Complete 2015 Projections

Season:

ESPN's projections are the product of an analysis of a player's past performance, growth or regression potential and expected playing opportunity. While the overall ranking is based in large part on the player's projected performance, it also takes into account risk factors such as age, injury history and past statistical fluidity, the players' ceiling (upside), as well as positional and categorical scarcity.

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PROJECTED 2015 SEASON STATS
16. Aroldis Chapman, Cin RPYEARGGSIPBBKWSVHDERAWHIPK/9
2014 Statistics54054.02410603602.000.8317.67
2015 Projections70070.02713044202.060.8916.71
2015 Outlook: It would have been understandable had Chapman dialed back his fastball after being drilled in the head by a comebacker during spring training, a gruesome incident that resulted in multiple facial fractures, but the left-hander hit triple digits in his very first rehab outing. That fearlessness carried over to the majors following his May activation from the DL, as Chapman blew by hitters with an otherworldly average fastball velocity of 100.3 mph. Major league hitters could hardly touch him. Chapman finished the season with a 52.5 percent strikeout rate -- an all-time record -- as well as a minuscule 0.89 FIP and 36 saves in 38 chances. He gave up just one home run in 54 innings and held opponents to a .107 average after the All-Star break. While the Reds project to be one of the worst teams in the NL Central this season, the team context is largely moot with regard to Chapman's value, as he's simply one of the most dominant relief pitchers the game has ever seen.
17. Alex Cobb, TB SPYEARGGSIPBBKWSVHDERAWHIPK/9
2014 Statistics2727166.14714910002.871.148.06
2015 Projections3232199.05818013003.301.178.14
2015 Outlook: The only thing holding Cobb back from being a first-tier starting pitcher is health, as he's spent big chunks of time on the DL each of the last four seasons. But is Cobb actually injury-prone? His 2011 shoulder injury and subsequent surgery certainly are part of the job and worrisome, but his more recent injuries have been flukier -- a batted ball off his leg, the scary line drive off his forehead in 2013, and an oblique injury suffered while batting in 2014. He's not a strikeout machine, but he's also not a total void there. Cobb's an extreme ground-ball pitcher thanks to his split-change, so the Rays' switch from Yunel Escobar to Asdrubal Cabrera at shortstop might hurt a little bit, but this could be the year that Cobb has a full 33-start season and turns a big profit for his owners.
18. Craig Kimbrel, Atl RPYEARGGSIPBBKWSVHDERAWHIPK/9
2014 Statistics63061.2269504701.610.9113.86
2015 Projections71070.02510744402.060.9413.76
2015 Outlook: There are little indicators here and there that Kimbrel might be taking a small step back from his position as the best closer in baseball, but once you realize how great the starting point was to begin with, those factors diminish in importance. Most max-effort relievers tend to have a velocity decline, but that hasn't happened yet for him --d in fact, his average fastball was a tick higher than in 2013, resulting in a 38.9 percent strikeout rate. Kimbrel's biggest weakness is his walk rate, which jumped from 7.8 percent to 10.7 percent in 2014, a level he hadn't reached since 2011. Perhaps the biggest worry is one that Kimbrel can't control -- the quality of his team. The Braves were sellers over the offseason, getting rid of Justin Upton, Jason Heyward, and Kimbrel's top two setup men in Jordan Walden and David Carpenter. As a result, Kimbrel might see fewer save chances than he has in the past. But with three years left on his contract, he's unlikely to be shipped out as part of Atlanta's rebuild.
19. Julio Teheran, Atl SPYEARGGSIPBBKWSVHDERAWHIPK/9
2014 Statistics3333221.05118614002.891.087.57
2015 Projections3333213.05417614003.381.167.44
2015 Outlook: Teheran's second velocity drop -- his average fastball lost 1.1 mph last year after having stabilized following a full-point drop from 2011 to 2012 -- is a matter of some question. Was this due to the wear and tear of a long season, one in which he exceeded 200 innings for the first time in his career, was it by design for purposes of longevity and increased control, or is this a warning sign? Along with that drop in velocity came a small drop in Teheran's strikeout rate, from 22 percent to 21 percent, not to mention his FIP, which suggests last year's 2.89 ERA was an aberration. Another point of concern is Teheran's team context -- the Braves traded away two-thirds of their starting outfield in Justin Upton and Jason Heyward, then Evan Gattis, leaving them with an outfield of B.J. Upton, Nick Markakis and a big question mark in left field. The net effect will likely be a decline in outfield defense, which isn't good for a fly ball pitcher like Teheran, and he's likely to see reduced offensive support as well. Pointing out all of these concerns isn't to say you should avoid Teheran, but he might not take the next step in his development in 2015.
20. Jeff Samardzija, CWS SPYEARGGSIPBBKWSVHDERAWHIPK/9
2014 Statistics3333219.2432027002.991.078.28
2015 Projections3333215.05920614003.521.178.62
2015 Outlook: When Samardzija first reached the major leagues, his control was a major problem, but over the last two years, it's improved to the point where it's actually become an asset. He once walked 13.2 percent of the batters he faced, but in 2014, that rate slipped down all the way to 4.9 percent. Despite the big improvement in his ratios, Samardzija had a hard time notching wins, thanks to bullpen collapses and poor run support -- he got just 3.55 runs of support in a league where 4.07 was the average. Those factors should change with Samardzija's offseason trade to the White Sox, whose hitting has been boosted by the additions of Adam LaRoche and Melky Cabrera, while they've added David Robertson and Zach Duke to the back end of their bullpen. The change in ballparks and a little change in the normal ebb and flow of luck on batted balls might hurt Samardzija's ERA and WHIP, but he'll probably do better in the win column as a tradeoff.
21. Greg Holland, KC RPYEARGGSIPBBKWSVHDERAWHIPK/9
2014 Statistics65062.1209014601.440.9112.99
2015 Projections71070.0259944702.061.0112.73
2015 Outlook: Between the regular season and the postseason, Holland saved a whopping 53 games for Kansas City in 2014, with a mere two blown opportunities. The right-hander didn't allow a hit in his final eight appearances of the regular season, and allowed just one run in 11 innings during the Royals' improbable October run to the World Series. He surrendered multiple earned runs just once in 76 combined appearances, and issued multiple walks just three times. With three home runs allowed, Holland has now given up all of 14 long balls in 275 innings for his career, and he improved against opposing lefties for a third straight year. There's always a chance the workload could catch up to Holland, but he hasn't shown any signs of slowing down (95.8 mph average fastball velocity last season) and thus is still among the most appealing closers in fantasy entering 2015.
22. Sonny Gray, Oak SPYEARGGSIPBBKWSVHDERAWHIPK/9
2014 Statistics3333219.07418314003.081.197.52
2015 Projections3333218.08418115003.391.267.47
2015 Outlook: Gray was one of the buzziest names in last year's drafts, as his ADP climbed more than 50 spots throughout March, and he ended up delivering on the hype. The A's didn't treat the second-year starter cautiously, letting him throw 219 innings. Just as he pitched brilliantly in the 2013 playoffs, Gray came up big when the A's needed him most in September, throwing a complete-game shutout against the Rangers on the final day of the season to clinch a playoff spot. His strikeout rate dropped quite a bit in 2014, but it wasn't because of a loss in velocity, lending some hope that the strikeouts will return. He still has a superb curveball as his out pitch, and he toils in a good ballpark. The A's underwent a major overhaul in the offseason, so there could be some issues with his run support, but Gray's rate stats should remain strong.
23. Kenley Jansen, LAD RPYEARGGSIPBBKWSVHDERAWHIPK/9
2014 Statistics68065.11910124402.761.1313.91
2015 Projections55055.0158533602.290.9813.91
2015 Outlook: On the surface, it appears as though Jansen took a significant step back last season, with his ERA and WHIP jumping by .88 and .27, respectively, but he actually shaved .08 off his FIP. The right-hander improved his K/9 rate by nearly a full strikeout (from 13.0 to 13.9) and his swinging-strike rate by more than 2 percent, to a career-best 16.6 percent. Jansen finished with a 1.69 ERA and .186 BAA after the All-Star break, but his overall numbers were marred by an anomalous .350 BABIP. It should be noted that lefties did have far more success against Jansen, batting .284/.331/.379 against him, well up from .204/.256/.274, but his fastball velocity ticked back up and he finished third in the NL in saves with 44. Unfortunately, Jansen's 2015 debut will be delayed after he was forced to undergo foot surgery in mid-February, a procedure which carries with it a 8-to-12 week estimated recovery timetable. J.P. Howell, Chris Hatcher and Joel Peralta seem like the top in-house candidates to start the year in the closer role, though the Dodgers may very well look outside the organization for a short-term replacement.
24. Gerrit Cole, Pit SPYEARGGSIPBBKWSVHDERAWHIPK/9
2014 Statistics2222138.04013811003.651.219.00
2015 Projections3030187.05917113003.181.208.23
2015 Outlook: Cole has been a very effective major league pitcher in his first two seasons, but his performance, especially in the fantasy realm, still lags behind the hype that follows the former No. 1 overall pick. He has a 3.09 career FIP in 255⅓ innings, but in his rookie season Cole failed to notch the strikeout totals owners had hoped for, and last season he missed 10 weeks with fatigue and a subsequently diagnosed strain in his throwing shoulder. The big, 6-foot-4 righty possesses a fastball and slider that are among the best offerings in the National League, and while healthy, his strikeout totals finally started to sync up with his elite raw stuff. Cole's 24.2 percent strikeout rate in 2014 was a nice improvement on his 21.3 percent rate from his rookie season, and it does not take much imagination to project further strides in this department in coming seasons. Until he has the 220-inning tour de force campaign most agree he is capable of, Cole's price on draft day will continue to offer room for fantasy owners to profit.
25. James Shields, SD SPYEARGGSIPBBKWSVHDERAWHIPK/9
2014 Statistics3434227.04418014003.211.187.14
2015 Projections3333218.05019014003.511.207.84
2015 Outlook: Shields turned in another solid performance in his final season with the Royals in 2014, posting a 3.21 ERA over 227 innings. He seemed to trade off a few strikeouts in exchange for better control, walking only 4.7 percent of the batters he faced. Given that hes a fly ball pitcher who pitched in a park that depresses home runs and had the best defensive outfield in the game behind him, this pitch-to-contact approach made a lot of sense. He will likely deploy a similar strategy once again in 2015, now that he can call Petco Park his home. San Diego is one of the best destinations for free-agent pitchers, so Shields' value will be trending up heading into drafts. The outfield defense could be a bit of an issue, but the Padres have one of the best bullpens in baseball, and will finally field a competent big league lineup, which should allow Shields to win double-digit games for the ninth season in a row.
26. Matt Harvey, NYM SPYEARGGSIPBBKWSVHDERAWHIPK/9
2014 Statistics----------------------
2015 Projections2424157.04917211003.041.109.86
2015 Outlook: Harvey is returning from Tommy John surgery, having not thrown a pitch in anger for all of 2014. The good news is that the success rate of pitchers returning from the procedure, while not uniform, is much better than a decade ago. Moreover, Harvey will be 16 months removed from his surgery by the start of the season, so he might not have some of the growing pains experienced by some of his peers who came back in 10-12 months. The Mets intend to limit Harvey's workload a little in 2015, so he'll probably throw fewer than 200 innings and might skip a start around the All-Star break.
27. Gio Gonzalez, Wsh SPYEARGGSIPBBKWSVHDERAWHIPK/9
2014 Statistics2727158.25616210003.571.209.19
2015 Projections3232198.07119613003.411.218.91
2015 Outlook: Gonzalez missed six starts in 2014 due to shoulder inflammation, which has to be frightening for fantasy owners considering him at the draft table. But when he was on the mound, his results were similar to his career numbers, if not better in some instances. His 24.8 percent strikeout rate was better than his career average, and his 8.6 percent walk rate, while not elite, was still the best of his career. He also was a little bit unlucky, as his strand rate was a tick below average at 70.6 percent. Gonzalez did lose half an MPH off his fastball, however, and that's probably not coming back at age 29. Look for him to receive somewhat improved run and bullpen support, and if he stays healthy, his peripherals suggest he'll improve on last year's 3.57 ERA.
28. Tyson Ross, SD SPYEARGGSIPBBKWSVHDERAWHIPK/9
2014 Statistics3131195.27219513002.811.218.97
2015 Projections3232196.07218912003.171.228.68
2015 Outlook: Ross has been one of the best success stories on the Padres under manager Bud Black and pitching coach Darren Balsley. After acquiring Ross from the A's before the 2013 season, the Black-Balsley duo changed the righty's mechanics -- giving him a higher leg kick, among other adjustments -- and he paid dividends starting midway through that season. He has one of the best sliders in the game, and he also uses that slider more than nearly every starter in the game. Ross might be paying the bill for that soon, however -- he missed the end of the 2014 season with a forearm flexor strain. The Padres overhauled their roster in the offseason, giving them a much better lineup, albeit at the expense of defense, especially in the outfield. Fortunately, Ross shouldn't be affected as badly as other starters on the staff, given his high strikeout and groundball rates from last season.
29. Cliff Lee, Phi SPYEARGGSIPBBKWSVHDERAWHIPK/9
2014 Statistics131381.112724003.651.387.97
2015 Projections3030190.02917512003.551.168.29
2015 Outlook: Lee is one of the bigger swing pitchers in 2015 leagues, as he's coming off an injury-filled 2014 season. After his first DL stint due to elbow inflammation, Lee tried to return -- with negative results -- and ultimately had to be shut down again. He and the Phillies have opted against surgery to repair the injury instead relying upon rest and rehab. Before he went on the DL, Lee lost a full mph off his fastball, and with it a full strikeout per nine innings. Because Lee pounds the strike zone so much, it's important for him to be able to miss bats, lest he catch a string of bad luck on batted balls or simply allow better contact. That's what happened to him in 2014, as he allowed a .371 average on balls in play. He did make an adjustment, however, generating more ground balls, which helped him limit the homers. Lee's velocity in spring training will help gauge the likelihood of a bounce-back year. A trade seems unlikely, as he's still owed $25 million for 2015 along with a $12.5 million buyout on a club option for 2016.
30. Mark Melancon, Pit RPYEARGGSIPBBKWSVHDERAWHIPK/9
2014 Statistics72071.01171333141.900.879.00
2015 Projections69070.0117144302.060.939.13
2015 Outlook: When an oblique injury forced Jason Grilli to the DL in May, Melancon was afforded another opportunity in the ninth-inning role for Pittsburgh. It wasn't smooth sailing from the get-go, as Melancon blew two of his first seven save chances, leading manager Clint Hurdle to reinsert Grilli into the role upon his activation later in the month. It was just a matter of weeks, however, before the switch back to Melancon was made, and the right-hander went on to convert 23 of his final 24 save opportunities. Melancon finished with brilliant numbers (1.90 ERA, 0.87 WHIP), and though he did benefit from a .258 BABIP and 80.4 percent strand rate, he improved his swinging-strike rate to a career-high 13.7 percent while lowering his line-drive rate by more than 4 percent. He also maintained a ground ball rate above 57 percent, seemingly locking him in as the team's closer to open 2015. There's always a chance the Pirates could look to move him back to the setup role eventually, but he's easily the best option they have in the ninth inning at the moment.