2017 Outlook: After securing National League Rookie of the Year and MVP honors in consecutive years to begin his big-league career, plus helping his Cubs snap a 108-year World Series championship drought, Bryant might seem to have already peaked at the age of 25. Now look closer: He significantly boosted his contact rate last season, from 64 to 75 percent, while adding 49 points to his isolated power and increasing both his fly-ball and hard-contact rates in the process. Scouts gave Bryant's future power an 80 grade, tops on the 20-80 scale, and his keen sense of the strike zone hints that he might reach that ceiling, with minimal adverse impact upon his batting average. A "championship hangover" (or, as we'd call it, natural regression to the mean) is possible, but with a skill set like Bryant's, a repeat or even a small step forward -- which would probably manifest itself best in points-based leagues that penalize for strikeouts -- is at least as likely.
2017 Outlook: Among star-caliber players, Marte possesses one of the wider valuation splits between Rotisserie and points-based fantasy leagues. In the former, his .290-hitting, 30-steal baseline (including upside in either category) makes him a viable second or third hitter rostered to your team. In the latter, his modest walk rate -- sub-4.5 percent in three of his four batting title-eligible big-league seasons -- and 10-homer decline last season makes him more of a top-100-overall, rather than top-25, candidate. Chances are, his 2016 numbers told the truer tale than his 2015, as his batted-ball metrics paint the picture of a line-drive-and-speed rather than power-oriented performer.
2017 Outlook: He's a player who often gets an exceedingly large amount of criticism for his past steroid allegations (and, ultimately, his 65-game suspension for them in 2013), but Braun deserves a hearty amount of credit for his consistency the past two seasons. Though he tends to exhibit his share of minor bumps and bruises, as well as a rising ground-ball rate, as he has entered his mid-30s, he has settled in nicely as a capable .280-.290 hitting, 25-homer, double-digit steal candidate. Make no mistake, Braun's career curve is trending downwards, but it's a gradual such decline rather than one with an imminent, precipitous drop. He's not a player to target with one of your first two or three picks, but he's also not one you should let slip much further than that.
2017 Outlook: Though his career profile might not immediately strike you as such, Cespedes has recently crafted his game around making consistently high-quality contact and a lot of it, which helps elevate his statistical floor and makes a repeat of his 2015-16 levels of (when-healthy) production extremely likely. Among batting title-eligible players, his .214 well-hit average ranked seventh and 25.2 percent line-drive rate ranked 11th, and using Statcast data, his 92.7 mph average exit velocity ranked 16th among 247 players with at least 250 balls in play. The result is one of the narrower ranges of probable outcomes, with his 2017 probably not residing far from a .285 batting average and 30 home runs, numbers that would easily make him a top-40 overall player in either Rotisserie or points-based scoring formats.
2017 Outlook: Though his 21 home runs last season more than doubled his career total -- he had 20 in 2 ½ seasons combined previously -- Yelich's true growth in the power department has been much more gradual, judging by his underlying numbers. Always a patient, capable batsman with a high likelihood of a .290-plus batting average, his extreme ground-ball rate continues to put a cap on his home run potential, though he did produce his lowest such number (56.4 percent) along with his greatest isolated power (.215) in any half-season of his career in the second half of 2016; his .194 well-hit average during that span was also a welcome sign. Yelich's game is awfully refined for a 25-year-old, fifth-year major leaguer: He's an excellent line-drive hitter against his weaker platoon side, and he's capable of chipping in a stolen base when needed. His odds of repeating last season's numbers remain good, and in the event that he adjusts his swing more towards power, he might make a significant leap into the game's upper-tier fantasy hitters. Consider him a fourth- or fifth-round selection in any format.
2017 Outlook: A revamped swing that helped him better cover the inner third of the plate as well as improved his performance against fastballs fueled Polanco's substantial gains in terms of home runs (22), RBIs (86) and slugging percentage (.463) last season, as he enjoyed a sizable boost to his line-drive percentage. Unfortunately, his year could've been better, as various bumps and bruises plagued him after the All-Star break, during which time he batted just .220 with a .267 on-base percentage. Following the season, he received platelet-rich plasma injections in both his left knee and left shoulder, things the Pirates hope might improve his stamina over the course of 2017. His health bears watching during spring training, but as he's a 25-year-old who only seemed to be scratching the surface of his power/speed potential last season, a promising March might make him a borderline top-30 pick in Rotisserie leagues, and top-40 in points-based scoring.
2017 Outlook: Upton's first season with the Tigers (and as an American Leaguer) got off to a rocky start, as he batted .215/.263/.319 in the first half while seeing an increasing volume of high-velocity pitches as he made the league adjustment, but he recovered nicely -- and in a way that some fantasy owners might not have noticed -- thereafter. His .579 second-half slugging percentage ranked 11th among qualifiers, and he restored his hard-contact rate while actually picking up some bat speed. As Upton plays through his career prime, he seems to be increasingly funneling his fantasy contributions into the power department; his declining speed and increasing strikeout rate (with resulting, adverse impact on his batting average) is making him more of a Rotisserie than points-based asset. Still, he's young enough to be a potential top-50 overall talent in the former, and one worth a look a few rounds later than that in the latter.
2017 Outlook: There was much excitement surrounding Schwarber's power potential coupled with his catcher eligibility entering last season, but a knee injury suffered in an outfield collision ended his regular season after only three Cubs games and required reconstructive surgery. Fortunately, Schwarber made a somewhat miraculous recovery in time to appear in the World Series, where he showed the same pop-plus-plate-discipline combination that made him so appealing in fantasy drafts a year ago. The difference is that he's now eligible only in the outfield -- at least at draft time -- where he provides less value relative to replacement. Schwarber should be closer to 100 percent at the onset of the 2017 season, and if he gets regular at-bats, he'll possess the same 30-homer, .350-on-base-percentage, 80-walk potential. He'd be a top-50 overall pick with catcher eligibility, but with a chance he'll earn it in-season (1o games required) plus his natural skill, he's worth targeting shortly thereafter in any format as an outfielder.
2017 Outlook: A max-effort, all-or-nothing power hitter, Davis posted the second-best home-run rate among qualifiers, but also the highest swinging strike rate on pitches within the strike zone last season. That trend solidifies Davis' 40-homer potential, but it also makes him a batting-average liability, a problem in an era that appears to be rich in power. He does draw a good number of walks -- though his 2016 full-season rate was down due to a significantly greater rate of pitchers challenging him initially upon his move to the American League -- which makes him a more appealing choice in on-base and sabermetric scoring formats. There, he might make a case for a top-70 overall pick; he's a player worth targeting two to three rounds later otherwise.
2017 Outlook: Though Kemp's 35 home runs and .231 isolated power gave a look of a significant rebound, his career trends show all the patterns one might expect of a player more than two years removed from his 30th birthday. His walk rate has declined in consecutive years, to a career-low 5.4 percent, his platoon-split widened to 68 points of wOBA, and his defense continued to suffer to the point that the Braves might eventually have to pick and choose his spots. Kemp's decline might continue to be gradual, but his floor is lowering more rapidly in points-based leagues, where his eroding plate discipline and prospect of days off against right-handers are more of a problem. He's a mid-round pick, no matter what the 2016 stats tell you.
2017 Outlook: Ramirez's contact ability has been extremely overlooked in recent years, and he posted a career-best 89 percent rate in 2016 and 91 percent during the season's second half. These fueled his breakthrough numbers, lending legitimacy to his healthy batting average and on-base percentage and explaining both his playing-time increase as well as his stolen-base total. The Indians will use Ramirez regularly again in 2017, presumably mostly at third base, and he's not nearly the regression candidate you might think. He should continue to contribute in all five Rotisserie categories, be slightly more valuable in points-based formats thanks to his contact and ability to generate many extra-base hits, and has the added advantage of dual position eligibility (third base and outfield). Ramirez is a worthy mid-rounder.
2017 Outlook: One of the first half's bigger breakthrough stories, Ozuna's 2016 got sidetracked in June, after left wrist issues began to crop up. He batted just .214/.269/.337 in his final 75 games, with significantly weaker contact, causing his cumulative numbers to fall in line with his 2014 rather than hint at something better. Nevertheless, he torched left-handed pitching even during his slump, he had much better walk, hard-contact and extra base-hit rates before the injuries appeared, and he's 26 years old, with plenty of time for growth. Though it might not that be of a perennial All-Star, Ozuna's statistical ceiling is probably noticeably higher than his final 2016 stat line, and if he comes out swinging during the spring, he could be a mid-round pick with potential top-50 upside.
2017 Outlook: A top contender for Rookie of the Year honors -- yes, he's still eligible! -- Benintendi showed us just enough in his brief big-league time last season to suggest he's ready to make an immediate fantasy impact. His history of high contact rates provides stability in terms of batting average, and he enjoyed .181 isolated power and a greater fly-ball than ground-ball rate that hints at good pop. Benintendi should capture an everyday role for the Red Sox, whose deep lineup should maximize his counting-numbers potential, and he might be quick enough to adjust that he'll make an immediate, four-category impact (perhaps with a handful of steals). He has work to do against left-handed pitching and he might be more extra-base than home-run oriented, making him perhaps a better upside play in points than Rotisserie leagues, but Benintendi is a player who shouldn't linger too deep into the middle rounds in either format.
2017 Outlook: Much of Belt's profile shows a player on the verge of a breakthrough in Rotisserie terms, but points-based players will tell you he has already proven his mettle. He was a top-100 player in the latter last season -- he scored the 94th-most points overall -- but his inability to elevate any of his traditional Rotisserie numbers into the league-leader lists makes him a tough sell within the top 100. His 104 walks and 41 doubles represented huge gains, and he adopted an extreme fly-ball approach; these were great signs but also showed how poor a fit he is for his spacious home ballpark. Belt could take another step forward in 2017, but so long as he's a Giant, he's more mid-round Rotisserie material, even if he's a possible sixth- or seventh-round pick in points leagues.
2017 Outlook: Shoulder surgery that resulted from a diving attempt during a September 2015 game ruined Brantley's 2016; he had the start of his season delayed by nearly a month and never truly got back to full strength at any point. An additional surgery last August cast additional doubt upon his value entering this year, making him one of the most critical names to track this spring. When healthy, Brantley had established a 2013-15 baseline of .308-15-85 numbers with 18 stolen bases, so the optimist can point to his five-category ability as reason to target him within the first 10 rounds or so, but he's about as risky a pick as any prominent hitter. Expect at least some missed time, with him perhaps falling somewhat short of those baseline stats.