The great thing about rebound players is the potential of getting a late-round steal. Many owners will pass on a guy with great upside due to a player's poor previous year or injury concerns. I've compiled a list of guys that deserve a second chance. Let me preface this by saying this does not mean reach for these players, but rather let them fall into your lap at a discount.
Grady Sizemore - OF, Cleveland Indians
A sure 1st round pick in 2008 after putting together his first 30/30 season, Sizemore let everyone (including myself...I took him #6 in my draft) down with an injury-riddled season that cost him 56 games. While his power was there early on, his AVG (.220 through May) and speed (7 SB with less than a 50% success rate through May) were not. After a couple of stints to the DL, Grady was finally shut down in September. Major elbow surgery and a sports hernia later, Sizemore is on pace to be at 100% by Opening Day. I won't go out on a limb and say he's 30/30 material once again just yet, but 20/20 isn't out of the question. Just keep in mind, he's put together a .264 AVG over the past 3 seasons and there's also talks of him moving from leadoff to batting 3rd which may hurt those SB numbers, but could potentially help his RBI output.
Brandon Webb - SP, Arizona Diamondbacks
The 2006 CY Young winner only pitched 4 innings in 2009 before landing on the DL; and was eventually shut down for the season after arthroscopic shoulder surgery. Webb is reportedly getting stronger with every throwing session this spring, and as of now is slated to pitch the second game of the year. In his last full season in 2008, Webb finished second in the CY Young vote after amassing a 22-7 record with a 3.30 ERA. If healthy, expect Webb to revert back to his old self. The 30 year old has been a workhorse his entire career, throwing at least 200 innings in 5 of his 7 seasons, while never having an ERA over 3.59. Also of note is Arizona picking up Webb's option for 2010. This shows the faith they have in his recovery, but also means Webb will be pitching for a 2011 contract, whether in Arizona or elsewhere.
Carlos Quentin - OF, Chicago White Sox
Carlos hit just .236 with 47 runs and 56 RBI while being limited to 99 games last season due to plantar fasciitis in his left foot. However, Quentin believes a new offseason training program will lead to a healthy, productive 2010. This new regimen, including a hyperbaric chamber he purchased in '08 as a way to heal his broken wrist, Quentin says he expects to stay in the lineup after two injury-shortened campaigns. The fact that he still hit 21 homers in 99 games leads you to believe the 36 he hit in 2008 were no fluke. He may also split duties with Andruw Jones at DH to rest his body.
Ricky Nolasco - SP, Florida Marlins
Many consider Nolasco's 2009 season a disappointment. For the record, I am not one of those many. Sure, at first glance, a 5.06 ERA itself is disappointing. However, if you were to take out Nolasco's worst 3 games (in which he was shelled for 26 runs in a combined 9 innings), the ERA drops to 3.99. Starts like that earned him a trip to the minors in May, and upon his return Ricky finished strong: 11-4 with a 3.82 ERA, 141 strikeouts, and a phenomenal 1.08 WHIP from June 7 to the end of the season. Altogether, he struck out 195 batters in 185 innings in his "down year", and is slated as the Marlins #2 starter behind a youthful and talented team that could make him a top 25 pitcher by season's end.
Corey Hart - OF, Milwaukee Brewers
Hart had back-to-back 20/20 seasons with the Brewers in '07-'08, and had many believing he had 30/30 talent as he headed into his prime. Flash forward to 2009, where Hart hit for a .260 AVG, while hitting 12 homers and stealing 11 bags. Those numbers would have surely increased, though, had he not missed the final months of the season with an appendectomy and two broken fingers. At 28, is Hart done or was last year just bad luck? He's going undrafted in some early mock drafts, but I find it hard to ignore those two previous seasons where he combined to knock in 172 runs along with the power and speed. He won't be going undrafted in any of my leagues.
Daisuke Matsuzaka - SP, Boston Red Sox
Dice-K comes into his fourth year with the Sox in serious need of a bounce back year. Perhaps more disturbing than his 4-6 record and 5.76 ERA in just 59 1/3 innings in the 2009 season is the fact that Matsuzaka was essentially "banished" from the clubhouse due to arguments with the training staff over his preparation for the season. It was later revealed Dice-K was injured even before he attended the World Baseball Classic and then hid the injuries from the training staff. In any event, Matsuzaka came back for the last month of the season pitching to an encouraging 3-1, 2.22 ERA mark. With a clean bill of health, fans and fantasy owners will be looking for the electrifying stuff that led him to 33-15, 3.72 ERA in '07 and'08.
Chris Davis - 1B, Texas Rangers
After hitting .285 with 17 homers during half of the 2008 season, Davis left much to be desired for 2009 fantasy owners. Davis struck out once every 2.4 at-bats while hitting just .202 into July eventually landed him in the minors for 2 months. When he returned in August, Davis improved his plate discipline (one K per 3.9), hit .308, raised his slugging percentage by 80 points, and knocked in 26 runs in 36 games. If that production can overlap into the 2010 campaign, the 24 year old Davis could put up some big numbers in the middle of a very strong Rangers' lineup.
Carlos Zambrano - SP, Chicago Cubs
Cubs skipper Lou Piniella hinted that "Big Z" may have been too big in 2009. Zambrano packed a little bit too much extra weight on his 6-foot-5, 250-pound frame, which may have been to blame for a 9-7 season that saw him make only 28 starts. If the Cubs are to compete in the NL Central, Zambrano will need to step up and make good on the $17.9 million he's making this year. Early indications are he's already making strides as the native Venezuelan decided to stay in the states this year to train, and has already reported to Arizona 15 lbs lighter. He's also ditched his wild and erratic cut fastball, saying he wants to focus on the pitching that made him so successful earlier in his career.
Kelly Johnson - 2B, Arizona Diamondbacks
The former first round pick finds himself in Arizona this year after being non-tendered by the Braves during the off-season. Just three years ago, Johnson was establishing himself as a solid fantasy option at second base (91 runs, 16 HR, 68 RBI in '07). Overall, he took a step back in '08 power-wise, but he raised his average (.276 to .287) and the rest of his line looked similar, leading many to believe 2009 would be the year he'd put it all together and have a breakout year. That simply wasn't the case. Kelly struggled from the get-go, hitting .203 in April and never recovering. He eventually landed on the DL, consequently losing his job to Martin Prado. With a fresh start with the D'Backs at hitter-friendly Chase Field, Johnson will get a chance to prove the naysayers wrong. With a dramatic drop in talent between first and second tier second basemen, he could make a splash this year in the desert...and at an undoubtedly discounted price.
Gavin Floyd - SP, Chicago White Sox
After starting the season 4-6 with a 6.12 ERA, fantasy owners were kicking themselves for paying the high price tag for Floyd following his breakout 17-win season in '08. His performance over the rest of the season, however, seemed to warrant the high expectations. Floyd's 1.23 WHIP was a career high, and his 7.6 K/9, 2.75 BB/9, as well as allowing less than a hit per inning deserved much better than last season's results. Look for a breakout year from the 27 year old, especially with the Chi-Sox powerful bats protecting him.
Didn't see your "rebound" candidate listed? Let's us know who's on your shopping list this season.