2015 Outlook: How do you give back 19 homers and still have a top-15 season? Being Miguel Cabrera helps. He offset the loss with 26 more doubles while also eclipsing the century mark in runs scored and RBIs for the fifth straight season. Cabrera's 2015 outlook has, however, been muddied by a stress fracture in his ankle that was discovered when removing bone spurs in October. The ankle sidelined him here and there in late August -- and he posted a .691 OPS during that month -- but he rebounded with a 1.118 OPS and eight homers in September, so a healed Cabrera should be his perennially excellent self. Short of catastrophic news, he's unlikely to fall from the first round, but anything in the latter half is a discount to be enjoyed.
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: Encarnacion needed only 128 games to put up a full season's worth of numbers, but he no doubt left many wondering what could've been had he not missed 33 games in the middle of the summer. The lack of power in the game as a whole keeps Encarnacion's value extremely high even as he pushes into his 30s and carries an injury history that features seven trips to the DL, including one in each of the past two years. His power plays everywhere, with 58 of his 112 home runs over the past three years coming on the road, but he still leverages his home ballpark for a batting average boost. The Jays' improved lineup could give him another shot at 100 RBIs and a chance at his first 100-run season.
2015 Outlook: Abreu took the league by storm in 2014, hitting 10 home runs in two of his first three months, with an injury to his left ankle seemingly the only reason he didn't complete the feat in May as well. The power faded after the All-Star break, but his production remained strong, as Abreu traded the homers for base hits and walks. Despite just seven home runs in the second half (compared to 29 in the first), his OPS dipped just 24 points thanks to a .350 average and .435 OBP. Was the ankle a cause in this power slide or was it just the regression of his obscene 35 percent HR/FB rate from the first half? The latter seems most likely, but it gave him a chance to show how good he is at hitting. He'll remain a power-hitting force, and when you pair 30-plus homers with an average that should again exceed .290, the result is a truly elite fantasy commodity.
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: 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: Carter's recipe against big league pitching has been consistent throughout his time in majors over the past three seasons -- walk sometimes, strike out a lot more, and hit the ball a long way when contact is made. Thanks to a .223 average in 2013, Carter's 37-homer campaign didn't garner as much attention as it probably should have, especially since he became an everyday player for the first time since arriving in the majors with Oakland in 2010. Those hoping to extract cheap power from Carter had to endure a .205/.281/.461 line to get his 19 first-half home runs, but he had much better fortune on balls in play in the second half and hit .252/.338/.521 with 18 homers after the All-Star break. There was no discernible skills growth in Carter's second-half surge, and his overall uptick in home runs appears to be the result of generating loft more consistently, as he pushed his fly ball rate to 51.4 percent in 2014 from 46.8 percent in 2013, which is particularly beneficial for a player who reliably sends more than 20 percent of his fly balls beyond the outfield wall.
2015 Outlook: Santana once again tested the patience of the large swath of fantasy owners who don't benefit from his OBP ability in 2014. In leagues where there was no tangible gain from an elite walk rate that eventually led to an MLB-high 113 bases on balls, owners struggled with his sub-.200 average for the first two-and-a-half months of the season. It went from .151 to .159 in May, making it difficult to bet on much improvement. However, after a concussion DL stint to start June, Santana took off and posted a .266/.384/.488 line with 21 homers and 68 RBI in his final 102 games. He no longer has catcher eligibility, but gaining third-base eligibility softens the blow and lowers the burden on his power, though his best home-run-hitting campaigns should still be ahead of him.
2015 Outlook: Gattis appeared to be proving his doubters wrong last season by hitting .290/.342/.558 in the first half while showing an improved 21.8 percent strikeout rate. But in late June, a bulging thoracic disc in his back led to a DL stint, and his numbers in the second half suffered. He hit just .221/.278/.293 after the All-Star break, fanning in 27.8 percent of his trips to the plate. Behind the plate, his defense graded out much more favorably last season, but the Braves decided to ship him to Houston in January as part of their rebuilding process. With a move from behind the plate to left field expected, Gattis should be able to take on a larger volume of playing time, which should bolster his counting stats and give him an opportunity to push the 30-homer mark if he's healthy. Of some concern is that he's hit just .241/.297/.469 over the past two seasons against right-handed pitching, a likely indication that the .263 average he posted in 2014 is somewhere close to his ceiling in the category.
2015 Outlook: It can be easy to overlook LaRoche, as he has essentially been the same player throughout his career. That isn't said critically, however, as he's been a consistently solid contributor and has remained steady into his 30s. In fact, in the past three seasons, his 79 homers are good for 16th in baseball. LaRoche has always hit better in his home park despite rarely having played in a hitter-friendly yard, but now he moves into U.S. Cellular Field, which has been a homer haven for years. The park was eighth in home runs per game (1.86) in 2014, well ahead of the 1.33 mark for Nationals Park. LaRoche has a pair of 30-homer seasons on his ledger and might be primed for a third, but the safe bet is to expect 25 homers and 90 RBI and take anything else as pure profit.
2015 Outlook: Choo was a major disappointment in the first season of his massive free-agent deal with Texas. However, ankle and elbow injuries that bothered him almost all season likely played a major role in his ineffectiveness, so there remains hope for a bounce back 2015. Choo had surgeries to address both injuries in the final months of the season, and, according to early reports, he should be fully recovered in time for the start of spring training. It was reasonable to expect big things from Choo after he hit 21 home runs with 20 steals and a .285/.423/.462 slash line in 712 plate appearances with the Reds in 2013. The most impressive thing about those numbers is the fact that he continued to be lousy (.215 average) against southpaws and yet still raked enough against righties to keep his rates high. It's not wise to project anyone to get on base at a 40 percent clip, but Choo remains a reasonable threat to hit 15 homers with 15 steals atop the Rangers order.