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: After popping 20 home runs in 2012, Freese has hit just 19 in two seasons despite logging 500-plus plate appearances as injuries continue to plague him (his next 150-game season will be his first). The 20 percent HR/FB rate from that 2012 sticks out like a sore thumb; he has been a tick or two above average the last two seasons, but nowhere near that figure. At 32, his body is unlikely to grow more stable, meaning the injury issues just have to be baked into his profile. He is slightly better than league average for a third baseman. His best chance at delivering surplus value beyond that is his presence in the Angels' lineup, which should present him with ample opportunities to drive in runs.
2015 Outlook: Asche didn't exactly assert himself as a future staple at the hot corner in his 434 PA in 2014. He was a couple ticks better than his 2013 debut, but still below average overall. While expectations weren't exactly sky-high, his 10-homer output was still a disappointment given what he did in the minors and in the aforementioned 50-game debut two seasons ago. The development of Maikel Franco didn't proceed quite as quickly as some believed it would, so Asche should get another substantial amount of playing time to prove himself. He missed a month due to a hamstring injury, which may have given him the red light on the basepaths in 2014. He did go for 11-for-14 in stolen bases during his two full minor league seasons, so that is an avenue in which he could offer some sneaky value with full health.
2015 Outlook: Semien was a deep-sleeper candidate in 2014, after a huge season in his first tour through the upper minors. He logged a .284/.401/.479 slash line with 19 home runs and 24 stolen bases between Double-A and Triple-A, which included an eye-catching 98 walks against just 90 strikeouts. Add in that he has played shortstop, second base and third base, and you can see why the excitement was there. Alas, that impressive approach from the minor leagues has yet to surface in the big leagues (22 walks to 92 strikeouts in his 326 PA), and ultimately he was sent back to Triple-A Charlotte in early June and didn't return until rosters expanded in September. The A's acquired him in the offseason, so Billy Beane no doubt sees the upside in this 24-year-old and hopes to extract those minor league skills in a big league setting. He won't start the season with shortstop eligibility, but he will have three positions once he logs enough games to qualify. Temper expectations for the short term, but don't completely forget him after just 85 games as a big leaguer, either.
2015 Outlook: Prior to 2014, Valbuena had failed to catch on as a platoon player. While he had regularly struggled against lefties, he wasn't exactly cutting up righties. In fact, his career platoon split is all of six points in OPS, but in 2014 he emerged as a cheap power source on the strong side of a platoon at third base. His 16 home runs were tied with Pablo Sandoval, Matt Dominguez and Juan Francisco for seventh at the position, and Sandoval and Dominguez both had more plate appearances than Valbuena. Of course, holding the spot and fending off Mike Olt was one thing, but with uber-prospect Kris Bryant pounding on the door of the big leagues (43 HRs, 1.098 OPS across Double-A and Triple-A in 2014), the Cubs traded Valbuena to the Astros in January. He slots in atop the depth chart at third base for Houston, though a platoon with Matt Dominguez seems likely.
2015 Outlook: McGehee was a late bloomer who came up in his mid-20s and put up some useful numbers with Milwaukee in his first two seasons -- including a 100-RBI season -- before fizzling rapidly and eventually heading overseas to Japan in 2013. A massive season over there (.292 AVG, 28 HR, 93 RBIs) earned him a role in Miami, but he was nowhere as effective upon returning. In fact, his batted-ball profile was virtually the same as he had in the two seasons before leaving (too many groundballs, not nearly enough hard contact). However, it worked better thanks to a career-best .335 BABIP as several singles skittered through and he parlayed the seasons of Christian Yelich and Giancarlo Stanton into a 76-RBI effort. His profile is befitting of a contact-heavy middle infielder or glove-first centerfielder, thus it isn't surprising that McGehee was third in singles with 143, behind only Jose Altuve (168) and Ben Revere (162). A move to San Francisco is unlikely to rejuvenate his power and without a prime batting spot (he was third, fourth, or fifth all season in 2014), there's no way he replicates that RBI total. Pass.
2015 Outlook: Defensive versatility is Amarista's calling card. While this allows for him to be fantasy-eligible at a number of positions, he still profiles as a well-below-average hitter. In 2014 he played 73 games at shortstop, 26 games in the outfield, 22 games at third base, and 21 games at second base. That versatility may be unmatched, but he slashed just .239/.286/.314 in 466 at-bats, so he has basically no offensive upside. After the Padres addressed holes at third base and the outfield during the offseason, Amarista looks poised to play almost exclusively at shortstop in 2015. He will split time with Clint Barmes, likely sitting when a lefty is on the mound, as he has just a .218 career average against southpaws. Amarista's 12 steals from 2014 represent the one area where he can be of some use in deeper rotisserie leagues.
2015 Outlook: Johnson opened the past season with an opportunity to benefit from a higher-than-expected placement in the Braves' lineup, as manager Fredi Gonzalez penciled him into the cleanup spot for each of the team's first 11 games. That dream quickly became a nightmare, and though he had a few stretches in which he served as the team's No. 5 hitter, more than half of the games Johnson played in 2014 came while batting sixth or seventh. Johnson didn't offer great plate discipline to begin with, and he combined a higher strikeout rate (26 percent) with the lowest walk rate of his career (3.8 percent) while struggling to handle breaking pitches. Besides a back strain in September, there were no reported injuries to blame for the drop-off, which was particularly troubling, as he slugged just .361. The Braves are on the hook to pay him $23.5 million through 2017, so it appears he's locked in as their starting third baseman for now.
2015 Outlook: Kang is poised to become the first position player to make the move from South Korea's professional baseball league (KBO) to MLB after the Pirates signed him via the international posting system. Over nine seasons in the KBO, Kang hit .298/.383/.504, and his final season with the Nexen Heroes featured career highs in batting average (.356), OBP (.459), SLG (.739), home runs (40), RBIs (117), and runs (103). Previously, Kang had shown a more balanced power-and-speed skill set, hitting at least 20 home runs and stealing at least 15 bases in each of the previous two seasons. Despite the overwhelming success in 2014, there are questions as to whether Kang's bat will translate against big-league pitching. Turning 28 in April, Kang doesn't have any future projection remaining, and he'll compete for an opportunity to displace Jordy Mercer as the Pirates' starting shortstop during spring training. The Pirates signed him to a four-year, $11 million contract in January, so an Opening Day roster spot is hardly guaranteed if it's determined that he needs time in the upper levels of the minor leagues, but Kang may also be used as a backup at third base, shortstop and second base if his glove proves to be as versatile as advertised.
2015 Outlook: In 2013, Gillaspie managed a hint of value by popping 13 home runs, but he didn't contribute positively anywhere else, which certainly limited his appeal. In 2014, it looked like he traded some of that power output for incremental gains everywhere else, but in actuality he collected a ton of base hits in the first two months of the season (.351 AVG) while being held homerless,s and then spent the final four months as the guy we saw in 2013 (.255 AVG, 7 home runs). It was still an improved season, but this isn't exactly a growth stock ready to explode. He likely deserved at least a few more home runs based on his batted-ball profile, but combining the double-digit power with the .282 AVG seems unlikely especially as someone with a playing-time cap based on his inability to hit lefties.
2015 Outlook: Franco's ascent through the Phillies' system has been impressive, considering his age at each level to this point. Starting the season as a 21-year-old at Triple-A, it was hardly surprising to see Franco struggle in the first half at Lehigh Valley. Things seemed to click in July, however, as Franco hit .309/.326/.551 with 10 of his 16 home runs in a span of 46 games after the All-Star break. The Phillies gave him a taste of the big leagues in September, and he struck out at a 22.4 percent clip and had difficulty drawing walks. Plate discipline has been a problem for Franco throughout his time in the minors, and he might never draw walks at a league-average clip, but if he can tap into his above-average power in hitter-friendly Philadelphia, it would go a long way toward masking his greatest flaw. Look for Franco to compete with Cody Asche for the starting job at third base during spring training, unless the Phillies somehow find a way to unload Ryan Howard's contract during the winter.
2015 Outlook: Lamb made his big-league debut in 2014 after slashing an impressive .327/.407/.566 in 108 games at Double-A and Triple-A, but he struggled as the team's everyday third baseman down the stretch. It's a position he's unlikely to retain in 2015 with the addition of Yasmani Tomas, but he should be able to earn playing time as a utility man in the infield. He's only 24 and he'll be given some time before he's thrust into an everyday role, but he should show some improvement as he continues to gain big-league experience. Given that though, Lamb won't be of much use to fantasy owners this year, though he could be a good addition for next season if he takes the necessary strides in 2015.
2015 Outlook: Escobar has never been a major fantasy contributor, but at least you know what to expect from the 32-year-old shortstop. He lacks power and speed, but his defensive abilities keep him locked into the lineup at a shallow position, and he offers modest contributions in the runs and RBI categories without draining your batting average. Knee and shoulder injuries limited Escobar to 137 games with the Rays last season, but the expectation is he will be healthy entering spring training. He figures to open the season as the Nationals' starting second baseman, after being traded from Tampa Bay to Oakland and then from Oakland to Washington in January.
2015 Outlook: A right hamstring injury sent Uribe to the DL for two different stints and robbed him of what could have been a truly impressive campaign at 35 years old. Of course, injuries have always hampered Uribe, as he has been held under 150 games every season since 2008 thanks to six different DL stints. The late-career surge in 2013-14 is nice, especially since his career appeared over after 2011-12, but there is no certainty in his health or playing time. The hyperactive Dodgers are always looking for upgrades and a 36-year-old third baseman seems primed to be replaced. Don't get intoxicated by his recent work, and understand that it can all disappear in a blink with a player of his age, especially with a body that is known to be fragile.
2015 Outlook: After signing a four-year, $28 million contract in October of 2013, Guerrero got just 13 big league plate appearances in 2014, as he spent most of his year at the Triple-A level while Dee Gordon thrived as the Dodgers' second baseman. Guerrero posted an impressive .329/.364/.613 slash line in the Pacific Coast League, buoyed by 15 home runs in just 243 at-bats. His miniscule walk rate (3.9 percent) is cause for some concern, but there's little doubt that he can mash. It remains to be seen how Guerrero fits in with the Dodgers, as his Triple-A production and contract make it hard to justify more time in the minors, but the team is set in the middle infield with Howie Kendrick and Jimmy Rollins. While his role remains uncertain, the 28-year-old Guerrero possesses fantastic upside as a potential middle-of-the-lineup bat.