2015 Outlook: Among hitters, only Mike Trout and Jose Altuve returned more value in standard rotisserie leagues than Brantley last season. With a .327 average, which ranked third among qualifying hitters, 45 doubles, 20 home runs and 23 stolen bases, Brantley earned his first All-Star bid and finished third in the American League MVP vote. His BABIP jumped nearly 30 points, from .304 to .333, and his HR/FB rate of 12.7 percent was nearly double his 2013 mark (6.8 percent), but he also struck out just four more times than he walked and finished with a 91.3 percent contact rate, trailing only Victor Martinez in the AL. Brantley was one of six players in baseball to drive in 90 or more while scoring 90-plus runs, and he made major strides against left-handed pitching, slashing .307/.378/.449 against southpaws, up from .276/.325/.339 a year before. It's understandable to be a bit skeptical, and some regression has to be expected, but Brantley should continue to be a five-category fantasy anchor while batting third for the Indians.
2015 Outlook: There's both statistical and physical volatility associated with Ramirez heading into 2015. Ramirez has played in at least 150 games just twice over the past six seasons, having missed time with oblique, hand and leg injuries. His batting average has ranged anywhere from .243 to .345 in recent seasons. He's hit 20 or more homers many times and stolen that many bases a number of times but has not done both in the same season since 2012. The move to Fenway Park provides Ramirez with the first friendly home ballpark in his career, but the ballparks are not what have hurt his fantasy production in recent seasons. This is a surefire first-round lock if health risks could be removed, but the fact that he's played just one full season in the past four is what keeps him out of the first round and possibly the second, depending on your comfort level.
2015 Outlook: Because Upton arrived in the majors at such a young age and had such high expectations as a No. 1 overall pick, it's conceivable to view his career as a disappointment. He had what appear to have been his peak seasons at ages 21 and 23, and his subsequent seasons have been merely good, not outstanding. A new line of sabermetric analysis suggests that players no longer follow the traditional bell curve of development -- instead of peaking sometime between 26 and 28, they often are as good as they're going to be a couple of years into their MLB tenure. One size doesn't fit all, but it does appear to fit Upton. He's now with the Padres after an offseason blockbuster deal, meaning he'll have to hit in Petco Park, which depressed right-handed power more than any other ballpark in the league last year. Upton is a free agent after this season ends, however, so a midseason trade is also possible.
2015 Outlook: On any other team, Dickerson may be little more than a platoon player, but with Colorado, he's a potential All-Star and borderline OF1 for fantasy purposes. A bench option to begin 2014, he was sent to Triple-A a week into the season, but injuries to Michael Cuddyer and Carlos Gonzalez eventually opened up regular playing time. Dickerson made the most of the opportunity, clubbing a team-high 24 home runs, scoring 74 runs and plating 76, and he would have likely finished in the top five in batting average in the NL had he logged enough plate appearances to qualify. However, away from Coors Field, Dickerson hit just .252/.305/.431 with nine homers and 23 RBI (he hit .363/.415/.684 at home), and his OPS against southpaws (.724) was more than 260 points below his mark against right-handers (.985). His struggles against lefties may very well result in fewer chances against them in 2015, but Charlie Blackmon seems more likely to lose at-bats to Drew Stubbs, and any fear of an in-season trade seems misguided, with Gonzalez the more realistic candidate to be moved.
2015 Outlook: Less than a month into the 2014 campaign, Harper suffered a torn UCL in his left thumb that required surgery and kept him out for more than nine weeks. Predictably, Harper struggled immediately upon his return, slashing just .228/.330/.342 with five extra-base hits (two homers) in July, but he eased lingering concerns about the thumb by batting .283 with 11 homers over the final two months of the season. Manager Matt Williams, who infamously benched Harper early in the year for a "lack of hustle," primarily batted him sixth in the order, which proved far less fruitful in terms of RBIs. However, Harper should see more opportunities this year following Adam LaRoche's departure in the offseason. There were some concerning signs in regard to Harper's plate discipline last year, as his strikeout rate ballooned to 26.3 percent (from 18.9 percent) and his walk rate fell by nearly three percent. Those issues were masked to a certain extent by a .352 BABIP (career .319), so it wouldn't be a surprise if his average dipped a bit, but it's paramount to realize Harper is just 22 years old, and if he can stay healthy and refine his approach, he could finally turn in the type of season people have been waiting for. His upside remains as high as anyone's.
2015 Outlook: Marte was looking like one of the bigger busts in fantasy after the season's first month, as he was sitting with just a .229/.308/.305 batting line and one homer when the calendar turned to May. We hope you were patient. A move down to seventh in the batting order helped Marte get back on track, and while his run and steal totals suffered as a result, his improvement in batting average and RBI made up for it. Following a stint on the DL with a concussion shortly after the All-Star break, Marte returned with a vengeance, finishing with a spectacular .348/.408/.567 line in the second half. The 26-year-old still needs to work on cutting down his strikeouts (24 percent last season), but he was able to draw walks at an improved clip (6.1 percent), and his great speed should afford him the luxury of maintaining high averages in the years ahead. The steals should be there no matter where he's batting in the order, and there's still room to grow from a power standpoint.
2015 Outlook: Unless you're in an OBP league, don't discount Cespedes too much following his largely forgettable run with the Red Sox at the end of last season. Sure, his 5.4 percent walk rate and .190 ISO from 2014 were career lows, but Cespedes was able to shave four percent off his strikeout rate from 2013 thanks to a three percent reduction in swinging-strike rate, and he was able to muster 22 home runs despite just a 9.6 percent HR/FB. Cespedes' contact rate improved by nearly seven percent, jumping from 73.7 percent to 80.0 percent, and he improved his OPS against right-handed pitching by more than 100 points (from .672 to .777). Granted, his decline against lefties was troubling, with his OPS against southpaws dropping a whopping 214 points (from .880 to .666), but the 29-year-old's raw power is undeniable and there's reason to think his numbers can improve in a stacked Detroit lineup.
2015 Outlook: Gonzalez got off to a hot start last season, smacking four homers in his first 10 games, but a bout of knee tendinitis in late April sobered up fantasy owners and proved a precursor to more serious injuries. His left index finger began presenting issues in May, and while he was able to play through the discomfort for close to a month, Gonzalez ultimately required surgery to remove a benign tumor. Less than a month after his return, Gonzalez was forced out of action yet again, this time due to a patellar tendon tear that required season-ending surgery. As a result, Gonzalez was capped at a career-low 70 games, and his performance when on the field wasn't anywhere near what is customary for the two-time All-Star. Gonzalez managed just a .723 OPS, marking the first time since his rookie year he posted a mark below .878, and he notched a mere three steals after recording 20 or more in each of his previous four seasons. Of course, the lackluster production can be attributed in large part to the injuries, but the 29-year-old's extensive medical history should temper any future projections, and there's a possibility he could be traded away from the hitter-friendly confines of Colorado at some point during the year.
2015 Outlook: Nobody was hotter than Kemp after the All-Star break, as he slashed .309/.365/.606 with 17 homers and 54 RBIs in just 263 second-half trips, which more than made up for the .269/.330/.430 line, eight homers and 35 RBIs he supplied over the first 3½ months. The lackluster numbers in the first half can be attributed in part to inconsistent playing time, with manager Don Mattingly platooning Kemp for a period and even benching him for a brief stretch in late May before ultimately moving him to the corners. Kemp's HR/FB rate more than doubled from 2013, going from 9.1 percent to 20.0 percent last season, but he finished with a career-best line-drive rate (25.9 percent) and a 30.0 percent rate of swinging at pitches outside the strike zone, the second-lowest mark of his career. Now the anchor of a revamped Padres lineup, Kemp could be in danger of seeing his homer total slip in the spacious confines of Petco Park, and his days as a double-digit steals contributor are likely behind him, but Kemp should benefit from having a more defined role, and his blistering run down the stretch provides hope that he can still provide top-50 production if he can stay healthy.
2015 Outlook: A 50-game ban for his involvement with the Biogenesis scandal at the end of the 2013 campaign diminished Cruz's stock significantly entering free agency, forcing him to settle for a one-year, $8 million deal, but he recouped that value, and then some, with an outstanding season for Baltimore. Cruz led the major leagues with 40 home runs, 25 of which came on the road, and he broke the 100-RBI threshold for the first time in his career. He trimmed his strikeout rate from 2013 by more than three percent, from 23.9 percent to 20.6 percent, while also slightly improving his walk rate. Cruz's .288 BABIP last season was more than 10 points below his career average, though his HR/FB rate of 20.4 percent was just the fourth-highest mark of his career. The 34-year-old cashed in with a four-year, $57 million contract from the Mariners in the offseason, and while his power expectations should be tempered a bit with the move to Safeco Field, there's no reason to think he can't approach 30 homers if he can stay on the field for 140 or more games.
2015 Outlook: Giancarlo Stanton gets much of the credit for the Marlins' surprisingly competitive 2014 campaign, and rightfully so, but Yelich deserves a lot, too. Yelich set the table atop the order for Miami, drawing 70 walks in 660 plate appearances en route to 94 runs scored, good for fifth in the National League. He fared far better against left-handed pitching than he did over the final two months of the 2013 season, slashing .317/.376/.444 in 158 plate appearances, up from just .165/.245/.231 in 102 trips the year before. The former first-round pick (23rd overall in 2010) also swiped 21 bags in 28 attempts and won a Gold Glove in left field, all as a 22-year-old. He has been able to maintain a high BABIP at each stop as a professional and thus isn't much of a batting-average risk, and it's reasonable to think he can reach double-digit homers in 2015 if healthy for the entire year. Yelich made one trip to the DL last season due to a back injury.
2015 Outlook: While Holliday is no longer a perennial All-Star, he remains a safe, consistent fantasy option. With 20 homers and 83 runs scored last season, Holliday has now reached those levels in a whopping nine consecutive campaigns, and he's reached 88 RBI in all but one of those years. Sure, the power is waning, and Holliday's .272 batting average was a career low, nearly 30 points below his 2013 mark, but he finished strong with a .281/.367/.515 line after the All-Star break. Further regression is entirely possible, and perhaps likely, entering his age-35 season, but it's highly unlikely Holliday's production will suddenly fall off a cliff. He still does enough in four of the five roto categories to warrant a top-70 draft position, and he makes for an especially enticing high-floor option for those who take risks early on in drafts.
2015 Outlook: Gordon may not truly stand out in any one statistical category, but he does enough across the board to warrant consideration as a second or third fantasy outfielder. Prospective owners will, however, want to keep a close eye on Gordon's health and production during spring training, as he underwent surgery on his wrist in late December. The expectation is that he will be ready for Opening Day, but wrist injuries have been known to sap power, and that's especially troubling for a player who possesses relatively modest pop for a corner outfielder to begin with. Assuming he is truly healthy to start the year, Gordon should once again occupy a spot in the heart of the Royals' lineup, providing useful RBI and run production in addition to double-digit steals and home runs. Some batting-average growth is possible, but should not be expected as Gordon enters his age-31 season.
2015 Outlook: Moss hit only four homers after the All-Star break, and the reason for that became pretty clear in September, when the A's announced he had been playing through a torn labrum in his hip that would ultimately require surgery. Moss had that surgery on Oct. 21 and later was traded to the Indians for second-base prospect Joe Wendle. Ideally, the Indians would like to use him at either first base or DH -- whichever position isn't occupied by Carlos Santana -- with Nick Swisher manning right field. But between Swisher's knee and Moss' hip, there's a lot of uncertainty about who is going to be available and at what capacity. Before the injury, Moss was great, hitting 21 homers with an .878 OPS prior to the All-Star break. If he fully recovers, he might even benefit from the change in ballparks, as he consistently was hurt by his home ballpark in Oakland during the past three years.
2015 Outlook: With back-to-back seasons of 30-plus homers in a pitcher-friendly ballpark, there was real excitement about what Trumbo might do in Arizona over a full season. Unfortunately, a fractured right foot limited him to just 88 games, and he hit just 14 homers in that time, thanks in large part to a career-worst HR/FB rate of 14.3 percent. He spent 2012 and 2013 at a lofty 21 percent, but suffered the big drop in 2014 despite posting a career-high 40 percent fly ball rate. Trumbo's still virtually the same guy, though, with bankable power and a batting-average deficiency. His inability to consistently walk holds that average down, as does his lofty strikeout rate. These skills have largely been static throughout his mid-20s, making it unlikely that we'll see a major shift at this point, which also means that his 40-homer potential may not quite materialize.