Have you ever been burned by an MLB player so badly that you've taken the oath to NEVER draft that player again? You know what I mean, right? We're talking about the guy who single-handedly killed your fantasy season and no matter how low he goes the next year, you'll pass by him every single time.
Heck, some folks probably have a list like that from last season with names such as Josh Hamilton, Matt Kemp and Ryan Braun on it.
But each year is a new season for fantasy owners and like a good closer you have to have a short memory. It's time to forget about those past failures and jump back into the fire with these same guys if the opportunity looks too good to be true. And this year I see a whole list of veterans whose values have fallen too far for my liking. Take a look at the following players, who in just one year's time has seen their stocks plummet among fantasy owners. I think now is the time to buy these penny stocks and here's why:
Matt Cain: After going 16-5 with a 2.79 ERA for the world champion Giants in 2012, Cain's Average Draft Position (ADP) in the NFBC was 40. A lot of fantasy owners made him the ace of their staffs in 2013, but he failed miserably, going 8-10 with a 4.00 ERA. There are a lot of fantasy owners out there who would never draft him again, but I wouldn't give up on Cain just yet, especially with his ADP at 103 right now. Cain was one of the best pitchers of the second half as he went 3-4 in 11 starts with a 2.36 ERA before landing on the DL for the first time in his career. He failed to keep the ball down during the first half and was hurt by home runs and poor bullpen support. But the skills are still there and the price is too good to ignore in 2014.
Billy Butler: Few players who were healthy all of last year have seen their value drop more than Butler, whose ADP in 2013 was 42 and now he's being drafted around 150th overall. Butler's 2012 season was too good to believe as he hit .313 with 29 homers and 107 RBIs. But despite playing in all 162 games last year, Butler finished at .289-15-82, disappointing numbers all around. Still, Butler is just 27 and his line-drive swing can easily return to a .300 level, 20-HR season. He seems to be dropping too far for someone who is guaranteed at-bats and is in the prime of his career.
Starlin Castro: Few players burned fantasy owners more than Castro did last year. With an ADP of 34, he was a third-round burn gone bad. Not only was the production down considerably, but it also looked like he just didn't care how badly he played. His strikeouts were way up (100 to 129), his stolen bases were down (25 to 9) and he swung at everything, leading to a horrid on-base percentage of .284. Castro hasn't been the same hitter since the Cubs fired hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo in July of 2012, but the hope is that manager Rick Renteria will get through to him this year and make him a better hitter. The skill set, the potential and the declining value (ADP of 119) make him too good to ignore on Draft Day.
Aramis Ramirez: After two straight healthy seasons, Ramirez hurt his knee in the spring training opener and eventually missed 60+ games in 2013. He showed a similar skill set once he was healthy and he had a solid second half (.301-7-23, .387 OBP) after coming off the DL in mid-August. There are no guarantees with a 35-year-old third baseman, but for a guy who went 49th at this time last year to now going 160th overall just seems to be too big of a fall. Take the risk as he hits behind Ryan Braun and puts up solid numbers during a rebound season.
Pablo Sandoval: Heading into his free agent season, Sandoval has millions of reasons to get in shape and perform in 2014. There are reports that he lost weight this offseason as he played in the Venezuelan Winter League, which would be a good sign. His power was down last year as he came to camp well overweight, but after shedding 20 pounds he did finish strong, hitting .294-5-37 with a .371 OBP after the All-Star break. He was a Top 100 pick in 2013, but right now in NFBC drafts he's going around 161. That's too low for a player who should be motivated to earn a multi-million dollar free agent contract.
Injuries are the main reason that a few other players have fallen too far in the last year. Johnny Cueto's ADP in 2013 was 87, but after spending most of last season on the DL he is being picked around 182. If healthy, Cueto will be a bargain at that spot. Brett Lawrie's ADP was in the Top 40 just two years ago, but it fell to 81 last year and 150 now. He needs to stay healthy to have any value at all, but he just turned 24 and still has plenty of time to produce. Desmond Jennings has also been a major disappointment these last two years and his ADP of 123 is a far cry from last year's ADP of 66. There's no guarantee that he will ever become a 20-20 hitter, but the potential is there. I'm not ready to give up on him just yet.
And finally, the one who burned us the most last year, Josh Hamilton, will be there when it's your turn to draft this year. He will be there in the first five rounds, maybe even the sixth or seven rounds. Will you take him again or is the burn too deep to ever grab him again?
Reports are that he's put on 20 pounds of muscle this offseason and is physically back to the level he was at in Texas. Unfortunately, NFBC owners aren't buying into the hype as his ADP has dropped from 78 to 88 in the last two weeks and he's even gone outside of the Top 100 recently.
Not every veteran will rebound in 2014 as we'd like, but when they drop too far sometimes the reward is well worth the risk. For most of the players listed above, I see too much value in their current ADPs to ignore.
(Greg Ambrosius is the founder of the National Fantasy Baseball Championship and the Director of Fantasy Games at STATS LLC. For more information on the NFBC, go to nfbc.stats.com or contact Greg at email@example.com.)