An elephant may never forget, but we do! It’s very possible each of us can name a player that burned us last year, and in some scenarios, the situation will arise in 2018 where you may be faced with drafting that player again. Just because a player screwed you in 2017 doesn’t necessarily mean they will do it again. With these four players below, you can get them at a discount from last year, and there is reasons for optimism with each of the guys below.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at a few of my favorite bounce back candidates for the 2018 fantasy baseball campaign.
Polanco was a sought after asset last season and he came up very short. He missed 54 games, hit just 11 home runs and stole eight bases, just one season after swatting 22 long balls and swiping 17 bags. His slash line numbers decreased across the board and his wOBA dropped 34 points. Polanco’s ISO also took a substantial hit, likely because he wasn’t registering extra-base hits and hitting the ball with authority. In 2016, he hit the ball hard 35.7 percent of the time, but that number dipped nearly 10 percent to 25.9 percent in 2017! That’s a huge decrease, which lead to fewer line drives and more ground balls.
He’s a long, well-built lefty that has had some knee issue that will likely pop up here and there throughout the season, but the 2017 Polanco we loathed isn’t the player we should expect in 2018. He’s a legitimate 20/20 threat and his rumored offseason work has helped him regain some athleticism. Pittsburgh will rely on him to hit in the heart of the order and be a primary producer, along with Josh Bell. A full season of Starling Marte in front of him will boost his RBI total, while Bell should be able to drive Polanco in when he gets on.
In 2018, Polanco’s numbers should return closer to his 2015 and 2016 numbers, which is incredibly valuable at his current ADP. He’ll hit around .250-.255, with 20ish home runs, 20ish stolen bases and 80-85 RBI. The 26-year-old outfielder is entering the prime of his career and get ready for a bounce back campaign for the southpaw.
Diaz saved 34 games last season, which was tied with Ken Giles for fifth most in the league. However, if you ask anybody that invested in Diaz last season, the overwhelming majority would agree that he disappointing and didn’t live up to his/her expectations. In 2016, he posted a 15.33 K/9 and 2.61 BB/9 across 51.2 big league innings, recording 18 saves in 21 opportunities. However, in 2017, strikeouts went down (12.14 K/9), walks went up (4.36 BB/9), he blew five saves and saw his home run rate jump over 50 percent (1.36 HR/9).
Compared to 2016, the opposition was putting the ball in the air much more, leading to the increased damage done against him. Take a look at the table below.
As you can see, the jumps were very sharp, and one would believe those numbers should come closer to where he’s been throughout his minor and major league career. At any point in his minor league career, he never had a HR/9 above 0.65 when pitching at least 60 innings. A return to a HR/9 at or just below one will pay dividends for Diaz.
The velocity remained similar between his past two seasons and the stuff is still nasty. The strikeouts will remain well above one batter per inning, but the key for Diaz this season will be harnessing his command and building confidence early on. Limited closing experience in the bullpen should give him a fairly long leash, and the improved Seattle offense should keep his opportunities bountiful.
Buy in while the sour taste from 2017 is in the mouths of many.
Soler hit 12 home runs in 86 games with the Cubs in 2016, but in 2017 with the Royals, he appeared in just 35 games, hitting two home runs with a measly .144/.245/.258 slash line. Injuries are a big concern with Soler, so it might be unfair to call him a bounce back candidate, but the breakout is coming and there’s no better time than the present!
If you extrapolate his big league numbers over the course of a full 162 game season, he would hit 19 home runs with 68 RBI and 62 runs scored. At his current ADP, those numbers alone would easily return value. However, there is upside with Soler, beyond those numbers. He hits line drives and fly balls, which is good because you don’t hit home runs on the ground! He makes hard contact as frequently as Xander Bogaerts and Adam Duvall, while maintaining a similar fly ball and line drive rate to Mike Moustakas.
Soler has plenty of talent and some good luck with health could translate to a monster 2018 campaign. Take a flier on him late in your league and see how he pans out. One could argue his upside is as high as anyone else’s with the final couple picks in your draft.
Tanaka wasn’t exactly a fantasy owner’s delight in 2017, seeing as his ERA jumped over one-and-a-half points from the year before, while his walk and home run rates both jumped. Still, his 2.07 BB/9 isn’t bat, but he was under 1.62 in each of the prior three seasons. His ERA in March and April was 4.20. His ERA in the month of May was an astounding 8.42. Overall, in the first half, he posted a 5.47 ERA and allowed a slash line of .275/.330/.511.
Now, with all the doom and gloom to the side, there were some bright spots for Tanaka. In the second half, he was much, much better. He struck out 91 batters in 76.1 innings of work, a posting a 3.77 ERA and allowing a slash line of .229/.267/.405. He was better as the year went on and his .305 BABIP was nearly 30 points higher than his career mark. His HR/FB mark was 21.2 percent, which will certainly fall closer to his career mark of 16.1 percent.
The majority of his struggles came on the road in 2017, which is surprising considering that his home ball park sees balls flying out of the stadium left and right. If he can rectify his 6.48 road ERA, he’ll be back in the conversation as a top 20 fantasy starter. The 29-year-old righty will be a quality low-end SP2 or high-end SP3 this season.