2017 Outlook: For the second consecutive season, Arenado managed at least 40 home runs and 130 RBIs, pacing the majors in the latter category in each. Don't downplay the feat as a product of Coors Field's thin air, either; he hit a combined 38 home runs with 104 RBIs in his road games in those two seasons, both ranking among the majors' top 10. What's more, Arenado boosted his walk rate to a career-best 9.8 percent in 2016, not to mention he'll 2017 at a prime-of-his-career 26 years old. As a heart-of-the-order hitter in an underappreciated lineup, he's as good a bet to repeat (or at least approach) his 2016 numbers as anyone, making him a first-round, building-block pick regardless of format.
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: He's a rare five-category, first-base talent, as Goldschmidt is one of only three first basemen in history to have managed multiple seasons with at least 20 home runs and stolen bases, and he and newly elected Hall of Famer Jeff Bagwell are the only ones with multiple such years including a .290 batting average or better. While Goldschmidt's power numbers did appear to tumble last year, his batting eye is as keen as ever -- he has consecutive years of 110-plus walks and a .410-plus on-base percentage -- fueling a high batting average. He might no longer be a slam dunk in the first round or as the top-priced first baseman in a points-based league, but he'll fit the description once again in Rotisserie-based scoring, where his speed makes him one of the most balanced contributors.
2017 Outlook: Where did the steals go?! A summer after he swiped a career-best 20 bags, at the time tripling his big-league total, Machado was held without a single steal in 2016. No matter, as he was an exceptional performer in practically every other facet of the game, and fantasy owners gained an unexpected piece of flexibility when Machado appeared in 45 games at shortstop -- that thanks to an injury to J.J. Hardy -- to capture eligibility there for 2017. Machado was one of eight players to hit 35 or more home runs in each of the past two seasons, and he's one of only six in history to do it in both his ages 22 and 23 seasons. He has the prime of his career ahead of him, showed enough growth in the quality of his contact last season that further improvement is a reasonable assumption, and he has shown us in the past that he's capable of stealing a base when he wants to. Machado is a compelling a first-round candidate in any format.
2017 Outlook: After capturing American League MVP honors in 2015, Donaldson followed it up with a season that was every bit as good using points-based scoring -- just eight fewer points, to be exact -- and only marginally less valuable in Rotisserie -- top-30 rather than top-10. In the process, he improved his play against right-handed pitching, posting a career-best .960 against that side, as well as his walk rate, registering a career-high 15.6 percent mark that was mostly fueled by greater pitch recognition deeper in the count. Those quick to doubt Donaldson's repeat prospects following the offseason departure of Edwin Encarnacion, the man who immediately succeeded him in the lineup, could cause his draft stock to slip slightly, to the point that he's a relative value; anything outside of the top 10 picks would qualify.
2017 Outlook: Perhaps the prospect of another Triple Crown is now in his rearview, but even at age 34, Cabrera remains an excellent hitter, still easily 90 percent of the player who accomplished that historic feat just five years ago. He's riding a major league-best streak of eight consecutive batting title-eligible seasons batting .300-plus, has averaged 34 home runs and 113 RBIs annually during that span and in fact rebounded with 38 homers in 2016. What's more, if you doubt his power potential, Cabrera led the majors in a category Statcast calls "Barrels," which are balls in play hit at both the ideal angle and speed off the bat, with 72 last season. His contact rate might be slowly regressing and the odds of his power numbers decreasing are slightly greater than the alternative, but this is what we'd call a player gracefully aging. In an era where it's the younger players everyone wants in fantasy, Cabrera is the rare "safe" early-round pick.
2017 Outlook: Few players in baseball possess as keen an eye at the plate coupled with elite power as Rizzo; he, Edwin Encarnacion and David Ortiz were the only three in the game to walk at least 10 percent of the time, make contact at least 75 percent and hit at least 30 home runs in each of the past three seasons. Adding the fact that Rizzo possesses a minimal platoon split, he possesses one of the highest statistical floors of anyone in the game, with his range of outcomes -- health-willing -- likely between a .275-290 batting average and 28-34 home runs. He's points-league gold, but even in Rotisserie leagues warrants an early (late-first/early-second) selection thanks to his predictability and place in one of the game's most productive lineups. If there's any criticism of Rizzo to he had, it's that he has cooled after the All-Star break in each of the past two seasons, but if that merely means you consider your trade options for him in June or July, so be it.
2017 Outlook: One of the few bright spots for the last-place Braves in 2016 was Freeman's emergence as one of the National League's most complete sluggers. After struggling through injuries in 2015, he rebounded with career highs in home runs (34), runs scored (102), slugging percentage (.569) and isolated power (.267) among other categories, and he only seemed to improve as the year progressed, his .323/.433/.634 second-half rates ranking among the game's best -- his .451 wOBA during that span, in fact, was second-best among qualifiers. Critical to his breakthrough was his increase in opposite-field power, as he tacked an additional six feet onto his average fly-ball distance in that direction while hitting 12 balls over the fence in that direction; these were all surefire signs that he played the year at 100 percent. Freeman and the Braves now move into their new digs, and despite the "unknown" variable of the new park's tendencies, it might only help his repeat/improvement prospects, as Turner Field was a below-average ballpark for left-handed power as well as the game top venue for strikeouts. He has arrived as a prime-of-career, top-25 overall player.
2017 Outlook: Baseball's most patient hitter, Votto has the majors' highest walk rate (18.5 percent) as well as most total walks (527) in the past five seasons combined, and he's among the most adept at hitting line drives, his 27.2 percent rate during that same time span second to only Freddie Freeman's 27.4. That combination makes Votto a good, low-risk investment in a traditional Rotisserie sense -- as do his remarkably balanced home/road and righty/lefty splits -- but it elevates him into the category of superstar in any sabermetrically inclined scoring format. In short: He's a potential first-rounder in a points league, as a near-lock for the cherished "500 point" plateau that defines a superstar hitter. In Roto formats, meanwhile, his elevated statistical floor keeps him a viable target in the third round.
2017 Outlook: Few players in baseball possess Encarnacion's combination of power, plate discipline and balanced splits -- both home versus road and against right-handers versus left-handers. He's the only player to hit at least 30 home runs in each of the past five seasons, doing so with combined 12.5 percent walk and 82.3 percent contact rates during that time. Encarnacion, too, was the major league's leader in road home runs during those five years (101), so the move to Cleveland shouldn't be construed as particularly damaging to his fantasy value. Perhaps a small handful of his home runs will turn into doubles at Progressive Field, which has a higher and slightly deeper left-field fence than Rogers Centre, but the net result would be negligible in points leagues and perhaps only a round's or $2-4 difference in Rotisserie formats compared to his 2016 value in Toronto.
2017 Outlook: Apparently, Murphy's adjustment to his swing, made during the summer of 2015 while working with Mets hitting coach Kevin Long, paid as many long-term as immediate dividends. Remarkably, this previously contact-oriented, line drive hitter enjoyed a roughly eight-percent increase to his fly-ball rate as well as a nearly 40 point boost to his well-hit average beginning at almost precisely the 2015 All-Star break, and he accomplished it at absolutely no cost to his contact rate. The result was a new, higher-upside skill set, Murphy's power upside leaping into the 20s to go along with his already great likelihood of a .300-plus batting average. Considering he'll be the Nationals' cleanup hitter, batting behind the newly acquired Adam Eaton, Trea Turner for a full year and a potentially rebounding Bryce Harper, RBIs could be plentiful for Murphy. He might not feel like a good bet to repeat a top-25 Player Rater finish, but he has excellent odds of doing so.
2017 Outlook: It'd be a mistake to examine Villar's 2016 output and dismiss it outright as fluky. Sure, his .285 batting average, .457 slugging percentage and 19 home runs set single-year professional bests and are probably unsustainable, but his speed -- in an era where stolen bases are becoming increasingly difficult to find -- and plate discipline weren't at all out of line with his past. Counting regular-season contributions at all professional levels, Villar and Billy Hamilton are the only two players in baseball to have stolen at least 40 bases in each of the past five seasons, and Villar's healthy, .337 career minor league and .336 major league on-base percentages should continue to drive enough opportunities to make another 40 a virtual lock in 2017. Though these types of players tend to have substantially greater value in Rotisserie than points-based leagues -- Villar finished 2016 fifth overall in the former, 72nd in the latter -- he could grant any prospective fantasy owner an additional advantage, when he presumably adds second base eligibility to third base and shortstop as he shifts there to accommodate a probable Travis Shaw/Hernan Perez platoon at the Brewers' hot corner.
2017 Outlook: It's a shame that Kyle hasn't garnered the same level of national attention as brother Corey has (and Corey's has been in just one big-league season), as the older Seager is a tremendously underrated asset, both in the real and fantasy games. Kyle Seager's points-based owners can attest: He actually finished with the greater point total of the two brothers (450-422), in 11 fewer plate appearances. Along with David Ortiz, Seager was one of two players to hit at least 20 home runs with an 80 percent or better contact rate in each of the past five seasons, and during that five-year span he exhibited incremental gains in terms of his isolated power and hard-contact rates, making his career-best 2016 look entirely repeatable (at the very least).
2017 Outlook: Though in many respects, Abreu's performance has regressed since he broke into the majors in 2014, let's not understate the historical significance of his first three big-league seasons: He, along with Joe DiMaggio and Albert Pujols, are the only three players in the history of baseball to manage at least a .290 batting average, 25 home runs and 100 RBIs in each. That said, Abreu's performance in all three categories comes with some risk: He continues to show poor strike-zone judgment, leading the majors in swings at "non-competitive" (those considerably outside the zone) pitches in 2016; he appears to have sacrificed some power in exchange for a three-year pattern of rising contact rates; and his White Sox, now in rebuilding mode, might not provide as much fuel for his counting numbers. Abreu is no longer a likely-top-25 player and in fact might be a risky pick within the top 50, though as his baseline is probably his 2016 numbers, he's still a worthy early-round pick.
2017 Outlook: In his fourth big-league season, Myers finally broke through, becoming one of only three players to manage at least 25 home runs and 25 stolen bases (Mookie Betts, Mike Trout). Better luck in the health department contributed: He appeared in more games (157) than he had in 2014-15 combined, and in the process more than doubled his career homer and stolen base totals. Unfortunately, his year was not without its warts, most notably his forgettable .223/.316/.381 second-half stat line during which his strikeout rate was an unsightly 27.6 percent. Now 26, Myers is a player in the prime of his career, though he'll be hard pressed to improve upon his 2016 numbers, and in fact he might be less valuable, if only because of how much of his fantasy earnings were fueled by playing time and manager Andy Green's frequent green lights on the base paths. Myers' circumstances aren't much different from what they were a year ago and perhaps he'll be better equipped to handle the grind of the 162-game schedule this season, but he also comes with the warning not to "chase last year's stats."