With pitchers and catchers set to report to spring training within the next two weeks, fantasy baseball drafts will be starting soon thereafter. In preparation for your draft, it is always a good idea to monitor players who are coming back from injuries that cost them significant time in the previous season. Let’s take a look at ten players who are on the comeback trail and could be potential sleepers in 2012.
Check out the rest of our 2012 Fantasy Baseball Rankings.
10. Dallas Braden (SP-OAK). One of the few incumbent Oakland pitchers to remain with the team, Braden is recovering from an operation on his shoulder in May 2011. He reportedly threw 25 pitches off of a mound recently and felt good afterwards. Braden believes he is ahead of schedule with his rehab and hopes to not miss much time when the regular season starts. He has a perfect game on his resume and called out A-Rod for running on his mound. Braden has the talent to be a solid #2 or 3 starter if he can stay healthy and get run support.
9. Stephen Drew (SS-ARZ). After suffering a gruesome broken ankle in 2011, Stephen Drew is rehabbing and doing baseball drills in an effort to come back. Diamondbacks’ general manager Kevin Towers recently said that there is a chance Drew will be ready by Opening Day. However, it remains to be seen how Drew responds when spring training games begin. He will likely be playing for a contract this year since his mutual option for 2013 includes a relatively inexpensive buy-out. Drew is a decent late-round option at a think position in fantasy baseball if you can sustain possibly missing some time in April.
8. Brett Anderson (SP-OAK). Anderson is one of baseball’s better looking young pitchers, but it appears that he won’t make much of an impact in 2012. He is on pace to possibly return by July or August, but a lot will depend upon how quickly he can regain his strength, endurance and control. Anderson is a solid option to take in the late rounds to stash on your bench for the pennant chase or perhaps as a keeper for 2013.
7. Johan Santana (SP-NYM). Former two-time Cy Young award winner Johan Santana is hoping to be the Mets’ Opening Day starter after missing the entire 2011 with a torn capsule in his left shoulder. This is a very serious injury that doesn’t have great history in terms of players coming back from it. Santana is a terrific athlete with strong desire to return to the mound, so odds are that he will be back. However, he cannot be counted on to revert back to his pre-injury days. Even if he does come back by Opening Day, don’t expect double-digit wins or a sub-3.00 ERA. His trends were already on the downturn before the injury, and with a terrible offense and shaky bullpen, wins will be hard to come by.
6. Grady Sizemore (OF-CLE). Once one of the best fantasy baseball players around, Grady Sizemore’s career has been derailed with a series of injuries over the past three seasons. As of January 2012, he has been cleared to resume all activities in terms of running, throwing and hitting. Sizemore is motivated to prove that he can stay healthy and produce at an elite level given he signed a one-year contract to remain in Cleveland. Sizemore is a good bargain to take a chance on in the middle rounds of your fantasy draft because he can produce in all five rotisserie categories and will be playing for a big pay day.
5. Kendrys Morales (1B-LAA). After sustaining a devastating injury celebrating a game-winning homerun in 2010, Morales appears ready to get back on the field. Early reports from the Angels’ spring training complex are that Morales is in great shape and hitting the ball with authority. With the acquisition of Albert Pujols, Morales will likely share time at first base and designated hitter. He will likely be off people’s radar because it has been two years since he was relevant. If healthy, he is a great sleeper candidate to come back and hit .300 with 30 homeruns and 100 RBI.
4. Ryan Howard (1B-PHI). The slugging Phillies first baseman is on the road to recovery after tearing his Achilles heel on the final out of the 2011 NLDS against the Cardinals. He underwent surgery immediately after and is targeting a return by May 2012. Howard will certainly fall in fantasy drafts because he will not start the season on time. But he is a great pick after the 4th or 5th round because he will still produce 30 homeruns and drive in close to 100 runs even in a truncated season. Howard works very hard at his craft and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him return earlier than expected.
3. Josh Johnson (SP-MIA). The oft-injured Marlins’ ace has been throwing off a mound and pitching bullpen sessions for the first time since last year. Thus far, the reports out of Miami are positive and Johnson is targeting Opening Day with a clean bill of health. He is one of the best pitchers in baseball when healthy and is a fantasy stud. Now armed with a better offense and one of the best closers in the league, Johnson should be in line for more wins than he normally gets.
2. Adam Wainwright (SP-STL). The defending World Champions may have lost King Albert, but they will be getting their ace back this year. Adam Wainwright is still less than a year removed from Tommy John surgery, but he is well ahead of schedule and progressing nicely as he prepares for spring training. Reports out of the Cardinals facility in Jupiter are that Wainwright has felt no pain or discomfort during or after his throwing sessions. Assuming everything continues on this track, he will be ready by Opening Day and should reclaim his status as one of the top fantasy pitchers in the league.
1. Buster Posey (C-SF). We have all seen the injury replayed too many times, but it fortunately looks like the Giants’ young star will be ready for Opening Day. He has been hitting, running and squatting since January which is good news for fantasy baseball players who desperately want more options at catcher. However, the Giants are strongly considering playing Posey at first base more frequently to alleviate the strain and pressure on his ankle, as well as the wear and tear on his body. It is not surprising that the Giants would do this. Eventually, Posey will catch less and less. But for 2012, you should have no reservations drafting Posey as one of the top options at catcher – otherwise known as the fantasy baseball abyss.
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