The comeback story is one of the most compelling in all of sports. Each one is a unique tale about overcoming adversity and battling back to prominence. For many, it is a return from an injury. For others, it is a decline in physical skills and subsequent hard work and dedication to get back to a previous level of play. Some, like Justin Verlander, have yet to figure things out when they’re not able to rely on overpowering stuff. Others, like Tim Lincecum, may never put it together again. Every spring we look for value in players that may rebound after underperforming the previous year. Players like Bryce Harper, Matt Harvey and Jose Fernandez are technically bouncing back from surgery, but they have been nothing but dominant when on the field, so I am not including them here. For the record, a couple of injured pitchers (Clay Buchholz and A.J. Burnett) would have been considered strongly for this list if they were not on the disabled list.
- Alex Rodriguez (Yankees, 3B) – Even before being suspended for the entire 2014 season, Rodriguez was on the downside of his career. He has not played more than 138 games since 2007 and has failed to top 18 HRs since 2010. The rest from being at home for a year must have done him some good, though, because he is back in a big way. The resurgent Rodriguez is batting .281 with 24 HRs, 62 RBIs and 64 Runs at age 40. After being nothing more than a name for the past few years, A-Rod is looking like one of the best late round or free agency Fantasy Baseball picks of the 2015 season. Teammate Mark Teixeira has been right in stride with him as well, also showing vintage form. While he may slow down a bit as we get into September, Rodriguez is certainly locked in as a Top 10 3B for the rest of the season.
- Carlos Gonzalez (Rockies, OF) – The book on Gonzalez was always about the injuries. Owners could deal with him missing a chunk of the season each year because he produced when he was on the field. He was a virtual lock to make at least one DL stint, hit 20 HRs and swipe 20 bases every season. Last year, not only did he miss almost 100 games, he really struggled at the plate. After batting around or over .300 in every season of his career, CarGo managed a meager .238 average with 11 HRs and just three SBs in 70 games. His struggles continued for the first couple of months of 2015, but he has gotten back on track. Over his last 65 games, he’s batting .318 with 17 HRs, 43 RBIs and 37 Runs. While he will be lucky to steal double-digit bases this year, he is definitely back to his former self. If you bought low in May, kudos to you.
- Joey Votto (Reds, 1B) – It was not long ago that Votto was a first round pick as an every category contributor. Ever since his massive 37 HR/16 SB season in 2010, Votto has not been able to recapture the power or the speed. Still, his high average and on-base skills kept him as a Top 5 1B until the injuries started to slow him down in recent years. After a low point in 2014, Votto became a value in drafts this spring. He has rewarded those owners with a regained power stroke, and his numbers are up across the board. While the Reds lineup has not been as potent as in previous years, a hitter’s ballpark and the surging Todd Frazier help Votto maintain strong value. Expect the numbers to continue through the rest of the season.
- Kendrys Morales (Royals, 1B/DH) – He was never a Fantasy Baseball superstar, but Morales has been a valued Fantasy contributor since really breaking through in 2009. That is, until last season, when he bounced from the Twins to the Mariners and struggled at both stops. He was pretty much left for dead in most leagues, making him a late round flier at the beginning of this season. After batting only .218 last year, Morales has rebounded with a .284 average, 12 HRs and 73 RBIs while hitting in the middle of the Royals lineup. At his best, Morales will contribute a strong average, solid HR and RBI totals. He has put his struggles behind him and should continue to be a reliable CI option.
- Chris Davis (Orioles, 1B/OF) – This is most likely the real Chris Davis. What we saw in 2013 was an absolute best-case scenario, as Davis launched 53 HRs with 138 RBIs and 103 Runs scored. Unfortunately, for those that bought into the hype, he followed that up by batting just .196 and watching most of his counting stats get cut right in half. A year removed from being a Top 25 selection, Davis is again producing quality numbers across the board. He should not be expected to hit for much average, but that is not why you drafted him anyway. Power is his calling card and he has now hit at least 26 HRs in four straight seasons. As long as you do not expect 2013 numbers to ever happen again, Davis makes a fine Fantasy Baseball asset for your squad.