2015 Outlook: Goldschmidt was headed for another MVP-level season before an Ernesto Frieri fastball ended his season. Goldy didn't need surgery, however, which improves his outlook, especially with a more-than-adequate layoff to heal entirely. He maintains first-round value despite the time missed as one of the premier power threats in the game. The speed is likely to continue its slow fade as he gets deeper into his 20s, but as a perennial elite power threat, it's merely the icing on the cake now. He has the one full season of excellence and yet it feels comfortable to bet on a .300/30/100 season, with upside for much more. The 40-homer mark is a distinct possibility, particularly if he can turn the tide on a declining fly ball rate.
2015 Outlook: How do you give back 19 homers and still have a top-15 season? Being Miguel Cabrera helps. He offset the loss with 26 more doubles while also eclipsing the century mark in runs scored and RBIs for the fifth straight season. Cabrera's 2015 outlook has, however, been muddied by a stress fracture in his ankle that was discovered when removing bone spurs in October. The ankle sidelined him here and there in late August -- and he posted a .691 OPS during that month -- but he rebounded with a 1.118 OPS and eight homers in September, so a healed Cabrera should be his perennially excellent self. Short of catastrophic news, he's unlikely to fall from the first round, but anything in the latter half is a discount to be enjoyed.
2015 Outlook: Encarnacion needed only 128 games to put up a full season's worth of numbers, but he no doubt left many wondering what could've been had he not missed 33 games in the middle of the summer. The lack of power in the game as a whole keeps Encarnacion's value extremely high even as he pushes into his 30s and carries an injury history that features seven trips to the DL, including one in each of the past two years. His power plays everywhere, with 58 of his 112 home runs over the past three years coming on the road, but he still leverages his home ballpark for a batting average boost. The Jays' improved lineup could give him another shot at 100 RBIs and a chance at his first 100-run season.
2015 Outlook: Abreu took the league by storm in 2014, hitting 10 home runs in two of his first three months, with an injury to his left ankle seemingly the only reason he didn't complete the feat in May as well. The power faded after the All-Star break, but his production remained strong, as Abreu traded the homers for base hits and walks. Despite just seven home runs in the second half (compared to 29 in the first), his OPS dipped just 24 points thanks to a .350 average and .435 OBP. Was the ankle a cause in this power slide or was it just the regression of his obscene 35 percent HR/FB rate from the first half? The latter seems most likely, but it gave him a chance to show how good he is at hitting. He'll remain a power-hitting force, and when you pair 30-plus homers with an average that should again exceed .290, the result is a truly elite fantasy commodity.
2015 Outlook: Rizzo entered 2014 with a glaring flaw but at an age at which it was hardly set in stone as a known deficiency. He had struggled massively against lefties in his first 356 plate appearances against them, but he unloaded on southpaws for a massive .928 OPS in 171 plate appearances last season. The only impediment for Rizzo in 2014 was a back injury that cost him time late in the season and left him with 20 fewer games played than the year before. His issues with lefties can't be erased completely after the one season, but there is no longer any question he can handle them. The maturation of a youthful lineup will likely be the deciding factor in whether Rizzo can reach 100 runs scored or driven in, but the power and on-base skills are real and spectacular.
2015 Outlook: Freeman's first month looked like a breakout in the making (six homers, .975 OPS), especially on the heels of a huge September in 2013 (six homers, 1.068 OPS), but they actually played out the final five months instead of just extrapolating his April, and he wound up well below the lofty expectations set by his hot start. He wasn't bad by any stretch (.824 OPS), but Freeman clubbed just 12 more homers the rest of the way, leaving him with across-the-board declines in four of the five fantasy categories when accounting for his 15 extra games played. Negativity shan't reign supreme here, though, as Freeman remains a very appealing asset. It's rare to find a 25-year-old with four full seasons of great work already on the ledger. He continues to show incremental improvement, which could lead to a big breakout campaign as soon as 2015.
2015 Outlook: Posey's skill set hardly seems like one that should generate wild fluctuations in production from month to month, but even a low-strikeout, 20-homer power bat can run hot and cold for extended stretches. Despite nearly identical plate-discipline numbers between the first and second halves, Posey's OPS was 221 points higher (.978) after the All-Star break than it was before. The final results in 2014 nearly mirror his career line (.308/.374/.487), and the Giants are perfectly content to give him a heavy volume of playing time by getting him regular work at first base when Brandon Belt is injured or in need of a day off. There's a gaping hole in the San Francisco lineup following Pablo Sandoval's offseason departure to Boston, which may chip away at Posey's counting stats and enable opposing pitchers to attack him with more pitches outside the strike zone. But even with a downgraded supporting cast, Posey has earned the position of first catcher off the board in many drafts.
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: Rumors of Pujols' demise were greatly exaggerated in 2013. He rebounded with a strong 2014 effort, despite a second straight season below .800 OPS. Since he was once the best player in baseball, any sort of decline feels stark, but this is just what happens -- Father Time is undefeated. Pujols' decline has also coincided with a sharp drop in offense across the league. While no longer a truly elite option, he remains a force at the plate, having averaged 30 homers and 108 RBI per 162 games with the Angels. A 25-100 season should be the expectation for Pujols, as that lineup remains remarkably potent. Ten years ago, he would have been one of 31 players to have that kind of season, but he was one of just 11 to complete the feat in 2014.
2015 Outlook: An interesting quirk in Gonzalez's statistical record: he has failed to reach 100 RBI in just one of the last eight seasons, and it was the one in which he hit 40 home runs (2009). He hasn't come anywhere near that power figure in the five years since, but has still been averaging 108 RBI a year, including a league-best 116 last year. Though his homers have leveled off from his days in San Diego, Gonzalez remains a strong fantasy asset with a high floor at a position that requires a substantial offensive component. His high-quality skill set stands up well to the time-induced erosion that affects every player, and A-Gone should continue to churn out productive seasons even as he reaches his mid-30s. The lineup around Gonzalez has been remade, but there's more than enough talent for a sixth straight 100-RBI season, especially for a guy averaging 159 games played in the last nine seasons.
2015 Outlook: The game's modern-day ironman registered fewer than 157 games for the first time ever in 2014, as neck problems cost him 120 games. Neck injuries are very scary, and words like "cervical fusion" are even scarier, but every report has Fielder set to be ready by spring training. Expectations were high for Fielder coming into 2014 as he shifted back into a hitter-friendly ballpark, which was supposed to help him reverse his declining power. He had just three homers before the injury, but the neck problem might simply make 2014 a washout altogether. So we regroup with Fielder to find him a year older and in a less-potent lineup, but still in a friendly ballpark and now equipped with an injury discount, making him an intriguing gamble for 2015.
2015 Outlook: Carter's recipe against big league pitching has been consistent throughout his time in majors over the past three seasons -- walk sometimes, strike out a lot more, and hit the ball a long way when contact is made. Thanks to a .223 average in 2013, Carter's 37-homer campaign didn't garner as much attention as it probably should have, especially since he became an everyday player for the first time since arriving in the majors with Oakland in 2010. Those hoping to extract cheap power from Carter had to endure a .205/.281/.461 line to get his 19 first-half home runs, but he had much better fortune on balls in play in the second half and hit .252/.338/.521 with 18 homers after the All-Star break. There was no discernible skills growth in Carter's second-half surge, and his overall uptick in home runs appears to be the result of generating loft more consistently, as he pushed his fly ball rate to 51.4 percent in 2014 from 46.8 percent in 2013, which is particularly beneficial for a player who reliably sends more than 20 percent of his fly balls beyond the outfield wall.
2015 Outlook: It's hard to drop 27 homers and 90 points of batting average off the previous season's line and still log 525 plate appearances. Davis saw his average fall apart despite a batted-ball profile that should have yielded better results. A career-worst .242 BABIP is a worthy culprit, though he's not an automatic regression candidate, as the shift played a big role here. Davis had a .144 BABIP on groundballs, beating only Brian McCann (.128) among lefties with at least 100 groundballs. Left-handed hitters as a whole had a .241 BABIP on groundballs last year, so he was well off the pace. The .278 average from 2012-13 isn't coming back, but he may develop into our next Adam Dunn, albeit without the seven-year track record of averaging 40 homers and 100 RBI. Even flawed power is still very valuable.
2015 Outlook: Falling one home run shy of a 30-20 season, Frazier finished as a top-three third basemen in rotisserie leagues in 2014, behind Miguel Cabrera and Anthony Rendon. Surprisingly, just four of Frazier's 29 long balls came against left-handed pitching (145 PA) after he hit nine against southpaws in 2013, so while his 17.0 percent HR/FB figures to regress this season, he should have no trouble exceeding 20 homers again if he hits right-handers anywhere near as well as he did last year (.278/.334/.473). Frazier's contact and swinging-strike rates both went in the wrong direction in 2014, but he's been able to maintain consistent strikeout and walk rates across his first three full major league seasons, and his BABIP was not abnormally high last year (.309). The 20 stolen bases, twice as many as he had for his career entering the season, were indeed an anomaly, but improved totals in RBI and runs scored in a healthy Reds lineup would offset the expected dip in steals to a large extent. Keep in mind, Frazier is also eligible at first base, a position at which he was a top-five option a year ago.
2015 Outlook: Santana once again tested the patience of the large swath of fantasy owners who don't benefit from his OBP ability in 2014. In leagues where there was no tangible gain from an elite walk rate that eventually led to an MLB-high 113 bases on balls, owners struggled with his sub-.200 average for the first two-and-a-half months of the season. It went from .151 to .159 in May, making it difficult to bet on much improvement. However, after a concussion DL stint to start June, Santana took off and posted a .266/.384/.488 line with 21 homers and 68 RBI in his final 102 games. He no longer has catcher eligibility, but gaining third-base eligibility softens the blow and lowers the burden on his power, though his best home-run-hitting campaigns should still be ahead of him.