2015 Outlook: If your league settings allowed you to turn off injuries, like you can in video games, Tulowitzki would be a top-three pick. Unfortunately, that's not an option. Last season was the ultimate Tulo year, as he put up MVP-worthy numbers (.340/.432/.603) at the plate but managed to step up to bat only 375 times. Despite Tulo's superior skills, fantasy owners have been left scrambling for a replacement more often than not over the past three seasons, as he's missed 222 games in that span. Even with Miguel Cabrera's foot issue in play, Tulowitzki remains the biggest wild card of the first round or big-money players. There's no profit here, but if he breaks down, there can be significant loss because he comes off the board early. Count on one stint on the disabled list; hope it's a short one. A trade is also a possibility, as rumors have swirled around Tulo all offseason, and a move out of the hitter-friendly confines of Coors Field likely would sap his fantasy value.
2015 Outlook: Desmond -- not Mike Trout, Andrew McCutchen or Carlos Gomez -- is the only player in baseball to hit at least 20 homers and steal at least 20 bases in each of the past three seasons. His BABIP has remained consistently above league average during this run, but his ability to make contact has not. Desmond's strikeout rate has increased for three consecutive seasons from a near-league-average 21 percent to a much poorer rate of 28 percent in 2014. He does help in all four counting categories, as he was one of just five players in 2014 to go 20/20 while also scoring and driving in at least 70 runs. Desmond is entering the final year of his current deal, and he's looking to cash in his all-around game for a big payday on the free-agent market. There are flashier names at the shortstop position, but this guy has the health to match the production. Invest.
2015 Outlook: There's both statistical and physical volatility associated with Ramirez heading into 2015. Ramirez has played in at least 150 games just twice over the past six seasons, having missed time with oblique, hand and leg injuries. His batting average has ranged anywhere from .243 to .345 in recent seasons. He's hit 20 or more homers many times and stolen that many bases a number of times but has not done both in the same season since 2012. The move to Fenway Park provides Ramirez with the first friendly home ballpark in his career, but the ballparks are not what have hurt his fantasy production in recent seasons. This is a surefire first-round lock if health risks could be removed, but the fact that he's played just one full season in the past four is what keeps him out of the first round and possibly the second, depending on your comfort level.
2015 Outlook: Even though Reyes was hurt on Opening Day and went to the disabled list, he returned just more than two weeks later and played the rest of the season, ending up in a tie with Ian Desmond as the second-most valuable shortstop in standard mixed-league formats. Even at age 31, his speed has held up well, and he's swiped at least 30 bases in four of the past five seasons. Getting to double-digit home runs will remain a challenge for Reyes, as his ISO has declined for four consecutive seasons, but that's not what fantasy owners are looking for anyway. However, while he was mostly healthy in 2014, we're still looking at a player with just one season of 150 games played out of the past six. He's a strong, but risky, three-category producer.
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: Ramirez had stolen 20 or more bases before, and he had homered at least 15 times in a season before, but until 2014 -- his age-32 campaign -- he hadn't done both in the same season. In doing so, he was a top-five fantasy shortstop in standard mixed leagues. Despite his free-swinging ways, Ramirez was able to produce in each of the counting categories while hitting for a decent average. Even as a free swinger, he hits for good average and has shown little volatility in that department thanks to a consistently league-average BABIP. At age 33, it is going to be tougher for him to continue stealing 20-plus bases a year, but manager Robin Ventura has given Ramirez the green light to take bases when opportunities are there.
2015 Outlook: Andrus' fantasy value is built on his ability to score runs and steal bases. He doesn't have enough pop in his bat to take advantage of his home ballpark but can work counts and hit line drives to get on base. His plate discipline has faded away a bit, however, as his walk rate has declined each of the past five seasons, which in turn has limited his opportunities to steal bases. Andrus doubled down on those struggles by being thrown out on 15 of his 42 stolen-base attempts. His speed affords him more infield hits and bunt hits than most players, but 2014 was the first time he did not top 25 of those since his rookie season of 2009. Each of these flaws is correctable, so Andrus is in position to recover some of his lost fantasy value in 2015.
2015 Outlook: Just when Rollins looked like he was heading down a tier in 2013, he pulled fantasy owners back in by outproducing the likes of Starlin Castro and Ben Zobrist in 2014. Rollins posted his fourth double-double season in the past six but had his worst batting average since 2010, as his issues hitting from the right side of the plate have not improved. Rollins stands to see a boost in run-scoring opportunities in a stronger Dodgers lineup than what he had with the Phillies, but the change in parks will likely impact his home run total. Rollins has fought Father Time by incorporating yoga into his training and is still stealing bases like a much younger man. He can still set the table for the Dodgers and contribute in runs and steals, even if his batting average is suffering these days.
2015 Outlook: Aybar is a boring shortstop but a rather consistent one. He gets his 30 doubles, he scores 70 runs, he steals double-digit bases and he hits for a decent average. There's no upside to him, but there's some safety in boring players. He's been bothered by the occasional injury but has still put up at least 550 plate appearances each of the past six seasons. The biggest risk for Aybar's fantasy owners comes from the fact that he puts a lot of balls in play with his high-contact approach and steals quite a few hits in the form of bunts and infield hits based on his speed. At 31, the speed is showing signs of decline, as he's converted just 64 percent of his stolen-base attempts in the past two seasons, and he's not getting any younger.
2015 Outlook: The positive slant on Zobrist's 2014 looks at his 6.3 percent HR/FB rate and spins it as an outlier based on his 10 percent career mark, but the negative slant sees that he also had a 6.1 percent rate in 2013 and a 6.0 percent rate in 2010, giving him three seasons of something in the six percent range in his past five. He hit 20 homers in the other two seasons, with a 12 percent HR/FB in both. His three-position eligibility includes shortstop again, making the power dip much more palatable if that's where you plan to slot him more often than not. Only 12 shortstops hit 10-plus home runs, and only six of those chipped in at least 10 stolen bases, too. If you throw in a batting-average threshold of Zobrist's .272, you're down to just three shortstops meeting all three criteria, with Hanley Ramirez and Alexei Ramirez joining Zobrist. There is still a lot of value here, even at 34 years old and in a spacious new home park in Oakland.
2015 Outlook: Escobar finished 2014 tied with Troy Tulowitzki for shortstop value in standard mixed leagues, leading all American League shortstops with 31 steals and adding 74 runs to go with a strong .285 batting average. All in all, he got his career back on track after a disappointing 2013 season, thanks in part to a rebound in his BABIP, which has gone from .344 to .264 to .326 the past three seasons. Despite playing in 155-plus games in each of the past four years, Escobar reached 70 runs scored for the first time in 2014. His stolen-base production is safe, but the rest of his offensive game is a bit risky because of how volatile his BABIP has been. As that goes, so goes his value.
2015 Outlook: Perhaps it was the small-sample success Bogaerts had during Boston's run through the World Series in 2013 that set such high expectations for the kid in 2014. He became the latest chapter in the book about overdrafting young players based on early success, as Bogaerts finished with a disappointing line overall. The double-digit homer total and 60 runs scored were respectable, but his batting average was below par and he struggled to get on base and drive the ball consistently. He also failed to show much statistical growth as the season went on, as his first- and second-half splits are near mirror images of one another from a rate level. Like Starlin Castro last year, the talent is there and could easily bubble back to the surface with more realistic expectations in 2015.
2015 Outlook: Peralta, like a few of the other players suspended for PEDs, proved last year he could hit without the aid of meds. In 2014, he was one of just three shortstops with at least 20 home runs and one of two who drove in at least 75 runs. Sure, the batting average dropped 40 points from 2013's level, but that was bound to happen, as his .374 BABIP in 2013 was very much an outlier for him. His walk and strikeout rates are very stable, but the slowish shortstop has had quite the volatile batting average in recent years, ranging 64 points in the past three seasons. He's a two-category producer who helps in the power categories, with a three-category ceiling that hinges upon his BABIP.
2015 Outlook: Santana is an interesting player to value for 2015, as he was an unheralded prospect who took advantage of playing opportunities to hit .319 with 41 extra-base hits and 20 stolen bases last year. He came up through the system as a shortstop, but his high error rate (36 errors in 2013) and an acute need for help in the outfield in 2014 prompted the Twins to move him to center field. However, he will be moved back to shortstop this spring to compete with Eduardo Escobar for the starting job. This makes a lot of sense, as Byron Buxton is the center fielder of the future, and the Twins lack strong internal options at shortstop. The move only adds to the fantasy intrigue, as Santana could regress mightily as a hitter, but remain useful based on the scarcity at the position. Speaking of regression, it is probably coming for Santana, as he hit a whopping .405 on balls in play and walked just 4.4 percent of the time. But even with that projected drawback in batting average, Santana should still provide stolen bases, runs and some power growth.
2015 Outlook: It is impossible to overlook the human factor when looking back at Segura's disappointing 2014 season. His play on the field was no doubt impacted by the tragic loss of his son during the season due to illness. That said, we still have to look into his performance on the field. In the first half of 2013, he hit .325/.363/.487 while spraying line drives all over the field with a .349 BABIP. Since the midpoint of 2013, however, Segura has hit .244/.283/.322 with a .278 BABIP. He does have 64 steals in 86 attempts in the past two seasons, providing value at a time when speed is becoming a more precious commodity in fantasy baseball. The real Segura lies somewhere between the early magic of 2013 and the tragic story we saw play out in 2014.