Some players will remember their 2016 season with fondness. But for others, the end of the calendar year could not have come soon enough. Whether it was due to injury, subpar performance or a combination of the two, these guys failed to live up to the expectations of both their real teams and their fantasy owners. The good news is that the new year really does mean a clean slate. While a major bounceback in 2017 is no guarantee, underachievers from the previous season, especially underachievers who sport a solid big league track record, is the first group I focus on when beginning my annual draft prep. Whether or not I will aggressively target all of the below players has yet to be determined, but let's just say that I'm intrigued.
Miguel Sano - Sano appeared in only 116 games last season thanks to a variety of ailments, but the Twins slugger still tallied 25 home runs and 66 RBI. With 43 homers over his first 196 big league games, the power is clearly legit, and Sano doesn't even turn 24 until May. Grab him at a discount now before it's too late.
Lorenzo Cain - Health, not production level, was the problem for Cain last year, though duplicating his 2015 stat line of .307-16-72-101-28 was going to be a tall order anyway. He's always been injury-prone, but Lorenzo's expected 2017 draft price takes that risk into account, and then some. I've seen him fall outside the top-30 among outfielders in many mocks, and if his market value remains roughly the same come draft day, I'll be all over this five-category contributor.
Lucas Duda - Limited to just 47 games due to injury last season, Duda might slip more than he should in 2017 drafts. Keep in mind that he launched a combined 57 homers from 2014-2015, and he managed to swat an impressive seven home runs in only 153 at-bats last year. He's a batting average liability, but there's plenty of profit potential here, and bump him up your rankings in OBP leagues (career .343 OBP).
Jason Heyward - What happened last season? I don't have the answer, but I've never been much of a Heyward supporter from a fantasy perspective. How many times has he recorded at least 20 homers in a season? Once. How about 80-plus RBI? Once. Or 90-plus runs? Once. Yet he's routinely drafted as a "high upside" top-30 OF. Well, that won't be the case this time around, which is why I'm at least thinking about him. But ultimately, I'll likely pass.
Dallas Keuchel - Keuchel was on my Do Not Draft list heading into 2016, despite the two straight stellar campaigns and the Cy Young season in 2015. The cost to draft him would be substantial, and I needed to see more before I could value him as a legitimate fantasy ace. As it turned out, I made the right call. The Astros southpaw would enter the All-Star break with a 4.80 ERA and 1.37 WHIP. Keuchel posted better, though far from ace-caliber, results in the second half, registering a 3.94 ERA and 1.08 WHIP before shoulder inflammation ended his season in late-August. Word is that Keuchel pitched through the injury for much of the season, which is actually good news when it comes to his 2017 outlook, as this could at least partly explain his struggles. Although it's probably a mistake to expect a return to ace form, as a third or fourth starter in a 12-team mixed league, he's well worth the investment.
Felix Hernandez - I might be placing too much weight on the past, but I find it hard to believe that after one injury-marred season, the days of Felix being a valuable fantasy commodity are over. Perhaps his days as a fantasy ace are over, but I can't even say that for sure. I could be wrong, and I really don't have any statistical evidence to support my hunch. Then again, don't underestimate the value of a hunch.
Zach Steinhorn is the 2016 Mixed Auction Tout Wars Champion. Follow him on Twitter @ZachMLB