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(L-R) Ryan Braun, Alex Rodriguez and Melky Cabrera
Who are they now?
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Steve Schwarz - MLB Fantasy Analysis
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - "If you ain't cheating, you ain't trying." That's the traditional battle cry for NASCAR, but it's probably common to many major sports (See the New England Patriots recent headlines).

In baseball, the "cheating" takes many forms - stealing signs, the "balk" pickoff move, spit balls, pine tar and wiping out the batter's box lines to get an advantage, among many others. They are all a part of baseball.

What isn't supposed to be part of the "cheating" is using performance- enhancing drugs. The league has been making a concerted effort to eliminate this form of activity from the game.

Since 2012 there have been at least 20 suspensions of major league baseball players and numerous minor leaguers. For fantasy owners, there are only a handful of these players worth evaluating to determine their value after their suspensions.

Are they the same player they were before their "time off"?

Are they better? Are they worse?

Let's take a look.

Ryan Braun, OF, Milwaukee - Braun was suspended for 65 games in July 2013. From 2007-12, Braun was a first-round fantasy selection who averaged .313 with 34 HR, 107 RBI, 102 runs, 21 SB and a .943 OPS. In the season and a quarter since his return from suspension he's become a .264 hitter with a .786 OPS. That's a huge difference. Braun has improved in the first quarter of the 2015 season, but it's obvious that he is not the same annual MVP candidate he was before the incident. He's now a top 50 player - not top 10.

Alex Rodriguez, DH, New York Yankees - After missing a record 162 games, Rodriguez has started 2015 solidly, batting .246 with 10 homers, 22 RBI and .900 OPS. That's actually better than he'd been swinging from 2011-13. Still, it's a far cry from the guy who averaged .305, 41 HR, 121 RBI, 116 runs from 1996-2010. If he gets his eligibility back at 3B or 1B he could have decent fantasy value.

Melky Cabrera, OF, Chicago White Sox - At the time of his suspension in August 2012, Cabrera was leading the NL in hitting (.346) with 84 runs scored, 11 HR, 60 RBI and a .906 OPS. Despite playing in Toronto and Chicago the past two- plus seasons (much better hitting ballparks than San Francisco), Cabrera is averaging .287 with a .736 OPS. He's started out 2015 very cold, batting just .252 with a .586 OPS and his fantasy value has dropped off the radar screen.

Nelson Cruz, OF, Seattle - Cruz has turned around his career since the incident. After averaging .272 with 27 HR and 81 RBI in five seasons for Texas, he blew up in Baltimore last season. Cruz blasted a career-high 40 homers and knocked in 108 runs. Then he signed a long-term deal to play in pitcher-friendly Safeco Field, but it hasn't stopped him from being an elite fantasy asset. He currently leads the league in homers (16), RBI (33), batting average (.351), slugging percentage (.708), OPS (1.120) and total bases (109). He's one of the few players on this list who's game has improved.

Jhonny Peralta, SS, St. Louis - Peralta has always been a power-hitting shortstop and that hasn't changed after his suspension in August 2013. In fact, he blasted 21 homers in 2014, though both his batting average and OPS dropped from the previous season. Through the first quarter of 2015 both averages have returned to pre-suspension levels and Peralta appears to be the same type hitter we saw from 2011-13.

Carlos Ruiz, C, Philadelphia - Ruiz had just completed a "career year" when word came down that he was suspended for 25 games to start the 2013 season. He hasn't been near those numbers since. In 2012 he averaged .325 with 16 homers, 68 RBI, 56 runs and a .935 OPS. All were lifetime best totals. In the two seasons since then he's averaged .259 with six homers, 34 RBI and a .704 OPS. That's not fantasy worthy.

Marlon Byrd, OF, Cincinnati - Byrd had only hit 20 homers in a season one time before his 2012 suspension. He blasted 24 homers in 2013 and 25 homers last season for the Phillies. He's on pace to crack the 20-homer mark again in 2015 for the Reds, though his extremely low batting average (.207) may be a problem for fantasy owners.

Yasmani Grandal, C, Los Angeles Dodgers - Grandal was suspended after his 2012 season with the San Diego Padres (.297, 8 HR, 36 RBI, .863 OPS). He proceeded to do nothing over the next two seasons in San Diego, but has returned to pre- suspension levels in his first season for the Dodgers. It's hard to tell if the change is due to a better hitting ballpark and a better surrounding lineup or just the maturing of a 26-year-old. Either way, he's become a low-end, fantasy-worthy, starter in 2015.

Everth Cabrera, SS, Baltimore - Cabrera was just a one-category fantasy option (stolen bases) in San Diego even before the August 2013 suspension. His 2014 season saw significant drops in most categories and playing behind J.J. Hardy this season we haven't seen much of him. He has zero fantasy value.

Bartolo Colon, SP, New York Mets - Colon missed the last 50 games of the 2012 season, but returned in 2013 to post some of the best numbers of his career (18-6, 2.65 ERA, 1.166 WHIP). His fastball in down about one mph since 2012. He's been a workhorse with the Mets over the last season and a quarter, but his ERA has jumped above his career mark (3.97) and he's a back end of the fantasy rotation guy ... at best.

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