2017 Outlook: He's a rare five-category, first-base talent, as Goldschmidt is one of only three first basemen in history to have managed multiple seasons with at least 20 home runs and stolen bases, and he and newly elected Hall of Famer Jeff Bagwell are the only ones with multiple such years including a .290 batting average or better. While Goldschmidt's power numbers did appear to tumble last year, his batting eye is as keen as ever -- he has consecutive years of 110-plus walks and a .410-plus on-base percentage -- fueling a high batting average. He might no longer be a slam dunk in the first round or as the top-priced first baseman in a points-based league, but he'll fit the description once again in Rotisserie-based scoring, where his speed makes him one of the most balanced contributors.
2017 Outlook: Perhaps the prospect of another Triple Crown is now in his rearview, but even at age 34, Cabrera remains an excellent hitter, still easily 90 percent of the player who accomplished that historic feat just five years ago. He's riding a major league-best streak of eight consecutive batting title-eligible seasons batting .300-plus, has averaged 34 home runs and 113 RBIs annually during that span and in fact rebounded with 38 homers in 2016. What's more, if you doubt his power potential, Cabrera led the majors in a category Statcast calls "Barrels," which are balls in play hit at both the ideal angle and speed off the bat, with 72 last season. His contact rate might be slowly regressing and the odds of his power numbers decreasing are slightly greater than the alternative, but this is what we'd call a player gracefully aging. In an era where it's the younger players everyone wants in fantasy, Cabrera is the rare "safe" early-round pick.
2017 Outlook: Few players in baseball possess as keen an eye at the plate coupled with elite power as Rizzo; he, Edwin Encarnacion and David Ortiz were the only three in the game to walk at least 10 percent of the time, make contact at least 75 percent and hit at least 30 home runs in each of the past three seasons. Adding the fact that Rizzo possesses a minimal platoon split, he possesses one of the highest statistical floors of anyone in the game, with his range of outcomes -- health-willing -- likely between a .275-290 batting average and 28-34 home runs. He's points-league gold, but even in Rotisserie leagues warrants an early (late-first/early-second) selection thanks to his predictability and place in one of the game's most productive lineups. If there's any criticism of Rizzo to he had, it's that he has cooled after the All-Star break in each of the past two seasons, but if that merely means you consider your trade options for him in June or July, so be it.
2017 Outlook: One of the few bright spots for the last-place Braves in 2016 was Freeman's emergence as one of the National League's most complete sluggers. After struggling through injuries in 2015, he rebounded with career highs in home runs (34), runs scored (102), slugging percentage (.569) and isolated power (.267) among other categories, and he only seemed to improve as the year progressed, his .323/.433/.634 second-half rates ranking among the game's best -- his .451 wOBA during that span, in fact, was second-best among qualifiers. Critical to his breakthrough was his increase in opposite-field power, as he tacked an additional six feet onto his average fly-ball distance in that direction while hitting 12 balls over the fence in that direction; these were all surefire signs that he played the year at 100 percent. Freeman and the Braves now move into their new digs, and despite the "unknown" variable of the new park's tendencies, it might only help his repeat/improvement prospects, as Turner Field was a below-average ballpark for left-handed power as well as the game top venue for strikeouts. He has arrived as a prime-of-career, top-25 overall player.
2017 Outlook: Baseball's most patient hitter, Votto has the majors' highest walk rate (18.5 percent) as well as most total walks (527) in the past five seasons combined, and he's among the most adept at hitting line drives, his 27.2 percent rate during that same time span second to only Freddie Freeman's 27.4. That combination makes Votto a good, low-risk investment in a traditional Rotisserie sense -- as do his remarkably balanced home/road and righty/lefty splits -- but it elevates him into the category of superstar in any sabermetrically inclined scoring format. In short: He's a potential first-rounder in a points league, as a near-lock for the cherished "500 point" plateau that defines a superstar hitter. In Roto formats, meanwhile, his elevated statistical floor keeps him a viable target in the third round.
2017 Outlook: Few players in baseball possess Encarnacion's combination of power, plate discipline and balanced splits -- both home versus road and against right-handers versus left-handers. He's the only player to hit at least 30 home runs in each of the past five seasons, doing so with combined 12.5 percent walk and 82.3 percent contact rates during that time. Encarnacion, too, was the major league's leader in road home runs during those five years (101), so the move to Cleveland shouldn't be construed as particularly damaging to his fantasy value. Perhaps a small handful of his home runs will turn into doubles at Progressive Field, which has a higher and slightly deeper left-field fence than Rogers Centre, but the net result would be negligible in points leagues and perhaps only a round's or $2-4 difference in Rotisserie formats compared to his 2016 value in Toronto.
2017 Outlook: Apparently, Murphy's adjustment to his swing, made during the summer of 2015 while working with Mets hitting coach Kevin Long, paid as many long-term as immediate dividends. Remarkably, this previously contact-oriented, line drive hitter enjoyed a roughly eight-percent increase to his fly-ball rate as well as a nearly 40 point boost to his well-hit average beginning at almost precisely the 2015 All-Star break, and he accomplished it at absolutely no cost to his contact rate. The result was a new, higher-upside skill set, Murphy's power upside leaping into the 20s to go along with his already great likelihood of a .300-plus batting average. Considering he'll be the Nationals' cleanup hitter, batting behind the newly acquired Adam Eaton, Trea Turner for a full year and a potentially rebounding Bryce Harper, RBIs could be plentiful for Murphy. He might not feel like a good bet to repeat a top-25 Player Rater finish, but he has excellent odds of doing so.
2017 Outlook: Though in many respects, Abreu's performance has regressed since he broke into the majors in 2014, let's not understate the historical significance of his first three big-league seasons: He, along with Joe DiMaggio and Albert Pujols, are the only three players in the history of baseball to manage at least a .290 batting average, 25 home runs and 100 RBIs in each. That said, Abreu's performance in all three categories comes with some risk: He continues to show poor strike-zone judgment, leading the majors in swings at "non-competitive" (those considerably outside the zone) pitches in 2016; he appears to have sacrificed some power in exchange for a three-year pattern of rising contact rates; and his White Sox, now in rebuilding mode, might not provide as much fuel for his counting numbers. Abreu is no longer a likely-top-25 player and in fact might be a risky pick within the top 50, though as his baseline is probably his 2016 numbers, he's still a worthy early-round pick.
2017 Outlook: In his fourth big-league season, Myers finally broke through, becoming one of only three players to manage at least 25 home runs and 25 stolen bases (Mookie Betts, Mike Trout). Better luck in the health department contributed: He appeared in more games (157) than he had in 2014-15 combined, and in the process more than doubled his career homer and stolen base totals. Unfortunately, his year was not without its warts, most notably his forgettable .223/.316/.381 second-half stat line during which his strikeout rate was an unsightly 27.6 percent. Now 26, Myers is a player in the prime of his career, though he'll be hard pressed to improve upon his 2016 numbers, and in fact he might be less valuable, if only because of how much of his fantasy earnings were fueled by playing time and manager Andy Green's frequent green lights on the base paths. Myers' circumstances aren't much different from what they were a year ago and perhaps he'll be better equipped to handle the grind of the 162-game schedule this season, but he also comes with the warning not to "chase last year's stats."
2017 Outlook: A shift in his approach in 2015 turned Carpenter, previously a walks-and-contact hitter, into more of a power source, and he only continued to adapt his swing for that last season. He's now more pull-conscious, but has done so without sacrificing much contact, so while a .318 batting average (his mark in 2013) might be in his past, there's reason to believe he'll remain a .270-25 player with a .375 on-base percentage for the foreseeable future. In fact, Carpenter could exceed those numbers with some luck; an oblique injury hampered his second-half performance and the Cardinals should provide him more run-producing opportunities (and perhaps more PAs) now that they've signed Dexter Fowler as their leadoff hitter. Carpenter is a low-risk, top-100 overall pick in Rotisserie leagues, but his elite plate discipline makes him a much better pick in sabermetric and points-based formats: Perhaps a top-50 player overall.
2017 Outlook: Though he might fall short in his quest to lead his position in any one category, Posey's consistency, as well as his hit-for-average/hit-for-power combination, makes him the most stable, and wisest, investment among catchers. Consider his average annual stat line in the past four seasons: .303 batting average, 18 home runs, 84 RBIs, 72 runs scored, plus 148 games played, a remarkable measure of durability. As volume carries much influence upon points-based scoring at the catcher position, Posey is potentially a top-40 overall pick there, whereas in Rotisserie leagues it's debatable whether he's that valuable or closer to a top-60 pick. Whether your league uses one or two catchers or is greater than 10 or 12 teams influences, as the larger the league, the greater his value relative to replacement level.
2017 Outlook: Santana's game has long been about patience and hard contact, but in 2016, he took it to new heights, setting personal bests in home runs (34), slugging percentage (.498), RBIs (87) and contact rate (83 percent). Most notably, he finished the year on a major tear, batting .282/.389/.551 in his final 100 games, which bodes well for continued success entering 2017. While it's unclear whether Santana will lead off again or move down to a more run-producing position -- this will determine whether he's more of a contributor in RBIs versus runs scored -- he'll be a key member of a loaded lineup. He has long been a far better player in points-based scoring, where a legitimate case can be made he's a top-40 pick, but even in Rotisserie leagues his value is on the rise into the eighth-/ninth-round level.
2017 Outlook: A "three-true-outcomes" (home runs, walks or strikeouts) slugger, Davis' fantasy value took a major hit last season, not only because of his statistical decline, but also the game's soaring home-run rate making him less value relative to replacement. There was a reason for the former: He experienced thumb discomfort for nearly four full months, helping explain his awful, .200/.313/.412 second-half rates. This wasn't dissimilar to 2014, when injuries limited his production, and he subsequently roared back with a big 2015; it's indeed possible history could repeat itself in 2017. The latter point, however, is a problem, as -- outside of leagues that grant substantial rewards for walks and/or on-base percentage -- Davis is a one-trick pony whose sole trick, power, is much more abundant nowadays. He's no longer in the conversation for an early-round, top-40-overall pick, but if he's looking healthy during spring training, he could push himself into sixth- or seventh-round conversation.
2017 Outlook: The move to first base couldn't have worked out better: His 147 games played were his most since 2012, and his No. 53 finish on the Player Rater was his best since 2010. Those successes, however, might cause him to be overvalued entering 2017, as he exhibited a widening platoon split -- 116 points of wOBA, his second-largest split of his career -- and the lowest contact rate of his career (78 percent). Ramirez's scorching finish could signify that a less-taxing defensive role might have increased his odds of repeating his number of games played, but he's also now 33 years old with a checkered injury history. He's a sixth or seventh rounder in standard mixed leagues as well as points-based scoring, and no longer possesses the profit potential from there he had in the past.
2017 Outlook: Though "next George Brett" predictions now seem overly generous -- Brett had already established himself as a perennial MVP candidate by his 24th birthday -- Hosmer, now 27, has arrived as a productive, top-10 capable fantasy first baseman. He set career highs in home runs (25) and RBIs (104) last season, and did show a small uptick in his power metrics in the season's waning weeks that gives hope of a repeat in 2017. Hosmer's speed, however, has declined somewhat since he arrived in the league, which limits his growth potential in fantasy terms. He's probably close, performance-wise, to the median of his 2015-16 numbers, which earns him a spot as roughly one of the 40 most valuable hitters in any fantasy scoring format.