2015 Outlook: Indians manager Terry Francona said at the winter meetings that Francisco Lindor will start 2015 at Triple-A, so Ramirez should break camp as the starting shortstop. It would be surprising for Ramirez to hold the job all season, as Lindor clearly represents the future, but he should see around five starts per week over the first two months of the season, with Mike Aviles occasionally spelling him. Ramirez will never be much of a power threat, but he has plenty of speed and stole 29 bases in 543 plate appearances between Triple-A and the majors in 2014. He has also hit for a solid average at every stop as a professional, and the .262 average he posted with the Indians in 2014 should represent a reasonable floor, considering it was the product of a .297 BABIP.
2015 Outlook: Miller was a popular sleeper pick in 2014 drafts, after a promising rookie campaign in 2013, but he disappointed fantasy owners by struggling at the plate and hit only .221/.288/.365 with 10 home runs, 36 RBI and four steals in 367 at-bats. His walk rate (8.3 percent) improved slightly, but his strikeouts (23.3 percent) ballooned by nearly 8 percent, and he had trouble making contact (74 percent). The 2011 second-round pick eventually lost his starting job to call-up Chris Taylor, and the two will compete in camp to open 2015 as the Mariners' starting shortstop.
2015 Outlook: Cabrera's 2013 season ended with a Biogenesis suspension, and his 2014 season ended with a hamstring injury, plus an arrest for driving under the influence of marijuana (in early September). Between stints of poor judgment, he had a terrible season and lost all the gains he'd made in 2013, in terms of contact and plate discipline. Even the best aspect of his game was impacted, as Cabrera attempted just 26 steals, due to the injuries and a poor .272 on-base percentage. He has been on the disabled list due to leg injuries three times in the past two seasons, which is a red flag for a player whose game is completely built on speed. That said, Cabrera landed a one-year deal with the Orioles in February, and perhaps a change of scenery will help him recover the fantasy value he had in 2012 and 2013. While he will work primarily in the infield early in spring training, the team plans to give Cabrera a look in the outfield as well.
2015 Outlook: The Josh Rutledge roadblock has been eliminated for LeMahieu, but he got more than 500 PA last year and didn't really do much with it, so the clearer path to playing time doesn't necessarily enhance his value that much. His value is tied almost entirely to his batting average, but after collecting a .321 AVG in 1,669 minor league PA, he has really been able to hit only in Coors. He has a .315 AVG at home and .236 on the road. His back-to-back seasons with double-digit stolen bases have come with an atrocious 62 percent success rate, so he might be getting a yellow light when it comes to opportunities until he can become more efficient (he stole just two bases in seven attempts in the final three months of the season). On the plus side, he is still just 26 and plays in the best park for offense, so in a league with daily transactions, he might be a useful middle infielder to play on long homestands.
2015 Outlook: Owings had double-double seasons each year in the minors from 2011 through 2013 but has yet to do so in the major leagues. The past season, he showed some of that potential, with 27 extra-base hits and eight steals in part-time play, which put him in the lead for Arizona's starting shortstop role in 2015, now that Didi Gregorius has been traded to the Yankees. Owings showed big-time potential in Triple-A as a 21-year-old in 2013, as he hit .330 with 12 homers and 20 steals, but until he gets a handle on his plate discipline -- he walked just 16 times in 332 plate appearances last year -- he won't be a contributor in batting average, though double digits in homers and steals appear likely.
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: After waiting until late May for a team to finally sign him in 2014 and proceeding to have the worst statistical season of his career, Drew had to settle for another one-year deal this offseason to go back to the Bronx. As a 31-year-old splitting time between Boston and New York, Drew slashed .162/.237/.299 in 300 plate appearances. His batting average and OBP were the lowest marks in the majors among players with at least 300 plate appearances, and of those players, he was one of just two (Jackie Bradley Jr. being the other) to hit below .200 and slug below .300. The good news is Drew can only be better in 2015, as his BABIP of .194 was also the lowest among big leaguers with 300 plate appearances and the figure contrasted starkly to his career BABIP of .299. Drew figures to get a chance to be the starting second baseman for the Yankees, and prospective owners should view his 2013 numbers in Boston -- 13 homers, six steals, .253 average -- as the ceiling for his age-32 season.
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: Herrera had a strong 2014 campaign, spending time at both the High-A and Double-A levels in the Rangers organization and slashing .315/.383/.388 while stealing 21 bases in 125 games. The 23-year-old was selected by the Phillies in the Rule 5 draft, which will give him a chance to spend 2015 in the majors despite never playing above the Double-A level. One of the primary concerns with his game is his lack of power, as Herrera has hit just 13 total homers in six minor league seasons, but he showed some improvement in that area over the offseason by hitting six home runs in 58 games en route to being named the MVP of the Venezuelan Winter League. Herrera may open the season with an opportunity to start regularly in center field, but he can play both the infield and the outfield, and the Phillies figure to give him every opportunity to stick around so as to not be forced to offer him back to the Rangers.
2015 Outlook: If you follow prospects, you might be fatigued of Franklin. He was making Seattle team lists back in 2010 and spent two seasons in the overall top 100 before finally expiring his rookie status in 2013. He wasn't bad, given his age, but it wasn't enough to earn him a spot out of spring training last season. He was brutal in two tiny stints with the M's but continued raking in Triple-A before eventually being traded to Tampa Bay at the trade deadline. He floundered with his new club in Triple-A and during a September cup of coffee, but neither sample is worth getting worried over. Giving up on him after just 502 PA as a major leaguer would be foolhardy. He has shown an intriguing power/speed profile from the middle infield, an invaluable combination in fantasy baseball, and he is still quite young. On the downside, that youth means any growth likely won't come all at once, and it could be 2016 before he is a true impact player in any format.
2015 Outlook: Crawford posted new career highs with the Giants in 2014, logging 153 games, 40 extra-base hits, 10 home runs, 69 RBIs, a .713 OPS and a 10.5 percent walk rate. That might be near the peak of what he's capable of offensively, but the 27-year-old is better regarded for his superior defense at shortstop. Crawford hasn't won any Gold Glove awards, but he's a perennial contender, and his defensive ability assures him an everyday spot in San Francisco's lineup. If you wait until the later rounds of your draft to select a shortstop or middle infielder, Crawford is a decent source of runs and RBIs but won't offer much help elsewhere.
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: Panik, a former first-rounder, was up for good by late June and held down the two-spot in the lineup throughout the playoffs as well. He looks like one of those "better-in-real-baseball-than-fantasy-baseball" types, but that doesn't mean he is devoid of value in the latter; it just won't jump off the page at you. His value is definitely batting-average driven with modest contributions everywhere else. He was skunked in stolen bases with the Giants last year, but logged double-digit totals in three of his four minor league seasons. He is penciled in at that two-spot in the lineup once again, which means he can definitely enhance his value by sheer force of logging tons of at-bats. He doesn't strike out much and he has shown the ability to draw a walk in the minors, so he could be a sneaky play to score a substantial amount of runs.
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: Travis was considered a long shot to win the starting job at second base for the Blue Jays this spring, but an injury to Maicer Izturis opened the door and the 24-year-old proved to be the best option to take the spot. He may end up in a timeshare with Izturis, once the veteran is back in action, but Travis brings more upside with the bat than any of the options that have been considered for the spot since the start of last season. It would hardly be surprising to see Travis struggle initially, however, as he has fewer than 450 plate appearances above High-A on his resume. Still, he's their best long-term solution at the position after being acquired from Detroit in the Anthony Gose trade, and Travis has the tools to reach double digits in home runs and steals.