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: Price pounds the strike zone more than nearly anyone else in baseball, walking less than four percent of the hitters he's faced the past two years. After a few health scares in 2013, Price stayed healthy in 2014 and saw a big spike in his strikeout rate, going from 20.4 percent to 26.9 percent. His overall results with the Tigers weren't quite as good as with the Rays, but he's still set to remain among the elite, and he'll likely have better defensive support if the Tigers can regain the services of Jose Iglesias at shortstop.
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: Even though Reyes was hurt on Opening Day and went to the disabled list, he returned just more than two weeks later and played the rest of the season, ending up in a tie with Ian Desmond as the second-most valuable shortstop in standard mixed-league formats. Even at age 31, his speed has held up well, and he's swiped at least 30 bases in four of the past five seasons. Getting to double-digit home runs will remain a challenge for Reyes, as his ISO has declined for four consecutive seasons, but that's not what fantasy owners are looking for anyway. However, while he was mostly healthy in 2014, we're still looking at a player with just one season of 150 games played out of the past six. He's a strong, but risky, three-category producer.
2015 Outlook: Do believe the hype. While Springer's major league career got off to a slow start after his mid-April promotion -- with the star prospect's power failing to translate early on -- he eventually found his groove (to put it mildly). Springer hit .294/.385/.647 with 10 homers and 25 RBIs in May, and though his average soon fell off a cliff, he maintained a torrid home-run pace throughout the rest of the first half. A left quad strain, suffered shortly after the All-Star break, ended Springer's season prematurely, but GM Jeff Luhnow said in November that Springer was fully recovered and would go through his normal offseason routine, easing any remaining fears entering 2015. Sure, Springer strikes out far too often (33 percent last season), making him a major batting average liability -- and he attempted just seven steals in 78 games with the big club -- but the 25-year-old's raw power is virtually unparalleled, and he has the speed to easily crack the 20-steal threshold. Here's hoping new manager A.J. Hinch is more aggressive than Bo Porter was on the basepaths.
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: Unless you're in an OBP league, don't discount Cespedes too much following his largely forgettable run with the Red Sox at the end of last season. Sure, his 5.4 percent walk rate and .190 ISO from 2014 were career lows, but Cespedes was able to shave four percent off his strikeout rate from 2013 thanks to a three percent reduction in swinging-strike rate, and he was able to muster 22 home runs despite just a 9.6 percent HR/FB. Cespedes' contact rate improved by nearly seven percent, jumping from 73.7 percent to 80.0 percent, and he improved his OPS against right-handed pitching by more than 100 points (from .672 to .777). Granted, his decline against lefties was troubling, with his OPS against southpaws dropping a whopping 214 points (from .880 to .666), but the 29-year-old's raw power is undeniable and there's reason to think his numbers can improve in a stacked Detroit lineup.
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: It looked like a carbon-copy season for Kinsler in 2014, but what happened to the walk rate? He ranged from 7.7 percent to 12.3 percent in his first eight seasons before a hideous 4 percent last season. At least he continued to avoid striking out (10.9 percent), something he has done with aplomb throughout his career. The biggest concern with his trade from Texas to Detroit was the shift in home ballpark, and the 61-point drop in home OPS justified those concerns. His road batted-ball profile included a 22 percent line-drive rate that would have played better in Comerica, though he managed just a 17 percent mark at home. The 33-year-old is still a solid bet at the keystone, but teen totals in homers and stolen bases look like the high end after he averaged 20/20 when healthy over his first seven seasons.
2015 Outlook: Ortiz has become an ageless wonder, and he'll enter 2015 at age 39, coming off his second straight 30-homer, 100-RBI campaign. If there's a wart here, it's that he hit just .263 last season, falling below .300 for the first time since 2010, but the dip ties to a .256 BABIP that was 65 points lower than this 2013 mark and 45 points below his career level (.301). A closer look at his batted-ball profile shows fewer line drives in exchange for more fly balls, but the shift wasn't dramatic enough to fully account for the batting-average drop, and it's reasonable to think that he'll push his average back toward the .300 level again this season. If his skills remain stable -- and by all indications other than age, they should -- Ortiz might be able to improve his RBI and run totals with better health among the bats around him in what figures to be a loaded Boston lineup.
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: A 50-game ban for his involvement with the Biogenesis scandal at the end of the 2013 campaign diminished Cruz's stock significantly entering free agency, forcing him to settle for a one-year, $8 million deal, but he recouped that value, and then some, with an outstanding season for Baltimore. Cruz led the major leagues with 40 home runs, 25 of which came on the road, and he broke the 100-RBI threshold for the first time in his career. He trimmed his strikeout rate from 2013 by more than three percent, from 23.9 percent to 20.6 percent, while also slightly improving his walk rate. Cruz's .288 BABIP last season was more than 10 points below his career average, though his HR/FB rate of 20.4 percent was just the fourth-highest mark of his career. The 34-year-old cashed in with a four-year, $57 million contract from the Mariners in the offseason, and while his power expectations should be tempered a bit with the move to Safeco Field, there's no reason to think he can't approach 30 homers if he can stay on the field for 140 or more games.
2015 Outlook: When Samardzija first reached the major leagues, his control was a major problem, but over the last two years, it's improved to the point where it's actually become an asset. He once walked 13.2 percent of the batters he faced, but in 2014, that rate slipped down all the way to 4.9 percent. Despite the big improvement in his ratios, Samardzija had a hard time notching wins, thanks to bullpen collapses and poor run support -- he got just 3.55 runs of support in a league where 4.07 was the average. Those factors should change with Samardzija's offseason trade to the White Sox, whose hitting has been boosted by the additions of Adam LaRoche and Melky Cabrera, while they've added David Robertson and Zach Duke to the back end of their bullpen. The change in ballparks and a little change in the normal ebb and flow of luck on batted balls might hurt Samardzija's ERA and WHIP, but he'll probably do better in the win column as a tradeoff.
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: Between the regular season and the postseason, Holland saved a whopping 53 games for Kansas City in 2014, with a mere two blown opportunities. The right-hander didn't allow a hit in his final eight appearances of the regular season, and allowed just one run in 11 innings during the Royals' improbable October run to the World Series. He surrendered multiple earned runs just once in 76 combined appearances, and issued multiple walks just three times. With three home runs allowed, Holland has now given up all of 14 long balls in 275 innings for his career, and he improved against opposing lefties for a third straight year. There's always a chance the workload could catch up to Holland, but he hasn't shown any signs of slowing down (95.8 mph average fastball velocity last season) and thus is still among the most appealing closers in fantasy entering 2015.