2016 Outlook: Gonzalez is like that reliable pair of boots that won't fetch many compliments, but will keep the wearer comfortable while protecting against the elements. Once the six or seven flashy names at the position are off the board, Gonzalez represents about as reliable an option as can be found at any position. In three full seasons with the Dodgers, he has always hit 22-plus homers, with 90-plus RBI and at least a .275 average. Unfortunately, he has only scored 80-plus runs once in L.A., in part because the back half of the lineup has been oddly shaky for much of his tenure. That said, he's an extremely reliable contributor in the three categories that a first baseman needs to be able to prop up. Adding to his reliability is the incredibly impressive fact that he has played 156-plus games in 10 straight seasons. A full season of Corey Seager and Justin Turner hitting ahead of him could help Gonzalez get back over 100 RBI for the eighth time in the last 10 years.
2016 Outlook: A slow start to the season left many owners wondering if Beltre was simply out of gas in his age-36 campaign, and he limped into the All-Star break with a .255/.290/.396 line to go with seven homers and 24 RBI. Thanks to a huge second half, many of those concerns were erased, as his .318/.367/.509 line after the break included 11 homers and 61 RBI -- numbers more in line with his previous levels of output for the Rangers. Further, it was revealed that an injury initially labeled as a jammed thumb in May was actually a torn ligament that he managed to play through until he had surgery in October. A back strain limited Beltre in the Rangers' ALDS series against Toronto, but it's expected that he will be fully recovered from both injuries at the outset of spring training. At this stage of his career, Beltre is much more likely to hit 20 homers than 30, but he drive in plenty of runs given the quality of the bats around him. Further, he should continue to hit for a good average as he rarely makes soft contact, while maintaining a very low strikeout rate.
2016 Outlook: There are no problems with Freeman's skills, as he has everything you want in a hitter. Sure, he doesn't quite hit with the power we want to see from first base, but he hits for average, gets on base at an excellent rate, and can drive the ball to all parts of the field while making good contact. The issue is that he's the only guy in a rebuilding Atlanta lineup and pitchers could very well pitch around him to deal with the easier options behind him. Last season, Freeman had issues both in front and behind him, but Atlanta got him some help such that Ender Inciarte and Erick Aybar (as well as mainstay Nick Markakis) can get on base in front of him, which should help his RBI opportunities if pitchers don't have the open base to work with. If that trio can't get on base, then Freeman is going to set a career-high in walks.
2016 Outlook: Lofty expectations come with being a third overall pick (2008), and while Hosmer hasn't developed into the middle-of-the-order thumper that many thought he would become as a prospect, he's a reliable anchor in the heart of the Kansas City lineup. Entering 2015, Hosmer was discounted on the heels of a mediocre 2014 performance that was likely impacted by a stress fracture in his hand. With an ability to hold his own against lefties, Hosmer doesn't fall into a platoon for the Royals, which has allowed him to eclipse 650 plate appearances in two of the last three seasons. With that heavy playing time volume, he proved last season that he can be an asset by sustaining a high average (.297) and piling up plenty of RBI (93) and runs scored (98), and he continues to chip in a handful of steals under aggressive manager Ned Yost. While Hosmer is still seeking his first 20-homer season at the big league level, he may reach that level at age-26 in 2016 after posting his highest ISO (.162) since 2011.
2016 Outlook: The biggest concern for Pujols as he enters his age-36 season is health, as the skills remain mostly intact despite last year's dip in both average and on-base percentage. While the walk rate has been backsliding in recent years, Pujols continues to put the ball in play, making contact more than 85 percent of the time and hard contact more than a third of the time. One area of skills regression that does need to be pointed out is against left-handed pitching -- Pujols hit just .219 with 11 of his 40 homers coming against southpaws, marking the second time in three seasons he's hit below .220 against left-handers. Pujols also seemed to wear down during the stretch run, managing a .231/.288/.419 line after the All-Star break with ongoing foot issues seemingly playing a part. He went under the knife to repair the foot in November, and with a four-to-five month recovery time expected, Pujols' availability for Opening Day is very much in question.
2016 Outlook: After missing 101 games in 2014, Belt remained mostly healthy in 2015 and delivered an excellent season, as he hit .280/.356/.478 with a career-high 18 home runs. He even provided some speed on the base paths, with nine steals. Belt is still a strikeout machine, with a 26.4-percent strikeout rate that will make it difficult to maintain such a high batting average. Belt has made cavernous AT&T Park work for him, as he smashed 33 doubles and five triples in 2015, and his ability to use the whole field should help his batting average from backsliding too far. His lack of big home run power will keep him out of the elite first base ranks, but he does enough other things well to be a solid producer.
2016 Outlook: While the Red Sox were hopeful that Ramirez could make a smooth transition to handle left field upon signing him to a four-year deal last offseason, he struggled to handle the position from Day 1. At the plate, he started the season on a high note, posting a .283/.340/.609 line with 10 home runs and 22 RBI through his first 25 games with Boston. Things spiraled out of control from there, however, as a collision with an outfield wall during a May game led to a shoulder injury. Ramirez was unable to get back on track despite returning to the lineup a few days later. His numbers after the injury included a .239/.275/.372 line and nine homers over his final 80 games, a far cry from his early-season production. Moreover, shoulder fatigue prevented him from appearing in a game after Aug. 26. Ramirez told reporters that he was pain-free in early December, and he will head to spring training with the goal of learning a new position for the second consecutive year, this time shifting back to the infield to play first base.
2016 Outlook: There's a lot to like about Franco, most notably a solid contact rate and above-average raw power. On the other hand, for said power to manifest into more homers, he needs to be more selective at the dish along with putting more balls in the air. After spending about a month at Triple-A, Franco's long-awaited promotion came on May 15 and he was immediately inserted as the Phillies' starting third baseman. He remained there until mid-August when a non-displaced wrist fracture sent him to the disabled list, returning for only the final three games of the season. His good contact rate and spot in the order will keep Franco's production floor solid, but expecting him to maintain last season's power is a risk until he learns to loft the ball more. That said, as a 23-year old who knows how to put the ball in play, the transition is quite possible.
2016 Outlook: Had Murphy gone on his power binge a little later in the playoffs and had it propelled the Mets to the title, the message would be not to pay for a well-publicized hot streak. There's still some residual optimism and the National League Championship Series hero can carry some of it over to 2016, but now it's a little easier to remind everyone that Citi Field boosts left-handed power while Nationals Park depresses it. Thus, on paper, Murphy's home run output should actually drop in his new digs. Murphy changed his approach last summer leading to a second-half featuring nine homers. If the change subsists, a total in the high teens is plausible. Perhaps a result of some nagging leg injuries, Murphy barely ran last season. That could change under Dusty Baker as the Nationals skipper is on record as saying he'd like the club to be aggressive on the basepaths.
2016 Outlook: Pop quiz: Who has garnered the sixth-most plate appearances in MLB since 2013? After averaging 127 games over his first five seasons, Longoria has missed just four games combined in the last three years. Unfortunately, Longoria's skills have settled well below the level exhibited early in his career. Most disappointing is that his power has been just league-average for the past two seasons with no indication of a huge spike to previous levels. Additionally, his production is tempered by playing half his games in one of the more favorable pitching venues, nestled in a lineup that isn't all that explosive. Since he doesn't run much anymore, Longoria is very reliant on volume to be a fantasy asset. He's done it for three seasons, but betting on a fourth is a risk. However, it's one worth taking if the rest of the league is reticent to take the chance.
2016 Outlook: Rendon checks many of the boxes that seasoned owners look for when pinpointing bounce-back candidates. He was a borderline first-round pick in drafts last year and didn't come remotely close to returning that value. Injuries limited his playing time and sapped his production when he was on the field. However, at just 25 years old, all of the skills that made him a top-20 pick last year remain, and this year he should enter camp fully healthy. Rendon should hit in front of Bryce Harper in the two hole all year, which offers hope that he can return to scoring 100-plus runs like he did in 2014. He also qualifies at second base and third base in most formats, which provides lineup flexibility. His power and speed contributions are difficult to project, as 2014 represents his lone full MLB season, but evaluators have thrown plus grades on his hit tool since back when he was the sixth pick out of Rice in 2011, so he should at least offer a solid batting average.
2016 Outlook: After finally escaping from a platoon with Ike Davis in 2014, Duda has been consistently excellent. He followed up 2014's 30-homer campaign with 27 home runs in 2015, and remains a well-disciplined hitter with the patience to use that power to its fullest (including an 11.9 percent walk rate). Despite the previous concerns about his ability to hit lefties, Duda was actually far better against lefties (.285/.333/.545, seven home runs) than righties (.230/.358/.466, 20 home runs) in 2015. It's unlikely this will repeat itself in 2016 -- Duda's career OPS against righties is nearly 200 points higher than against lefties -- but now that Duda has gotten some experience swinging against southpaws, he's shown he can handle them better than earlier in his career. Expect more of the same type of solid power production we've seen from him during the past two seasons.
2016 Outlook: A lot of people are ready to write off Lawrie, and understandably so as he's never been able to live up to the hype incited by his first 150 at-bats as a major leaguer. In a quick call-up back in 2011, he posted a .953 OPS with nine homers and seven steals. And since he was a heralded prospect, this kind of performance was almost expected over a full season. Predictably, he hasn't come close to delivering on those expectations and yet now might not be the best time to move away from him. Consider that he's still just 26 years old, moving back to a hitter-friendly environment, finally stayed healthy in 2015 (his first DL-free season), has dual-eligibility (2B/3B), set career-highs in homers and RBIs, joins that offense that rebounded after a wretched start while also adding Todd Frazier this offseason, and now costs next to nothing to acquire. One. More. Chance.
2016 Outlook: Turner followed up his studly super-utility 2014 with another brilliant campaign in 2015. While he couldn't repeat the ridiculous .340 average he managed in 2014, Turner proved his power production wasn't a fluke, as he hammered 16 home runs and 26 doubles in 439 plate appearances en route to a .294/.370/.491 batting line. Finally, Turner is slated to get an Opening Day starting job, as he tops the Dodgers' depth chart at third base. He will likely lose his second base (five games, three starts) and shortstop (one start) eligibility this season, but he has been so good the past two years that he can be an asset at a corner position as well. Even if he regresses to his career numbers, Turner has a sharp .284/.351/.419 line in 553 games, and that will play at the hot corner.