitchers were available.

What caused this setback? Giolito claims that it was a gain in weight before the 2022 season, causing him to have less stamina during games. This would make sense, as Giolito's main problems were inconsistent control and a downtick in fastball velocity.

Assuming this is the problem, Giolito's work in the off-season should be able to fix it. Entering a contract year, Giolito can't afford to be out of shape, and will surely be in peak condition by opening day.  He is still the same pitcher who narrowly missed out on three straight top ten Cy Young Award finishes, and is 28, right in the prime of his career. Look for Giolito to have a year similar to or better than his 2019-2021 campaigns.

Ozzie Albies, 2B, Atlanta Braves

Albies' lost season can be blamed on injuries. The Braves' second baseman played more than 155 games in 2018, 2019 and 2021. However, he was limited to just 64 in 2022 after suffering both a broken foot and finger. Albies, like a lot of players, got off to a slow start in 2022, hitting for less power than we've been accustomed to seeing.

Most players of Albies's caliber bounce back after a slow start. Unfortunately, Albies was never able to do this, as he was sidelined the whole second half of the season.

Now fully healthy, Albies should get back to the same production he was posting before 2022. He was the only second baseman to hit 30 homers in 2021.  This is after Albies posted consecutive seasons of 24 homers back in 2018 and 2019, proving that his 30 homer season wasn't a fluke.

Additionally, we established that the larger bags will help with stolen bases. Albies stole 20 bags and was only caught four times in 2021. However, this decreased to a 3/5 split in 2022. A fully healthy year from Albies could lead to another 20, or even 25 stolen base season.

While it is tough to predict how well a player will bounce back from injury, Albies has established himself as a premier second baseman in the game today. Fully healthy in 2023, he should get back to being a 20/20 player, even threatening the 30/20 number he posted in 2021.

In any case, he should be the first second baseman drafted this year, and provide return on that value.

After rough 2022 campaigns managers can expect Baddoo, Giolito and Albies to be 2023 Fantasy Baseball Bounce Back Candidates.


Be prepared for the upcoming season by checking out all the Fantasy Baseball content on Fantasy Six Pack.

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1 comment

Chromehawk February 17, 2023 - 9:51 am

Brandon Belt should be on this list. No we can not expect his 2020-2021 line of .300/.400/.600 with 38 HRs in 149 games.
But returning to career average .260/.360/.460 hitting in a friendlier park, sandwiched between Bichette and Guerrero, with the extreme shift limited would mean a crap load of RBIs and Runs

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