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: In just 80 games, Sano flashed the skills that matched the hype that chased him throughout the minors, with a .269/.385/.530 slash line in his first exposure to the majors. His 16-percent walk rate is amazing considering his youth and how he was rushed through the upper levels of the Twins' system. The 36-percent strikeout rate is alarming in a vacuum until you realize that Sano skipped right over Triple-A and didn't face any live pitching in 2014, as he missed the year due to Tommy John surgery. He is going to strikeout a fair amount, and that along with his slow foot speed will limit his batting-average upside, but he should be very productive in the power categories. One issue with Sano is that he only qualifies at Utility on draft day, as he failed to play 10 games at any one position in the 2015 season, but his powerful bat is worth plugging into that roster spot early – before you do so with David Ortiz.
2016 Outlook: After throwing a career-high 216 innings last season (postseason included), Harvey's Tommy John surgery is fading fast in the rearview mirror. His velocity was essentially all the way back, and his control wasn't far behind. Despite more than doubling his HR/FB from 4.7% in 2013 to 9.8% last year, and seeing his K-rate dip from 27.7% to 24.9% in his first year back from the surgery, he still pitched like an ace. Harvey ranked eighth among qualified starters in both ERA and WHIP, and he ranked 11th with a 20% K-BB%. Those rankings represent where he will be going among starting pitchers in drafts this year, as the expectation will be for him to eclipse 200 innings and 200 strikeouts in the regular season for the first time in his career. If he can suppress home runs the way he did in 2013, a career year is within reach.
2016 Outlook: Those who owned Cano last year are well aware that he hit just .251 with six home runs in 346 at-bats in the first half. His early struggles were not apparent in his season totals, however, as he turned it on in the second half, finishing with a .287/.334/.446 slash line while eclipsing 20 homers for the sixth time in the past seven seasons. His HR/FB spiked from 10.7% in 2014 to 15.9% in 2015, and his hard contact rate also jumped, which explains the rebound in home runs in his second season in the Emerald City. That said, his career 13.9% HR/FB suggests last year's power numbers may represent his ceiling as long as he is playing half of his games in Safeco Field. Cano is locked into the three hole for the Mariners, so he could lead second basemen in RBI for the second straight year in 2016.
2016 Outlook: A fractured wrist cut into what would have been a very nice season for Springer as he put to rest any sophomore slump concerns in a hurry. Even with the shortened season, he contributed in all five categories and most importantly, made a lot more contact than people expected given his track record throughout his professional career. In just one season, Springer improved his strikeout rate by nine percentage points while still hitting for power. The increased contact and the already-strong walk rate helped him get on base 37 percent of the time and allowed him to steal bases at an 80 percent success rate. As long as Springer's health holds up in 2016, a 25-25 season with 100 runs is possible along with a shot at 100 runs driven in, depending on where he ends up in the lineup. If he can get some more loft in his swing, 30 homers is possible. Invest with confidence.
2016 Outlook: Once again the class of the position in 2015, Posey finished fourth in home runs (19), second in runs (74), first in RBI (95) and first in average (.318) among catchers. He also finished with a career-high 623 plate appearances (also tops at the position), thanks to getting 41 games at first base -- up from 33 in 2014. Those starts at first base could continue to creep up this season in an organizational effort to preserve his body, which is great news for fantasy owners, as he will have fewer days off than other catchers. Kyle Schwarber, who qualifies at catcher but will primarily play left field for the Cubs, represents perhaps the most worthy (fantasy) challenger Posey has faced at the position in recent years. However, thanks to an unmatched track record of excellence, the Giants' backstop has remained the first catcher off the board in early expert drafts -- a trend that should continue through spring training.
2016 Outlook: Cole does not yet have 500 major league innings under his belt but he's already a fantasy ace. The fireballing righty finished eighth in the 2015 Player Rater for starting pitchers, contributing mightily in all four starting pitching categories. The scary thing about what Cole was able to do is that all of the metrics fully support the breakout: his batting average on balls in play and strand rate are both right about league average. The .06 difference between his ERA and his FIP further legitimize the studly performance from the former top overall pick. The one area of concern for Cole is that his workload from 2014 to 2015 increased by 70 innings and 1,041 pitches so it remains to be seen how he holds up after the greatets usage of his pitching career. Other than that, set it and forget it with Cole as this is as low-risk as a 25-year-old pitcher gets.
2016 Outlook: Many expected some regression from Kluber coming off his surprising Cy Young season of 2014. While his 2015 strikeout and walk rates were near mirror-images of that 2014 season, some ill-timed home runs with men on base helped his ERA jump more than a full run. He still pitched much better than his 9-16 record would lead you to believe as his 2.97 FIP teases what might have been. A pitcher with a 27-percent strikeout rate, a 5-percent walk rate and a 12-percent swinging-strike rate deserved a better fate than a 9-16 record. Kluber has all of the strong indicators fantasy owners look for in starting pitchers and could once again be a top-10 pitcher in 2016, particularly with some better luck with the long ball. A full season of the improved team defense on the left side of the infield from Giovanny Urshela and Francisco Lindor is an added bonus.
2016 Outlook: Trading contact -- nearly 10 percentage points -- for power, Carpenter blasted 28 home runs in 2015, which tied him for eighth in the National League and ranked third among NL third basemen. He managed 19 homers in the second half of the season alone (71 games), and his .505 slugging percentage for the season bested the likes of Jose Abreu, Todd Frazier and Kris Bryant. The change in offensive philosophy did not coincide with a move to a more prominent RBI-producing spot in the lineup, as Carpenter continued to hit first or second in the order, as he will likely do to open 2016. Carpenter continues to walk at an outstanding clip, and even if he trades some of that power back in for contact, the 30-year-old should continue to do enough in four categories to warrant a lofty price on draft day. His .228 average against left-handed pitching can be mostly ignored for standard league purposes, as he is going to play every day regardless.
2016 Outlook: Cruz doubled down on his improbable 40-homer season with Baltimore in 2014 by doing it again, and then some, in the hostile offensive environment known as Safeco Field in 2015. 2015 was the sixth consecutive season in which Cruz has posted an Isolated Power (SLG-AVG) of at least .200, and lots of hard contact led to a .350 batting average on balls in play. That high BABIP allowed him to hit over .300 for the first time in five seasons despite a 25-percent strikeout rate. Cruz was able to double-up on the 40-homer season thanks to a 30 percent HR/FB, which is well above the 18-percent rate he had posted through his career heading into 2016. If that rate regresses to his career-level, Cruz will have a tough time getting to 30 homers, but the RBI opportunities should be plentiful with the projected lineup in front of him.
2016 Outlook: deGrom picked up where he left off in 2014, proving his Rookie of the Year performance was no fluke. He finished ninth in the 2015 Player Rater for starting pitchers and had the eighth-best Quality Start percentage of all major league pitchers. The one area that held down his fantasy value was the 14 wins, which should have been a lot more. The Mets scored just 3.5 runs per game when deGrom pitched, a rate which ranked in the bottom 20 percent for all starting pitchers. Not that the defense behind him in 2015 was that great, but the Mets have taken a step back defensively on paper in 2016 with their current roster construction, though the offensive support should be better for deGrom with the re-tooled lineup. Skills-wise, there is all upside here with very little risk, and he gets to enjoy an unbalanced schedule against a division that includes two rebuilding clubs in Atlanta and Philadelphia and one middling squad in Miami.
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: Few hitters have offered the yearly consistency that Seager has maintained for the Mariners over the past four seasons. During that span, he's homered at least 20 times annually, while providing a steady run-producing presence near the heart of the Seattle lineup. As the Mariners have brought in additional quality bats around him, Seager's counting stats have improved. Further, he's shown more pop in each of the last two seasons, while cutting his strikeout rate to a career-low 14.3 percent in 2015. After hitting 16 of his 25 home runs at Safeco Field in 2014, Seager's power shifted last season as he hit 19 of his 26 long balls on the road. A 30-homer season may still be lurking in his bat, but the Mariners have more talent around Seager in the lineup now than at any point in his career, so another level in runs and RBI may be on the horizon.
2016 Outlook: Upton's OPS dipped below .800 for just the third time in his nine-year career last season with the Padres, due in part to the lowest BABIP (.304) since his rookie season. Still, he was awfully productive in terms of counting stats, notching 25-plus homers and 18-plus steals for just the third time in his career, thanks largely to the improved hitting dimensions in San Diego. Petco Park actually ranked as the 10th-best place to hit homers in 2015, while Upton's new home, Comerica Park, ranked 26th, according to ESPN's park factors. The organization change is not all bad news, however. Detroit was ninth in stolen-base attempts last season, despite finishing 27th with a 61.9% success rate, so there's no reason to think Upton won't have the green light in many situations, which should allow him to push for double-digit steals again. He'll also have a chance to top last year's run totals, potentially hitting in front of Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez and J.D. Martinez in a potent Tigers lineup.
2016 Outlook: On the heels of his third consecutive 30-homer, 100-RBI season in 2015 at age-39, Ortiz announced that the 2016 campaign would be his last in the big leagues. Outside of a slight reduction in playing time when the Red Sox face left-handed starters (he hit .231/.277/.426 in 184 plate appearances against southpaws last season), the primary DH role should belong to Ortiz for another year. Since the start of the 2013 season, only five players have amassed more homers than Ortiz (102). With his combination of power (.280 ISO) and plate discipline (12.5 BB%, 15.5 K%), Ortiz remains a hitter to be feared, and he should have plenty of chances to drive in runs again from the heart of the order in Boston if the bats around him stay healthy.