2015 Outlook: Stanton was on his way to reaching the 40-home run plateau for the first time in his career when he was hit in the face by a pitch in Milwaukee during the second week of September, an incident that abruptly ended his season with several facial fractures. Even while being limited to 145 games, Stanton matched his previous career high with 37 home runs while setting new bests in RBIs (105), runs scored (89) and stolen bases (13), reaping the benefits of a developing Marlins lineup around him. As a hitter, he didn't change much from 2013, showing nearly identical strikeout (26.6 percent) and walk rates (14.7 percent), and gaining ground in the batting average department following a 40-point surge in BABIP (.353). Already with 2,640 plate appearances in the big leagues under his belt, Stanton turned 25 in November and the Marlins decided to make a long-term commitment to their young slugger, signing him to a 13-year, $325 million contract that includes an opt-out provision after the 2020 season and a full no-trade clause. The organization also made a concerted effort to improve Stanton's supporting cast, acquiring Dee Gordon, Martin Prado and Mike Morse to bolster the lineup. Don't be surprised if he sustains the gains in runs and RBIs from a year ago while providing even more homers in 2015.
2015 Outlook: Bautista evolved as a hitter in 2014, showing a more balanced approach that included an ability to hit to the opposite field and beat the shift. The results included a better mark on balls in play (.286) and the highest batting average he's posted in a season since 2011. He also avoided major injury, playing in 155 games and continuing to provide right-handed power in the heart of the Blue Jays lineup. Much like teammate Edwin Encarnacion, Bautista's ability to draw a lot of walks and keep his strikeout rate low makes him one of the most dangerous hitters in the game. Bautista had more opportunities to drive in runs last year, as Jose Reyes and Melky Cabrera managed to stay in the lineup more frequently. Though Cabrera is gone now, the health of the hitters in front of Bautista will again be a key to his RBI production. The days of 40-plus home runs might be over, but a repeat of last season's 35 long balls should be within reach.
2015 Outlook: The lasting image from Puig's 2014 campaign was him on the bench for Game 4 of the NLDS following a 1-for-8 showing in his previous two games, which included a stretch of seven consecutive plate appearances ending in a strikeout. Puig deserved a better conclusion to his first full season in the majors. Sure, he finished three home runs shy of his 2013 total and was only able to match his stolen-base output from his rookie year despite playing in 44 more games (208 more plate appearances), but Puig led the Dodgers with a .296 average, .382 OBP and 92 runs scored. He also fought through various injuries (thumb, hip and hamstring, to name a few) and improved his strikeout and walk rates in the process. Further, his HR/FB rate fell to just 11.1 percent (from 21.8 percent), providing hope that he can easily supply his first 20-homer season if he can maintain his health in 2015. Puig's struggles at the end of last season had a lot to do with pitchers attacking him with fastballs outside, but at 24, he's shown an ability to adjust and should be able to rewrite the book on himself again next season.
2015 Outlook: Considering Braun battled a thumb injury that prevented him from properly gripping the bat throughout the entire season -- not to mention a variety of other injuries (oblique, ankle, back) -- it's impressive that he was able to post the numbers he did. Granted, he did finish with a .777 OPS, more than 160 points below his career mark entering the year (.938), and his walk rate of 7.1 percent was his lowest since his rookie season, but Braun's ISO was still well above average at .187. Further, his line-drive rate of 19.9 percent was the second best of his career, and his .304 BABIP was more than 30 points below his career average of .336. Braun managed just 11 stolen bases in 16 attempts, and at 31, it seems safe to assume his days of even 20-plus steals are behind him, but he's still capable of supplying quality production in all five rotisserie categories. If the cryotherapy procedure he underwent on his thumb in October finally eliminates the issue -- he said in November that it "definitely worked" and that he didn't feel any pain -- Braun could prove a bargain at his reduced price.
2015 Outlook: Less than a month into the 2014 campaign, Harper suffered a torn UCL in his left thumb that required surgery and kept him out for more than nine weeks. Predictably, Harper struggled immediately upon his return, slashing just .228/.330/.342 with five extra-base hits (two homers) in July, but he eased lingering concerns about the thumb by batting .283 with 11 homers over the final two months of the season. Manager Matt Williams, who infamously benched Harper early in the year for a "lack of hustle," primarily batted him sixth in the order, which proved far less fruitful in terms of RBIs. However, Harper should see more opportunities this year following Adam LaRoche's departure in the offseason. There were some concerning signs in regard to Harper's plate discipline last year, as his strikeout rate ballooned to 26.3 percent (from 18.9 percent) and his walk rate fell by nearly three percent. Those issues were masked to a certain extent by a .352 BABIP (career .319), so it wouldn't be a surprise if his average dipped a bit, but it's paramount to realize Harper is just 22 years old, and if he can stay healthy and refine his approach, he could finally turn in the type of season people have been waiting for. His upside remains as high as anyone's.
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: Gonzalez got off to a hot start last season, smacking four homers in his first 10 games, but a bout of knee tendinitis in late April sobered up fantasy owners and proved a precursor to more serious injuries. His left index finger began presenting issues in May, and while he was able to play through the discomfort for close to a month, Gonzalez ultimately required surgery to remove a benign tumor. Less than a month after his return, Gonzalez was forced out of action yet again, this time due to a patellar tendon tear that required season-ending surgery. As a result, Gonzalez was capped at a career-low 70 games, and his performance when on the field wasn't anywhere near what is customary for the two-time All-Star. Gonzalez managed just a .723 OPS, marking the first time since his rookie year he posted a mark below .878, and he notched a mere three steals after recording 20 or more in each of his previous four seasons. Of course, the lackluster production can be attributed in large part to the injuries, but the 29-year-old's extensive medical history should temper any future projections, and there's a possibility he could be traded away from the hitter-friendly confines of Colorado at some point during the year.
2015 Outlook: Nobody was hotter than Kemp after the All-Star break, as he slashed .309/.365/.606 with 17 homers and 54 RBIs in just 263 second-half trips, which more than made up for the .269/.330/.430 line, eight homers and 35 RBIs he supplied over the first 3½ months. The lackluster numbers in the first half can be attributed in part to inconsistent playing time, with manager Don Mattingly platooning Kemp for a period and even benching him for a brief stretch in late May before ultimately moving him to the corners. Kemp's HR/FB rate more than doubled from 2013, going from 9.1 percent to 20.0 percent last season, but he finished with a career-best line-drive rate (25.9 percent) and a 30.0 percent rate of swinging at pitches outside the strike zone, the second-lowest mark of his career. Now the anchor of a revamped Padres lineup, Kemp could be in danger of seeing his homer total slip in the spacious confines of Petco Park, and his days as a double-digit steals contributor are likely behind him, but Kemp should benefit from having a more defined role, and his blistering run down the stretch provides hope that he can still provide top-50 production if he can stay healthy.
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: After bouncing around the batting order in the early going last season, Calhoun eventually settled into the leadoff spot in late May, shortly after returning from an ankle injury that cost him more than a month. In 489 plate appearances atop the lineup, Calhoun hit .281/.336/.471 with all 17 of his homers, solidifying his role as the table-setter for the Angels heading into 2015. While the 27-year-old doesn't have the speed of the prototypical leadoff hitter, his extra-base power makes up for it. Calhoun finished ninth in the AL in runs scored last season despite playing in just 127 games, and if he can stay healthy and improve his numbers against lefties in 2015, it's entirely possible he could lead the league in that category while also providing quality production in home runs, RBI and batting average.
2015 Outlook: A true offensive enigma, Heyward was traded to St. Louis in the offseason, which only heightens the sense of hope and mystery surrounding his 2015 campaign. In his final year with the Braves, he delivered a .271 average and 20 steals, very nearly marking career highs in each category. However, his power completely cratered, as he hit just 11 home runs with a .113 ISO, and his HR/FB was sliced in half from 13 percent in 2013 to 6.5 percent in 2014. Heyward has always been excellent at driving balls down in the strike zone, but last season he hit for virtually no power on pitches in the upper third of the zone. This has not always been the case, as he was able to do some damage on balls middle-up in his 27-homer 2012 season. A shift in his approach may also be slightly to blame for his decreased power over the past two seasons, as his strikeout rate has dipped from 23.3 percent in 2012 to 16.6 percent in 2013 and a career-low 15.1 percent in 2014. It's possible that Heyward is trading power for contact, but there's no reason he can't regain the power he's shown in the past with proper instruction. Entering his age-25 season, which also happens to be a contract year, there are many reasons to believe Heyward will top his numbers from 2014, possibly by a wide margin.
2015 Outlook: Perhaps Pence's greatest strength in past seasons -- staying healthy -- was nixed early in spring training when he was hit by a pitch and suffered a fractured left forearm that will force him to miss 2-to-4 weeks in April. His past ability to stay on the field allowed Pence to establish impressive statistical floors, reaching the 20-homer, 70-RBI, 75-run thresholds in each of the past seven seasons, but that streak could end with him slated to start this season on the DL. He has hit above .276 in all but one of the past six campaigns, and the one outlier (.253 in 2012) was a year in which he posted a .290 BABIP that was nearly 30 points below his .319 career mark. Admittedly, there are some indicators that Pence's skills may be in decline as he enters his age-32 season; namely, his career-low .168 ISO, career-high O-Swing rate (35.9 percent) and 14 percent line-drive rate from a year ago, the last of which was more than three ticks lower than his 2013 mark. However, once he returns from injury, Pence has the chance to once again establish himself as one of the more reliable outfield sources of across-the-board production.
2015 Outlook: Just how much were Bruce's struggles last season the result of him rushing his return from May knee surgery? The answer to that question has yet to be determined, but smart money's on "a lot." A 30-plus-homer, 90-plus-RBI contributor in each of the previous three seasons, Bruce managed just 18 homers and 66 RBI in 137 games last year. He finished with an abysmal .201/.241/.327 batting line after the All-Star break and a career-high 27.3 percent strikeout rate for the year, but his swinging-strike rate of 13.2 percent was an improvement on his 2013 number (14.4 percent). Moreover, his HR/FB of 15.3 percent tied his career low, and his .269 BABIP was far below his career norm, though the drop in BABIP was due in large part to an increased deployment of defensive shifts against Bruce, something that's likely to continue in 2015. Even if Bruce's average doesn't return to above .250, the expected power return makes him a strong low buy, though his name has been tossed around as a possible trade candidate, and a move away from Great American Ballpark would hurt his numbers.
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.
2015 Outlook: With back-to-back seasons of 30-plus homers in a pitcher-friendly ballpark, there was real excitement about what Trumbo might do in Arizona over a full season. Unfortunately, a fractured right foot limited him to just 88 games, and he hit just 14 homers in that time, thanks in large part to a career-worst HR/FB rate of 14.3 percent. He spent 2012 and 2013 at a lofty 21 percent, but suffered the big drop in 2014 despite posting a career-high 40 percent fly ball rate. Trumbo's still virtually the same guy, though, with bankable power and a batting-average deficiency. His inability to consistently walk holds that average down, as does his lofty strikeout rate. These skills have largely been static throughout his mid-20s, making it unlikely that we'll see a major shift at this point, which also means that his 40-homer potential may not quite materialize.