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: 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: 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: 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: After two incredibly consistent years in 2013 and 2014, Gomez's production slipped last season, primarily due to nagging injuries to his hamstring, hip, leg and back. Considering most of those injuries were of the lower-body variety, and that Gomez turned 30 this offseason, it is fair to assume that his days as a threat to steal 35-40 bases are behind him. However, he still managed 17 steals in 115 games despite all his injuries last year, so he should eclipse 20 steals if he has a healthier 2016. His hard contact dipped from 35.9 percent to 29.9 percent last year, which was a big reason for his underwhelming .255 average and his 9.7 percent HR/FB (lowest since 2010). It's hard to say how much of that decline was injury related, but there's definitely some bounce-back potential this year. Owners who liked him as a first-round pick last year should invest with confidence, because most of the skills remain and he should only cost a fifth-round pick in 2016.
2016 Outlook: In just 80 games, Sano flashed the skills that matched the hype that chased him throughout the minors, with a .269/.385/.530 slash line in his first exposure to the majors. His 16-percent walk rate is amazing considering his youth and how he was rushed through the upper levels of the Twins' system. The 36-percent strikeout rate is alarming in a vacuum until you realize that Sano skipped right over Triple-A and didn't face any live pitching in 2014, as he missed the year due to Tommy John surgery. He is going to strikeout a fair amount, and that along with his slow foot speed will limit his batting-average upside, but he should be very productive in the power categories. One issue with Sano is that he only qualifies at Utility on draft day, as he failed to play 10 games at any one position in the 2015 season, but his powerful bat is worth plugging into that roster spot early – before you do so with David Ortiz.
2016 Outlook: Those who owned Cano last year are well aware that he hit just .251 with six home runs in 346 at-bats in the first half. His early struggles were not apparent in his season totals, however, as he turned it on in the second half, finishing with a .287/.334/.446 slash line while eclipsing 20 homers for the sixth time in the past seven seasons. His HR/FB spiked from 10.7% in 2014 to 15.9% in 2015, and his hard contact rate also jumped, which explains the rebound in home runs in his second season in the Emerald City. That said, his career 13.9% HR/FB suggests last year's power numbers may represent his ceiling as long as he is playing half of his games in Safeco Field. Cano is locked into the three hole for the Mariners, so he could lead second basemen in RBI for the second straight year in 2016.
2016 Outlook: A fractured wrist cut into what would have been a very nice season for Springer as he put to rest any sophomore slump concerns in a hurry. Even with the shortened season, he contributed in all five categories and most importantly, made a lot more contact than people expected given his track record throughout his professional career. In just one season, Springer improved his strikeout rate by nine percentage points while still hitting for power. The increased contact and the already-strong walk rate helped him get on base 37 percent of the time and allowed him to steal bases at an 80 percent success rate. As long as Springer's health holds up in 2016, a 25-25 season with 100 runs is possible along with a shot at 100 runs driven in, depending on where he ends up in the lineup. If he can get some more loft in his swing, 30 homers is possible. Invest with confidence.
2016 Outlook: Once again the class of the position in 2015, Posey finished fourth in home runs (19), second in runs (74), first in RBI (95) and first in average (.318) among catchers. He also finished with a career-high 623 plate appearances (also tops at the position), thanks to getting 41 games at first base -- up from 33 in 2014. Those starts at first base could continue to creep up this season in an organizational effort to preserve his body, which is great news for fantasy owners, as he will have fewer days off than other catchers. Kyle Schwarber, who qualifies at catcher but will primarily play left field for the Cubs, represents perhaps the most worthy (fantasy) challenger Posey has faced at the position in recent years. However, thanks to an unmatched track record of excellence, the Giants' backstop has remained the first catcher off the board in early expert drafts -- a trend that should continue through spring training.
2016 Outlook: Trading contact -- nearly 10 percentage points -- for power, Carpenter blasted 28 home runs in 2015, which tied him for eighth in the National League and ranked third among NL third basemen. He managed 19 homers in the second half of the season alone (71 games), and his .505 slugging percentage for the season bested the likes of Jose Abreu, Todd Frazier and Kris Bryant. The change in offensive philosophy did not coincide with a move to a more prominent RBI-producing spot in the lineup, as Carpenter continued to hit first or second in the order, as he will likely do to open 2016. Carpenter continues to walk at an outstanding clip, and even if he trades some of that power back in for contact, the 30-year-old should continue to do enough in four categories to warrant a lofty price on draft day. His .228 average against left-handed pitching can be mostly ignored for standard league purposes, as he is going to play every day regardless.