2015 Outlook: Everyone projected Cano's home run output to drop with his ballpark switch, but he ended up hitting 11 fewer homers on the road than he had the year before. However, he still delivered a strong five-category effort that yielded a top-25 ranking among hitters. At 32 years old, there's no guarantee we see a resurgence of the power that gave him a .500-plus slugging percentage for five straight seasons from 2009 to 2013 ever again. There have been only 14 seasons of .500-plus slugging from second basemen aged 32 or older; most recently, Jeff Kent in 2007 during a much different offensive era. This skill set feels like it will age gracefully, however, and the front office's intent on making the lineup deeper will only help Cano's counting stats.
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: The 2014 campaign was the kind of perfect-world scenario that's always been plausible for Altuve, but also questionable due to his team context. Speed and batting average have always been his game, so the path to a huge season would include an exorbitant BABIP, a ton of infield hits and a career-best line-drive rate. Altuve delivered all of those at age 24 last year while still very much in his speed prime, so the .360 BABIP, MLB-high 31 infield hits, and 22.8 percent line-drive rate yielded not only a .341 AVG, but also a .377 OBP that led to 56 stolen bases -- all career highs. He'll almost certainly regress, but even with drops in average and steals, he'll be one of the more productive second basemen out there.
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: Even the savvy owners who targeted Rendon as a source of late-round value in 2014 had to be surprised by the return on their investment last season, as he became a five-category monster in his breakout campaign. The most unexpected part of his coming-out party may have been his work on the basepaths, as Rendon finished 17-for-20 on stolen-base attempts after swiping just eight on 10 attempts in his previous two seasons as a professional across all levels. After opening the season as the Nationals' primary second baseman, Rendon shifted over to third base when Ryan Zimmerman hit the disabled list, and he'll remain at the hot corner in 2015 as Zimmerman transitions to first base following the departure of Adam LaRoche. In addition to carrying similar lines against lefties and righties, Rendon showed no signs of slowing down over the course of the second half. He'll reprise his role as the Nationals' No. 2 hitter this season in what figures to be an excellent lineup.
2015 Outlook: It looked like a carbon-copy season for Kinsler in 2014, but what happened to the walk rate? He ranged from 7.7 percent to 12.3 percent in his first eight seasons before a hideous 4 percent last season. At least he continued to avoid striking out (10.9 percent), something he has done with aplomb throughout his career. The biggest concern with his trade from Texas to Detroit was the shift in home ballpark, and the 61-point drop in home OPS justified those concerns. His road batted-ball profile included a 22 percent line-drive rate that would have played better in Comerica, though he managed just a 17 percent mark at home. The 33-year-old is still a solid bet at the keystone, but teen totals in homers and stolen bases look like the high end after he averaged 20/20 when healthy over his first seven seasons.
2015 Outlook: Kipnis saw his first two full seasons fall apart in the second half, but he broke the trend in 2014 by tanking in both halves. He managed just three homers per half and sat on the wrong side of a .700 OPS in each as well -- not that even a .700 OPS would've really counted for much. His 22 stolen bases couldn't save his value, as he finished 22nd among second basemen. An oblique injury cost Kipnis the bulk of May and seemed to linger throughout the season, holding him to a .615 OPS from his late-May return through the end of the year. The fact that a guy's playing doesn't mean he's 100 percent healthy, and Kipnis exemplified that last season. There is still substantial upside here, and it can now be acquired at a better price after costing a second-round pick just a year ago.
2015 Outlook: Dozier wasn't heralded as a prospect, but he's emerged as a legitimate power-speed threat thanks to an approach based on patience. In fact, that patience gives him a significant value boost in OBP leagues. He scored 112 runs in a sneakily solid Twins lineup that could get quite a bit better in 2015 as they continue their youth movement, so another campaign of 100-plus runs isn't out of the question. However, Dozier's slow second half created some questions about how sustainable his results are, as he managed just five homers and steals in 283 plate appearances after the All-Star break. A July 31 thumb injury only cost him one game, but it may have lingered and sapped some of his power over the final two months. Despite lacking any flashy tools, Dozier brings real value, especially since that batting average tends to depress his value more than it really should.
2015 Outlook: The wrist that Pedroia first hurt in April eventually ended his season in early September and plagued him throughout en route to his worst season ever. The power was in free fall prior to 2014, though, so don't expect too much of a rebound even with full health. His batted-ball profile supports the dip, with a surge in groundballs and back-to-back seasons of sub-30 percent fly ball rates after he sat north of 35 percent in five of his first six seasons. Having stolen just six bases in 12 tries in 2014 and now being on the wrong side of 30, the speed has to be in question going forward, too. Volume is his key to success now. Health should bring the batting average back, but the rest of his value will be tied to staying atop what should be a potent order so he can score a ton of runs. Heed the declines and don't pay for the name value.
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: Digging into Wong's season shows reasons for optimism. He opened with an abysmal April (.544 OPS) that led to a demotion for a few weeks, but he was much better immediately after being recalled. However, a shoulder injury put him on the DL in late June. His final three months offered a lot of that hope, though. It wasn't flawless (.292 OBP), but he hit a passable .262 with 11 homers and steals -- a pace for 27 of each in a full season. His power doesn't project to be quite that good going forward, though. The category in which he's expected to excel -- batting average -- was actually a deficiency in 2014, as he hit just .249, but was a .305 hitter in the minors. Wong has just 145 games under his belt, so there will still be ups and downs, but this is a growth stock worth buying now.
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: Gordon is a great example of how much fantasy and real-life values can differ. In fantasy, he's a fantastic asset thanks to his overwhelming speed, which can be turned into stolen bases, runs and even batting average (by way of infield hits). A shift to spacious Marlins Park gives Gordon a great chance to repeat as baseball's triples leader, and while few leagues count triples directly, a boatload of them can only help him repeat or improve upon his 92 runs scored. The downside is that any sort of lower-body injury saps all of his value in an instant. Without any pop to speak of, his batting average must stay high, as it constituted nearly 90 percent of his OBP in 2014. This kind of player also puts a larger burden on the rest of your team, so you'd better have a substantial power base before adding Gordon to your squad.