2015 Outlook: The Mariners rewarded Seager's third straight 20-homer season with a seven-year, $100 million contract extension in November, securing an increasingly scarce resource for the long haul, as power-hitting third basemen have become something of a rare breed. Seager has proven to be durable, having played in at least 155 games in each of the last three seasons, and he improved his defense at the hot corner to earn his first career Gold Glove last season. Seager's home-road splits flipped in 2014, as he had much better numbers at Safeco Field (.300/.370/.523) than on the road (.240/.301/.393) after his OPS was 147 points better on the road in 2013. If Seager can find a way to combine the better of those home/road splits in the same year, there may be a 30-homer season in his bat. Even if he stays in the 20-25 range, Seager should sustain the benefits he received from the arrival of Robinson Cano, as Cano's upgrade to the Mariners' No. 3 hole in the lineup paved the way for Seager's career-high 96 RBI last season.
2015 Outlook: Carter's recipe against big league pitching has been consistent throughout his time in majors over the past three seasons -- walk sometimes, strike out a lot more, and hit the ball a long way when contact is made. Thanks to a .223 average in 2013, Carter's 37-homer campaign didn't garner as much attention as it probably should have, especially since he became an everyday player for the first time since arriving in the majors with Oakland in 2010. Those hoping to extract cheap power from Carter had to endure a .205/.281/.461 line to get his 19 first-half home runs, but he had much better fortune on balls in play in the second half and hit .252/.338/.521 with 18 homers after the All-Star break. There was no discernible skills growth in Carter's second-half surge, and his overall uptick in home runs appears to be the result of generating loft more consistently, as he pushed his fly ball rate to 51.4 percent in 2014 from 46.8 percent in 2013, which is particularly beneficial for a player who reliably sends more than 20 percent of his fly balls beyond the outfield wall.
2015 Outlook: It's hard to drop 27 homers and 90 points of batting average off the previous season's line and still log 525 plate appearances. Davis saw his average fall apart despite a batted-ball profile that should have yielded better results. A career-worst .242 BABIP is a worthy culprit, though he's not an automatic regression candidate, as the shift played a big role here. Davis had a .144 BABIP on groundballs, beating only Brian McCann (.128) among lefties with at least 100 groundballs. Left-handed hitters as a whole had a .241 BABIP on groundballs last year, so he was well off the pace. The .278 average from 2012-13 isn't coming back, but he may develop into our next Adam Dunn, albeit without the seven-year track record of averaging 40 homers and 100 RBI. Even flawed power is still very valuable.
2015 Outlook: Falling one home run shy of a 30-20 season, Frazier finished as a top-three third basemen in rotisserie leagues in 2014, behind Miguel Cabrera and Anthony Rendon. Surprisingly, just four of Frazier's 29 long balls came against left-handed pitching (145 PA) after he hit nine against southpaws in 2013, so while his 17.0 percent HR/FB figures to regress this season, he should have no trouble exceeding 20 homers again if he hits right-handers anywhere near as well as he did last year (.278/.334/.473). Frazier's contact and swinging-strike rates both went in the wrong direction in 2014, but he's been able to maintain consistent strikeout and walk rates across his first three full major league seasons, and his BABIP was not abnormally high last year (.309). The 20 stolen bases, twice as many as he had for his career entering the season, were indeed an anomaly, but improved totals in RBI and runs scored in a healthy Reds lineup would offset the expected dip in steals to a large extent. Keep in mind, Frazier is also eligible at first base, a position at which he was a top-five option a year ago.
2015 Outlook: Arenado mashed left-handed pitching (.313/.375/.598) and took advantage of playing half of his games at Coors Field (where he hit .303/.344/.584 with 16 his 18 homers) to assert himself as one of the premier bats at his position during his age-23 season. In terms of isolated power, only Juan Francisco (.237 ISO) eclipsed Arenado's .213 mark among third basemen. As an excellent defender, Arenado will have plenty of leash to continue playing regularly even if he falls into a prolonged slump, though his second-half numbers (.284/.347/.550, 7.2 percent BB percent) point toward another big step forward as he moves into his third year in Colorado. Further, he lost time to pneumonia and a broken finger last season, which limited him to just 111 games. With a healthy season's worth of at-bats and the potential for more steady contributions from Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez, Arenado has the skills and supporting cast necessary to join the ranks of the elite at the hot corner in 2015.
2015 Outlook: Santana once again tested the patience of the large swath of fantasy owners who don't benefit from his OBP ability in 2014. In leagues where there was no tangible gain from an elite walk rate that eventually led to an MLB-high 113 bases on balls, owners struggled with his sub-.200 average for the first two-and-a-half months of the season. It went from .151 to .159 in May, making it difficult to bet on much improvement. However, after a concussion DL stint to start June, Santana took off and posted a .266/.384/.488 line with 21 homers and 68 RBI in his final 102 games. He no longer has catcher eligibility, but gaining third-base eligibility softens the blow and lowers the burden on his power, though his best home-run-hitting campaigns should still be ahead of him.
2015 Outlook: Votto has now missed significant time in two of the past three seasons, but there's a solid 162-game effort sandwiched in between. Last year was depressed by career-worst totals in both BABIP (.299) and HR/FB rate (11 percent), falling well short of his .355 and 18.3 percent career marks. Are those new levels, or will they soon look like as out of character as his 37-homer season from 2010? The latter is a smarter bet even at 31 years old, thanks to a batted-ball profile that was in line with the one that led to a .314/.419/.541 line in his first seven seasons. Feel confident in betting on the skill, but temper output expectations, as Votto has missed 30 percent of the past three seasons and is now on the wrong side of 30 years old.
2015 Outlook: Carpenter capably made the move from second base to third base last season, but his production in four of the five standard roto categories slipped, as he (perhaps predictably) failed to maintain the .359 BABIP that supported his 2013 breakout. Even with the decline, he was a valuable asset, but the Cardinals are believed to be considering alternatives in the leadoff spot, which would make it difficult for Carpenter to score 100 runs -- he had 99 last year. Thanks to an increase in his walk rate (13.4 percent walk percentage), Carpenter held a .375 OBP last season and was still a viable table setter, but his overall regression can largely be attributed to reduced success against left-handed pitching. After hitting .294/.353/.467 against southpaws in 2013, Carpenter hit .262/.361/.361 against them last season. While 2013 might go down as Carpenter's career year, his floor is high enough that he could reasonably finish 2015 as a top-10 third baseman, even without skills growth.
2015 Outlook: The start of Machado's 2014 campaign was delayed as he progressed through the final stages of his rehab from left knee surgery in April, returning to the field May 1. After a sluggish start in the first month (.220/.271/.284), Machado showed all the signs of a full breakout from June 1 on, as he hit .307/.350/.505 with 10 homers over his final 55 games before a right knee injury in August ended his season prematurely. After having surgery in late August, Machado was given a four- to six-month timetable to return, making it possible that he'll be cleared to join his teammates for full workouts at the start of spring training. Just 22 years old, Machado already has the benefit of more than 1,200 big league plate appearances under his belt. Further, he'll play half of his games in a hitter-friendly home park at Camden Yards, where he hit .299/.357/.522 in 2014. Of the middle-tier third basemen on the board this spring, Machado offers an unmatched combination of upside and an everyday lineup spot.
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: Sandoval avoided injuries last season, playing in a career-high 157 games and offering double-digit home runs for the sixth consecutive season. It should be noted, however, that his 6.1 percent walk rate was his lowest since becoming a full-season regular for the Giants in 2009. Even with the loss of a few free passes, Sandoval is still a good bad-ball hitter. During his time in San Francisco, Sandoval contributed to three World Series-winning clubs, and his postseason heroics are well documented, thanks to a career .344/.389/.545 line in the playoffs. A first-time free agent during the offseason, Sandoval landed in Boston, where he's expected to stabilize the Red Sox's third-base situation and provide run production in the heart of the order. Even if the move out of AT&T Park and into Fenway doesn't lead to a significant increase in home runs, the Boston lineup in 2015 should be stronger than any supporting cast Sandoval has played with in San Francisco, making him a threat to push 90 RBI for just the second time in his career.
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.
2015 Outlook: Now that Adam LaRoche has departed via free agency to the White Sox, the Nats have opened up first base for Zimmerman to move across the diamond -- a move that was desperately needed, given his shoulder woes. Zimmerman has welcomed the move, saying it allows him to focus on his hitting. But it wasn't Zimmerman's shoulder that limited him to just 61 games in 2014 -- rather, he suffered a broken thumb and then a hamstring injury that limited him even once he returned in September. He appears to be fully healed now and will enjoy eligibility at third base and outfield for one more season. The risks with Zimmerman are obvious, but they're also going to be priced in on draft day. Your reward for taking a chance on him could be a 25-homer season.
2015 Outlook: Wright started the season in a slump, finishing April with just one home run along with a 7:27 BB:K and .631 OPS, but he showed signs of putting the pieces back together in May and June before a left shoulder injury surfaced near the end of the first half. Although he attempted to play through the injury during the second half, his OPS fell by 200 points (.565) and he failed to homer over his final 46 games. Rather than undergoing surgery, Wright opted to proceed with rehab through the offseason, and he was cleared to resume swinging a bat in early December. Durability has become an increasing concern over the last four seasons, as he's averaged 126 games played annually during that span. Still, at age 32, it's reasonable to think that Wright still has plenty left in the tank; he may be a strong bounce-back candidate after posting 2012 and 2013 slash lines that were in line with his career marks (.298/.377/.494). If he proves to be fully recovered from the shoulder injury during spring training, Wright should be well worth the risk at what figures to be a discounted price on draft day.
2015 Outlook: The dangers of extrapolation are shown clearly in the case of Adams. He had 17 homers in 108 games back in 2013, which gave him a lot of 20-plus-homer projections for 2014. However, he hit eight of those homers in September 2013, which ballooned his HR/FB rate to 22 percent for the year. He fell to nine percent last year en route to a disappointing 15-homer season. Adams is also a platoon player, which limits his upside. He started only 32 games against lefties and managed just a .528 OPS against them all year. He could push the lower 20s in home runs, but that should be considered the upside, not the expectation. At 26 years old, he's entering what should be his prime years, but he'll need to hit lefties better to take that next step.