Fantasy owners are people too. And, like most people, fantasy owners strive to avoid pain. That's why they often abstain from risky roster moves.But we've all heard the refrain "No pain, no gain." Sure, a team chockfull with players who fared well in 2015 would be great. But we are
Fantasy owners are people too. And, like most people, fantasy owners strive to avoid pain. That's why they often abstain from risky roster moves.
But we've all heard the refrain "No pain, no gain." Sure, a team chockfull with players who fared well in 2015 would be great. But we are no longer living in '15, and '16 will not follow the script of prior campaigns.
MLB.com's fantasy cheat sheet: A draft-day necessity
If you are looking to finish fifth this year, then go ahead and make safe picks at every position. But if your goal is to win it all, a few "stick-out-your-neck" selections may be necessary. And what's the best way to take such a leap? By targeting rebound candidates who have previously been there and won that on the Major League level.
So, who are the likeliest rebound darlings for 2016? Let's take a look:
Matt Wieters, catcher, Orioles
Despite having played in just 101 games across the past two seasons, Wieters has the potential to be a top-5 catcher in 2016. After all, he averaged 22 homers and 77 RBIs per season from '11-13. Hitting in a talented Orioles lineup that added Pedro Alvarez and Mark Trumbo in the offseason, the Georgia Tech alum could be poised for a strong season if he can get past his elbow woes.
Devin Mesoraco, catcher, Reds
Mesoraco was a mixed-league difference-maker in 2014, when he hit .273 with 25 homers and 80 RBIs across 384 at-bats. But as a result of a hip injury that limited him to 51 plate appearances, the righty slugger failed to produce a strong follow up performance in '15. Everyone deserves a second chance, though, and owners who give one to Mesoraco could wind up with a top-5 catcher.
Ian Desmond, shortstop, Rangers
Desmond fell to waivers in many mixed leagues last season, the result of hitting above .235 in just two of six months. But despite those struggles, he still managed to compile 19 homers and 13 steals. This notable power-speed option -- who was a 20-20 player each year from 2012-14 -- could make a major mixed-league impact by experiencing a slight resurgence in the contact-rate arena in '16.
Anthony Rendon, third baseman, Nationals
As a result of a terrific 2014 showing in which he produced 21 homers, 83 RBIs, 111 runs scored and 17 steals, Rendon entered '15 as a first-round pick in many fantasy drafts. The native Texan did not live up to expectations, though, starting the year on the disabled list and finishing with uninspiring stats across 80 contests. Still, Rendon -- who is eligible at second and third base -- could return to fantasy glory in '16, with help from his favorable lineup spot in front of reigning NL MVP Award winner Bryce Harper.
David Wright, third baseman, Mets
Wright is unlikely to ever again match the production of his peak years from 2005-12, but he still has the potential to help mixed-league squads if he can recover from a 38-game '15 campaign. The 33-year-old is no longer a stolen-base threat, but he can hit for average and supply his share of power. Expected to hit out of a premium lineup spot, Wright is the perfect late-round flier for those with room for a third baseman on their bench.
Jayson Werth, outfielder, Nationals
Werth excelled from 2007-14 when healthy, hitting .282 with a .377 on-base percentage. But the outfielder was bested by the injury bug in '15, playing in just 88 games and struggling when in the lineup. Fantasy owners should pass on Werth early in drafts, but taking a late-round chance on a player with five-category talent is wise. If things go right, those who select him there could be rewarded with 15-20 homers, 70 runs and 70 RBIs.
Hanley Ramirez, outfielder, Red Sox
Ramirez justified his early-round status early in 2015, thriving during his first 21 games with Boston (.293 average, 10 homers). The veteran struggled a great deal after that, though, hitting .238 with nine homers from May 1 onward. Set to move from left field -- where he had a tough time defensively -- to first base, this 32-year-old still has the potential to hit for a high average with 25 homers and more than 10 steals.
Adam Wainwright, starter, Cardinals
Wainwright may actually benefit from missing most of last season with a torn left Achilles, as the workhorse had started to show signs of wear late in 2014. Having registered a 2.80 ERA, a 1.12 WHIP and an 8.0 K/9 rate since the outset of '09, the right-hander has proven that he can be a No. 2 mixed-league starter when on top of his game. Unlikely to be one of the first 20 pitchers to vacate '16 draft boards, Wainwright has the potential to be a major bargain.
Jeff Samardzija, starter, Giants
Coming off a career year in 2014 (2.99 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 202 strikeouts), Samardzija struggled mightily (4.96 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 163 whiffs) in his single season with the White Sox. But the owner of a lifetime 8.2 K/9 rate could surely turn it around in '16, his first with the Giants. With help from a pitcher-friendly home park, outstanding pitch framer (Buster Posey) and superior defensive unit, the right-hander has a good chance to combine solid ratios with 200 punchouts.
Jason Grilli, reliever, Braves
Grilli was great when healthy in 2015, converting 24 of 26 save chances and posting a 2.94 ERA before rupturing his left Achilles in mid-July. Recovered and ready to return, the 39-year-old is expected to split Atlanta's ninth-inning duties with the talented-but-unproven Arodys Vizcaino. Grilli could be an inexpensive source of saves and strong ratios for fantasy owners who expend a late-round pick on him.
Fred Zinkie is the lead fantasy baseball writer for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @FredZinkieMLB