2018 Outlook: Using Player Rater finishes -- Altuve topped the list in 2014 and finished second in 2016 and 2017 -- there's a compelling case for Altuve as the first pick off your draft board. By adding some pop to his offensive game in 2015, then enhancing that skill again in 2016-17, Altuve has become one of fantasy's most complete players -- not just in categorical Rotisserie terms but in any scoring format. Altuve's contact skills are elite and give him the best odds of a major-league-leading batting average. He batted 15 points higher than any other qualifier in 2017 and 22 points higher than any other player over the past four seasons combined (he hit .334 during that span). Altuve is also a consistently productive base stealer, even if he's no longer a potential league leader, and he's the only player in baseball who swiped at least 30 bags in each of the past six seasons. If you prefer the "balanced" approach to team building, Altuve is the best building block you'll find.
2018 Outlook: Already one of the best contact hitters in the game -- his 88.6 percent mark the past two seasons was third out of 131 players with at least 1,000 plate appearances -- Ramirez added some pop to his game in a breakthrough 2017. That was, in large part, due to a nearly 5 percent rise in his fly ball rate and nearly 2-degree rise in his average launch angle, things that bode well for his prospects of repeating a .300-plus average and 20-plus homers. Ramirez's skill set makes him low-risk, and he's one of the few in the game who brings dual infield position eligibility to the table -- second and third base -- but he probably isn't the top-15 overall Rotisserie or top-10 point performer he was a year ago. Expect mild regression, but don't let him slip more than couple rounds in your draft.
2018 Outlook: Regression to the mean meant Dozier went from 42 to 34 home runs from 2016 to 2017, but his offensive numbers remained excellent, as did his underlying skills, earning him a place within the top 35 fantasy players, whether using rotisserie or points-based scoring. He's an extreme fly baller, with his high launch angle providing him great odds of a third consecutive season leading his position in home runs, even if his batting average is middling. What's more, Dozier is a capable base stealer, posting double-digit totals in each of his five full seasons in the majors, further bolstering his value. He's one of the safest picks you'll find at second base and worthy of an early-round pick.
2018 Outlook: After a 2016 marred by an 80-game suspension for PEDs, Gordon rebounded to his previous norms last season, flashing similar contact and speed metrics to his excellent 2014 and 2015 seasons. Though he's entering his age-30 season, his Statcast speed metrics have shown no signs of decline, and the Mariners have made several moves in the past year-plus that hint at their desire for more aggressiveness on the basepaths. Gordon shouldn't have much trouble repeating his 2017 numbers, giving him a great chance at a fourth career season inside the top 11 overall on the Player Rater, but keep in mind that speed-oriented players like this have much less value in points leagues. To that point, he has never finished higher than 71st in fantasy points in his career, making him more of a midrounder in that format.
2018 Outlook: Previously one of the most free-swinging hitters in the game, Schoop flashed more patience in 2017, cutting his chase rate (swing rate at nonstrikes) by nearly 8 percent, the second-largest improvement among qualifiers. The result was a 26-point increase in batting average and 43-point increase in well-hit average, fueling his significant step forward in terms of fantasy value. That said, Schoop's power metrics didn't seem to support a full repeat, as his Statcast numbers were middling and his average fly ball distance ranked in the league's bottom quarter, and he did seem to enjoy some good fortune on balls in play. Expect some regression in his rotisserie numbers, but Schoop's overall improvements should still keep him as an early-round pick and one of the more desirable second basemen on your draft board.
2018 Outlook: After a 39-homer outburst in 2016, Cano regressed to his usual norms, his 23 home runs landing within two of his five-year average and .280 batting average just 19 points shy of said yearly average. Predictably, in his age-34 season he exhibited increasing struggles against left-handed pitching, which snowballed during the second half of the year (.160 average). Cano appears to be aging gracefully, and while he's probably not going to exceed his 2017 numbers by a significant amount, he's consistent enough year over year to remain a top-10 second baseman in Rotisserie leagues, and an even more attractive pick in points-based leagues due to his high contact rate. His durability, which might begin to wane soon, is also a great asset: His 784 games played in the past five seasons is fifth-most in the majors.
2018 Outlook: Coming off a magical 2016, LeMahieu predictably regressed to the mean -- not that that should ever be construed as damning. His .388 BABIP and 8.9 home run/fly ball percentage both returned to his previous/career norms, with the result being an effective "2016 sandwich," with his 2015 and 2017 looking eerily similar. LeMahieu is one of the most talented contact hitters with patience in the game, so he's a rock-solid bet for a .300-plus batting average and .360-plus on-base percentage, which will fuel a hefty runs scored total as a top-third-of-the-order Rockies hitter. The problems are that he doesn't contribute a whole lot else and his speed metrics declined sharply last season. LeMahieu is an excellent points-based league pick, a top-five capable second baseman with top-50 overall potential there (as well as any league that rewards walks/on-base percentage), and he's only a round or two less valuable than that in Rotisserie leagues.
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.
2018 Outlook: One of the least disciplined hitters in the game, Odor has now done in two years straight what had been done only four times previously in history: Hit 30-plus home runs while striking out at least five times as often as he walked. He's quickly turning into a swing-for-the-fences type, taking the approach perhaps to the extreme, making him a volatile selection in either rotisserie or points-based leagues. Odor seems destined to improve somewhat, even if only because he had the game's lowest batting average on balls in play (.224), 49 points beneath his career mark, but he's also one of the players in greatest need of adapting his overall approach. Keep tabs on his spring progress; but even if he spins his wheels, he should finish around the borderline of the top-10 second basemen.
2018 Outlook: Shoulder issues derailed the second half of Carpenter's 2017 campaign, and while they didn't require offseason surgery, they'll bear monitoring during spring training. If he's healthy, his continued attempt to elevate the ball bodes well for his power potential, as he has increased his fly ball rate in each of the past three seasons, and he set a personal best with a 47.0 percent rate last season. Though he has traded some contact to do it, Carpenter's walk rate remains excellent, making him one of the most underrated players in points-based leagues or those that reward extra for on-base percentage. He's in good shape for a rebound, and he could be a top-50 player in points leagues and worthy of an early-to-midround pick in rotisserie.
2018 Outlook: While a lot of things went right for Shaw in 2017 -- he had a generous 14.0 home run/fly ball percentage and his competition for at-bats mostly disappointed -- his status as a regular in one of the game's most hitting-friendly environments gives him an excellent chance of at least approaching a repeat. Most notably, he improved against left-handed pitching to a productive level, batting .250/.312/.464 against them, and he showed smarts on the base paths that make him a potentially sneaky contributor in stolen bases. Shaw's skill set isn't that of a true superstar, though, but rather an above-average regular, so be cautious chasing last year's stats. He's a good early-to-mid round pick.
2018 Outlook: October debridement and microfracture surgery to repair damage to articular cartilage in his right knee threatens the start to Murphy's season, as the Nationals have thus far offered only "optimism" that he'll be ready by Opening Day. Toss that onto a pile that includes second-half hip, neck and hamstring issues, as well as his 32 years of age, and Murphy is one of the riskier picks come draft day. Though the hitting approach he adopted in 2015 has made him a consistent candidate for at least a .300 batting average and 20 homers annually, he regressed significantly in terms of contact rate and struggled against left-handed pitchers in the second half of 2017, things that could signal the aging process as much as it might've resulted from his injuries. With full health, he'd be a top-50 pick, perhaps better in points-based leagues. Until we get a firmer read on his return date, however, he's a risky pick anywhere near that early and will require a backup plan.
2018 Outlook: One of the game's most free-swinging players -- his 56.5 percent swing rate was fifth-highest and 43.5 percent chase rate at non-strikes was highest among batting title-eligibles -- Baez nevertheless finally seemed to gain his footing at the big-league level in 2017. He boosted his walk and well-hit rates as well as his isolated power, and in fact turned in .291/.340/.511 second-half slash rates, while flashing an elite glove that only assures he should continue to see increasing amounts of playing time. While Baez is a batting-average risk due to his impatience, he also possesses an underrated power/speed combination, one that's more attractive at second base. He's a breakthrough candidate worth taking in the early rounds in dynasty and just outside the top 100 in redraft Rotisserie formats, though he's a bit less valuable than that in points-based leagues due to his strikeouts.
2018 Outlook: Albies parlayed four months of .285/.330/.440 slash rates and 21 stolen bases for Triple-A Gwinnett into a promotion to the Braves last Aug. 1, where he actually improved slightly upon that performance in a two-month audition. In the process, he posted an 83.4 percent contact rate, respectable slash rates against pitchers of either handedness, and good speed metrics -- including an 8-for-9 performance attempting steals in 57 games. Albies also flashed a hint of pop with his .171 isolated power, so there's a possibility he could be a five-category Rotisserie contributor in this, his first full big-league season. He's a top-100 capable dynasty pick and a mid-rounder in redraft formats who could sneak his way into that higher tier in the best-case scenario.
2018 Outlook: Where did that come from? Before 2017, Taylor had never hit more than eight home runs or had a .200-plus isolated power in any previous season as a pro. As many hitters did, he enjoyed a huge power breakthrough, though his skill set suggested that he's more of a .270-hitting, 15-homer candidate than what he contributed a year ago. Taylor's speed was actually his most promising asset, assuring that he'd fill your Rotisserie categories while qualifying at both second base and outfield, even if he's far from extraordinary in any one department. He's a handy player to have if you can land him in the middle rounds.