2016 Outlook: Trout is still a lockdown top-3 pick heading into 2016, but he has both come back to the pack some and watched the pack catch up to him. The craziest thing about that sentence is that it, while true, comes after Trout posted a career-best .991 OPS and 41 home runs in 2015. Power jumped up league-wide last year, though, so the impact of those 41 homers wasn't as stark as it would've been just a year before, let alone in 2012 or 2013. Meanwhile, the tradeoff was another dip in stolen bases, down to a career-low 11. Worse yet was that he needed 18 attempts to get those, yielding a putrid 61 percent success rate. The tricky part is determining whether or not the stolen base slide will continue or spike back up at age 24. When the speed isn't in question, steals become an opportunity and effort category. Will the manager let him and/or does he want to? Luckily with Trout, it doesn't really matter because everyone would gladly take a 2015 carbon copy.
2016 Outlook: Bad months happen to virtually every player every season and when it's happening to a superstar, owners just have to stay patient and not freak out. Of course, it's really easy to say that when said superstar is on someone else's fantasy team. It wasn't hard to imagine Cutch would emerge from his April slump (.636 OPS), but at the time, they were the only numbers he had on paper for the season. Nagging injuries (knee, back) were piling up and some were wondering aloud if maybe '15 was just going to be one of those lost injury seasons that hit even the best players from time-to-time. Now with the benefit of hindsight, we can all have a good laugh at that idea, but those injuries still had their affect in the form of a career-low 16 stolen base attempts. It didn't stop him from having a $30 season and even if 20-plus stolen base outputs are a thing of the past, McCutchen is still a first-rounder who could fall to the second round in some drafts.
2016 Outlook: It is not that often that the hype matches the production for young players, but Betts is already there in less than two full seasons in the big leagues. A few scouts said Betts was the best player in the 2013 Arizona Fall League and last season he showed why at the big league level. Betts struggled out of the gate and had an unimpressive slash line of .234/.293/.366 in mid-June but went on to hit .329/.372/.552 the rest of the way with 13 home runs, 11 steals, and 68 runs scored. Betts has a very disciplined strike zone for a young player and is a strong candidate for a 20/20/100 season in just his third season in the majors. Do the exact opposite of what Flava Flav and Chuck D told you in the late 80's and believe the hype. Betts is the new thing and you'll want to be a part of what he brings in 2016.
2016 Outlook: With just three full seasons under his belt, Marte's skill set is remarkably stable. His slash line in each of the past three seasons has held steady and he's put up double-digit home run and stolen base totals in each of the past three years. He does not walk much, which limits his stolen base upside. He also hits too many groundballs, which limits his homer upside. Nevertheless, there is one area where he has shown year over year improvement: making contact. His strikeout rate has improved each of the past four seasons and he made a rather large improvement last season even if it didn't show up in his batting average or his on-base percentage. He's more likely to bat .300 than he is to hit 20 homers in 2016, but the speed is real and he's a five-category producer that will go off the boards early.
2016 Outlook: Blackmon has now put up back-to-back productive seasons with the full-time role in Colorado and was so good in 2015 that he finished fourth overall in the Player Rater rankings for outfielders (just behind Mike Trout). Blackmon plays every day and compiles the counting stats across the board, but inflicts most of his damage in Coors where he has hit .334/.386/.501 in his career versus .241/.283/.370 away from the Mile High City. His splits against righties and lefties are not as dramatic, but he clearly favors righties when at the plate. If he's facing a righty at home, he's a must-play, but the offseason chatter about him possibly being traded by the Rockies would absolutely take a chunk out of his fantasy value. He's so good at home that his limitations on the road can be overlooked, but a trade away from Coors would severely impact his draft day value.
2016 Outlook: After two incredibly consistent years in 2013 and 2014, Gomez's production slipped last season, primarily due to nagging injuries to his hamstring, hip, leg and back. Considering most of those injuries were of the lower-body variety, and that Gomez turned 30 this offseason, it is fair to assume that his days as a threat to steal 35-40 bases are behind him. However, he still managed 17 steals in 115 games despite all his injuries last year, so he should eclipse 20 steals if he has a healthier 2016. His hard contact dipped from 35.9 percent to 29.9 percent last year, which was a big reason for his underwhelming .255 average and his 9.7 percent HR/FB (lowest since 2010). It's hard to say how much of that decline was injury related, but there's definitely some bounce-back potential this year. Owners who liked him as a first-round pick last year should invest with confidence, because most of the skills remain and he should only cost a fifth-round pick in 2016.
2016 Outlook: Cespedes' offseason was a rollercoaster. But like any rollercoaster, it would up where it started, and Cespedes is once again a Met, this time for a full season. Lost in the fawning over his late-summer, early-fall with the Mets is the fact that he was having a really good season with Detroit prior to the trade. Of course, he almost doubled his production in about 60 percent of the plate appearances, but it should be noted that he had a great season start-to-finish; it wasn't a weak or modest start saved by the New York run. Now, can he repeat? No, of course not. His Mets numbers were about a 45/120 pace. He can definitely log a second straight 100-run/100-RBI season, though. The Mets' lineup is strong top-to-bottom with a league average or better contributor in every spot, plus some interesting platoon potential to leverage the bench. They should be able to avoid the pitfalls that beset last year's team and created the need for the Cespedes trade in the first place.
2016 Outlook: A 2015 roto darling, Cain posted career highs in every relevant offensive category, and perhaps most important of all, he set a career high with 140 games played. Cain legitimately has a plus-plus hit tool, and should be able to maintain an average around .300, thanks to a career .345 BABIP. He had an 82 percent success rate on the bases last year, so there is little doubt that he will remain a threat to run under manager Ned Yost, despite hitting third in the order. With average and speed locked in as a foundation for his value, his power must fairly come under scrutiny. Cain's 11.2% HR/FB last season exceeded his 2013 (4.4%) and 2014 (5.3%) rates combined, and while it is reasonable to grant him an uptick in power in the middle of his career, slight regression seems likely. Even so, Cain offers five-category production heading into his age-30 season, and makes for a safe bet as an OF2 in mixed leagues.
2016 Outlook: In 2015 we saw what a down year from Jones looks like, and he was still one of eight outfielders with 27-plus homers and an average of .265 or better. He missed time at the end of the year with back spasms, and also missed time with shoulder, neck and ankle injuries earlier in the year, although he never landed on the DL. Still, the combination of those four ailments likely contributed to his suppressed numbers. His days as a threat for double-digit steals appear to be behind him, but there still seems to be a nice floor in the power and average categories heading into his age-30 season. If he can return to his pre-2015 durability, his runs and RBI should rebound, especially with Chris Davis back in the fold. While Jones was once a source of debate as a top-20 pick, he will now go in the fifth round of many drafts, which finally gives prospective owners a chance to profit on his top trait -- consistency.
2016 Outlook: Only Jose Altuve and Miguel Cabrera have a better batting average than Brantley's .319 over the past two seasons. It's hard to find a better pure hitter than Brantley, who posted a strikeout rate below 10 percent for the third time in four years in 2015 and actually walked more times (60) than he struck out (51). However, Brantley's power production dipped, as he fell from 20 home runs to 15, 97 RBI to 84, and 94 runs scored to 68. Brantley remains an extreme groundball hitter -- his 1.45 GB/FB in 2015 was the lowest of his career -- and as such a repeat of his 20-homer power from 2014 would be a surprise. His recovery from offseason shoulder surgery pushed deep into spring training, and he had some trouble bouncing back after his first couple spring games, but it sounds like Brantley has a chance to be ready relatively early on, if not on Opening Day.
2016 Outlook: Last year, Heyward spent most of the season batting either third, fourth or fifth for the Cardinals, but he should be locked into either first or second in the Cubs' order all season, so his counting stats could look a little different. There may not be a better middle-of-the-order power trio in all of baseball than Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber, so Heyward should be a run-scoring machine, despite scoring 90-plus runs just once in his six-year career. The Cubs were a top-10 team in stolen-base attempts last year, while the Cardinals were in the bottom 10, so that, along with batting higher in the order, could lead to more steals for Heyward. The Cardinals tweaked Heyward's approach last year, leading to a career-high 57.2% GB% and a career-low 23.5% FB%, without sacrificing any hard contact. This should make that .293 average more sustainable than it appears at first glance. The 20-plus homer power he displayed in 2012 could come back, but even if it doesn't, Heyward will be a three-category force in 2016.
2016 Outlook: The 27-year-old center fielder played in a career-high 153 games in 2015 while setting personal bests in hits (175), doubles (28), homers (14), RBI (56), walks (58), stolen bases (18) and slugging percentage (.431). His .144 ISO was also his best since his .153 mark in a 2012 rookie campaign where he only made 103 plate appearances. Eaton clearly has the ability to continue contributing in multiple categories, but his atypical power surge in 2015 may ultimately prove to be an outlier. Eaton had never hit more than seven home runs in five combined major-and-minor-league seasons with the Diamondbacks and White Sox prior to last season. As Chicago's everyday center fielder however, Eaton will have ample opportunity to continue his streak of progressively improving in most major offensive categories in each season so far in his career.
2016 Outlook: Another slew of injuries (oblique, hip, knee, and back) limited Ellsbury's output in 2015, but he was on his way to a productive campaign before the knee injury stopped him in his tracks in mid-May. At that point, he was hitting .324 (.412 OBP) with 14 steals through 37 games, putting him on pace for 50-plus steals over 150 contests. An ugly overall line last season (.257/.318/.345) will likely drive down the price on draft day, but the league-wide decline in stolen bases should keep savvy owners interested. The drop in batting average, and subsequently OBP, appears to be directly connected to the increased strikeout rate (17.7 K%), but that number may have been inflated by the four months he spent playing through injuries as he maintained a K% below 15.0 percent through the April and May. Even with the short porch in right field at Yankee Stadium, the 16-homer season in 2014 is likely an outlier, but Ellsbury should be a valuable source of steals and runs without doing damage in the batting average department.
2016 Outlook: It's rare that leaving a team that led the league in runs scored the previous season benefits a leadoff hitter, but that's exactly the case for Revere. Most of the Blue Jays' lineup is in scoring position when they step in the batter's box, mitigating the need for Revere to run. Now back in the Senior Circuit as a member of the Nationals, the veteran speedster will be asked to replace the spark Denard Span gave them at the top of the order. Revere sports one of the best contact rates in the league, taking full advantage of his speed by hitting mostly groundballs and line drives. The Nationals let Span run, so there's no doubt Revere will have the green light more often than not. If the meat of the order can stay healthy, Revere has a chance to set a career high in runs for the second straight year.
2016 Outlook: Yelich scuffled in April and May, likely due to a back strain he suffered during the first month of the season. He was a completely different player from June on, although he missed time in the second half due to a knee contusion. With a .342/.392/.473 line in the second half (57 games), Yelich did everything other than provide home-run power, but the spike in extra-base hits after the All-Star break is an encouraging sign going forward. The fences at Marlins Park will be moved in for 2016, but Yelich's batted ball profile includes a career 61.9 GB%, which will continue to limit his long ball output barring adjustments to his swing and approach. Just 24 years old, Yelich offers a rare combination of plate discipline, bat control and the ability to spray line drives to all fields. Even if he simply sticks with what has worked for him through his first two-and-a-half big league seasons, Yelich should be an asset in batting average, runs scored, RBI and steals as the Marlins' No. 2 hitter.