2015 Outlook: Desmond -- not Mike Trout, Andrew McCutchen or Carlos Gomez -- is the only player in baseball to hit at least 20 homers and steal at least 20 bases in each of the past three seasons. His BABIP has remained consistently above league average during this run, but his ability to make contact has not. Desmond's strikeout rate has increased for three consecutive seasons from a near-league-average 21 percent to a much poorer rate of 28 percent in 2014. He does help in all four counting categories, as he was one of just five players in 2014 to go 20/20 while also scoring and driving in at least 70 runs. Desmond is entering the final year of his current deal, and he's looking to cash in his all-around game for a big payday on the free-agent market. There are flashier names at the shortstop position, but this guy has the health to match the production. Invest.
2015 Outlook: Even the savvy owners who targeted Rendon as a source of late-round value in 2014 had to be surprised by the return on their investment last season, as he became a five-category monster in his breakout campaign. The most unexpected part of his coming-out party may have been his work on the basepaths, as Rendon finished 17-for-20 on stolen-base attempts after swiping just eight on 10 attempts in his previous two seasons as a professional across all levels. After opening the season as the Nationals' primary second baseman, Rendon shifted over to third base when Ryan Zimmerman hit the disabled list, and he'll remain at the hot corner in 2015 as Zimmerman transitions to first base following the departure of Adam LaRoche. In addition to carrying similar lines against lefties and righties, Rendon showed no signs of slowing down over the course of the second half. He'll reprise his role as the Nationals' No. 2 hitter this season in what figures to be an excellent lineup.
2015 Outlook: Now that Adam LaRoche has departed via free agency to the White Sox, the Nats have opened up first base for Zimmerman to move across the diamond -- a move that was desperately needed, given his shoulder woes. Zimmerman has welcomed the move, saying it allows him to focus on his hitting. But it wasn't Zimmerman's shoulder that limited him to just 61 games in 2014 -- rather, he suffered a broken thumb and then a hamstring injury that limited him even once he returned in September. He appears to be fully healed now and will enjoy eligibility at third base and outfield for one more season. The risks with Zimmerman are obvious, but they're also going to be priced in on draft day. Your reward for taking a chance on him could be a 25-homer season.
2015 Outlook: Escobar has never been a major fantasy contributor, but at least you know what to expect from the 32-year-old shortstop. He lacks power and speed, but his defensive abilities keep him locked into the lineup at a shallow position, and he offers modest contributions in the runs and RBI categories without draining your batting average. Knee and shoulder injuries limited Escobar to 137 games with the Rays last season, but the expectation is he will be healthy entering spring training. He figures to open the season as the Nationals' starting second baseman, after being traded from Tampa Bay to Oakland and then from Oakland to Washington in January.
2015 Outlook: The Nats let Asdrubal Cabrera walk in free agency, but it was never realistic to think the defending NL Central champs would go into the year with Espinosa as their primary second baseman. Espinosa's continued inability to make regular contact has tanked his value and will put him behind Yunel Escobar on the depth chart to open 2015. At his best -- a term used loosely in this particular instance -- he was striking out more than a quarter of the time, but he somehow managed to blow that out of the water in 2014 with a 33.5 percent strikeout rate, third-highest among batters with at least 350 plate appearances. Even Dan Uggla was embarrassed for him. Over his career, he has averaged 18 home runs and 15 stolen bases per 162 games, but with a triple slash of .228/.299/.387, Espinosa will struggle to find enough playing time to get even half of those totals. At 28, this is who he is.