2018 Outlook: Just how good is he? Since his big league debut on July 8, 2011, Trout is the only player in baseball to bat .290 with at least 180 home runs and 100 stolen bases. He has blown those thresholds away, in fact, with .307-201-165 numbers in those categories despite contributing little in 40 games in his 2011 debut season. He also managed at least a .290 batting average, 25 home runs and 20 stolen bases in 2017 -- the only player who can claim that -- despite missing 39 games after tearing the UCL in his left thumb in May, with batting average (.306) and homer (33) totals that far exceeded those thresholds. Now 26, Trout is coming off a season of personal bests in practically every rate category and a pro-best 78 percent contact rate. He's the safest cross-format fantasy pick in the game, and Trout stands an excellent chance of capturing the Player Rater's top spot for the first time since 2012.
2018 Outlook: Baseball is just better when its biggest stars stay completely healthy. Stanton, who missed only one game in 2017 due to injury (for hamstring cramps in late May) set career bests in games played (159) and plate appearances (692), giving him an expanded opportunity to display his best-in-baseball raw power. Display it he did: Stanton hit 59 home runs in one of the worst home run environments in baseball in Miami, capturing the National League's MVP award in the process. Don't entirely attribute it to good fortune, though, as Stanton's adjustment to a closed stance also helped him post a career-best 73 percent contact rate, making him a much more complete slugger. For an encore, he gets to flash those same skills in one of the most homer-friendly environments in baseball, having been traded to the New York Yankees in December. Stanton is in a dream circumstance, and while his prospects of repeating couldn't be much better, it's important to remember that he has missed 20.1 percent of his teams' games in his career. There's risk here, but the power upside is monstrous.
2018 Outlook: Inexplicably, after putting forth one of the most productive second halves of 2017 of any player in baseball, Martinez lingered on the free-agent market deep into February, before finally signing with the Red Sox. During said second half, Martinez managed the game's best slugging percentage (.751), isolated power (.445), home-run rate (11.3 percent of his plate appearances) and wOBA (.472), his 31 home runs trailing only Giancarlo Stanton, thriving in one of the game's most hitting-friendly environments following his mid-season trade to the Diamondbacks. While Martinez's power metrics are destined to naturally regress, as that half-year was historic and practically impossible to repeat, and Fenway Park's Green Monster could convert a handful of his homers into extra-base hits, what he loses in that department he could gain in terms of runs/RBIs/plate appearances by joining a loaded lineup. He's capable of a batting average anywhere from .275-.300, and 30-plus-homer power, assuming he can stay healthy enough to accrue the at-bats to get there. Martinez is well worth an early-round pick.
2018 Outlook: Following a historic rookie season, what will Judge do for an encore? He enjoyed one of the most prolific power years in baseball history, setting a rookie record with 52 home runs that tied him for third by any player age 25 or younger. Judge's supporting metrics even back up his repeat prospects: He led the league in the Statcast metric "Barrels," which measures batted-ball events that provide the maximum outcome (.500-plus batting average and 1.500-plus slugging percentage), with 87, and he had the longest average fly ball distance (332.3 feet). Still, pitchers seemed to figure Judge out during the second half of the season as well as the postseason. His three-true-outcomes (home run, strikeout or walk) approach subjected him to streakiness and a low batting average, making him a slightly less attractive pick in points-based leagues. He's due some regression and could be overvalued given how prolific his 2017 campaign was, but he's also likely to once again be one of the best power sources in baseball and a particularly excellent pick in leagues that utilize on-base and/or slugging percentage instead of batting average.
2018 Outlook: With the exception of his stolen base total, Springer's arrow seems to be pointing upward in every aspect of his offensive game. In 2017, he set career highs in almost every offensive category, despite appearing in 22 fewer games than in the season before. Then he broke through on the national stage when he earned World Series MVP honors. In the process, Springer made much more consistent contact than he had at any stage of his pro career, increasing his chances of a repeat performance. The sole criticisms to be had are that his stolen base total and rate have each of the past two seasons and that he hits more ground balls than your typical power hitter -- somewhat limiting his power ceiling -- but neither is enough to bump him out of the early rounds.
2018 Outlook: He tends to be overlooked as a member of a rebuilding White Sox team. Abreu has not only adapted well to the U.S. game but has quietly become one of the most consistent players in fantasy baseball. He's one of three players in history to bat at least .290 with 25-plus homers and 100-plus RBIs in each of his first four big league seasons, joining Joe DiMaggio and Albert Pujols, and he did it while improving his contact rate in each of those years. Abreu also possessed balanced home/road splits, which bodes well should the team decide to trade him midseason. He might not -- and should not -- be one of the top players on your draft board, but he's one of the safest available selections after the top names are gone.
2018 Outlook: Though Upton's power output appears to be on the rise, remember that his rates have risen concurrently with the league's overall increase. Keeping that in mind, Upton's annual numbers have been remarkably consistent, as he has a five-year average of .261/.341/.483 slash rates, 30 home runs and 12 stolen bases, rarely straying far from any of those stats in any individual season. He also finished 2017 on a high note, a good sign considering his late-season trade to the Angels, batting .282/.373/.594 with 20 homers in 71 second-half games. This might be Upton's peak, but even if it is, those numbers support his candidacy as an early-round selection, especially considering the Angels' offensive additions could help pad his RBIs and runs-scored totals.
2018 Outlook: He's as consistent a power source as they come -- the only player in baseball to have hit at least 30 home runs in each of the past six seasons -- and possesses one of the keenest batting eyes in baseball. He's one of only three players with at least a 10 percent walk rate and no more than a 20 percent strikeout rate while qualifying for the batting title in each of the past six seasons (also Joe Mauer, Carlos Santana). These skills make Encarnacion one of the most attractive picks in points-based leagues, but he's also a viable early-round pick in rotisserie leagues, where his status as a heart-of-the-order hitter in a potent lineup helps. Now 35, Encarnacion's best years are probably behind rather than ahead of him, but expect the aging curve to be gentler on him than most thanks to his plate discipline.
2018 Outlook: Consider this: Sanchez has hit 53 home runs in 177 career big league games, the fourth most ever by any player through that many games. He's an incredible power source with the underlying metrics to support it, plus he plays in one of the most homer-friendly ballparks. In short, Sanchez is about as safe a bet for 30 homers as you'll find behind the plate, in an era when quality fantasy catchers are exceedingly scarce. In ESPN standard leagues, he's worthy of a top-50 overall pick, but in two-catcher leagues, he's even more desirable than that.
2018 Outlook: Although his final 2017 numbers had the look of an age-influenced down year, Donaldson roared back with a .281/.401/.604, 25-homer second half that restored his status as a strong early-round pick. In his defense, the early-season DL trip that cost him 38 team games was the first such stint in his career, and the calf issue was probably responsible for some of his lackluster June and July numbers. At the same time, Donaldson is now 32 years of age and subject to increasing age- and injury-related risk, which makes him a weaker building-block pick in an era when many 25-and-under players are breaking through as the game's newest stars. Don't write him off just yet, but keep those risks as well as the prospect that he could be traded into a less homer-friendly environment in mind when considering Donaldson.
2018 Outlook: One of the most consistent power sources in baseball, Cruz has enjoyed four consecutive seasons with at least 39 home runs, the only player who can claim that. He also has one of the stronger injury track records in the game, as his 621 games played during that four-year span are eighth most. Throw in the fact that in 2017 he posted a career-high 10.9 percent walk rate, his highest well-hit average (.236) since 2012 and lowest strikeout rate (21.7 percent) since 2014, and it's difficult to believe he's really 37 years old. Cruz is playing as well as any power hitter in the game, and while Father Time could come calling soon, he's a legitimate top-50 fantasy pick in mixed formats.
2018 Outlook: He possesses some of the best raw power in baseball -- that's especially good considering the Oakland Coliseum is a notoriously pitching-friendly environment -- as Davis is the only player in baseball with back-to-back 40-homer seasons and has a major league-leading 85 in those years combined. As is the case with many such types, he hits for a middling batting average, eerily enough hitting exactly .247 in three consecutive seasons and just three points lower in 2014. Hey, he's consistent! Thanks to his proficiency for doubles and walks as well, Davis is as attractive a pick in points-based leagues as Rotisserie leagues, a player with a legitimate case for a top-50 overall draft selection.
2018 Outlook: An all-or-nothing slugger, Sano's 470 strikeouts through his first 310 career games were the most by any player in history through that many games, but his 71 home runs were 12th-most. He's also capable of drawing a walk, making him a three-true-outcomes player subject to streakiness and a mediocre batting average -- probably sub-.250. With some of the best Statcast power metrics, including average exit velocity on fly balls and line drives as well as Barrels, Sano's league-leading power potential is unmistakable. The problem is that players like this are more commonplace nowadays, and therefore less valuable than they were a half-decade ago. He also could be subject to league discipline for an off-the-field incident, so keep tabs on the news. Sano is a solid dynasty pick and an early-to-midround selection in Rotisserie redraft formats, though his poor contact rate makes him a bit less valuable in points-based scoring.
2018 Outlook: As the Tigers began their rebuild, Castellanos quietly enjoyed one of the more under-the-radar summer breakthroughs, batting .303/.339/.557 in 106 games from June 1 forward. He did this thanks in large part to his boosting both his contact rate and well-hit average significantly, while maintaining his already-high fly-ball rate. While Castellanos' supporting cast entering 2018 is weaker, he'll also occupy a prime lineup spot, again fueling his counting numbers. He's not yet a top-10 fantasy option at the position, but he's also one of the more intriguing upside plays from the corner infield tier.
2018 Outlook: One of 2017's biggest breakthrough stories, Merrifield was one of only two players with at least 15 home runs and 30 stolen bases, joining Jose Altuve. Merrifield did it by boosting his contact rate to 85.0 percent -- in line with his minor league rates -- while hitting fewer ground balls (his 37 percent rate between the minors and majors the lowest in his pro career). In short, he made the kinds of improvements that make such a campaign repeatable, though he did have plenty go right for him in the process, making a complete repeat challenging. Merrifield is a rotisserie category-filler with top-10 second-base value, though he's a bit shy of that in points-based formats, due to his low walk rate.