2016 Outlook: Cruz doubled down on his improbable 40-homer season with Baltimore in 2014 by doing it again, and then some, in the hostile offensive environment known as Safeco Field in 2015. 2015 was the sixth consecutive season in which Cruz has posted an Isolated Power (SLG-AVG) of at least .200, and lots of hard contact led to a .350 batting average on balls in play. That high BABIP allowed him to hit over .300 for the first time in five seasons despite a 25-percent strikeout rate. Cruz was able to double-up on the 40-homer season thanks to a 30 percent HR/FB, which is well above the 18-percent rate he had posted through his career heading into 2016. If that rate regresses to his career-level, Cruz will have a tough time getting to 30 homers, but the RBI opportunities should be plentiful with the projected lineup in front of him.
2016 Outlook: Cespedes' offseason was a rollercoaster. But like any rollercoaster, it would up where it started, and Cespedes is once again a Met, this time for a full season. Lost in the fawning over his late-summer, early-fall with the Mets is the fact that he was having a really good season with Detroit prior to the trade. Of course, he almost doubled his production in about 60 percent of the plate appearances, but it should be noted that he had a great season start-to-finish; it wasn't a weak or modest start saved by the New York run. Now, can he repeat? No, of course not. His Mets numbers were about a 45/120 pace. He can definitely log a second straight 100-run/100-RBI season, though. The Mets' lineup is strong top-to-bottom with a league average or better contributor in every spot, plus some interesting platoon potential to leverage the bench. They should be able to avoid the pitfalls that beset last year's team and created the need for the Cespedes trade in the first place.
2016 Outlook: Few hitters have offered the yearly consistency that Seager has maintained for the Mariners over the past four seasons. During that span, he's homered at least 20 times annually, while providing a steady run-producing presence near the heart of the Seattle lineup. As the Mariners have brought in additional quality bats around him, Seager's counting stats have improved. Further, he's shown more pop in each of the last two seasons, while cutting his strikeout rate to a career-low 14.3 percent in 2015. After hitting 16 of his 25 home runs at Safeco Field in 2014, Seager's power shifted last season as he hit 19 of his 26 long balls on the road. A 30-homer season may still be lurking in his bat, but the Mariners have more talent around Seager in the lineup now than at any point in his career, so another level in runs and RBI may be on the horizon.
2016 Outlook: Upton's OPS dipped below .800 for just the third time in his nine-year career last season with the Padres, due in part to the lowest BABIP (.304) since his rookie season. Still, he was awfully productive in terms of counting stats, notching 25-plus homers and 18-plus steals for just the third time in his career, thanks largely to the improved hitting dimensions in San Diego. Petco Park actually ranked as the 10th-best place to hit homers in 2015, while Upton's new home, Comerica Park, ranked 26th, according to ESPN's park factors. The organization change is not all bad news, however. Detroit was ninth in stolen-base attempts last season, despite finishing 27th with a 61.9% success rate, so there's no reason to think Upton won't have the green light in many situations, which should allow him to push for double-digit steals again. He'll also have a chance to top last year's run totals, potentially hitting in front of Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez and J.D. Martinez in a potent Tigers lineup.
2016 Outlook: On the heels of his third consecutive 30-homer, 100-RBI season in 2015 at age-39, Ortiz announced that the 2016 campaign would be his last in the big leagues. Outside of a slight reduction in playing time when the Red Sox face left-handed starters (he hit .231/.277/.426 in 184 plate appearances against southpaws last season), the primary DH role should belong to Ortiz for another year. Since the start of the 2013 season, only five players have amassed more homers than Ortiz (102). With his combination of power (.280 ISO) and plate discipline (12.5 BB%, 15.5 K%), Ortiz remains a hitter to be feared, and he should have plenty of chances to drive in runs again from the heart of the order in Boston if the bats around him stay healthy.
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: A 2015 roto darling, Cain posted career highs in every relevant offensive category, and perhaps most important of all, he set a career high with 140 games played. Cain legitimately has a plus-plus hit tool, and should be able to maintain an average around .300, thanks to a career .345 BABIP. He had an 82 percent success rate on the bases last year, so there is little doubt that he will remain a threat to run under manager Ned Yost, despite hitting third in the order. With average and speed locked in as a foundation for his value, his power must fairly come under scrutiny. Cain's 11.2% HR/FB last season exceeded his 2013 (4.4%) and 2014 (5.3%) rates combined, and while it is reasonable to grant him an uptick in power in the middle of his career, slight regression seems likely. Even so, Cain offers five-category production heading into his age-30 season, and makes for a safe bet as an OF2 in mixed leagues.
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: Gonzalez was hitting .215 with two home runs on June 2 last year, and he went on to hit .294 with 36 home runs and 84 RBI over his final 107 games. The Gonzalez owners who did not sell their shares amid his early season struggles were rewarded with the most home runs of his career, thanks in large part to a career-high 153 games played. Needless to say, his age-29 season was an unexpected time for Gonzalez to all of a sudden stay relatively healthy, after averaging just 110.5 games per year over the previous four seasons. The left-handed slugger has always fared better against righties (.931 OPS) than lefties (.745 OPS) over his career, but he was especially bad against southpaws in 2015, slashing .195/.222/.308 in 168 plate appearances. If that downward trend carries over to 2016, Colorado's improved outfield depth will likely lead to him getting more days off against lefties, which would lead to a higher average and slightly fewer counting stats.
2016 Outlook: Last year Fielder was one of only three first-base eligible players to hit over .300 with 20-plus homers, 75-plus runs and 80-plus RBI. The other two were Paul Goldschmidt and Joey Votto. Unfortunately, Fielder was not playing much first base, getting 139 of his 157 starts at DH, which eliminates his first-base eligibility in most formats. Additionally, his walk rate dipped to 9.2% -- his lowest such rate in nine years -- and his .323 BABIP was the highest since his rookie season. The good news is he re-established himself as one of the most durable players in the game, and when Fielder stays healthy there are few players more reliable in the four non-speed categories. Even as a player who will be locked into the UTIL spot all season, the 31-year-old slugger makes for an excellent offensive anchor who can be had at a slight discount, relative to his skills, now that he carries the unwieldy DH tag.
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: For the first time in 2016, Tulowitzki is not going to be taken by anyone in the top 20 in a fantasy draft. It has happened year after year despite the fact Tulo hasn't played more than 150 games since the 2009 season and has had one injury issue after another since. Last season, the inevitable happened as he was dealt away from Coors and went to Toronto, where he put up a very disappointing .239/.317/.380 line over 41 games and there too suffered an injury. Like all Rockies hitters, Tulo was amazing at home, but his career .274/.347/.462 slash line away from Coors is nothing to ignore. The shortstop position is not terribly deep in 2016 with youth (Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor, Xander Bogaerts, Corey Seager) making up most of the higher rankings. If he hits at the top of the lineup and can stay healthy in front of the Blue Jay bombers, then he could score plenty of runs, but health does not generally get better with age.
2016 Outlook: In 2015 we saw what a down year from Jones looks like, and he was still one of eight outfielders with 27-plus homers and an average of .265 or better. He missed time at the end of the year with back spasms, and also missed time with shoulder, neck and ankle injuries earlier in the year, although he never landed on the DL. Still, the combination of those four ailments likely contributed to his suppressed numbers. His days as a threat for double-digit steals appear to be behind him, but there still seems to be a nice floor in the power and average categories heading into his age-30 season. If he can return to his pre-2015 durability, his runs and RBI should rebound, especially with Chris Davis back in the fold. While Jones was once a source of debate as a top-20 pick, he will now go in the fifth round of many drafts, which finally gives prospective owners a chance to profit on his top trait -- consistency.
2016 Outlook: The Aruban shortstop displayed his plus hit tool and plus glove work last season, putting an end to the talk of a potential move to third base. He took advantage of hitting third for most of the season, and with the help of a slightly inflated batting average (.372 BABIP last season, .338 for his career), he was able to finish top-two in runs and RBI at the position. Bogaerts should remain in the three-hole for Boston in 2016, and while he may not hit .320 again, modest regression would allow him to still challenge for .300. His 10 steals may not sound like much, but it gives him an edge over players like Troy Tulowitzki, Brandon Crawford and Jhonny Peralta. The elephant in the room is Bogaerts' power projection. Scouting reports have always suggested he could hit 20-30 homers in his prime, and while he is just entering his age-23 season, his in-game power could start to click at any moment, which would make him a five-category monster.
2016 Outlook: Only Jose Altuve and Miguel Cabrera have a better batting average than Brantley's .319 over the past two seasons. It's hard to find a better pure hitter than Brantley, who posted a strikeout rate below 10 percent for the third time in four years in 2015 and actually walked more times (60) than he struck out (51). However, Brantley's power production dipped, as he fell from 20 home runs to 15, 97 RBI to 84, and 94 runs scored to 68. Brantley remains an extreme groundball hitter -- his 1.45 GB/FB in 2015 was the lowest of his career -- and as such a repeat of his 20-homer power from 2014 would be a surprise. His recovery from offseason shoulder surgery pushed deep into spring training, and he had some trouble bouncing back after his first couple spring games, but it sounds like Brantley has a chance to be ready relatively early on, if not on Opening Day.