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.
2017 Outlook: In retrospect, it's difficult to fathom how Duffy failed to crack the Royals' 2016 Opening Day rotation. Thanks to greater reliance upon his sinker, as well as elite fastball velocity that remarkably carried over into his return to the rotation, Duffy put forth a beneath-the-radar run at the American League's Cy Young award, finishing as the No. 24 starting pitcher on the Player Rater and 19th at the position in standard-league points. That delay in his ascension to the Royals' rotation might have been a boon; it assured a gradual, year-over-year ramping up of his annual workload, easing worry that he'll be prepared for a full-time starter's role in 2017. Duffy is due for some regression, especially if he can't replicate his 94.7 mph average fastball velocity, but a potential increase in volume (starts, innings) gives him great odds at similar fantasy value (or perhaps more).
2017 Outlook: Following Wade Davis' trade to the Cubs, Herrera ascended to the Royals' closer role on a regular basis, and don't overlook how productive Herrera was filling in last year during Davis' multiple DL stints. In 45 team games while Davis was sidelined, Herrera managed 11 saves -- that's a 40 save full-season pace -- with a 2.95 ERA and 0.87 WHIP, and over the course of the full year, an increased emphasis on his breaking pitches fueled his career-high 30.4 percent strikeout rate. Those are top-10 fantasy closer numbers, and if Herrera remains in Kansas City all summer -- it's possible he'll be a midseason trade candidate as a player with two years' control remaining if the team doesn't contend -- he shouldn't have much trouble maintaining that status.
2017 Outlook: After Cain broke through in 2015, hamstring issues hampered his base-stealing ability and a widening platoon split took him backwards last season. He appeared in his fewest games (103) since 2012, the result being a fantasy points total that placed him outside the "own-able" tier in standard mixed leagues (270th overall). With better health, Cain could rebound, but as a 31-year-old, his odds will only begin to get longer with each passing year. He's a mid-round candidate in Rotisserie leagues, where his multi-category contributions carry more weight, but he's a potentially overrated pick before the 15th round in points leagues.
2017 Outlook: Cabrera is as consistent as they come, finishing almost spot on to his three year averages of .290-14-79, four stolen bases and 74 runs scored in each of those three individual years. While none of those numbers might grab you, there's something to be said for the reliable type, bolstering one of the final spots in your mixed-league lineup as you seek profit potential elsewhere. Expect Cabrera to provide more of the same in 2017, with his primary downsides the possibility he's traded into a less hitting-friendly ballpark, or the chance his White Sox will trade other pieces, diminishing their offense and adversely impacting his runs and RBIs.
2017 Outlook: A notoriously free-swinging hitter, Perez swung a major league-leading 42 percent of the time at non-strikes in 2016, resulting in a massive boost to his strikeout rate (career-high 21.8 percent). Part of that was his seemingly deliberately shifting his launch angle, sacrificing batting average for more power, but it came at the expense of dropping his value by a few spots at his position in points leagues. As one of the game's best defensive catchers, Perez should continue to challenge for the games-played and plate-appearance leads at the position, plenty to assure him a top-10 fantasy finish there, but he's probably not a player destined for more growth in 2017.
2017 Outlook: Moustakas' underlying numbers have been trending upwards annually since his arrival in the majors in 2011, but his 2016 was utterly ruined by extremely bad luck in the health department -- he suffered a left thumb fracture in a late-April game, resulting in a DL stint, then tore his right ACL when colliding with a teammate just five days after his return, ending his season. At the time, he was on pace to set a career-best contact rate, and coupling that with his newfound ability to hit to all fields, a return to -- or improvement upon -- his .284-22-82 stat line is well within his reach. Moustakas is one of the more intriguing corner-infield picks, and he's a possible top-10 candidate in points-based scoring if he's looking healthy this spring.
2017 Outlook: Perhaps the favorite to begin the year as the Padres' closer -- though Carter Capps could represent competition -- Maurer had 12 saves, a 3.10 ERA and 1.10 WHIP during the second half of 2016, when he mostly held that role. He's a pitcher who needs command of his slider to be perfect to succeed; it partly explains how he has had such variable ratios the past three seasons. Maurer's annual inconsistency will make him one of the riskier saves investments out there, but as your second or third option in mixed leagues and second in NL-only formats, he's worth a look.
2017 Outlook: One of the more durable pitchers in the game -- he's one of only five to have made at least 30 starts in each of the past seven seasons -- Kennedy lacks elite skills, earning him a label as a "fantasy innings-eater," if one such exists. He's a player who doesn't often hurt you, but also provides little profit potential; this is the type you'd like to have as a fourth or fifth option on an AL-only team, or as a fill-in around your higher-upside starters in mixed.
2017 Outlook: Feliz recaptured more than a full mile per hour on his average fastball velocity last season, resulting in a 28.0 percent strikeout rate, his highest in any full big-league year in his career. He parlayed that impressive stint with the Pirates -- thanks, Ray Searage! -- into a one-year deal to serve as the Brewers' closer, where job security might be his best initial asset. Feliz's elevated walk rate (9.6 percent in 2016) and so-so ground-ball rate (39.3 percent) will leave him at risk of the occasional blown save, but he's a worthwhile late-round target for those who choose the cheap route at closer.
2017 Outlook: Escobar is an awkward fit for his role -- he's often used as the Royals' leadoff hitter and might again this year -- but it helps provide him a volume advantage that gets him on the middle-infielder radar in mixed leagues and a potential starting shortstop in AL-only formats. His speed has been in decline the past two years, however, and last season he regressed somewhat in terms of both his contact rate and plate discipline, things that hint he's on the wrong side of the aging curve. Escobar probably doesn't have much more to offer than he has recently, but for so long as he's starting he's worth a late-round look.
2017 Outlook: Elbow issues that cost him a playoff roster spot cast doubt upon Hammel's immediate future, resulting in him needing until February to latch on with the Royals. Add in the fact that he has been a first-half standout who completely collapsed in the second half in recent years and it's understandable that fantasy owners are hesitant to commit a regular mixed-league lineup spot -- or a double-digit AL-only auction bid -- on Hammel. From 2014-16, he had a 2.84 ERA before July 1, but 4.74 from that date forward, though those first-half returns did cast a picture of a "safe" starter for decent spells. Hammel is probably someone to draft now, but insure with depth or shop before midseason, because remember what happens on July 1: POOF! Pumpkin.
2017 Outlook: Granted a fresh opportunity with a team with less competition for at-bats, Soler could finally flash his mixed league-relevant fantasy potential as a member of the Royals, though do not overlook for a second that he traded a better hitters' environment in Wrigley Field for power-deflating Kauffman Stadium. Soler's high strikeout rate will make him a batting-average risk and leave him susceptible to streakiness, making him a stronger choice in full-season Rotisserie than head-to-head leagues, but at year's end he could get to the .260-25 numbers scouts were hoping for in either of the previous two years. He's well worth a look as your final mixed-league outfielder or a third/fourth in AL-only.