2016 Outlook: Those that had Abreu down for significant regression in 2015 were dead wrong. There was some give in his numbers, but he still put up a fantastic effort in his sophomore campaign with the White Sox. In fact, the projections in this very space last year prepared prospective owners for most of the fall off, pegging him for 78 runs, 34 homers, 100 RBI, and a .286 average. It was light on the runs and average, heavy on the homers, and virtually dead-on with the RBI. After just two seasons, Abreu already feels like that reliable rock upon which to build your team. He has a solid foundation of skills while also still holding some upside. If he sold out for more power, he could join the 40-homer club, but likely at the cost of some batting average.
2016 Outlook: It is hard to find value in the first couple rounds of a draft. Owners are generally paying a premium for the high floors established by superstars. However, Cabrera is one of those rare guys for whom owners will pay a premium while still getting some legitimate upside because his price has dropped following his first ever DL stint. The calf strain that cost him 35 games might be a bigger deal if it had ended his season, but he returned for 42 games and still did a lot of Miggy-esque things: .316/.410/.454. The power was light for sure, but he finished the season on the field so we aren't left with a cloud of uncertainty. The back-to-back 44-homer seasons were clear outliers and that kind of power isn't coming back, but he was a lockdown first-rounder before those seasons and there's no real reason he can't be again in 2016.
2016 Outlook: Rizzo has been drawing comparisons to Paul Goldschmidt because of the 17 steals, but whereas that has long been a part of Goldy's game, there was no precedent for Rizzo's speed burst. Coming into 2015, Rizzo was just 16-for-28 (57 percent) on the basepaths. The rest of his profile is positively alluring. He held most of his 2014 gains versus LHP to maintain a solid batting average while finishing six runs shy of a 30-100-100 season. His 17 percent strikeout rate and 12 percent walk rate over the last two seasons match that of Miguel Cabrera and suggest some batting average upside, but nearly two-thirds of his groundball contact is pulled weakly for easy outs. StatCast tells us that Cabrera has a top-five Exit Velocity while Rizzo lingers below average. While there may not be substantial growth ahead, the floor is very sturdy.
2016 Outlook: Bryant's rookie season was a virtuoso performance, complete with parts of at least seven games in each outfield position and even a game over at first base. This is less relevant for fantasy purposes since he came up just shy of the 20-game plateau in the outfield, but it shows a measure of acumen for the game that shouldn't go unnoticed. Lost in the fervor over his amazing power potential is the fact that Bryant posted the fifth-best BABIP in baseball (.378) en route to just a .275 average. Unless he improves the strikeout rate (31 percent, tied for the highest in MLB), his batting average is at risk. He was tied with Chris Davis, a profile you should look at when trying to assess Bryant. Davis has averaged .256, 40 homers, 103 RBI, and 83 runs over the last four seasons with some incredible highs, but also the 2014 meltdown. There is a lot to love with Bryant, but he's not at all risk-free.
2016 Outlook: An Orioles hitter has led the majors in home runs in each of the past three seasons, and Davis has accounted for two of those crowns, so it was fantastic news when he re-upped with Baltimore on a seven-year deal this offseason. It is debatable how good that deal will look for the club in a few years, but for fantasy purposes, it works perfectly. Park factors suggest Camden Yards is the best hitter's park in the American League, which is one of the reasons Davis has averaged 40 homers a year over the last four seasons. Another reason is that he has exquisite raw power from the left side, which he sells out to get to during games, leading to a 31 percent K-rate both last season and for his career. It is understandable that his all-or-nothing approach won't lead to any batting titles, but he has managed to hit above .260 in three of the past four seasons, which is excellent for a slugger of his ilk.
2016 Outlook: A lot of guys would kill for a 3.41 ERA over a full season, but for Sale, it was the highest ERA of his major league career. Despite setting new full-season bests in strikeout rate and walk rate, he went 13-11 thanks to some defensive challenges behind him that led to a high batting average on balls in play and his not stranding as many runners as he had in seasons past. The concerns about his durability are overplayed as he's missed just a handful of starts, and he's getting better with age as his strikeout rate has improved each of the past four seasons. The additions of Todd Frazier amd Brett Lawrie on the infield should help convert more of Sale's batted balls to the left side into outs and hopefully get him a few more wins in 2016. Just keep him away from the Twins who hung four of the 11 losses and 27 of the 79 earned runs on Sale in 2015.
2016 Outlook: It is not that often that the hype matches the production for young players, but Betts is already there in less than two full seasons in the big leagues. A few scouts said Betts was the best player in the 2013 Arizona Fall League and last season he showed why at the big league level. Betts struggled out of the gate and had an unimpressive slash line of .234/.293/.366 in mid-June but went on to hit .329/.372/.552 the rest of the way with 13 home runs, 11 steals, and 68 runs scored. Betts has a very disciplined strike zone for a young player and is a strong candidate for a 20/20/100 season in just his third season in the majors. Do the exact opposite of what Flava Flav and Chuck D told you in the late 80's and believe the hype. Betts is the new thing and you'll want to be a part of what he brings in 2016.
2016 Outlook: Buying in on Arrieta's 2014 yielded glorious rewards, as he turned in a historically excellent season. Only eight pitchers have posted a 1.77 ERA or better in 229-plus innings since 1947. That list includes guys you may have heard of like Sandy Koufax, Bob Gibson, Tom Seaver, and Dwight Gooden. Nobody's expecting an encore, but even an ERA that came in a full run higher would have been the tenth-best mark last year. The only lingering question with Arrieta surrounds his health as 2015 was far and away his most innings pitched ever. His 2014 season (157 IP) was his career-high coming into the season. Injuries were a big reason that his breakout took so long in the first place. If every pitcher comes with a set amount of risk, Arrieta's is that plus 10 percent or so, but the payoff more than makes him worth the cost. Accurately projecting wins is tough, but if anyone is a good bet for 20-plus, it's Arrieta, given the additions the Cubs made to a 97-win club.
2016 Outlook: The trade from Cincinnati to Chicago should not affect Frazier's power numbers as his former park and current park are practically identical in terms of home run park factors. What should help Frazier out are the bats in front of him in the lineup. Adam Eaton, Melky Cabrera, and Jose Abreu project to be batting ahead of Frazier while he bats cleanup, which should provide frequent RBI opportunities and assist him in finally breaking the 90-RBI plateau. While Frazier is no Mike Trout, only Frazier and Trout have hit at least 25 homers, stolen at least 10 bases, driven in 80 or more runners and scored at least 80 times in both of the past two seasons. The only knock on Frazier is the batting average, but he plays every day and piles up the counting stats. There is no reason to expect differently in 2016.
2016 Outlook: Those who doubted the legitimacy of Martinez's 2014 breakout campaign sure got quiet in a hurry. While his slash line was down slightly across the board last year, he still brought the goods in the form of 38 homers and 102 RBI, which ranked 11th and 10th in MLB, respectively. His BABIP and HR/FB both check out. This seems to be what Martinez is. He's a bona fide middle-of-the-order slugger with easy 30-plus homer power. As crazy as it may have sounded two years ago, Martinez is one of the safest outfield options available this year. The Justin Upton signing could allow Martinez to plate even more runners in 2016, as he will be hitting fourth or fifth in what should be a potent top half of the order in Detroit. For owners who miss out on a top-shelf slugger in the first two rounds, Martinez could offer similar production with a third- or fourth-round price tag.
2016 Outlook: If not for the amazing season from Paul Goldschmidt, Votto's 2015 numbers from first base would have a much shinier luster to them. Despite the homers, runs, steals and average, Votto still finished a tier below Goldschmidt last season and the RBI category was the big differentiator as Votto drove in 30 fewer runs than Goldschmidt. Some were blaming Votto for not expanding his zone with men in scoring position, but he hit .291/.484/.509 with men in scoring position versus .304/.439/.507 with the bases empty. The true crime was Votto had 79 fewer runners on base when he was at the plate than did Goldschmidt. That isn't likely to improve for Votto in 2016, as Cincinnati has pared down its roster and has reduced the talent around him. There's a good chance opposing pitchers will pitch around Votto even more than they have in the past to deal with the less potent bats behind him in the lineup and that is going to diminish his value in standard league formats.
2016 Outlook: With just three full seasons under his belt, Marte's skill set is remarkably stable. His slash line in each of the past three seasons has held steady and he's put up double-digit home run and stolen base totals in each of the past three years. He does not walk much, which limits his stolen base upside. He also hits too many groundballs, which limits his homer upside. Nevertheless, there is one area where he has shown year over year improvement: making contact. His strikeout rate has improved each of the past four seasons and he made a rather large improvement last season even if it didn't show up in his batting average or his on-base percentage. He's more likely to bat .300 than he is to hit 20 homers in 2016, but the speed is real and he's a five-category producer that will go off the boards early.
2016 Outlook: Bumgarner is so consistent at this point it is almost boring. He has thrown at least 200 innings in each of the past five seasons. He has struck out greater than 20 percent of the batters he has faced in all but one season of his career. He has never had a double-digit walk rate in a season and hasn't had a WHIP over 1.20 since 2011 or an ERA over 3.00 since 2012. His strikeout rate has improved each of the past four seasons and he's won at least 16 games in three of the last four campaigns. He even hits home runs when he comes up to bat. All pitchers have some risk built in, but the risk associated with Bumgarner is about as minuscule as his walk rate in recent years. Write him into the top 10 for the Player Rater with a Sharpie, because it is a stone-cold lock.
2016 Outlook: Blackmon has now put up back-to-back productive seasons with the full-time role in Colorado and was so good in 2015 that he finished fourth overall in the Player Rater rankings for outfielders (just behind Mike Trout). Blackmon plays every day and compiles the counting stats across the board, but inflicts most of his damage in Coors where he has hit .334/.386/.501 in his career versus .241/.283/.370 away from the Mile High City. His splits against righties and lefties are not as dramatic, but he clearly favors righties when at the plate. If he's facing a righty at home, he's a must-play, but the offseason chatter about him possibly being traded by the Rockies would absolutely take a chunk out of his fantasy value. He's so good at home that his limitations on the road can be overlooked, but a trade away from Coors would severely impact his draft day value.
2016 Outlook: One does not need a Price pun to describe how well the lefty has pitched in his career. He has missed just a handful of starts in his career but has otherwise been getting better with age and pitched his way to his huge payday this winter as a free agent. He piles up strikeouts while rarely walking batters and excels in the ratio categories. Run support has not been a problem since he left Tampa Bay and that is likely to continue with the well-rounded Red Sox lineup behind him. He should also have a very strong bullpen to help get him off the hook when he is lifted from the latter stages of games. Price is still pitching with an elite fastball and keeps batters honest with the cutter and the changeup, and owners should expect similar dominance in 2016. After all, Price has historically pitched very well in Fenway and is intimately familiar with the other venues in the American League East. Come on down!