2016 Outlook: Those that had Abreu down for significant regression in 2015 were dead wrong. There was some give in his numbers, but he still put up a fantastic effort in his sophomore campaign with the White Sox. In fact, the projections in this very space last year prepared prospective owners for most of the fall off, pegging him for 78 runs, 34 homers, 100 RBI, and a .286 average. It was light on the runs and average, heavy on the homers, and virtually dead-on with the RBI. After just two seasons, Abreu already feels like that reliable rock upon which to build your team. He has a solid foundation of skills while also still holding some upside. If he sold out for more power, he could join the 40-homer club, but likely at the cost of some batting average.
2016 Outlook: A lot of guys would kill for a 3.41 ERA over a full season, but for Sale, it was the highest ERA of his major league career. Despite setting new full-season bests in strikeout rate and walk rate, he went 13-11 thanks to some defensive challenges behind him that led to a high batting average on balls in play and his not stranding as many runners as he had in seasons past. The concerns about his durability are overplayed as he's missed just a handful of starts, and he's getting better with age as his strikeout rate has improved each of the past four seasons. The additions of Todd Frazier amd Brett Lawrie on the infield should help convert more of Sale's batted balls to the left side into outs and hopefully get him a few more wins in 2016. Just keep him away from the Twins who hung four of the 11 losses and 27 of the 79 earned runs on Sale in 2015.
2016 Outlook: The trade from Cincinnati to Chicago should not affect Frazier's power numbers as his former park and current park are practically identical in terms of home run park factors. What should help Frazier out are the bats in front of him in the lineup. Adam Eaton, Melky Cabrera, and Jose Abreu project to be batting ahead of Frazier while he bats cleanup, which should provide frequent RBI opportunities and assist him in finally breaking the 90-RBI plateau. While Frazier is no Mike Trout, only Frazier and Trout have hit at least 25 homers, stolen at least 10 bases, driven in 80 or more runners and scored at least 80 times in both of the past two seasons. The only knock on Frazier is the batting average, but he plays every day and piles up the counting stats. There is no reason to expect differently in 2016.
2016 Outlook: The 27-year-old center fielder played in a career-high 153 games in 2015 while setting personal bests in hits (175), doubles (28), homers (14), RBI (56), walks (58), stolen bases (18) and slugging percentage (.431). His .144 ISO was also his best since his .153 mark in a 2012 rookie campaign where he only made 103 plate appearances. Eaton clearly has the ability to continue contributing in multiple categories, but his atypical power surge in 2015 may ultimately prove to be an outlier. Eaton had never hit more than seven home runs in five combined major-and-minor-league seasons with the Diamondbacks and White Sox prior to last season. As Chicago's everyday center fielder however, Eaton will have ample opportunity to continue his streak of progressively improving in most major offensive categories in each season so far in his career.
2016 Outlook: Weird things can happen in small samples for relievers. A great example is Robertson and how his ERA is apparently trending in the wrong direction even as his ERA indicators suggest he's been the same guy for the past three seasons. The real interesting trend is how he's flipped from being an extreme groundballer to a flyball pitcher. Flyball pitchers can be effective if they carry a high strikeout rate with low walk rates. Robertson's control is inconsistent but, combined with a stellar strikeout rate, is good enough to get away with a few extra lofted batted balls despite working in U.S. Cellular Field half the time. Robertson will be a strong contributor in saves, WHIP and punch outs. His ERA, on the other hand, is up to fate -- even more so than most pitchers.
2016 Outlook: Even after another 200-inning season in 2015 (his third straight), Quintana remains one of the most overlooked arms in standard league drafts. He's an afterthought because he does not stand out in any one category; the left-hander has had middling strikeout rates, and his ERA and WHIP have been useful but nothing to write home about. Further, Quintana cracked double-digit wins for the first time in 2015, having fallen one short in each of the previous three campaigns. The skills and consistency are worth paying for, though, and owners don't have to pay a premium for the peace of mind he provides. And Quintana made some important improvements in 2015, trimming his walk rate to a career-low mark while improving his ground-ball rate back above 47 percent. He also maintained a stellar HR/9 rate, and if he can correct some of the issues he had against right-handed hitters last year, Quintana could finally break free of the label of staff filler.
2016 Outlook: A lot of people are ready to write off Lawrie, and understandably so as he's never been able to live up to the hype incited by his first 150 at-bats as a major leaguer. In a quick call-up back in 2011, he posted a .953 OPS with nine homers and seven steals. And since he was a heralded prospect, this kind of performance was almost expected over a full season. Predictably, he hasn't come close to delivering on those expectations and yet now might not be the best time to move away from him. Consider that he's still just 26 years old, moving back to a hitter-friendly environment, finally stayed healthy in 2015 (his first DL-free season), has dual-eligibility (2B/3B), set career-highs in homers and RBIs, joins that offense that rebounded after a wretched start while also adding Todd Frazier this offseason, and now costs next to nothing to acquire. One. More. Chance.
2016 Outlook: After hitting .300 for three straight seasons, Cabrera's luck on balls in play ran out, and he hit .273/.314/.394 behind a .297 BABIP. Unfortunately, Cabrera's only real asset these days is his contact hitting -- he struck out in just 12.9 percent of plate appearances. But he's not hitting the ball hard enough to make it count in terms of power or average, and the result is a mediocre outfielder who mainly benefited from hitting in front of Jose Abreu. Cabrera still managed a respectable 70 runs and 77 RBIs as a result. However, he isn't running any more (3 stolen bases in 2015, 11 since 2013) and improvements to the White Sox's lineup in the form of Todd Frazier and Brett Lawrie threaten to push Cabrera down the batting order. Without Abreu hitting behind him, Cabrera's mediocrity will be even clearer.
2016 Outlook: San Diego seemed like the perfect home for Shields, whose main blemish throughout his career has been his struggles keeping the ball in the yard. Instead, in his first year as a Padre, Shields surrendered 33 home runs in as many starts, his highest total since giving up 34 homers with the Rays in 2010. Shields made up for it by posting his third 200-strikeout season in five years and he finished with a respectable 3.91 ERA and a 13-7 record, but his struggles were distressing. It's not like he was solely giving up homers on the road -- 19 of the 33 home runs actually came at home at spacious Petco Park. Shields still has the stuff to blow it by hitters, but his command and control were both shaky last year and he'll need to rein it in to get back to being the "Big Game James" that San Diego expected.
2016 Outlook: Rodon made his big-league debut less than 11 months after being drafted by the White Sox, needing just 34.1 innings of minor-league ball to convince management that he was ready. The southpaw flashed bouts of dominance between bouts of frustration, personified by a four-start stretch in July in which Rodon gave up zero, seven, zero, and eight earned runs in successive starts, facing 21 or more batters in each. The walk rate was higher than we want to see, a sin for which Rodon can be forgiven on the grounds of his professional inexperience. He has a repeatable delivery that should become more stable with time, giving a positive spin on his future control numbers. The fastball is plus but his two-plane slider is a difference-maker, finishing nearly 70-percent of his strikeouts as batters hit just .160 off the pitch.
2016 Outlook: There is no truth to the rumor that the White Sox traded for Brett Lawrie so that he and Garcia could talk longingly about the lofty projections beset them many moons ago. In fairness to Garcia, 2015 was really his only full season so it's hard to slap the "bust" label on him just yet. Or Lawrie for that matter (read his profile for more on that). As for Garcia, there are warts in the profile: a ridiculously low .108 isolated power, a .675 OPS that was 18th-worst in all of baseball and third-worst among outfielders, and a meager 7-for-14 success rate on the basepaths that could give him a red light when it comes to running. However, there is still raw power that showed itself in spurts and he did have shoulder surgery in 2014, so some of those 601 plate appearances were likely at far less than 100 percent health. His price has sunk enough from last year to make investing an low-risk proposition. Don't overload on Garcia shares if you play multiple leagues, but there's still 20-HR, 10-SB upside.
2016 Outlook: We are now a couple years removed from peak Austin Jackson, but it's hard to believe he's done as an above-average hitter at 29 years old. He doesn't have a team yet, so we don't really know what kind of playing time he will even be getting or where it will be, but he showed enough in those first four seasons to keep hope for a rebound. He had a line of .278/.344/.416 from 2010-13, including three above-average seasons and a career-year in 2012 (.856 OPS), but he has been a relatively empty speed asset ever since (.261/.310/.364 the last two years with 13 HR and 37 SB). Even as a fourth outfielder, the speed is alluring enough for deeper league benches.
2016 Outlook: Middle infielders do not age well, but Rollins has done his best to fight off Father Time. Four seasons ago, he went 20/30 while scoring 102 runs. The past two seasons, he's been a double-double guy, but last year was a compiling year. While he hit 13 homers, swiped 12 bases and scored 71 times, he hit .224 with a .285 on-base percentage. He was added on a minor league deal with the White Sox, as Chicago looks to buy Tim Anderson some more time to mature in the minors. Rollins will compete with Tyler Saladino for the band-aid role at shortstop until Anderson is ready, but the glory days have passed J-Roll by.
2016 Outlook: A popular closer candidate entering 2014, Jones injured his elbow early on that season and ultimately underwent Tommy John surgery. His recovery would keep him out until August of last year, but Jones looked like his old self upon his return, routinely touching the high-90s with his fastball while flashing the same dominant slider. Jones had an 8.3 percent walk rate last season, which is more than acceptable given the stuff. Fears of re-injury to the elbow are legitimate given how hard and often he throws the slider, so first things first, Jones will need to show he can stay healthy in 2016. Further, David Robertson represents a road block to the closer role, but Jones, now 30, still easily profiles as a closer if his body ever cooperates.