The best fantasy baseball teams are not just made by the easy early selections. It’s easy to say you want Alex Rodriguez and CC Sabathia - everyone does. But the picks that really make your team are the tough choices you make after the easy decisions have been made. There’s a difference between being optimistic, and being ridiculous; so don’t pin your hopes on the big Eric Gagne and Andruw Jones bounceback years. There are some players who suffered injuries or other problems that held them back last year, but should now be behind them. Allow them to be the aces up your sleeve for the later rounds of your draft, when everyone else has run out of ideas.
Justin Verlander (SP) - Verlander had a very off year in 2008 (11-17, 4.84 ERA), but can normally be counted on for a much better year than that. The Tigers will be hoping for a lot more, and if they get it, Verlander could be a very smart pickup.
Orlando Hudson (2B) - Hudson hit .305 in an injury shortened season last year, and will hit 10-15 home runs in a healthy season. Quality offense from a second baseman, and may fly under the radar due to injury problems.
Chris Carpenter (SP) - Carpenter has missed almost all of the past two seasons with injuries to his throwing arm, which obviously makes him a risky selection. However, he is reportedly healthy this spring, and was one of the best pitchers in baseball, and a Cy Young winner when we last saw him healthy.
Jeff Francoeur (OF) - Francoeur’s production fell dramatically in 2008, as he subtracted 34 RBI and 54 points worth of batting average off his 2007 totals. Prior to last year, he had two straight 100+ RBI seasons. He hit 29 home runs in 2006, and 14 in only 70 games in 2005. Last year wasn’t up to his standards, but keep an eye on Francoeur in your draft, and don’t underestimate his potential offense.
Erik Bedard (SP) - Bedard’s injuries were near the top of a long list of frustrations for the Mariners last year, but he is pitching again and feeling healthy coming off of surgeries to his shoulder and thumb in the fall. Bedard won 15 games with Baltimore in 2006, and is poised to be the subject of less hair-tearing in Seattle this year.
Aaron Hill (2B) - Hill missed most of last season with post-concussion symptoms, but in his last healthy season in 2007, he hit 17 home runs, drove in 78 runs, and hit .291. It’s hard to expect all that from him again, but you need to get a second baseman somewhere, and most teams don’t have one who could ever put up numbers like that.
Francisco Liriano (SP) - Injuries have held back the Twins’ former ace-in-waiting the past two seasons, but his arm is supposed to be healthy again. At 25 years old, he’s certainly young enough to recover back to his former self (12-3, 2.16 ERA, 144 strikeouts in 16 starts in 2006).
Troy Tulowitzki (SS) - Tulowitzki was hindered by a quadriceps injury in 2008 that limited his playing time and production. His offensive upside when healthy cannot be denied, however, as he posted 24 home runs, 99 RBI, and hit .291 for Colorado in 2007. It is entirely realistic to hope for more of ‘07, and less of ‘08 from the now-healthy Tulowitzki in ‘09.