2015 Outlook: Donaldson followed up his 2013 breakout with improvements in four of the five standard roto categories, setting new career highs in home runs (29), runs (93), RBIs (98), and stolen bases (eight). His plate discipline remained in line with his 2013 numbers, as he had an 18.7 percent strikeout rate and 10.9 percent walk rate to go with his .255/.342/.456 line. A premium defender at third base, Donaldson has missed only eight games over the past two seasons. The A's traded him to Toronto as part of their latest roster reshaping during the offseason, and the move into a more hitter-friendly home park should pay immediate dividends after Donaldson hit .276/.361/.513 and 18 of his 29 home runs away from O.Co Coliseum last season. Of some concern is that Donaldson's splits against righties (.248/.329/.398) were much worse than his numbers against lefties (.275/.380/.627), but he handled right-handed pitching more capably in 2013 (.285/.371/.442). If nothing else, it's an indicator that Donaldson is more likely to carry an average close to his career .268 mark than the .301 from 2013, but his power numbers could improve with the move to Toronto.
2015 Outlook: Price pounds the strike zone more than nearly anyone else in baseball, walking less than four percent of the hitters he's faced the past two years. After a few health scares in 2013, Price stayed healthy in 2014 and saw a big spike in his strikeout rate, going from 20.4 percent to 26.9 percent. His overall results with the Tigers weren't quite as good as with the Rays, but he's still set to remain among the elite, and he'll likely have better defensive support if the Tigers can regain the services of Jose Iglesias at shortstop.
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: Clayton Kershaw was the only pitcher in baseball to return more value than Cueto in 5x5 rotisserie leagues last season. In his age-28 campaign, Cueto tossed 243⅔ innings and fanned 242, both tops in the NL, and finished second in the Senior Circuit (behind only Kershaw) in wins (20), ERA (2.25) and WHIP (0.96). Meanwhile, Cueto improved his strikeout rate by more than four percent (from 21.1 percent to 25.2 percent) and trimmed his walk rate to 6.8 percent. Perhaps the most important factor in terms of his 2015 outlook was his ability to stay on the mound, as his 2013 season was plagued by recurring lat issues -- he made three separate trips to the DL that year. The Reds' decision to exercise Cueto's $10 million option for 2015 was a no-brainer, but prospective owners, especially those in NL-only leagues, need to be aware of the very real possibility that Cueto could be moved prior to the deadline if Cincinnati falls out of it. Oddly enough, Cueto owns a 3.01 ERA and 1.10 WHIP at hitter-friendly Great American Ballpark for his career and a 3.51 ERA and 1.27 WHIP on the road.
2015 Outlook: Two years into his six-season deal with the Dodgers, Greinke has been everything the team hoped for. In 2014, he posted a career-best 4.81 K:BB ratio, fueled by a career-low 5.2 percent walk rate. Greinke has been especially strong at home since signing with the Dodgers, posting 2.11 and 2.55 ERAs in his two years in Los Angeles. He's back among the first-tier starters now after having been relegated to the second tier for the previous two seasons.
2015 Outlook: Longoria played in all 162 games for the Rays last season, helping to ease concerns about his durability after he played in just 207 games between 2011 and 2012. After he eclipsed 30 home runs for the third time in his career in 2013, Longoria hit just 22 last season while his slugging percentage bottomed out at a career-worst .404. A big part of the regression seemed to come from a diminished ability to handle the outside part of the strike zone, which effectively reduced his ability to spray the ball with any authority to the opposite field. In fact, just one of his 22 home runs was hit to right field in 2014; seven of his 32 long balls were hit to the opposite field in 2013. Longo's eye at the plate eroded over the course of the season, too, as he walked at a mere 6.5 percent clip during the second half, well below his career average of 10.4 percent. Without a physical malady to explain the downturn in production, it might be prudent to lower the ceiling even if a rebound is imminent, but the 2014 line appears to be a healthy floor for Longoria at this stage of his career.
2015 Outlook: Did Lester have a contract-year surge, or was his big 2014 year a matter of all health issues resolving in his favor finally? If you look at his numbers prior to 2012 and 2013, you might conclude that the latter hypothesis is more likely to be true. From 2009 to 2011, he averaged at least 8.55 K/9 before seeing a significant drop the next two years -- looking at that, his 9.01 K/9 in 2014 doesn't seem that out of line. Now that he gets to cross over to the NL and pitch for the Cubs, Lester should consolidate his strikeout gains and have another big year.
2015 Outlook: Even though Reyes was hurt on Opening Day and went to the disabled list, he returned just more than two weeks later and played the rest of the season, ending up in a tie with Ian Desmond as the second-most valuable shortstop in standard mixed-league formats. Even at age 31, his speed has held up well, and he's swiped at least 30 bases in four of the past five seasons. Getting to double-digit home runs will remain a challenge for Reyes, as his ISO has declined for four consecutive seasons, but that's not what fantasy owners are looking for anyway. However, while he was mostly healthy in 2014, we're still looking at a player with just one season of 150 games played out of the past six. He's a strong, but risky, three-category producer.
2015 Outlook: Do believe the hype. While Springer's major league career got off to a slow start after his mid-April promotion -- with the star prospect's power failing to translate early on -- he eventually found his groove (to put it mildly). Springer hit .294/.385/.647 with 10 homers and 25 RBIs in May, and though his average soon fell off a cliff, he maintained a torrid home-run pace throughout the rest of the first half. A left quad strain, suffered shortly after the All-Star break, ended Springer's season prematurely, but GM Jeff Luhnow said in November that Springer was fully recovered and would go through his normal offseason routine, easing any remaining fears entering 2015. Sure, Springer strikes out far too often (33 percent last season), making him a major batting average liability -- and he attempted just seven steals in 78 games with the big club -- but the 25-year-old's raw power is virtually unparalleled, and he has the speed to easily crack the 20-steal threshold. Here's hoping new manager A.J. Hinch is more aggressive than Bo Porter was on the basepaths.
2015 Outlook: Zimmermann emerged as more than just an extreme strike-thrower in 2014, raising his strikeout rate from 18.6 percent to 22.8 percent en route to the finest ratios of his career. While he's throwing a changeup here and there, he mostly relies on pounding opposing hitters with his fastball (93.8 mph on average) and excellent slider. Zimmermann is in the final year of his contract, and the Nats reportedly dabbled in trade talks with the Cubs over the offseason, but nothing materialized. Given that Washington expects to contend in 2015, a midseason trade seems unlikely.
2015 Outlook: Nothing about Martinez's .335-32-103 season flew under the radar, especially since he was promptly rewarded with a hefty four-year contract over the winter. The campaign established him as a consensus top-50 option coming into February, but Martinez saw his stock fall considerably after the news broke that he would need surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his historically troublesome left knee. The expectation is that Martinez will be able to resume full activity in just 4 to 6 weeks, and while that means he will likely miss a large portion of spring training, the Tigers are confident he will be able to work himself back for the start the regular season. At 36 and coming off another knee surgery, Martinez will carry significant risk -- especially given his draft-day price -- but there's still plenty to like. He played 35 games at first base to avoid the dreaded DH-only tag, and while he seemed like a poor bet to hit 30 homers again even before the injury, Martinez has five other 20-plus-homer seasons and has failed to hit over .300 just once in a full season.
2015 Outlook: Though Hamels began 2014 on the DL for the second time in three years, this time with a biceps injury, he returned quickly and still logged 30 starts. When he returned, he actually had more velocity than ever, averaging 92.3 mph with his fastball. The big question about Hamels, however, is whether the Phillies will part with him as they continue their rebuild. The deal sending Jimmy Rollins to the Dodgers seemed to signal that no veteran on this team is untouchable for the right price. Hamels is signed through 2018 with a club option for 2019 at a price that isn't a bargain, but isn't unreasonable either, though he has a no-trade clause with 20 teams. Still, he's the Phillie most likely to net a significant prospect package, so the team has to at least listen to offers. A midseason move out of hitter-friendly Citizens Bank Park, where Hamels had a 3.20 ERA last year (as opposed to 1.82 on the road) could jump him into the first tier of starters.