Clayton Kershaw, LAD, (SP):
What if I told you that the best pitcher of our generation is being drafted around pick 100 in most season-long drafts? The main reason for that is because Kershaw is dealing with a shoulder issue but he appears to be progressing well in his rehab. In fact, Kershaw is expected to only miss the first two weeks of the year, as he’s already progressed to throwing to live hitters. Taking Kershaw is certainly risky but getting him this cheap takes out most of that risk. The upside is simply impossible to overlook, as Kershaw has finished as the top pitcher in baseball for about half of his career. That’s evident in his 2.39 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and 9.77 K/9 career rates. Those are straight ridiculous numbers and it seems very likely that people are over-reacting to his injury status. We’re talking about a pitcher who just turned 32-years-old. You’d think this guy is 50-years-old with the way people are reacting to him. His 2.73 ERA and 1.04 WHIP from last season indicate he’s not far off from the ace we’ve become accustomed to and he’s easily one of the best bounce-back candidates out there.
Josh Donaldson, ATL (3B)
Donaldson is being overlooked in the fantasy industry, as he could return to his MVP form in Atlanta. Not only does he get to hit in this dominant lineup, but Donaldson also gets the fortune of hitting in this little league ballpark. In its inaugural year, SunTrust Park finished seventh in total runs. That’s a small uptick from Rogers Centre but Donaldson gets to hit in a much better lineup. Having Ronald Acuna Jr. and Freddie Freeman around him in the lineup should open up some better pitches, as Donaldson is not far removed from being one of the best hitters in the majors. Prior to an injury-riddled 2018, Donaldson averaged 32.8 home runs and 98.2 RBI across his previous five seasons. This is a guy who stayed pretty healthy in that stretch too, averaging 149 games per season. The weak 2018 is an outlier in an otherwise impressive career, so don’t let that stray you away from one of the most overlooked hitters in the game.
Joey Votto, CIN, (1B)
Votto’s 12 home runs last year stands out like a sore thumb but he’s one of the easiest bounce-back candidates for this upcoming season. If you take out an injury-riddled 2014 season, Votto averaged 28.3 home runs and 116.4 RBI across his previous seven seasons before last year’s dud. Those are impressive numbers in itself but the fact that he posted a .433 OBP in that span makes him one of the most dangerous at-bats in the majors. The 12 home runs last season are an absolute fluke too, as his 41 percent hard-hit rate and 9.5 percent HR/FB rates are major outliers for his career. Having a career-high hard-hit rate while posting a career-low HR/FB rate shows just how unlucky he was last season, as he should return to his typical 25-30 homers this year. Adding Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp to an already solid lineup can’t hurt either, as that should help Votto see better pitches, even though he already has the best eyes in the game.
Rougned Odor, TEX (2B)
Odor was one of the biggest disappointments last season with a .253 AVG, 18 home runs, and 12 steals but one stretch near the end of the year showed just how dominant he can be. Between June 16 and August 11, Odor hit 13 homers and 12 doubles while accruing 31 RBI and nine steals. That came out to a .640 SLG and 1.049 OPS, which was arguably one of the most dominant two-month stretches by any player all season. What’s really encouraging about Odor’s progression is his plate discipline. In fact, Odor nearly doubled his career average by posting an 8.1 percent BB-rate last season while lowering his K-rate below 24 percent. That discipline has carried over big time into spring training, with Odor collecting five walks in 38 spring training at-bats thus far. He’s also 14-of-38 at the plate while accumulating three doubles and four home runs en route to a 1.155 OPS. It’s not like he was chopped liver before either, with Odor tallying 63 home runs and 29 steals across 2016 and 2017. Everything here has the arrow pointing up for Odor and he’s one of few 2B who has legit 25 home run-20 steal potential.
Jose Quintana, CHC (SP)
Many people forget just how studly Quintana was in his days with the White Sox, as he looks primed to have a bounce-back season. In a disappointing 2018 campaign, Quintana posted a 4.03 ERA and 1.32 WHIP. Those numbers really aren’t even that bad but fantasy owners have pretty much given up on him looking at his ADP. This is a guy who averaged a 3.41 ERA and 1.24 WHIP across his first five seasons and that’s the pitcher I expect to see this year. The peripherals show why he struggled last season, as he posted career-highs in BB-rate and HR-rate. That’s a recipe for a boosted ERA and WHIP but his 14.7 percent HR/FB rate and .282 BABIP last season indicates he was slightly unlucky. Those are outlier numbers for his career and a regression to the mean seems like a likely outcome. It’s the price that really makes him attractive though, with Quintana going close to the 200-range in drafts while being priced super cheap in DFS.
Some other notable players that I expect to bounce-back include Kris Bryant, Carlos Correa, Daniel Murphy, Cody Bellinger, Yu Darvish and Chris Archer. All of these guys have underlying statistics that show why they struggled last season and they should return closer to their career norms with positive regression headed their way.
I've been playing fantasy sports since I was 12, which means I've been playing for over half of my life. I love DFS and season-long formats and have been writing for nearly a decade. I started my writing career at RotoWire and currently write for FantasyPros, Rotoballer, Razzball and DFSR. I cover NBA, MLB and NFL and follow all major sports. I generally cover primarily DFS but I also do game previews, recaps, player write-ups, injury updates etc.