2015 Outlook: Last year, Butler didn't deliver in his one area of reliability: batting average. His career-low .271 represents just his second time below .289 over eight seasons in the big leagues. Worse, his already-weak power evaporated, as he ended up with just nine home runs for the season. Butler still crushed lefties, with a .321 average and .847 OPS, but platooning him in a daily transaction league was about the extent of his value in the fantasy game last year. The move to Oakland certainly won't help the shrinking power, but with a sub-30 percent fly ball rate each of the last three years, the park is almost irrelevant. A move back toward career norms in his BABIP and HR/FB rate should bring the batting average and homers up toward expected levels, but 2012 is a distant memory at this point and appears set to forever stand as his career year.
2015 Outlook: Lind has become a full-on platoon player, though it is on the strong side, which helps him maintain fantasy relevance. His futility against lefties hit an all-time low in 2014, though that was at least partly due to a lack of opportunities. At 31, the ship has sailed on him improving against lefties and becoming a full-time player again. The shift from Toronto to Milwaukee is neutral from a home run standpoint and he never really needed Rogers Centre to be successful. A career-worst 7.6 percent HR/FB rate ate up his home run total, but his career 15 percent mark suggests he will jump back up in 2015. The biggest change is the elimination of the DH, meaning he must play first base to be in the lineup, but he has played 67 percent of his games in the field during the past four years, so he should be fine. Injuries, primarily to his back, have hampered him in the past, but any negative effects to playing in the field all the time could be mitigated by getting off the Toronto turf.
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.
2015 Outlook: Beltran's first season in Yankee pinstripes did not go quite according to plan. He missed 38 games due to injuries, most of which were related to his right elbow, from which bone spurs were removed at the end of the season. Beltran is expected to be fully healthy for the start of 2015, but durability still lingers as the primary concern heading into his age-38 season. He tried to play through the bone spurs last year, and his performance suffered because of it, though a .252 BABIP also played a major part in Beltran's .703 OPS -- his lowest mark since the 2000 season. Considering he hit 24 home runs with a .296 average in 2013 with St. Louis, there's reason to believe he could post similar numbers with good health in 2015. Of Beltran's 15 home runs last season, 12 went out to right field, so the hope remains that he will take full advantage of the short porch in Yankee Stadium in a full season.
2015 Outlook: Concussions have stifled Jaso's production in each of the past two seasons since a breakout in 2012. His position alone continues to give him value, but with only one season north of 400 plate appearances (that was five years ago), it is really hard to view him as a legitimate option in anything besides AL-only OBP leagues. Even worse, his value took a big hit in those leagues last year, as his walk rate dropped sharply to 8.1 percent after back-to-back seasons north of 15. When healthy, he is still someone to be trusted on the strong side of a catcher platoon, so on a per-at-bat basis, he should remain a productive asset in his first season with Rays. Perhaps he is best used against weaker righties in leagues that allow daily roster moves, given he amassed a .285/.387/.457 triple slash line against them over the past three seasons.
2015 Outlook: The next -- and perhaps final -- chapter of the Rodriguez story will begin in 2015, after he missed all of 2014 due to a suspension for his connection to the Biogenesis clinic. When Rodriguez was most recently on the field, in 2013, he had returned from offseason surgery to repair a torn labrum in his hip in early August. The results were hardly surprising, as he hit .244/.349/.423 with seven home runs in 44 games, with his best attribute a decent eye at the plate (12.7 percent walk rate). Although the Yankees owe him $61 million, they appear to be moving ahead with the goal of minimizing their reliance on the former star as he begins his age-39 season. They signed Chase Headley to a four-year deal in December, which pushed Rodriguez into a competition for playing time as the team's designated hitter. But Carlos Beltran is coming back from elbow surgery, and it's questionable how much right field he'll be able to play in 2015, which might ultimately squeeze Rodriguez into a part-time role. If injuries befall Beltran or first baseman Mark Teixeira, it's reasonable to think Rodriguez could find a way to collect 400 plate appearances again, but that opportunity is hardly guaranteed.
2015 Outlook: Vargas made the leap from Double-A New Britain to Minnesota and continued to display steady power, as he finished with 26 home runs between the two levels after hitting nine over 234 plate appearances with the Twins in the second half. A switch-hitting DH, Vargas started 53 of 55 games upon debuting with the Twins on Aug. 1, and he served as the team's cleanup hitter for 48 of those contests. A .400 BABIP buoyed a fast start in August, which enabled Vargas to carry a .309/.336/.463 line during his first month in the big leagues, despite a 27.5 percent strikeout rate. He slumped in September, when the BABIP crashed to .258, and if his minor league levels are any indication, his true baseline is somewhere between those extremes. The Twins will likely give Vargas an opportunity to solidify his hold on the DH job during spring training, but he's a candidate to be sent down to Triple-A if he goes through a prolonged slump early in the year. On the flip side, if he proves capable of drawing walks at a rate closer to his Double-A level (10.6 percent), Vargas should stick as a regular and offer a much-needed boost to the heart of the Minnesota lineup.
2015 Outlook: The arrival of Matt Joyce in Anaheim may throw Cron onto the short side of a DH platoon, robbing the bulk of his fantasy value in the process. However, he'll likely be afforded regular time to begin the year, with Josh Hamilton not expected to be ready following February shoulder surgery. Cron had negligible platoon splits last year (20-point difference in favor of him facing lefties) but he hit lefties (.888 OPS) far better than righties (.810 OPS) during his minor league career. He had an anemic second half of 2014, but that felt more like growing pains than a chronic problem, especially since he floundered against lefties in that time, too. At his best he was as advertised: a power beast who could lengthen a lineup with that home-run threat in the six or seven hole. He never showed enough patience in the minors to believe that his 15 percent strikeout rate would hold at the major league level, but he has to improve upon the four-percent walk rate he had in his MLB debut if he is going to strike out nearly a quarter of the time. Otherwise, he will end up as a severe batting-average liability like former Angels slugger Mark Trumbo.
2015 Outlook: Despite being a straight platoon bat, Joyce had established himself as a solid power source, good for a mid-teens home-run total. His power inexplicably dried up against righties in 2014 with just 8 home runs after clubbing at least 14 in each of the prior three seasons. A drastic shift in his batted-ball profile looks like the culprit. After carrying a fly ball slant throughout his career, he hit more groundballs than fly balls for the first time in his career last year. Add in a big drop in his HR/FB rate and it's no wonder he halved his home run output. Given his history, there is reason for some optimism regarding a bounceback, but if he continues to skid against righties, his playing time could start to dry up. That said, it looks like he could see significant playing time to begin the season, with Josh Hamilton (shoulder) not expected to be ready for Opening Day.
2015 Outlook: One of the more bankable 20-HR guys in the game finally hit a wall in 2014 as Swisher clubbed just eight home runs and was limited to just 97 games thanks to injuries on both knees that eventually required surgery. With 12 more home runs, he would have joined Miguel Cabrera and David Ortiz as the only hitters with at least 20 every year since 2005. The group of seven who have done it nine out of 10 times is still impressive, though. It isn't completely unreasonable to give him a pass for the busted 2014, but at 34 years old, any expectations of a full rebound should be tempered. The number of 15-HR hitters fell below 100 for the first time since 1995 last year with 94 (there were 120-plus players in 14 of the past 20 seasons), so even a muted Swisher has some value, though his best value remains in OBP leagues, where he can deliver more than just a modicum of power.
2015 Outlook: Pinto showed his tiny sample from 2013 wasn't indicative of an impending breakout, despite earning some sleeper status coming into the season. A massive 21 percent walk rate in April made his production look markedly better than his true talent level. Once pitchers realized they could challenge him more, his production all but vanished (.555 OPS in May and June), and he was demoted in early June, a move made easier by Kurt Suzuki's production. He did hit again once back in Triple-A, but Suzuki was re-signed to a three-year deal, so Pinto remains blocked from a full-time gig. His pop is appealing enough that he could steal some time at DH, especially if Kennys Vargas isn't quite ready for prime time after he skipped Triple-A and held his own for 53 games in the majors.
2015 Outlook: Smith was one of the only offensive bright spots in San Diego last season, hitting .266/.367/.440 with 12 home runs in 520 plate appearances, but he became expendable after the Padres revamped their entire outfield with a flurry of trades in December. Smith was subsequently traded to Seattle, where he'll presumably enter a platoon situation in right field with Justin Ruggiano to open 2015.
2015 Outlook: Wait, so you mean to tell me Navarro's inexplicable 1.123 OPS with six home runs in 71 PA against lefties in 2013, after seven seasons of a combined .703 OPS, wasn't sustainable? Weird. It was enough to earn him a full season of play in Toronto last season, but all that did was expose just how fluky his 2013 was, as he managed fewer total home runs, despite getting just about double the playing time. On the positive side, he did rake in his new home with a .300/.333/.456 slash line and nine of his 12 home runs coming at Rogers Centre. Despite Russell Martin's coming in to take over the catching duties, Navarro is penciled in to be the primary DH for the Blue Jays, so that favorable ballpark remains an asset. Slot him in as a second catcher for long homestands or as a cheap backstop when you want to save money in daily games.
2015 Outlook: Young surpassed expectations in his first season in Baltimore, despite getting a modest 35.1 percent of his at-bats against left-handed pitching. While certainly capable of hitting right-handers, Young has typically fared better against southpaws, and he was expected to see a good chunk of his playing time against them. He still finished the year with a surprising .302/.337/.442 slash line, though he managed just seven home runs and two stolen bases over 242 at-bats. While an uncharacteristically high .359 BABIP contributed, Young owns a lifetime .324 BABIP, and his fly ball rate plummeted in 2014. Some regression can be expected, but Young still figures to post a BABIP well above the league average in his upcoming age-29 season. As always, the bigger issues are his lack of plate discipline and inability to play in the field, which should limit his opportunities at the plate. With Travis Snider and Alejandro De Aza offering capable options in the corner outfield spots, Steve Pearce will now challenge Young for starts at DH. Even as an everyday player, Young lacks significant appeal, and the smart money is on Pearce to cut into Young's playing time in a major way in 2015.
2015 Outlook: Moreland was one of many Rangers ravaged by injuries, appearing in just 52 games before undergoing season-ending surgery on his left ankle in June. The 29-year-old has posted decent power numbers when healthy, smashing 54 home runs in his past three full seasons, but he struggles to hit for average, particularly against lefties. In his career, Moreland has a .227/.289/.347 slash line against left-handed pitching, which could cause the team to limit his at-bats against southpaws. Regardless, because of his ability to hit the long ball, hitting an encouraging 23 in his last full season in 2013, he could make for a decent play in deeper formats. However, his poor splits and middling average could bring down his value in more standard leagues with not as many roster spots.