Often times, fantasy owners too quickly write players off after one down season, or, at the very least, let them fall a bit too far in drafts the following spring.
For one reason or another, the following hitters didn’t perform up to expectations in 2011. It’s probably not a wise idea to roster too many of the players below, as the reality is that not everyone will bounce back. But, many will fall farther than they should despite plenty of evidence that last season’s disappointment will likely be an aberration. Consider this your opportunity to buy low.
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Joe Mauer, C, Twins
Mauer, of course, battled physical ailments throughout the 2011 campaign. He was recovering from knee surgery during spring training and missed over two months with a viral infection that sapped his strength. He was finally starting to turn things around, batting .314/.393/.416 in the second half, before ending the year on the DL with pneumonia. Now healthy, we have every reason to think the three-time batting champ will bounce back in a big way in 2012.
Carl Crawford, OF, Red Sox
Crawford was a bust of epic proportions after inking a monster deal with the Red Sox last offseason. He dealt with injuries and mostly was probably just putting too much pressure on himself to perform, which led to career lows nearly across the board. But, we have many years of evidence to suggest that the career .293 hitter will rebound from a batting average standpoint and also regain his stolen base prowess. The only worry is January wrist surgery that could threaten his status for Opening Day, but the procedure was considered relatively minor.
Hanley Ramirez, SS, Marlins
Consistently a first-round fantasy choice over the previous few years, Hanley fell flat in a big way in 2011. Ramirez dealt with leg and shoulder issues and was pretty unlucky from a BABIP standpoint, and he really only had one month where he looked good at the plate. An early August shoulder ailment eventually ended his season, and he required surgery. He’s expected to be good to go at the start of spring training, though, and while his power might be down a tad, he’s way too talented not to bounce back to some degree, even in what appears to be a very pitcher-friendly new home park.
Adam Dunn, DH, White Sox
Words cannot do justice when describing just how bad Dunn was this past season. Whether it was the move to the DH spot or putting pressure on himself to justify his new deal, things just never came together. But, the fact is that this was one of the most consistent power hitters in the game from 2004-2010, as he banged out at least 38 homers every year. He’s changed his offseason routine and we expect him to be much better in 2012.
Alex Rios, OF, White Sox
Dunn wasn’t the only White Sox hitter that flopped in 2011, as Rios entered September with an even lower OPS. The soon-to-be 31-year-old turned it on in the final month, though, batting .307/.341/.533 with five longballs. It could offer a glimpse of things to come, as Rios is fully capable of bouncing back with a 20-homer, 30-steal season in 2012.
David Wright, 3B, Mets
Wright got off to a poor start last year, but it was a back injury in May that sabotaged his season. The ailment cost him two months of action, and he never quite looked like himself after returning. The Mets think he’s totally healthy now, and they made the third baseman happy by deciding to move in their outfield fences. We’re not expecting Wright to return to being elite in 2012, but he could very well be your best bet at third base after Jose Bautista and Evan Longoria are off the board.
Shin-Soo Choo, OF, Indians
Choo hit .300 while belting 20 homers and stealing 20 bases both in 2009 and 2010, but the 2011 campaign was full of disappointment. He was OK in April, but Choo was then busted for DUI in May and his production fell off dramatically. After a thumb injury cost him seven weeks, the 29-year-old was starting to look like his old self at the dish before an oblique injury effectively ended his season. He’s back at 100 percent now and should see his numbers return to what we grew accustomed to.
Andre Ethier, OF, Dodgers
Ethier contends that a right knee injury he dealt with throughout the 2011 season was a major issue for him. Considering the lack of power that he showed -- the 11 homers he hit were easily his lowest mark in four years – we're inclined to believe him. The knee has been surgically-repaired, and he’ll enter spring training at 100 percent. Ethier doesn’t steal any bases, and he’s hit more than 23 homers just once, but we wouldn’t be surprised if he had a nice bounce-back season in his walk year.
Jason Heyward, OF, Braves
Heyward had a terrific rookie season in 2010, but his 2011 campaign certainly fell into the “sophomore slump” category. A nagging shoulder injury played a big part, though, and he’s now healthy and has worked on getting his swing back to form. Heyward hits more groundballs than we’d like, but there’s no doubting just how talented this 22-year-old is. If he can remain healthy, we still see superstardom in his future.
Colby Rasmus, OF, Blue Jays
I’m hesitant to include Rasmus here because his questionable attitude raises questions about whether he’ll ever take that next step. But, there’s a reason he was once considered one of the best hitting prospects in the game. Rasmus batted only .173/.201/.316 with three homers over 140 plate appearances for the Blue Jays down the stretch, but he’s still just 25, is a year removed from a .276/.361/.498 batting line and will get to call Rogers Centre home for half of his games.
Aaron Hill, 2B, Diamondbacks
Hill was in the middle of a second straight disappointing season when he was shipped to Arizona in August in exchange for Kelly Johnson. He thrived down the stretch in the desert, batting .315/.386/.492 while also hitting .278/.435/.444 in the division series loss to the Brewers. Hill’s 2009 campaign can safely be called an outlier, but he incorporated the stolen base into his game in 2011 and could return to being a 20-homer threat at Chase Field.
Martin Prado, INF-OF, Braves
Installed as the Braves’ everyday left fielder in 2011, Prado batted a solid .277 with eight homers over the first 61 games, but a staph infection sidelined him for the next five weeks and he didn’t look like himself upon return. The 28-year-old’s BABIP was a low .266, though, and there’s no reason to believe he can’t return to being a .300 hitter in 2012 now that he’s back at 100 percent.
Ike Davis, 1B, Mets
This is purely a health-related “bounce-back,” as Davis looked well on his way to a breakout campaign in 2011 -- batting .302/.383/.543 with seven homers through 36 games -- before a lower-leg injury in mid-May ultimately cost him the remainder of the season. Davis didn’t undergo surgery, and there has to be some worry that he could aggravate the injury, but for now he and the Mets are insisting that he’s fine. If that’s the case, he could pick up where he left off while enjoying the cozier dimensions at Citi Field.
Ichiro Suzuki, OF, Mariners
The question you have to ask yourself here is whether Ichiro’s disappointing 2011 season was a sign of things to come or a blip on the radar screen. He’s 38, so it’s certainly possible that the decline has begun, but Ichiro’s .272 batting mark last season was 31 points below his previous career low, and his .295 BABIP was a whopping 62 points lower than his career mark entering the season. The two-time batting champ also was able to swipe 40 bags despite a plunging .310 OBP. I’m betting he still has a couple good seasons left.