2016 Outlook: Altuve was part of the power surge across the league, more than doubling his previous career-high (7) with a 15-homer campaign. He couldn't keep all of his 2014 stolen bases (56), but still delivered an AL-best 38 swipes. He is starting to look like this era's Ichiro. He hasn't yet registered a 100-run season -- Ichiro had eight -- but this era's run context is much stingier. Like Ichiro, Altuve stays relatively undervalued as he should be a lockdown first-round pick every year given the value his fantasy stats return, but he regularly lingers as a mid-teens pick. Even if the power doesn't all stick, he is a good bet for a third-straight 200-hit season.
2016 Outlook: Seasons like Machado's 2015 are why we play the game of fantasy baseball. There was nothing in the stats that could have forecasted it, especially on the heels of a second massive knee injury. Machado showed no ill effects with an MLB-high 713 plate appearances and he more than doubled both his home run and stolen base totals. Coming into the season he had 33 homers and 10 steals in 1,266 plate appearances and then dropped 35 homers and 20 steals in a breakout effort. He will struggle to repeat if for no other reason than the fact that 162-game seasons are rare these days. There have only been 14 since 2011 with only Prince Fielder (3) and Hunter Pence (2) logging more than one. With the health concern muted, however, Machado has vaulted into a guaranteed first-rounder.
2016 Outlook: Fight the urge to simply extrapolate Correa's amazing numbers from 2015 into a full season because those that do will almost certainly wind up disappointed. Of course he doesn't need to do something like that to still be both the top shortstop and a first-round talent. It is hard to find any discernible flaws in his game, even after just 99 games, but the grind of a six-month major league season alone will breed some cold periods. Keep in mind: no qualified shortstop had better than a .782 OPS last year. Now if that's all Correa does, he won't fulfill that first-round part, but he's a strong bet to deliver the first non-Ian Desmond 20-homer/20-steal season at shortstop. And if one wants to really dream about the upside, think Hanley Ramirez 2007-2009. Ramirez averaged 29 homers, 38 steals, 117 runs, 85 RBI, and a .325 average in those three years. Averaged.
2016 Outlook: Gordon dropped six stolen bases off of his MLB-best 64 in 2014 and still led the league. He is often mislabeled as a one-category asset which gives short shrift to his batting average and run-scoring capabilities. Over the last two seasons, his .311 average is fourth-best among batters with at least 1,200 plate appearances and his 180 runs come in tenth. He is a three-category stud and his primary category also happens to be the most sparse the fantasy game has ever seen. Selecting Gordon requires a concerted focus on power for the rest of the draft, but his homers jumped up in 2015 so owners shouldn't have quite as much trouble catching up to those who secured two power bats in the first two rounds.
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: Dozier picked up right where he left off in 2014, delivering a .256/.328/.513 line with 19 home runs and nine steals through the first half. Although he was sent for an MRI on his hip after the regular season concluded, no structural damage was found and he avoided surgery. If nothing else, the MRI suggests that he wasn't 100 percent healthy during the second half, which may explain the 107-point drop in increased strikeout rate (ISO) and reduced activity on the basepaths (3-for-4 in stolen-base attempts) after the All-Star break. Dozier should spend another season at or near the top of the batting order, but his placement may ultimately hinge on the Twins' 2016 plans for Byron Buxton. A return to the 20-20 club is seemingly within reach, but Dozier is a career .240 hitter with a very high infield flyball rate, which makes significant improvement in that particular category a long shot.
2016 Outlook: For the first time in 2016, Tulowitzki is not going to be taken by anyone in the top 20 in a fantasy draft. It has happened year after year despite the fact Tulo hasn't played more than 150 games since the 2009 season and has had one injury issue after another since. Last season, the inevitable happened as he was dealt away from Coors and went to Toronto, where he put up a very disappointing .239/.317/.380 line over 41 games and there too suffered an injury. Like all Rockies hitters, Tulo was amazing at home, but his career .274/.347/.462 slash line away from Coors is nothing to ignore. The shortstop position is not terribly deep in 2016 with youth (Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor, Xander Bogaerts, Corey Seager) making up most of the higher rankings. If he hits at the top of the lineup and can stay healthy in front of the Blue Jay bombers, then he could score plenty of runs, but health does not generally get better with age.
2016 Outlook: The Aruban shortstop displayed his plus hit tool and plus glove work last season, putting an end to the talk of a potential move to third base. He took advantage of hitting third for most of the season, and with the help of a slightly inflated batting average (.372 BABIP last season, .338 for his career), he was able to finish top-two in runs and RBI at the position. Bogaerts should remain in the three-hole for Boston in 2016, and while he may not hit .320 again, modest regression would allow him to still challenge for .300. His 10 steals may not sound like much, but it gives him an edge over players like Troy Tulowitzki, Brandon Crawford and Jhonny Peralta. The elephant in the room is Bogaerts' power projection. Scouting reports have always suggested he could hit 20-30 homers in his prime, and while he is just entering his age-23 season, his in-game power could start to click at any moment, which would make him a five-category monster.
2016 Outlook: Second base has seen an influx of talent in recent years with players like Rougned Odor and Kolten Wong coming up -- and DJ LeMahieu and Logan Forsythe emerging as viable options last season -- but paying up for the skills and consistency of Kinsler still makes sense. Kinsler continues to make contact at an exceptional clip and he got his walk rate back up to a respectable level during the first half of last season, though that number fell to just 3.4 percent after the break. Some luck on balls in played helped the average (.323 BABIP), and the power and speed are both in decline at 33 years old, but Kinsler has now gone double-double with 85-plus runs and 70-plus RBI in each of the last five seasons and seven of the last eight seasons. He's going to continue to bat first or second in the powerful Detroit lineup, so while this could be the first time in his career that he falls short of 10 steals -- he was caught six times in 16 attempts last season -- the power could rebound slightly and the rest of the counting stats are incredibly safe.
2016 Outlook: Seager gave the Dodgers and baseball fans in general a tantalizing taste of his vast talent in his 113 plate appearances at the tail end of 2015. He managed an impressive .337 average despite a below-league-average contract rate, launching four homers and driving in 17 runs over that abbreviated stretch. He produced an impressive .387 BABIP, .561 slugging percentage, and .224 ISO, none of which represented uncharted territory from his minor league track record, and his walk rate was higher than it was during any stop on the farm. Seager projects as the everyday shortstop for the Dodgers, and should have ample opportunity to generate solid power numbers while frequenting the basepaths through his considerable ability to hit for average, though a knee has him questionable for Opening Day.
2016 Outlook: Conventional wisdom thought Lindor's glove was MLB ready but there was some concern if his bat could play. After a couple of months at Triple-A where his on-base skills improved across the board, he got the call. What followed was a complete surprise, as much like another more ballyhooed rookie shortstop (Carlos Correa), Lindor enjoyed a power spike completely out of line with his minor league history. Another parallel is Lindor's flyball rate being extremely low so a drop in homers is very likely. Further, sustaining a .348 BABIP is unlikely even though, with his very good contact rate, speed and groundball rate, Lindor's batting average floor is still solid. Factor in the fact that the sophomore is entrenched in the two-hole and the runs and steals should remain high. Just don't pay for last year's power.
2016 Outlook: A sub-.500 OPS over the first month of the season earned Odor a ticket back to Triple-A Round Rock, and he would stay down until mid-June. The demotion seemed to open Odor's eyes, as he made adjustments which he carried back up to the majors upon his return, finishing with an .833 OPS and 12 homers after the All-Star break as a 21-year-old. What Odor lacks in terms of plate discipline as this stage -- he managed just a 4.9 percent walk rate last season -- he makes up for with surprising bat speed for a 5-foot-11, 190-pound frame. That bat speed allows him to catch up to premium velocity and, in turn, supply impressive power coupled with better-than-league-average contact. Odor did not display any troubling lefty/righty or home/road splits; in fact, his .781 OPS against lefties was identical to his mark against righties, and he actually had better numbers away from Arlington last season. He is a lock to open 2016 with the everyday job, and his upside as a potential 20-plus homer, 10-steal option puts him among the most appealing players behind the top tier of second basemen.
2016 Outlook: Kipnis parlayed an increased ability to hit the ball to the opposite field to his first career .300 batting average at the big league level last season. While many owners were disappointed by the light returns in homers (nine) and steals (12), he offset the lack of output in those categories by matching his previous career-high with 86 runs scored. Indians manager Terry Francona used Kipnis as the team's leadoff hitter in 121 of the 141 games that he played last season, and that role figures to be his again as Francisco Lindor often hit directly behind him in the No. 2 spot after his promotion to Cleveland. If Kipnis can combine his 2014 efficiency as a basestealer (22-for-25) with his 2015 on-base skills (.372), he is a threat to approach 100 runs scored and the 20-steal plateau in 2016.
2016 Outlook: LeMahieu put together a fine season in 2015, setting personal bests across virtually every major offensive category. He managed career highs in runs scored (85), hits (170), homers (6), RBI (61), walks (50), stolen bases (23), batting average (.301), on-base percentage (.358), slugging percentage (.388) and OPS (.746). The spike in his numbers wasn't simply a Coors Field byproduct either, as his road splits weren't appreciably lower than those amassed in the thin Colorado air. His proficiency on the basepaths (23 steals in 26 attempts), team context, and ability to make contact and draw walks at an average clip give LeMahieu a relatively high floor among second baseman entering 2016.
2016 Outlook: Last season, Wong was bounced around in the batting order, starting at least 15 games in five different spots. In the 73 games he hit in the top half of the lineup, he smacked eight homers, swiped 10 bags and had 68 combined runs and RBI. In contrast, in 77 contests from the bottom half, he recorded just three homers with five steals and had 63 combined runs and RBI. As usual, the Cardinals have a lot of moving parts, so it's hard to pinpoint where he'll hit this season. Lineup spot aside, Wong has sported a curiously low batting average on balls in play the past two seasons, as his line-drive and ground-ball distribution should result in better outcomes. Add in a solid contact rate and Wong has some upside potential in batting average, along with chipping in some speed and pop.