2015 Outlook: Odor might have gone unnoticed by many last season, as he was stuck on the hapless Rangers. Any time a 20-year-old can put in 417 plate appearances of near-league-average work, it's worth noting. He nearly managed double digits in homers and steals despite not quite logging a full season. A boost in batting average is his best route to taking that OBP north of .300, as his plate discipline issues at the MLB level (a meager 4.1 percent walk rate) were foretold by his minor league work (5.6 percent), but at his age, there's is plenty of room for growth in that area. Youth doesn't always develop linearly, meaning he won't automatically build on his rookie season in 2015. This is a high-volatility pick with plenty of intrigue, but tons of downside. Re-drafters, tap the brakes; dynasty leaguers, be ecstatic.
2015 Outlook: After a 23-homer rookie season, Gyorko's stock soared in 2014 drafts, but he ended up as one of the bigger disappointments by season's end. Plantar fasciitis cost him 45 games and might have played a role in his .162/.213/.270 line in 56 games prior to the injury. He returned with a far more palatable .260/.347/.398 in the next 55 games, with five home runs and 27 RBI (a 15/80 full-season pace). Gyorko won't completely fall off the table despite the rough season. Those who bought into his 2013 most will still be on board, and the improvements to the Padres' lineup will make him a chic sleeper. If you want to play it safe with your 2B spot, Gyorko is a fun gamble for your MI spot.
2015 Outlook: Pearce lived his early MLB life as a short-side platoon player on the four corners (first, third, left and right), but a surge against righties resulted in a nice, career year at age 31. He had six homers against right-handers in 488 plate appearances prior to 2014 but hit double that number in just 272 plate appearances while continuing to be a lefty-killer too. The ride appeared over in July, when he managed just a .681 OPS and two home runs, but he caught fire again and closed with a 1.040 OPS and 10 homers in the final two months, despite a lack of full-time play. However, this is his first run of real success against right-handers, and he's too old to map out a legitimate growth pattern. Trusting post-30-year-old breakouts is a fast track to a fifth-place finish, but Pearce should get enough at-bats at DH, with some starts sprinkled in at first base and the outfield corners, to be worth monitoring in deeper formats in 2015.
2015 Outlook: Gennett was his perfect-world projection in 2014: a high-contact righty killer with a sprinkle of pop and speed. He isn't given very many opportunities against lefties, and with good reason -- he never really hit southpaws in the minors and has been a downright embarrassment against them in the majors (.291 OPS, albeit in a tiny 83-plate-appearance sample). He's an All-Star against righties, though, with a .323/.355/.490 with 15 homers and 75 RBI in 621 plate appearances. The best deployment of Gennett in fantasy follows the pattern of the opposing starters. In a weekly league, you should consider sitting him in any weeks when the Brewers are facing three or four lefties, while daily-transaction leagues can run a straight platoon and simply remove him against lefties.
2015 Outlook: Alcantara got ahead of some of his more highly touted prospect mates in the Cubs organization in 2014, getting the call to fill the void first at second base and later in center field. Unfortunately, he wasn't able to carry over his production from the minors in his first exposure to major league pitching. Strikeouts were the big culprit for Alcantara, as he whiffed a whopping 31 percent of the time. The bigger problem is that more help is on the way for the Cubs -- between Albert Almora, Javier Baez and Addison Russell, at least one or two guys are bound to be displaced, and Alcantara is likely to be one of them. Even if the Cubs send down Baez to cut down on his prodigious whiff rate, they still have Tommy La Stella available as a superior OBP option. It's silly to dismiss a player after a 70-game sample, but Alcantara will have to dramatically improve on last season's .205 batting average to reestablish a foothold in the Cubs' lineup.
2015 Outlook: As the theory goes, players are supposed to have a big year in their final year before free agency. Even if the theory is mostly junk science (it is), Cabrera missed the memo, as his 2014 was painfully disappointing. He did not finish in the top 15 among shortstops despite a double-double season because his batting average suffered for a second consecutive season. In fact, his batting average has declined in each of the past six seasons, right along with his batting average on balls in play. It wasn't too long ago Cabrera toyed with a 20/20 campaign, but that one season was fueled by an abnormal HR/FB rate. Another double-double turnout is entirely possible for Cabrera, who settled for a one-year, $7.5 million deal with Tampa Bay, but so is yet another below-average batting line, unless he makes some changes at the plate.
2015 Outlook: Hill remains a maddening fantasy commodity, continuing a career-long trend that has seen his value shift wildly on a near-annual basis. Now 33 years old, injuries have cut into four of his past five seasons, including 29 games out of the lineup last year, and his production has been incredibly inconsistent. His OPS has leapt indiscriminately from the middle .600s to well into the .800s throughout his career, with seasons of stardom transitioning not so smoothly into seasons of struggle. His career average is a .752 OPS, which would be a significant improvement on his 2014 (.654), and it should probably be seen as his upside at this point, but Hill is an anomaly: It's seemingly all or nothing with him from season to season.
2015 Outlook: Injuries once again limited Lawrie's contributions in 2014, as he played in just 70 games for the Blue Jays while back, hamstring and hand ailments put him on the disabled list at various points. When he was on the field, Lawrie put together a .247/.301/.421 line with 12 homers and 38 RBI -- putting him on pace for career bests in both categories. He also took advantage of the hitter-friendly confines of Rogers Centre, hitting .285/.321/.496 in Toronto compared to .213/.285/.353 on the road. The A's acquired Lawrie as part of a blockbuster deal with the Jays in late November, putting him in position to replace Josh Donaldson as their starting third baseman. The aforementioned home-road splits have been consistent throughout his time in the big leagues (career .815 home OPS vs. a .683 road OPS), so there may be reason to lower the ceiling for Lawrie with the move to Oakland. However, at age 25, Lawrie may not be a finished product, and it's reasonable to think that he may be able to provide double-digit homers and steals if he can avoid losing significant time to the disabled list.
2015 Outlook: After four straight seasons of exactly 18 home runs, Phillips saw his HR/FB rate crater to 6.1 percent, and with it came his homer total. Even if you extrapolated his playing time to the 650 PA he has averaged the past eight seasons, he still would have had only 10 home runs. The volume of playing time drove Phillips' value for the two years prior to 2014, but a finger injury limited him to just 121 games. At 34 years old, the likelihood of a return to the 650-plus PA days no doubt shrinks substantially. Second basemen as a whole don't age all that well, so the waning skills plus the potential for more nicks and bruises cloud his outlook. Despite years of trade speculation, Phillips remains in Cincinnati and in a ballpark that can help him stave off some of the aging effects. Don't overpay for the name value.
2015 Outlook: Johnson appears to have won a spring competition with Carlos Sanchez and Emilio Bonifacio to become Chicago's starting second baseman in 2015, and for fantasy purposes, Johnson is far and away the more appealing option. While Sanchez may have the defensive edge, Johnson, 24, has the speed to put up 25 to 35 steals if he can find his way to 500-plus plate appearances. Even if he wins the job, veterans like Bonifacio and Gordon Beckham, who will both be used in utility roles, could steal some starts at second base, but it seems like the White Sox want to award the starting job to one of the two youngsters to take advantage of the versatility of the veterans. Johnson's batting average probably won't be anything special and he won't hit for much power, but for someone who can be had at the very end of drafts, he could be a nice source of speed if he can hold on to the job at the keystone on the South Side.
2015 Outlook: Infante looked like a low-risk, low-upside pick for 2014 after four solid-if-unspectacular seasons. You were buying the solid batting average and hoping for double-digit power. He should've looked like a superstar to Royals fans who have been saddled with the worst second-base play in baseball over the past five seasons, but instead he came down to the level of his predecessors and posted his worst OBP since his rookie season in 2005. Infante's .275 BABIP was similarly a nine-year low and tanked his batting average by 66 points to .252 -- 22 points lower than any of the four prior seasons. He should bounce back a bit, but something in between his 2011 and 2012 output -- that is, an OPS in the low .700s -- is a more reasonable expectation.
2015 Outlook: With immense power comes tremendous holes in the swing. At 22 years old, Baez is a unique talent in that he has 80-grade power from a middle-infield position and is one of a small group of players who are legitimate threats to hit 35-plus homers. The problem is, his struggles to make contact are practically historic. In his rookie season, he struck out 42 percent of the time he came to the plate. Even Mark Reynolds in his worst season struck out "just" 35 percent of the time. Seven of Baez's nine home runs came in his first month; he hit .149/.239/.228 in September, showing no improvement with his contact abilities. Baez is all about counting-category potential, as his batting average carries extreme risks. In a best-case scenario, he's Mark Reynolds 2008, which would make him one of the most valuable players in the game. In the worst case, he struggles to replicate Mark Reynolds 2014, which would make him one of the worst. Either way, Baez will start his season with Triple-A Iowa, as the Cubs want him to work on his plate approach before getting consistent at-bats in the major leagues. While he'll likely be back with the big club before long, Baez will need to cut out some of the strikeouts if he wants to lock down an everyday role.
2015 Outlook: The Josh Rutledge roadblock has been eliminated for LeMahieu, but he got more than 500 PA last year and didn't really do much with it, so the clearer path to playing time doesn't necessarily enhance his value that much. His value is tied almost entirely to his batting average, but after collecting a .321 AVG in 1,669 minor league PA, he has really been able to hit only in Coors. He has a .315 AVG at home and .236 on the road. His back-to-back seasons with double-digit stolen bases have come with an atrocious 62 percent success rate, so he might be getting a yellow light when it comes to opportunities until he can become more efficient (he stole just two bases in seven attempts in the final three months of the season). On the plus side, he is still just 26 and plays in the best park for offense, so in a league with daily transactions, he might be a useful middle infielder to play on long homestands.
2015 Outlook: Owings had double-double seasons each year in the minors from 2011 through 2013 but has yet to do so in the major leagues. The past season, he showed some of that potential, with 27 extra-base hits and eight steals in part-time play, which put him in the lead for Arizona's starting shortstop role in 2015, now that Didi Gregorius has been traded to the Yankees. Owings showed big-time potential in Triple-A as a 21-year-old in 2013, as he hit .330 with 12 homers and 20 steals, but until he gets a handle on his plate discipline -- he walked just 16 times in 332 plate appearances last year -- he won't be a contributor in batting average, though double digits in homers and steals appear likely.
2015 Outlook: Semien was a deep-sleeper candidate in 2014, after a huge season in his first tour through the upper minors. He logged a .284/.401/.479 slash line with 19 home runs and 24 stolen bases between Double-A and Triple-A, which included an eye-catching 98 walks against just 90 strikeouts. Add in that he has played shortstop, second base and third base, and you can see why the excitement was there. Alas, that impressive approach from the minor leagues has yet to surface in the big leagues (22 walks to 92 strikeouts in his 326 PA), and ultimately he was sent back to Triple-A Charlotte in early June and didn't return until rosters expanded in September. The A's acquired him in the offseason, so Billy Beane no doubt sees the upside in this 24-year-old and hopes to extract those minor league skills in a big league setting. He won't start the season with shortstop eligibility, but he will have three positions once he logs enough games to qualify. Temper expectations for the short term, but don't completely forget him after just 85 games as a big leaguer, either.