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: 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: 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: 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.
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: The 34-year-old super utility player may have finally found a lineup where his production will seem truly utilitarian. He will no longer be asked to carry an offense; rather, he will simply have to get on base so the thumpers behind him can drive him in. Zobrist is on a run of four straight seasons with double-digit homers, 75-plus runs and a batting average of .270 or better. That kind of production is hard to find, especially from someone who qualifies at second base. Hitting either first or second in the Cubs' lineup will allow him to easily clear 75 runs again, and he will also get the benefit of playing in the best hitter's park of his career. The only potential drawback is that Javier Baez may earn some starts at the keystone, but Zobrist's ability to play the outfield may keep him in the lineup even on those days. Of bigger concern may be losing his plum spot in the lineup to Addison Russell should the young shortstop get back on track at the dish this season.
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: As everyone suspected, Walker's 2014 home run total was an outlier. His 23 home runs were a career high after four years ranging from 12 to 16. A career-best 14 percent HR/FB rate wasn't so far outside of his range that it couldn't sustain it, but the safe bet was to regress him back toward his 10 percent career mark -- and that's exactly where he landed, which yielded another 16-homer season. The move to the Mets is probably neutral, though he is unlikely to get as many plate appearances in the prime spots (61 percent of his 2015 PA were in the Nos. 2 and 4 spots). Two of his last three seasons have seen him post sub-.600 OPS totals against lefties, which leave him susceptible to a platoon, especially with lefty-crushing Wilmer Flores on the club. Lost time against lefties might actually help his bottom line, though. He has just two home runs and 24 RBI in 316 plate appearances against southpaws over the last three 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: Of all the Cubs' rookies, Russell garnered the least attention. Part of that was by design as the club grew more reliant on his defense at shortstop than counting on offensive production. In fact, Russell hit out of the nine-hole, a favorite Joe Maddon ploy. Unfortunately, the attempt to get a second leadoff man didn't come to fruition as Russell's contact rate fell precipitously, fueling a rather anemic .307 on-base percentage. With nearly a full season under his belt, look for the 22-year-old infielder to cut down on the strikeouts, though not enough to work his way much higher in the order. The element of Russell's game that did not manifest during his rookie campaign was speed. As his confidence grows, so will the running opportunities. Still, so long as Russell is buried in the order, his production, despite sneaky power, will be tempered.