2015 Outlook: Everyone projected Cano's home run output to drop with his ballpark switch, but he ended up hitting 11 fewer homers on the road than he had the year before. However, he still delivered a strong five-category effort that yielded a top-25 ranking among hitters. At 32 years old, there's no guarantee we see a resurgence of the power that gave him a .500-plus slugging percentage for five straight seasons from 2009 to 2013 ever again. There have been only 14 seasons of .500-plus slugging from second basemen aged 32 or older; most recently, Jeff Kent in 2007 during a much different offensive era. This skill set feels like it will age gracefully, however, and the front office's intent on making the lineup deeper will only help Cano's counting stats.
2015 Outlook: The 2014 campaign was the kind of perfect-world scenario that's always been plausible for Altuve, but also questionable due to his team context. Speed and batting average have always been his game, so the path to a huge season would include an exorbitant BABIP, a ton of infield hits and a career-best line-drive rate. Altuve delivered all of those at age 24 last year while still very much in his speed prime, so the .360 BABIP, MLB-high 31 infield hits, and 22.8 percent line-drive rate yielded not only a .341 AVG, but also a .377 OBP that led to 56 stolen bases -- all career highs. He'll almost certainly regress, but even with drops in average and steals, he'll be one of the more productive second basemen out there.
2015 Outlook: Even the savvy owners who targeted Rendon as a source of late-round value in 2014 had to be surprised by the return on their investment last season, as he became a five-category monster in his breakout campaign. The most unexpected part of his coming-out party may have been his work on the basepaths, as Rendon finished 17-for-20 on stolen-base attempts after swiping just eight on 10 attempts in his previous two seasons as a professional across all levels. After opening the season as the Nationals' primary second baseman, Rendon shifted over to third base when Ryan Zimmerman hit the disabled list, and he'll remain at the hot corner in 2015 as Zimmerman transitions to first base following the departure of Adam LaRoche. In addition to carrying similar lines against lefties and righties, Rendon showed no signs of slowing down over the course of the second half. He'll reprise his role as the Nationals' No. 2 hitter this season in what figures to be an excellent lineup.
2015 Outlook: It looked like a carbon-copy season for Kinsler in 2014, but what happened to the walk rate? He ranged from 7.7 percent to 12.3 percent in his first eight seasons before a hideous 4 percent last season. At least he continued to avoid striking out (10.9 percent), something he has done with aplomb throughout his career. The biggest concern with his trade from Texas to Detroit was the shift in home ballpark, and the 61-point drop in home OPS justified those concerns. His road batted-ball profile included a 22 percent line-drive rate that would have played better in Comerica, though he managed just a 17 percent mark at home. The 33-year-old is still a solid bet at the keystone, but teen totals in homers and stolen bases look like the high end after he averaged 20/20 when healthy over his first seven seasons.
2015 Outlook: Kipnis saw his first two full seasons fall apart in the second half, but he broke the trend in 2014 by tanking in both halves. He managed just three homers per half and sat on the wrong side of a .700 OPS in each as well -- not that even a .700 OPS would've really counted for much. His 22 stolen bases couldn't save his value, as he finished 22nd among second basemen. An oblique injury cost Kipnis the bulk of May and seemed to linger throughout the season, holding him to a .615 OPS from his late-May return through the end of the year. The fact that a guy's playing doesn't mean he's 100 percent healthy, and Kipnis exemplified that last season. There is still substantial upside here, and it can now be acquired at a better price after costing a second-round pick just a year ago.
2015 Outlook: Dozier wasn't heralded as a prospect, but he's emerged as a legitimate power-speed threat thanks to an approach based on patience. In fact, that patience gives him a significant value boost in OBP leagues. He scored 112 runs in a sneakily solid Twins lineup that could get quite a bit better in 2015 as they continue their youth movement, so another campaign of 100-plus runs isn't out of the question. However, Dozier's slow second half created some questions about how sustainable his results are, as he managed just five homers and steals in 283 plate appearances after the All-Star break. A July 31 thumb injury only cost him one game, but it may have lingered and sapped some of his power over the final two months. Despite lacking any flashy tools, Dozier brings real value, especially since that batting average tends to depress his value more than it really should.
2015 Outlook: The wrist that Pedroia first hurt in April eventually ended his season in early September and plagued him throughout en route to his worst season ever. The power was in free fall prior to 2014, though, so don't expect too much of a rebound even with full health. His batted-ball profile supports the dip, with a surge in groundballs and back-to-back seasons of sub-30 percent fly ball rates after he sat north of 35 percent in five of his first six seasons. Having stolen just six bases in 12 tries in 2014 and now being on the wrong side of 30, the speed has to be in question going forward, too. Volume is his key to success now. Health should bring the batting average back, but the rest of his value will be tied to staying atop what should be a potent order so he can score a ton of runs. Heed the declines and don't pay for the name value.
2015 Outlook: Two years ago, Castro was being drafted as a top-30 player, but he finished 2013 near the bottom of the top 300. However, 2014 ended up being a profitable year for his owners, as Castro largely returned to his 2012 levels. The one area where Castro's game did not rebound is the stolen-base department, as he took off just eight times and has only 13 steals in the last two seasons now. New manager Joe Maddon does like to use a lead foot with the running game, though, and a change in philosophy could help Castro regenerate that value. His skills aren't as worrisome as his off-the-field issues, as he did get into some legal trouble in late December back in the Dominican Republic, which could affect his 2015 value.
2015 Outlook: Digging into Wong's season shows reasons for optimism. He opened with an abysmal April (.544 OPS) that led to a demotion for a few weeks, but he was much better immediately after being recalled. However, a shoulder injury put him on the DL in late June. His final three months offered a lot of that hope, though. It wasn't flawless (.292 OBP), but he hit a passable .262 with 11 homers and steals -- a pace for 27 of each in a full season. His power doesn't project to be quite that good going forward, though. The category in which he's expected to excel -- batting average -- was actually a deficiency in 2014, as he hit just .249, but was a .305 hitter in the minors. Wong has just 145 games under his belt, so there will still be ups and downs, but this is a growth stock worth buying now.
2015 Outlook: Gordon is a great example of how much fantasy and real-life values can differ. In fantasy, he's a fantastic asset thanks to his overwhelming speed, which can be turned into stolen bases, runs and even batting average (by way of infield hits). A shift to spacious Marlins Park gives Gordon a great chance to repeat as baseball's triples leader, and while few leagues count triples directly, a boatload of them can only help him repeat or improve upon his 92 runs scored. The downside is that any sort of lower-body injury saps all of his value in an instant. Without any pop to speak of, his batting average must stay high, as it constituted nearly 90 percent of his OBP in 2014. This kind of player also puts a larger burden on the rest of your team, so you'd better have a substantial power base before adding Gordon to your squad.
2015 Outlook: Though he missed 19 games in 2014 and his counting stats declined noticeably, Murphy still delivered plenty of value despite the declines. His cost was nowhere near his 2013 numbers anyway, as the fantasy community just seems to be down on the guy despite a remarkably consistent track record. In fact, his OPS has been between .733 and .735 each of the past three seasons. Murphy's bankable value lies in his consistent batting average and useful output in each of the four counting categories, adding up to a package that continues to deliver beyond its cost. Now that he's 30, don't expect the community to finally start respecting Murphy with a boost in average draft position. Instead, just wait for him to drop to you at a bargain … again!
2015 Outlook: Injuries limited Utley's games-played totals in his early 30s, and when he bottomed out at 83 games in 2012, it was starting to look like he'd never be much more than a 100-game guy anymore. Instead, he rebounded for 131- and 155-game seasons at ages 34 and 35. Unfortunately, the former was significantly better due in large part to a 5.9 percent HR/FB rate that left him with just 11 home runs last year -- seven fewer than in 2013 despite the 133-plate-appearance boost. There's nothing in Utley's profile that supports the drop, meaning it should head back toward his career 12 percent mark in 2015. Now the real question becomes whether we can get another 155 games out of him. Don't bet on it. Enjoy something around 130 games, and either build your roster with some flexibility to cover the seemingly inevitable missed time or be prepared to hit the waiver wire for those other 30-plus games.
2015 Outlook: Prior to his breakout in 2014, Harrison appeared to be safely entrenched as a quality utility player with the versatility necessary to be an asset in NL-only leagues. For the first time as a professional at any level, Harrison delivered double-digit home runs last season, turning in one of the most surprising performances of 2014 and displacing Pedro Alvarez as the Pirates' starting third baseman in the process. With the move into an every-day role, his strikeout rate ticked up to a career-worst 14.7 percent, but that mark is hardly a concern. Of greater interest is the .353 BABIP that buoyed his .315 batting average, but part of that surge might have been the result of barreling up more pitches, as Harrison dropped his ground ball rate from 46.7 percent in 2013 to 37.3 percent last season while carrying a 24 percent line drive rate. He also wasted fewer at-bats, dropping his infield fly ball rate from 23.1 percent in 2013 to a much more reasonable 7.1 percent. There will be plenty of doubters, but Harrison could end up with a prominent spot in an underrated lineup, and he offers cheap speed as his floor after swiping 18 bags last season.
2015 Outlook: OK, this is getting kind of weird with Kendrick. His HR/FB rates the past six seasons are as follows: 12.2 percent, 6.9, 16.5, 8.9, 15.7 and 6.5 a season ago. The volatility has wreaked havoc on his homer totals -- ranging from 18 at the high end to just seven in 2014. Maybe that is just the kind of small-sample inconsistency you should expect with someone who's putting the ball in the air less than 30 percent of the time every year. Kendrick has never hit more than 145 fly balls; for comparison, Ian Kinsler has had fewer than 145 just once in the past seven seasons, and that was because he played only 103 games. This is the long way of saying that even the improved park factor in shifting from the Angels to the Dodgers doesn't really aid Kendrick as much as it would others. You're buying remarkably consistent batting average, generally stable speed (save 2013) and useful counting-category contributions. Bet on that batting title coming before a return of double-digit home runs.
2015 Outlook: The slow rise of Walker peaked in 2014 with a great season that actually could have been even better had he not missed 25 games -- more than half of which came due to an appendectomy. He's coming into his own in terms of power, with 53 homers in the past three years -- second at the position to only Robinson Cano (74). Walker has missed time to injury in each of the past three seasons, which has depressed that number, but he actually has a 20-homer-per-season pace since 2012. Of course, the missed time can't just be wiped away by pacing his numbers. He definitely carries some injury risk, mainly because of his back. His other injuries aren't chronic issues, but the back ended his 2012 early and even cropped up in August of last year. His issues with lefties aren't erased by the .280 he posted against them last year, as 24 of the 30 hits he managed off southpaws were singles. In other words, it might've been some friendly BABIP as opposed to a measure of growth, which the presence of more power would've suggested.