Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
If you look at the list of 16 players at the bottom of the page, ask yourself what do they all have in common?
The answer is obvious to all those who follow baseball closely and to those who play fantasy baseball with any amount of intensity.
They all spent a portion of the season sitting and watching the rest of their team play while they were injured.
Injuries...the bane of all fantasy owners. Injuries destroy your strategy and force you to make moves you weren't planning on or frankly didn't want to do just to compensate for their absence.
But they are also an opportunity for fantasy bargains in the season after their injury-plagued year because their numbers, down from their norm, do not attract attention.
Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Colorado was a high pick in 2007 after a superb first full year (104 runs, 24 HRs, 99 RBIs, .291). His 2008 ADP was 42 and big things were expected of him. But Troy disappointed owners with a 377 AB, 48 run, eight homer, 46 RBI, one stolen base season. He missed a lot of the season with first an injured thumb and then what was first thought of as a quadriceps strain but turned out to be a torn left quadriceps muscle. If he can return to the form of 2007 he could be a huge steal.
Eric Byrnes was a 103 run, 21 HR, 83 RBI, 50 SB guy in 2007 and a valuable member of any fantasy roster. But 2008 was a nightmare with just 206 at bats, 28 runs, six HRs, 23 RBIs and four measly stolen bases. As a sixth-round selection (ADP 56) Byrnes was expected to help out a roster in all five offensive categories. He tore both hamstrings in May, was reactivated in June and back on the disabled list by July 1st never to return. Byrnes isn't likely to be with Arizona this year, but wherever he lands, if he's healthy, he can be a contributor.
Carlos Lee, OF, Houston was on his way to a huge season when it was cut short by injury (fractured left little finger). His 61 run, 28 HR, 100 RBI season looks like a slump from previous years until you see he did it in just 436 at bats. Lee's slugging percentage (.569) was the best of his career as was his .314 batting average. But owners who just look at his numbers may not remember the injury and he might be a draft day bargain.
Vernon Wells, OF, Toronto broke his left wrist in early May and didn't return until June 7th. Then in July he took a second trip to the DL with a strained left hamstring. The injuries left Wells' stats looking mediocre, but when healthy, he is a five-tool player. I'm looking for Wells to rebound and be another draft day bargain. You should expect him to return to the 85 run, 25 HR, 90 RBI, 12 SB type season which he usually produces.
Rafael Furcal, SS, Los Angeles was the best player in the National League until a back injury sidelined him for most of the season. He appeared in just 36 games in 2008, but those three dozen games were impressive. He hit .357 with 34 runs scored, five HRs, 16 RBIs and eight stolen bases. His slugging percentage was a whopping .573. Ok, he's not going to have a slugging percentage over .550 if he plays the entire season, but he is a great player who will be overlooked by most fantasy owners. Don't you be one of them.
Those are just five of the many players who struggled with injuries in 2008, but could return to form and be the fantasy surprise of 2009.