2015 Outlook: How do you give back 19 homers and still have a top-15 season? Being Miguel Cabrera helps. He offset the loss with 26 more doubles while also eclipsing the century mark in runs scored and RBIs for the fifth straight season. Cabrera's 2015 outlook has, however, been muddied by a stress fracture in his ankle that was discovered when removing bone spurs in October. The ankle sidelined him here and there in late August -- and he posted a .691 OPS during that month -- but he rebounded with a 1.118 OPS and eight homers in September, so a healed Cabrera should be his perennially excellent self. Short of catastrophic news, he's unlikely to fall from the first round, but anything in the latter half is a discount to be enjoyed.
2015 Outlook: Encarnacion needed only 128 games to put up a full season's worth of numbers, but he no doubt left many wondering what could've been had he not missed 33 games in the middle of the summer. The lack of power in the game as a whole keeps Encarnacion's value extremely high even as he pushes into his 30s and carries an injury history that features seven trips to the DL, including one in each of the past two years. His power plays everywhere, with 58 of his 112 home runs over the past three years coming on the road, but he still leverages his home ballpark for a batting average boost. The Jays' improved lineup could give him another shot at 100 RBIs and a chance at his first 100-run season.
2015 Outlook: Abreu took the league by storm in 2014, hitting 10 home runs in two of his first three months, with an injury to his left ankle seemingly the only reason he didn't complete the feat in May as well. The power faded after the All-Star break, but his production remained strong, as Abreu traded the homers for base hits and walks. Despite just seven home runs in the second half (compared to 29 in the first), his OPS dipped just 24 points thanks to a .350 average and .435 OBP. Was the ankle a cause in this power slide or was it just the regression of his obscene 35 percent HR/FB rate from the first half? The latter seems most likely, but it gave him a chance to show how good he is at hitting. He'll remain a power-hitting force, and when you pair 30-plus homers with an average that should again exceed .290, the result is a truly elite fantasy commodity.
2015 Outlook: An early-season quad strain cost Beltre time in April, but he recovered to log 148 games and eclipse 600 plate appearances for the third time in four seasons with Texas. The spike in his walk rate (9.3 percent) was likely the result of seeing fewer pitches in the strike zone than ever due to the rash of injuries that depleted the lineup around him throughout the year. Beltre continues to put a lot of balls in play (12.1 percent strikeout rate), and while his isolated power slipped for the third year in a row (.168), he's still a very good hitter capable of being an asset in four categories. If the Rangers can keep Shin-Soo Choo and Prince Fielder healthy in 2015, Beltre stands to benefit in a big way. Although he will turn 36 in April, Beltre is aging gracefully, so he remains among the elite options at the hot corner even as he approaches the twilight of his career.
2015 Outlook: Donaldson followed up his 2013 breakout with improvements in four of the five standard roto categories, setting new career highs in home runs (29), runs (93), RBIs (98), and stolen bases (eight). His plate discipline remained in line with his 2013 numbers, as he had an 18.7 percent strikeout rate and 10.9 percent walk rate to go with his .255/.342/.456 line. A premium defender at third base, Donaldson has missed only eight games over the past two seasons. The A's traded him to Toronto as part of their latest roster reshaping during the offseason, and the move into a more hitter-friendly home park should pay immediate dividends after Donaldson hit .276/.361/.513 and 18 of his 29 home runs away from O.Co Coliseum last season. Of some concern is that Donaldson's splits against righties (.248/.329/.398) were much worse than his numbers against lefties (.275/.380/.627), but he handled right-handed pitching more capably in 2013 (.285/.371/.442). If nothing else, it's an indicator that Donaldson is more likely to carry an average close to his career .268 mark than the .301 from 2013, but his power numbers could improve with the move to Toronto.
2015 Outlook: Longoria played in all 162 games for the Rays last season, helping to ease concerns about his durability after he played in just 207 games between 2011 and 2012. After he eclipsed 30 home runs for the third time in his career in 2013, Longoria hit just 22 last season while his slugging percentage bottomed out at a career-worst .404. A big part of the regression seemed to come from a diminished ability to handle the outside part of the strike zone, which effectively reduced his ability to spray the ball with any authority to the opposite field. In fact, just one of his 22 home runs was hit to right field in 2014; seven of his 32 long balls were hit to the opposite field in 2013. Longo's eye at the plate eroded over the course of the season, too, as he walked at a mere 6.5 percent clip during the second half, well below his career average of 10.4 percent. Without a physical malady to explain the downturn in production, it might be prudent to lower the ceiling even if a rebound is imminent, but the 2014 line appears to be a healthy floor for Longoria at this stage of his career.
2015 Outlook: Nothing about Martinez's .335-32-103 season flew under the radar, especially since he was promptly rewarded with a hefty four-year contract over the winter. The campaign established him as a consensus top-50 option coming into February, but Martinez saw his stock fall considerably after the news broke that he would need surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his historically troublesome left knee. The expectation is that Martinez will be able to resume full activity in just 4 to 6 weeks, and while that means he will likely miss a large portion of spring training, the Tigers are confident he will be able to work himself back for the start the regular season. At 36 and coming off another knee surgery, Martinez will carry significant risk -- especially given his draft-day price -- but there's still plenty to like. He played 35 games at first base to avoid the dreaded DH-only tag, and while he seemed like a poor bet to hit 30 homers again even before the injury, Martinez has five other 20-plus-homer seasons and has failed to hit over .300 just once in a full season.
2015 Outlook: Rumors of Pujols' demise were greatly exaggerated in 2013. He rebounded with a strong 2014 effort, despite a second straight season below .800 OPS. Since he was once the best player in baseball, any sort of decline feels stark, but this is just what happens -- Father Time is undefeated. Pujols' decline has also coincided with a sharp drop in offense across the league. While no longer a truly elite option, he remains a force at the plate, having averaged 30 homers and 108 RBI per 162 games with the Angels. A 25-100 season should be the expectation for Pujols, as that lineup remains remarkably potent. Ten years ago, he would have been one of 31 players to have that kind of season, but he was one of just 11 to complete the feat in 2014.
2015 Outlook: The game's modern-day ironman registered fewer than 157 games for the first time ever in 2014, as neck problems cost him 120 games. Neck injuries are very scary, and words like "cervical fusion" are even scarier, but every report has Fielder set to be ready by spring training. Expectations were high for Fielder coming into 2014 as he shifted back into a hitter-friendly ballpark, which was supposed to help him reverse his declining power. He had just three homers before the injury, but the neck problem might simply make 2014 a washout altogether. So we regroup with Fielder to find him a year older and in a less-potent lineup, but still in a friendly ballpark and now equipped with an injury discount, making him an intriguing gamble for 2015.
2015 Outlook: The Mariners rewarded Seager's third straight 20-homer season with a seven-year, $100 million contract extension in November, securing an increasingly scarce resource for the long haul, as power-hitting third basemen have become something of a rare breed. Seager has proven to be durable, having played in at least 155 games in each of the last three seasons, and he improved his defense at the hot corner to earn his first career Gold Glove last season. Seager's home-road splits flipped in 2014, as he had much better numbers at Safeco Field (.300/.370/.523) than on the road (.240/.301/.393) after his OPS was 147 points better on the road in 2013. If Seager can find a way to combine the better of those home/road splits in the same year, there may be a 30-homer season in his bat. Even if he stays in the 20-25 range, Seager should sustain the benefits he received from the arrival of Robinson Cano, as Cano's upgrade to the Mariners' No. 3 hole in the lineup paved the way for Seager's career-high 96 RBI last season.
2015 Outlook: Carter's recipe against big league pitching has been consistent throughout his time in majors over the past three seasons -- walk sometimes, strike out a lot more, and hit the ball a long way when contact is made. Thanks to a .223 average in 2013, Carter's 37-homer campaign didn't garner as much attention as it probably should have, especially since he became an everyday player for the first time since arriving in the majors with Oakland in 2010. Those hoping to extract cheap power from Carter had to endure a .205/.281/.461 line to get his 19 first-half home runs, but he had much better fortune on balls in play in the second half and hit .252/.338/.521 with 18 homers after the All-Star break. There was no discernible skills growth in Carter's second-half surge, and his overall uptick in home runs appears to be the result of generating loft more consistently, as he pushed his fly ball rate to 51.4 percent in 2014 from 46.8 percent in 2013, which is particularly beneficial for a player who reliably sends more than 20 percent of his fly balls beyond the outfield wall.
2015 Outlook: It's hard to drop 27 homers and 90 points of batting average off the previous season's line and still log 525 plate appearances. Davis saw his average fall apart despite a batted-ball profile that should have yielded better results. A career-worst .242 BABIP is a worthy culprit, though he's not an automatic regression candidate, as the shift played a big role here. Davis had a .144 BABIP on groundballs, beating only Brian McCann (.128) among lefties with at least 100 groundballs. Left-handed hitters as a whole had a .241 BABIP on groundballs last year, so he was well off the pace. The .278 average from 2012-13 isn't coming back, but he may develop into our next Adam Dunn, albeit without the seven-year track record of averaging 40 homers and 100 RBI. Even flawed power is still very valuable.
2015 Outlook: Santana once again tested the patience of the large swath of fantasy owners who don't benefit from his OBP ability in 2014. In leagues where there was no tangible gain from an elite walk rate that eventually led to an MLB-high 113 bases on balls, owners struggled with his sub-.200 average for the first two-and-a-half months of the season. It went from .151 to .159 in May, making it difficult to bet on much improvement. However, after a concussion DL stint to start June, Santana took off and posted a .266/.384/.488 line with 21 homers and 68 RBI in his final 102 games. He no longer has catcher eligibility, but gaining third-base eligibility softens the blow and lowers the burden on his power, though his best home-run-hitting campaigns should still be ahead of him.
2015 Outlook: The start of Machado's 2014 campaign was delayed as he progressed through the final stages of his rehab from left knee surgery in April, returning to the field May 1. After a sluggish start in the first month (.220/.271/.284), Machado showed all the signs of a full breakout from June 1 on, as he hit .307/.350/.505 with 10 homers over his final 55 games before a right knee injury in August ended his season prematurely. After having surgery in late August, Machado was given a four- to six-month timetable to return, making it possible that he'll be cleared to join his teammates for full workouts at the start of spring training. Just 22 years old, Machado already has the benefit of more than 1,200 big league plate appearances under his belt. Further, he'll play half of his games in a hitter-friendly home park at Camden Yards, where he hit .299/.357/.522 in 2014. Of the middle-tier third basemen on the board this spring, Machado offers an unmatched combination of upside and an everyday lineup spot.
2015 Outlook: Moss hit only four homers after the All-Star break, and the reason for that became pretty clear in September, when the A's announced he had been playing through a torn labrum in his hip that would ultimately require surgery. Moss had that surgery on Oct. 21 and later was traded to the Indians for second-base prospect Joe Wendle. Ideally, the Indians would like to use him at either first base or DH -- whichever position isn't occupied by Carlos Santana -- with Nick Swisher manning right field. But between Swisher's knee and Moss' hip, there's a lot of uncertainty about who is going to be available and at what capacity. Before the injury, Moss was great, hitting 21 homers with an .878 OPS prior to the All-Star break. If he fully recovers, he might even benefit from the change in ballparks, as he consistently was hurt by his home ballpark in Oakland during the past three years.