Complete 2015 Projections

ESPN's projections are the product of an analysis of a player's past performance, growth or regression potential and expected playing opportunity. While the overall ranking is based in large part on the player's projected performance, it also takes into account risk factors such as age, injury history and past statistical fluidity, the players' ceiling (upside), as well as positional and categorical scarcity.

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PROJECTED 2015 SEASON STATS
1. Greg Holland, KC RPYEARGGSIPBBKWSVHDERAWHIPK/9
2014 Statistics65062.1209014601.440.9112.99
2015 Projections71070.0259944702.061.0112.73
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.
2. Alex Gordon, KC OFYEARABRHRRBIBBKSBAVGOBPSLGOPS
2014 Statistics5638719746512612.266.351.432.783
2015 Projections5737518756112711.265.343.428.771
2015 Outlook: Gordon may not truly stand out in any one statistical category, but he does enough across the board to warrant consideration as a second or third fantasy outfielder. Prospective owners will, however, want to keep a close eye on Gordon's health and production during spring training, as he underwent surgery on his wrist in late December. The expectation is that he will be ready for Opening Day, but wrist injuries have been known to sap power, and that's especially troubling for a player who possesses relatively modest pop for a corner outfielder to begin with. Assuming he is truly healthy to start the year, Gordon should once again occupy a spot in the heart of the Royals' lineup, providing useful RBI and run production in addition to double-digit steals and home runs. Some batting-average growth is possible, but should not be expected as Gordon enters his age-31 season.
3. Salvador Perez, KC CYEARABRHRRBIBBKSBAVGOBPSLGOPS
2014 Statistics57857177022851.260.289.403.692
2015 Projections57961187523751.276.305.427.732
2015 Outlook: It's rare that a player posts a career-high homer total only to have to his season be considered a disappointment. Perez might have achieved that feat in 2014, thanks in large part to a .260/.289/.403 line that marked his second straight season of decline in each of those three markers. The Royals have allowed their young catcher to shoulder extremely heavy workloads in each of the past two seasons, and it's fair to wonder whether a slight reduction in playing time might actually help his overall production. Perez offers plenty of raw power, and he's always managed to carry a low strikeout rate (career 12.2 percent), but he plays half of his games in one of the most pitcher-friendly environments in the American League. Defensively, he's outstanding, which fortifies his playing time even when he goes through a prolonged slump. Groin and knee injuries might have led to his slide in the second half, which included an ultra-aggressive approach and complete unwillingness to take bases on balls -- he posted a 1.2 percent walk rate over his final 64 games. Perez is on the short list of catchers capable of hitting 20 home runs, and he'll have a chance to make that happen this season if the second-half struggles were indeed the result of injuries and overuse.
4. Alex Rios, KC OFYEARABRHRRBIBBKSBAVGOBPSLGOPS
2014 Statistics49254454239317.280.311.398.709
2015 Projections530651061289424.275.312.415.727
2015 Outlook: Rios, coming off a top-15 finish among hitters in 2013, burned owners last season. He did hit .280 with 17 steals in 521 plate appearances, but that was where the fun ended. A double-digit home run contributor in each of his previous nine campaigns, Rios managed a mere four homers last season, and his RBI, run and steal totals fell off dramatically, as well. However, the low homer tally can be attributed in large part to an absurdly low 2.9 percent HR/FB rate (career 8.8 percent), and the counting stats suffered as a result of the numerous injuries that befell the Rangers. Rios battled a variety of injuries himself throughout the year (oblique, ankle, thumb), so there's reason for optimism heading into his first year with Kansas City. It's possible the move to Kauffman Stadium might offset the HR/FB return to a certain extent, but Rios is a relatively low batting-average risk and should benefit with an improved lineup around him. Further, he should get the green light on the basepaths plenty under manager Ned Yost.
5. Eric Hosmer, KC 1BYEARABRHRRBIBBKSBAVGOBPSLGOPS
2014 Statistics5035495835934.270.318.398.716
2015 Projections584711367471019.277.331.411.742
2015 Outlook: Hosmer had a nice October, but it can't completely erase the memories of his 2014 regular season. Though he played just 131 games, he wasn't injured until Aug. 1 and had just a .689 OPS through July, so it's not like he had a nagging, lingering injury all season. Righties found reasonable success against Hosmer, holding him to a .732 OPS, noticeably shy of the league's .766 OPS on average for lefties facing right-handed pitchers. He did hit righties to the tune of an .803 OPS in 2013 and .886 in 2011, so there has been good work by Hosmer on that front in the past. The inconsistency is frustrating, but such is life with a young player, as their growth is almost never linear. He's still just 25 years old, so the upside is still there, but we need to temper what that upside looks like considering he's a first baseman who has yet to eclipse 20 homers.
6. Yordano Ventura, KC SPYEARGGSIPBBKWSVHDERAWHIPK/9
2014 Statistics3130183.06915914003.201.307.82
2015 Projections3232192.08017212003.561.338.06
2015 Outlook: Watching Ventura pitch is a thrilling experience. His ability to change speeds in the upper 90s and low triple digits can often result in excited hyperbole, which seems warranted at the time but is not always represented in the box score. For a pitcher who combines unfair gas with a solid curveball and changeup, Ventura's 20.3 percent strikeout rate in 2014 leaves a lot to be desired. It would be unfair to expect the young righty to command his electric arsenal any better than his 1.30 WHIP illustrates, but the hope was that this package would result in at least a strikeout per inning, and that has yet to manifest itself against big league hitters. Factoring in the postseason, Ventura pitched 208⅓ innings as a rookie, so it's also fair to question how well his modest 180-pound frame will hold up going forward. By no means should owners view him as a finished product, as there's still plenty of upside here, and it's usually better to bet on stuff, which Ventura has in spades. However, as someone who lives in triple digits, saw national exposure during the postseason and was recently a highly touted prospect, the 23-year-old Dominican might have too much helium on draft day to return much of a profit.
7. Alcides Escobar, KC SSYEARABRHRRBIBBKSBAVGOBPSLGOPS
2014 Statistics57974350238331.285.317.377.694
2015 Projections58968449238529.272.304.360.664
2015 Outlook: Escobar finished 2014 tied with Troy Tulowitzki for shortstop value in standard mixed leagues, leading all American League shortstops with 31 steals and adding 74 runs to go with a strong .285 batting average. All in all, he got his career back on track after a disappointing 2013 season, thanks in part to a rebound in his BABIP, which has gone from .344 to .264 to .326 the past three seasons. Despite playing in 155-plus games in each of the past four years, Escobar reached 70 runs scored for the first time in 2014. His stolen-base production is safe, but the rest of his offensive game is a bit risky because of how volatile his BABIP has been. As that goes, so goes his value.
8. Wade Davis, KC RPYEARGGSIPBBKWSVHDERAWHIPK/9
2014 Statistics71072.02310993331.000.8513.63
2015 Projections75075.0269853302.401.0911.76
2015 Outlook: Davis posted one of the most valuable non-closing seasons from a reliever ever in 2014, notching 109 strikeouts and nine wins to go along with an outrageous 1.00 ERA and 0.85 WHIP. It's a common misconception that relief pitchers can't materially affect your ratios; they certainly can when they get to pitch in 71 games like Davis did. Last year, there were a lot of good setup men available on the waiver wire who ultimately outperformed the marginal starters who were instead drafted for the back ends of fantasy rosters. It might have been an outlier season in that respect, but that's an inefficiency that can be exploited in drafts with this class of reliever. Davis is unlikely to ever start again, given his two excellent seasons in relief compared to his mediocre record as a starter in the majors.
9. Lorenzo Cain, KC OFYEARABRHRRBIBBKSBAVGOBPSLGOPS
2014 Statistics471555532410828.301.339.412.751
2015 Projections576678603512927.262.307.372.679
2015 Outlook: A postseason star because of his defensive heroics and the beneficiary of a .380 BABIP (.301 batting average) in 2014, Cain will probably come off the board a little too early in fantasy leagues this season. He missed 17 games with a groin strain and still managed to steal a career-high 28 bases. However, the only other time he has stolen that many bases in a season as a professional was in 2006, when he stole 34 at low Class A with the Brewers. With that in mind, owners should be happy to get 20 steals out of Cain, especially with his turning 29 in April. In addition, his batting average should regress toward his .279 career mark without an inordinate amount of luck on balls in play, and he has never been an overly patient hitter (six percent career walk rate), so his OBP should also take a step back from his .339 mark of 2014. Kansas City's lack of thumpers in the middle of the lineup might benefit Cain, as he fits into the 2- or 3-hole as well as anyone they've got, but this still projects to be a mediocre offense, so above-average counting stats might not be there.
10. Danny Duffy, KC SPYEARGGSIPBBKWSVHDERAWHIPK/9
2014 Statistics3125149.1531139012.531.116.81
2015 Projections2929171.07114011003.681.267.37
2015 Outlook: The oft-injured Duffy remained healthy for most of the 2014 season and posted an impressive ERA and WHIP, thanks to some good statistical fortune. His .239 BABIP, 77 percent strand rate and 6 percent HR/FB rate were all very fortunate for a starting pitcher, but he helped create his own fortune with his electric fastball and solid curveball. Duffy was particularly deadly against fellow lefties, as he held them to a .137 batting average and permitted just three extra-base hits (all doubles) over 139 plate appearances. He's mainly a two-pitch pitcher, which is why his strikeout rate is low, despite the lively fastball and curve. A third pitch could take him to the next level, but health history and pending regression in 2015 make him a risky play.
11. Kelvin Herrera, KC RPYEARGGSIPBBKWSVHDERAWHIPK/9
2014 Statistics70070.0265940201.411.147.59
2015 Projections70070.0256741202.571.208.61
2015 Outlook: Because Greg Holland and Wade Davis were so fantastic, it's easy to overlook the job Herrera did in 2014, which included his not allowing a single homer all season en route to a 1.41 ERA. This despite his strikeout rate falling off a cliff, from 11.42 K/9 to 7.59. That drop might be attributable to Herrera's using his fastball more than ever (74.5 percent of the time); instead of trying to fool hitters with secondary offerings, he pounded opposing hitters with the fastball, and they had trouble making good contact. Since Holland and Davis aren't going anywhere, Herrera will remain mostly in a seventh-inning role in 2015.
12. Kendrys Morales, KC 1B, DHYEARABRHRRBIBBKSBAVGOBPSLGOPS
2014 Statistics3672884227680.218.274.338.612
2015 Projections48553176136900.260.314.423.737
2015 Outlook: The qualifying offer attached to Morales really seemed to depress his market, as teams weren't willing to part with their first-round pick as a result of signing him. Once he finally signed with the Twins, it was already June 8, and it appears that was just too late in the season for him to really get going. He languished with Minnesota en route to a .584 OPS before getting traded to Seattle, where he was only slightly better (.632 OPS). It's not hard to give Morales a pass for 2014, given the circumstances, but at 32 years old, there's likely some skill erosion, too. Holding his first-base eligibility definitely helps, and being just a year removed from 23 homers makes him a decent late-round gamble, especially because he will cost you next to nothing.
13. Omar Infante, KC 2BYEARABRHRRBIBBKSBAVGOBPSLGOPS
2014 Statistics5285066633689.252.295.337.632
2015 Projections5335695828639.266.301.377.678
2015 Outlook: Infante looked like a low-risk, low-upside pick for 2014 after four solid-if-unspectacular seasons. You were buying the solid batting average and hoping for double-digit power. He should've looked like a superstar to Royals fans who have been saddled with the worst second-base play in baseball over the past five seasons, but instead he came down to the level of his predecessors and posted his worst OBP since his rookie season in 2005. Infante's .275 BABIP was similarly a nine-year low and tanked his batting average by 66 points to .252 -- 22 points lower than any of the four prior seasons. He should bounce back a bit, but something in between his 2011 and 2012 output -- that is, an OPS in the low .700s -- is a more reasonable expectation.
14. Mike Moustakas, KC 3BYEARABRHRRBIBBKSBAVGOBPSLGOPS
2014 Statistics45745155435741.212.271.361.632
2015 Projections49551165536872.238.293.394.687
2015 Outlook: The past season was filled with ups and downs for Moustakas, who bottomed out with a demotion to Triple-A Omaha in May but peaked during the Royals' run to the World Series, which included his swatting five home runs in the playoffs. Considering that he slugged .350 after the All-Star break and just .296 in September, there was nothing in his regular-season finish that foreshadowed his October heroics. The postseason performance secured his place as the team's starting third baseman to begin 2015 -- perhaps against better judgment, as his slash line dipped across the board for the second straight season. Moustakas has averaged 15.7 home runs per season since 2012, and his excellent defense at third base should carry him to another 500 plate appearances on the larger side of a platoon. At age 26, with nearly 2,000 career plate appearances under his belt, Moustakas is a lifetime .236 hitter, and the lack of progress in his pull-heavy approach offers little reason to believe he will ever fully tap into the potential that made him the No. 2 overall pick of the 2007 draft.
15. Jason Vargas, KC SPYEARGGSIPBBKWSVHDERAWHIPK/9
2014 Statistics3030187.04112811003.711.276.16
2015 Projections3030189.04912410004.001.305.90
2015 Outlook: The soft-tossing lefty had one of his best professional seasons in 2014, posting an ERA under 4.00 for just the third time in his nine-year career. It is pretty indicative of his pitching style that his 128 strikeouts were just 13 shy of a career high. He is a pitch-to-contact innings eater who has the ability to win some games while submitting tolerable ratios, but there is relatively no upside here. Vargas will enter 2015 -- the second year of a four-year deal -- assured of a spot in the Royals' rotation, so innings are the most reliable thing he will offer. The 32-year-old projects to be most useful as a streaming option in weekly leagues when he has two starts or in daily leagues when he faces a particularly poor lineup.