Buyer beware: Searching for young gems is iffy

As fantasy baseball continues to grow in popularity and “experts” persist on developing increasingly sophisticated methods to track a player’s value, the ability for a fantasy owner to discover an unknown yet productive player has become paramount.

Taking a risk on a young star can certainly reap rewards, but if an owner is willing to use up a roster spot on an up-and-coming player, they must also be alert and recognize if that player could be prone to extended slumps — especially ones brought on by injuries.

Two such notable examples of talented newcomers that have experienced up-and-down years due to injuries are Los Angeles Angels teammates Casey Kotchman and Reggie Willits.

The 24-year-old Kotchman, a former first-round pick, had struggled with high expectations and a history of injuries entering this season, seemed to put those past troubles behind him with a blistering May in which he hit .363, boosting his average at one point to .333. However, after suffering a concussion June 16, Kotchman has not been the same player. In 12 games since returning from the injury, Kotchman has gone just 3-for-40, dropping his average to .291, his lowest mark since May 25.

Like Kotchman, Willits — a second-year player — has shown vast signs of potential, but he has also struggled in dealing with injuries. Willits was hitting .415 in early May and as recently as June 23 was leading the team at .352. But after crashing into the outfield wall making a spectacular catch against the Kansas City Royals on June 27, Willits has not found the same stroke that proved so successful early in the year. After sitting out three games because of the injury,

Willits has gone 2-for-23 in six games, dropping his average to .312, and putting him in danger of losing playing time to fellow outfielder Garret Anderson.

However, as Houston Astros rookie Hunter Pence has proven, some young players can bounce back from an injury and continue to be productive.

WHO’S HOT?

» Manny Corpas, RP, Rockies

» Chris Duncan, OF, Cardinals

» Nick Markakis, OF, Orioles

» Shannon Stewart, OF, A’s

» Brendan Harris, IF, Devil Rays

WHO’S NOT?

» Dan Wheeler, RP, Astros

» Rickie Weeks, 2B, Brewers

» Aaron Hill, 2B, Blue Jays

» Gary Matthews Jr., OF, Angels

» Scott Rolen, 3B, Cardinals


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