The 2019 season was frenetic, one in which managers dealt with a massive amount of injuries while also adapting to the impact of an altered baseball that — combined with launch-angle obsessions — dramatically changed the standards for batters and pitchers.
There are literally dozens of players who are looking to bounce back from disappointing seasons, and here are some who have a good chance to reverse their recent downturn this season.
Jose Ramirez (3B), Cleveland Indians
A top-5 pick in most 2019 drafts, Ramirez was abysmal prior to the All-Star break (.218 average, .652 OPS) before catching fire (.327 average, 1.105 OPS) in a second half that included a long IL stint (fractured wrist). The healthy, effective version of Ramirez is one of the few players who can provide a 30-30 season, which makes him an excellent value pick at his current ADP (22).
Giancarlo Stanton (OF), New York Yankees
Along with teammate Aaron Judge, Stanton may open 2020 on the IL (depending on when the season starts) after battling injuries last year. The imposing slugger missed all but 19 games in 2019, which ended a two-year reversal of the injury-prone label he developed over several IL-impacted years with the Marlins. Managers know that Stanton has 40-homer potential, but he also has the potential to play in fewer than 100 games, which makes him unnecessarily risky at his current ADP (58).
Khris Davis (OF), Oakland A’s
Davis entered 2019 as one of the most stable power hitters, having hit .247 with more than 40 homers and 100 RBI in each of the previous three seasons. But he dealt with a hip injury last year and watched his homer total sharply decline to 23 during a season in which most of his peers made power jumps. With several good seasons and one disappointing campaign in his rear-view mirror, Davis is worth the risk for managers who are looking for power near his ADP (191).
Daniel Murphy (1B/2B), Colorado Rockies
A perennial high-average hitter, Murphy seemed like fantasy gold when he signed with the Rockies last winter. But the 34 year old missed time early in the season with a fractured finger and posted his lowest batting mark (.279) since 2009. The benefits of playing half his games at Coors Field (where he hit .317 last year) remain in effect for Murphy, and the career .298 hitter could return to the batting average leaderboard by improving his road results this year. Overall, his ADP (242) seems like fair value.
Corey Kluber (SP), Texas Rangers
Kluber was the biggest bust of the 2019 early round pitchers, logging a 5.80 ERA and a 1.65 WHIP before suffering a fractured ulna in his seventh start of the year, costing him the rest of the season. His velocity has trended in the wrong direction, meaning that his poor recent results cannot be written off as a small sample size. Still, managers need to give a bounce-back opportunity to someone who logged a 2.85 ERA and a 1.02 WHIP from 2014-18. Kluber is worth the risk at his ADP of 99.
Andrew McCutchen (OF), Philadelphia Phillies
McCutchen enters 2020 on the comeback trail from a torn ACL that ended his 2019 season after 59 games. The veteran worked out of the leadoff role last year and ranked sixth in the Majors with 45 runs scored when he was placed on the IL, which raises the possibility of McCutchen scoring more than 110 runs this season. While his base-stealing days are mostly gone, the 33 year old should be worth his ADP (219).
Noah Syndergaard (SP), New York Mets
Managers were expecting much better than a 4.28 ERA when they tabbed Syndergaard as their 2019 ace. They were also expecting the fireballer to post a K/9 rate higher than 9.2 during a season in which so many starters boosted their whiff totals. Syndergaard remains immensely talented and dealt with a lowly 68.9 percent strand rate last year. He can certainly post a mid-3.00’s ERA this time around and is worth his pick-70 ADP.
Trevor Bauer (SP), Cincinnati Reds
Bauer was mildly disappointing during his 24 starts with the Indians last year (3.79 ERA, 1.21 WHIP) and downright awful (6.39 ERA, 1.35 WHIP) across 10 starts with the Reds. With an ERA over 4.00 in five of the past six seasons, his eye-popping 2018 season (2.21 ERA, 1.09 WHIP) is starting to look like the outlier. Bauer’s strikeout skills (474 whiffs across 2018-19) make him a fine risk-reward option at his current ADP (90), but I am likely to look in a different direction in my drafts.
Edwin Diaz (RP), New York Mets
The first closer off the board in most 2019 drafts, Diaz was a massive bust who logged a 5.59 ERA and a 1.38 WHIP while dealing with a .381 BABIP and a 26.8 HR/FB rate. He gets a fresh start this season, and his upside remains sky high (1.96 ERA, 0.79 WHIP, 124 K’s in 2018). The ninth closer off the board this year (ADP 103), Diaz is undoubtedly worth the risk.
Craig Kimbrel (RP), Chicago Cubs
I’m giving Kimbrel a mulligan for a 2019 season in which he didn’t sign with the Cubs until June and then struggled with injury (elbow inflammation) and ineffectiveness (6.53 ERA, 1.60 WHIP). He was originally set for a regular Spring Training schedule — the first time in two years he'd get one — but unfortunately, things haven’t worked out that way. That said, Kimbrel (career 2.08 ERA, 0.95 WHIP) has the ability to turn things around and outperform his pick-126 ADP.