One of the hardest things to do in fantasy baseball is evaluating players coming off poor seasons. Whether it’s due to injury, bad luck, or simply a player struggling through a tough season, their return often causes some of the biggest debates in fantasy baseball. Will they rebound back to their career averages, or are they finished as a quality major league baseball player? Today we’ll take a look at some of the most surprising hitters in the 2012 season.
SS Rafael Furcal – Injuries over the past two seasons have cost him a significant amount of playing time. Last year was arguably the worst season of his career, as the speedy Furcal had no value at the plate. However, the 34 year old is finally healthy, and we shouldn’t be surprised at how dangerous he is with the bat. He’s hitting 315 with 3 steals, 9 RBI and 14 runs scored. That’s fantastic production for a shortstop, and as long as he can stay healthy he should remain productive.
OF Jason Heyward – The right fielder struggled through the dreaded sophomore slump, as he struggled across the board in his second full season. He’s off to a fantastic start this year, and reminding us why he was one of the best prospects in baseball just a few years ago. Heyward is hitting 273 this season, with 2 HR 9 RBI and a very surprising 8 stolen bases. In the minors his career high in steals was 15, so the addition of a running game makes Heyward a potential 5 tool threat.
There’s so much upside in Heyward’s bat, and he’s just beginning to scratch the surface. It’s only a matter of time before he breaks out and becomes one of the best players in the majors.
1B Carlos Pena – He’s been a solid fantasy player the past few years, but the extremely low batting average has made him a lower tier option at first base. Not anymore. Pena’s got his average up to a more respectable 266, and he’s doing a great job of driving runners in (13 RBI) and hitting for power (4 HR). Since he’s typically batting at the top of the lineup, he’s also scored a ton of runs (15), and there’s an outside shot he could both score and drive in 100+.
2B Kelly Johnson – Like Pena, Johnson hurt fantasy teams significantly thanks to his 222 BA last season. He’s improved a bit in that area this year, hitting 247 while showing off good power (4 HR) and scoring a ton of runs (15). He’s taking a lot of pitches, so if you’re in an OBP league Johnson is a fantastic addition. Once Jose Bautista wakes up, Johnson’s numbers should improve even more as they’ll have to throw him strikes to avoid having a runner on for Joey Bats.
2B Aaron Hill – Looks like this trade has worked out nicely for the Toronto Blue Jays and the Arizona Diamondbacks. Hill is back from the dead, posting a 266 average with 4 homers and 10 RBI. Here’s a sad fact – Hill has been more productive in 2012 then he has in 2011 or 2010, and he’s only had 91 at bats.
OF Michael Saunders – Are we finally witnessing the breakout of Saunders? After years of struggling, Saunders is finally starting to show off some power. He’s hit 3 homers, one of which was a grand slam. He’s stolen 3 bases and driven in 11. The only knock against him is the relatively low average (258) but given the speed/power combo you can live with it.