Fantasy: 5 bounce-back candidates
Michael Hickey / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Last year was rough for some players (well, everybody). A pandemic-shortened campaign with a second spring training was a challenge some major leaguers couldn't overcome and their numbers reflected that.

This season feels a lot more like "normal," which means there will be a lot of bounce-back performances. Here are five candidates worth considering when drafting fantasy teams.

Average draft positions are from FantasyPros as of March 4.

Javier Baez, Cubs - SS (ADP 71)

Nuccio DiNuzzo / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Baez was abysmal in 2020, slashing .203/.238/.360 with eight homers, 24 RBIs, and three stolen bases in 59 games. The 28-year-old blamed a crackdown on in-game video - which will return in 2021 - for his performance. Another culprit could have been bad luck as he posted a .262 BABIP - his lowest since 2014.

The two-time All-Star could be a steal in the middle rounds if he returns close to the form that saw him go deep 34 times with 111 RBIs and 21 stolen bases just three years ago. Keston Hiura and Ketel Marte are other infielders with a similar ADP to Baez, but neither will be a five-category stud.

J.D. Martinez, Red Sox - OF (ADP 87)

Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Like Baez, Martinez also wasn't happy about the video rules in 2020. The two-time Silver Slugger accrued a .680 OPS with seven homers and 27 RBIs in 54 contests while posting one of his worst HR/FB% at 10.4. In comparison, he amassed 79 round-trippers with 235 RBIs between 2018-2019, cementing his place as one of the most-feared sluggers in baseball.

The 33-year-old should get plenty of protection from Rafael Devers and Xander Bogaerts in a formidable Red Sox offense. Other hitters around his ADP include Nick Castellanos, Nelson Cruz, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., and Matt Olson. Martinez has the highest ceiling based on past performance.

Jose Altuve, Astros - 2B (ADP 93)

Icon Sportswire / Icon Sportswire / Getty

Altuve is way too good of a hitter to replicate the atrocious numbers he put up last season. The 2017 AL MVP is a three-time batting champion and five-time Silver Slugger, who accrued a career-high 31 homers with 74 RBIs and a .903 OPS in 2019. In 2020, he slashed .219/.286/.344 while going deep just five times in 48 games. Given a full calendar, he may have righted the ship after hitting .375/.500/.729 with five home runs in 13 postseason games.

The 30-year-old was a first- or second-round selection for years before seeing his ADP drop dramatically ahead of the 2021 campaign. Jeff McNeil, Max Muncy, and Yoan Moncada are some other infielders in Altuve's draft range. However, the former MVP has the chance to be a huge steal if he returns to the player everybody expects him to be.

Josh Bell, Nationals - 1B (ADP 140)

Mark Brown / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Bell appeared poised for another big campaign in 2020 after a breakout season in 2019. It didn't happen, and his draft value suffered after hitting eight round-trippers with 22 RBIs in 57 games for the Pirates. However, there's a lot to like here. Bell, still just 28 years old, will see plenty of good pitches to hit with the Nationals thanks to Juan Soto and Trea Turner surrounding him in the lineup.

Shohei Ohtani, Angels - SP, UTIL (ADP 182)

Jayne Kamin-Oncea / Getty Images Sport / Getty

The 26-year-old two-way phenom is finally healthy. He logged only 1 2/3 innings last season due to a forearm injury and didn't pitch in 2019 after recovering from Tommy John surgery. Ohtani's fastball has touched 100 mph during the spring and he's in a position to rebound into the promising pitcher he was in 2018, when he accrued a 3.31 ERA with 11 K/9 in 10 starts.

On the offensive front, Ohtani was a mess in 2020. He put up a .657 OPS in 44 games after a .925 OPS in 2018 and .848 mark in 2019. He's never played more than 106 contests in a season, but Steamer projects him to set career highs in home runs, runs scored, RBIs, and stolen bases if he remains on the field. Having Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon in the lineup for an entire year should be huge, too.

Comments
Fantasy: 5 bounce-back candidates
  Got something to say? Leave a comment below!
Daily Newsletter
Get the latest trending sports news daily in your inbox