2015 Outlook: Bryant enters 2015 atop many prospect rankings, and should be considered an early favorite for Rookie of the Year honors in the National League. The Cubs kept Bryant in the minors for all of last season, splitting his time nearly evenly between Double-A Tennessee and Triple-A Iowa. His plate-discipline numbers were nearly identical at the two levels, as he walked in 14.5 percent of his plate appearances while striking out in just over a quarter of them. With raw power at the top of the 20-80 scale, Bryant makes an overwhelming amount of hard contact and possesses the ability to drive the ball to all fields, a tool that he used to swat 43 home runs over 594 plate appearances in 2014. There are still some questions regarding his ability to stick at third base in the long run, but the Cubs have been adamant about giving him a chance to handle the hot corner before moving him to the outfield. While he'll start his year at Triple-A Iowa, Bryant will likely be called up to serve as the everyday third baseman shortly after April 17, at which point the Cubs gain an extra year of team control over their prized rookie.
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: After he turned 36 years old in June, Ramirez's power disappeared during the second half of last season. He hit just four home runs in his final 63 games in the second half after putting himself on track for another 20-homer season with 11 long balls in the first half. Rather than push for a multiyear deal in free agency during the winter, Ramirez exercised his side of a mutual $14 million option to remain with the Brewers for 2015. On the health front, a recurring hamstring injury was the primary culprit for Ramirez's lost time in 2014, but he still managed to push his way into 133 games. The red flag in his profile is a diminished walk rate, as Ramirez drew free passes at a four percent clip, the lowest mark of his career as a full-season player. The wear and tear caused by a 162-game season might lead to regular preventative maintenance at this stage of his career, but Ramirez continues to put a lot of balls in play, and the Brewers have limited depth behind him at third base, which should enable his gracefully aging skill set to take another 500 trips to the plate in 2015.
2015 Outlook: The Pirates moved Alvarez off of the hot corner last season after his defense eroded to the point where he was a regular liability to the team's pitching staff. That Josh Harrison was having a breakout season at the plate and needed a regular defensive position certainly contributed to the decision, but there had long been questions about Alvarez's ability to handle the rigors of third base. In addition to his woes in the field, Alvarez didn't display his typical level of power, slugging a career-low .405 despite improvements to his walk (10.1 percent) and strikeout (25.4 percent) rates. His splits against righties were still acceptable, as he put up a .245/.330/.440 line against them, but his HR-to-FB ratio against righties tumbled from 29.7 percent in 2013 to 17.6 percent last season. Alvarez's batted-ball profile was largely unchanged in 2014, offering a glimmer of hope that he could make a push back toward the 30-homer plateau after reaching that level in 2012 and 2013. A fractured foot cut Alvarez's season short in September, but he was cleared to begin his regular offseason program in December. He's expected to open the year on the larger side of a platoon at first base with Corey Hart.
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: Year 2 of Prado's four-year, $40 million pact with the Diamondbacks was going worse than the first when he was traded to the Yankees for Peter O'Brien in July. In 37 games after the trade, Prado hit more homers (seven) than he did in his first 106, and his .316/.336/.541 line to close out the season in the Bronx was unlike any full-season body of work he's amassed in six full big league campaigns. Prado offers versatility and the ability to make contact reliably, as he's been able to play in at least 125 games for six straight seasons while providing double-digit home runs annually during that span. The Yankees traded him to the Marlins in December as part of a deal to acquire Nathan Eovaldi, putting Prado in his fourth uniform in as many years. With newly acquired second baseman Dee Gordon in the fold in Miami, Prado will serve as the Marlins' regular third baseman. Now 31, he should be capable of piling up plenty of RBI and runs scored with a prominent role in the improving Miami offense.
2015 Outlook: The Tigers committed to Castellanos as their every-day third baseman in 2014, and he proved relatively equal to the task, playing in 148 games while providing 11 homers, 50 runs and a surprising number of RBI (66). For what it's worth, his. 259/.306/.394 slash line closely resembled the numbers he posted during his first taste of Double-A during the second half of 2012. Castellanos has been young for his level everywhere he's played in the Tigers' system, and the move back to third base after he spent 2013 in left field with Triple-A Toledo might explain the poor grades he received as a defender last season. As he's turns 23 years old in March, Castellanos still has projection remaining as a hitter, which should enable him to improve upon his 24.2 percent strikeout rate from 2014 and push his power production closer to the 18 home runs he launched for Toledo as a 21-year-old. The Tigers have little to push him on the organizational depth chart, offering up plenty of leash for Castellanos as he begins 2015 as the team's No. 6 or No. 7 hitter.
2015 Outlook: The switch-hitting Headley was shipped to the Yankees in July, just two years after his 31-homer outburst in 2012. Headley's offensive production lagged throughout the first half of 2014, but it's worth noting that he was returning from surgery to repair a torn meniscus when spring training began. He suffered a right calf strain soon after reporting to Arizona, then knee soreness in early April, then a biceps strain a few weeks later and then hit the disabled list upon aggravating his calf strain in late April. More injuries mounted, as he was hit in the knee by a pitch in June before getting diagnosed with a herniated disc in his back, and while he played through the back injury in the second half, Headley lost time in September after getting hit in the face by a pitch. His overall line was better after the trade -- .262/.371/.398 -- which is hardly surprising, since the sheer volume of injuries he was playing through started to fall, plus he moved out of Petco Park into Yankee Stadium. The Yankees signed Headley to a four-year deal in December, and he could be an undervalued five-category contributor during his first full season in the Bronx with a return to health.
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: In the most extensive playing time that he's received since arriving in the big leagues, Chisenhall put together an acceptable .280/.343/.427 line in 2014. Plus, he reached double-digit home runs for the second time as a big leaguer and drew walks at a career-high 7.3 percent clip. Most of the production came during the first half of the season, when Chisenhall hit .332/.396/.519 (.915 OPS) and swatted nine of his 13 long balls. His strikeout rate soared from 15.1 percent to 23 percent after the All-Star break, and his slugging percentage fell by more than 200 points, raising questions about his ability to hit big-league pitching as an everyday player. One area of improvement last season was Chisenhall's performance against left-handed pitching, as he carried a sub-.450 OPS against southpaws between 2012 and 2013 before making more consistent contact and parlaying a .369 BABIP to a .294/.353/.376 line against them last season. Chisenhall should have a chance to keep the starting job at third base for the Tribe in 2015, but he'll need to avoid another prolonged slump to keep Giovanny Urshela at bay.
2015 Outlook: After Jose Abreu's absurd stateside debut in 2014, big league clubs have finally started to properly value Cuban free agents. Tomas was given a six-year, $68.5 million deal by Arizona, but the fact that he made more as an international free agent than Abreu, Yasiel Puig and Yoenis Cespedes does not necessarily mean he'll be a better player -- it just means the market is correcting itself. Tomas does not closely resemble any of his countrymen who are currently in The Show. Abreu would be the closest comp, but Tomas is two inches shorter and three years younger than the White Sox's first baseman. Like Abreu, power is Tomas' specialty, but again, expecting Abreu-like production would be extremely foolish. The Diamondbacks will try him at third base, which would be ideal for fantasy purposes, but there's still a chance he ends up in an outfield corner. The finished product could resemble the Texas version of Nelson Cruz, with 25 to 30 homers and a .260 average, but that production is still likely a couple years away.
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: Plouffe is now two years removed from that unexpected 24-HR explosion, but that may have just been the marriage of career bests in his fly ball and HR/FB rates. The 14 he has hit in each of the past two seasons paces out to 18 in a full season, though he has struggled to stay healthy and log that full season's worth of games. While Plouffe didn't improve upon his 2013 home run total, his power was closer to that of his 2012 output thanks to 40 doubles, which tied for seventh in baseball. The other six guys played between 153 and 162 games, making his total in just 136 games all the more impressive. Something in between 2013 and 2014 would be fine for his price, but there is also a tinge of upside here.
2015 Outlook: The past season was filled with ups and downs for Moustakas, who bottomed out with a demotion to Triple-A Omaha in May but peaked during the Royals' run to the World Series, which included his swatting five home runs in the playoffs. Considering that he slugged .350 after the All-Star break and just .296 in September, there was nothing in his regular-season finish that foreshadowed his October heroics. The postseason performance secured his place as the team's starting third baseman to begin 2015 -- perhaps against better judgment, as his slash line dipped across the board for the second straight season. Moustakas has averaged 15.7 home runs per season since 2012, and his excellent defense at third base should carry him to another 500 plate appearances on the larger side of a platoon. At age 26, with nearly 2,000 career plate appearances under his belt, Moustakas is a lifetime .236 hitter, and the lack of progress in his pull-heavy approach offers little reason to believe he will ever fully tap into the potential that made him the No. 2 overall pick of the 2007 draft.
2015 Outlook: The next -- and perhaps final -- chapter of the Rodriguez story will begin in 2015, after he missed all of 2014 due to a suspension for his connection to the Biogenesis clinic. When Rodriguez was most recently on the field, in 2013, he had returned from offseason surgery to repair a torn labrum in his hip in early August. The results were hardly surprising, as he hit .244/.349/.423 with seven home runs in 44 games, with his best attribute a decent eye at the plate (12.7 percent walk rate). Although the Yankees owe him $61 million, they appear to be moving ahead with the goal of minimizing their reliance on the former star as he begins his age-39 season. They signed Chase Headley to a four-year deal in December, which pushed Rodriguez into a competition for playing time as the team's designated hitter. But Carlos Beltran is coming back from elbow surgery, and it's questionable how much right field he'll be able to play in 2015, which might ultimately squeeze Rodriguez into a part-time role. If injuries befall Beltran or first baseman Mark Teixeira, it's reasonable to think Rodriguez could find a way to collect 400 plate appearances again, but that opportunity is hardly guaranteed.