2017 Outlook: Take a step back and savor it: What we're witnessing is the mere beginning of the career prime of a potential all-time great. Just 25 and with five full major-league seasons on his résumé, Trout has significantly more WAR than anyone in baseball during that five-year span (47.8), and is top-10 ranked in most every measurable category one could pick for fantasy baseball: Batting average (6th), home runs (5th), RBIs (7th), runs scored (1st), stolen bases (10th), on-base percentage (2nd), slugging percentage (3rd)… the list has no end. Those who enjoy picking nits can claim, "But only one of those rankings was first place," or cavil that Trout's Angels are an uncompetitive team that might sap his runs, RBIs and perhaps cost a handful of trips to the plate. Still, if there's a poster boy for "sure thing," it's Trout in any format, as his statistical floor is higher than anyone's. And isn't that what your team's leading investment is all about?
2017 Outlook: Three players last season managed at least a .300 batting average, 25 home runs, 100 runs scored and 10 stolen bases: Mookie Betts, Mike Trout and Blackmon. Tuck that away if Blackmon's name doesn't strike you as "household" like the other two, because he should be regarded as one of the game's greats -- though a bit more so in Rotisserie than points-based scoring -- thanks to his having earned a top-20 final spot on the Player Rater in each of the past three seasons. While Blackmon, now 30, has slowed a tad on the base paths, he made critical gains offensively in 2016: He boosted his numbers against left-handed pitchers to .331/.392/.451; got better lift on the ball, his ground-ball rate declining by nearly five percent; and he proved immune to the wide home/road splits that typically strike Rockies hitters, becoming only the fourth player in franchise history to manage at least .300-15 road numbers (he managed .313-17) in a single season. All that more than makes up the difference, elevating his fantasy-point potential, and making him a legitimate candidate for top-10 value overall.
2017 Outlook: He was worth the wait. Though it took until after the 2016 All-Star break for it to happen, when Turner finally arrived, he appeared in 70 of 72 Nationals games and batted .340 with 33 stolen bases, ranking sixth and second in those categories and resulting in arguably the most impactful second-half performance in fantasy baseball. Most unexpectedly, he chipped in 13 home runs (for a 4.0 percent rate) and .225 isolated power, both of those easily the greatest rates in his professional career. How much of Turner's outburst is sustainable? Some regression is inevitable, but his skill set seems like that of a .280-hitting, double-digit power, which is enough to fuel a run at 40-plus stolen bases, and as the No. 2 hitter between Adam Eaton, Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy, Turner's counting numbers (runs/RBIs) would experience quite a boost. It feels awkward to describe him a candidate for a first-round pick, but the truth is that his upside makes him a legitimate one.
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: 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: Tread carefully, because the operative numbers fueling Springer's 61st-overall finish in standard points and 78th-overall Player Rater earnings in 2016 were his career-high (and major league-leading) games and plate appearances totals: 162 and 744, the latter influenced by his top-of-the-lineup spot with the Astros. Skills-wise, he's a player with room for improvement, including his wide righty-lefty platoon split of 68 wOBA points, his dreadful 9-for-19 performance attempting steals, and his .187 batting average and 43 strikeouts (fourth-most in the majors) against sliders, cutters and hybrids of the two. Springer appears to be embracing a future as a three-true-outcomes -- home runs, walks and strikeouts -- slugger, which would make him a considerably more attractive, and eventually perhaps top-25 in points leagues, asset, but also threaten to drop his Rotisserie value into the sixth or seventh round, especially if he stops running. Fortunately, he's still 27 years old, giving him hope of making said improvements, but be careful not to overrate his 2016 exploits at the draft table.
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: After the disappointing season he had, followed by a winter's worth of trade rumors, McCutchen's stock might be as artificially deflated by public perception as any player's. His season, however, wasn't an entirely lost cause: He batted .267/.381/.471 from Aug. 1 forward, his isolated power, walk and line-drive rates and well-hit average during that time span all well within range of his 2014-15 numbers. Those latter traits elevate his statistical floor, and were the reasons he remained a roster-worthy asset even in shallow mixed leagues during his worst stages of 2016, many of which were probably influenced by knee, thumb and heel injuries. Those injuries, however, have eroded his stolen-base potential, making a single-digit output in 2017 probable and serving a reason to no longer draft him in the first three rounds. This version of McCutchen is a stronger rebound candidate in points-based rather than Rotisserie leagues, but he probably has another very good year left in him.
2017 Outlook: The premier base stealer of this generation, Hamilton has stolen 19 more bases than anyone in baseball in the past three seasons combined, he's the only player to have stolen 50-plus in each, and he's only the fifth player in the modern era to have stolen at least 50 bases in each of his first three full big-league seasons. While his skills might seem to stop there -- well, other than his plus defense, which rarely counts in fantasy scoring -- he did finally start contributing with the bat late last year, with a .293 batting average and .369 on-base percentage in the second half. Hamilton could carry those gains into 2017, in which case he might be undervalued in Rotisserie leagues, as he's generally regarded a one-category performer. He's not a building block in fantasy, a player worth one of your first few picks, but if your league puts a heavy emphasis on steals, as traditional Rotisserie scoring does, he's worth a look shortly thereafter.
2017 Outlook: Pollock's raw, five-Rotisserie-category talent is unmistakable -- he was the fifth most-valuable player in Rotisserie and 16th-most in points-based scoring in 2015 -- but his injury history is becoming increasingly difficult to overlook. After he missed all but two weeks of the 2016 season, first with a fractured right elbow suffered just before Opening Day, then with a strained left groin suffered in mid-September, Pollock's average professional games played is a mere 109 the past five seasons. While it's possible that his elbow issues are now behind him -- this was a recurrence of an injury upon which he had surgery in 2010, as he had been experiencing soreness in the elbow during the spring of 2016 -- Pollock's odds of a fully-healthy year, à la 2015, aren't outstanding. He's a wiser bet in Rotisserie scoring, where his stolen bases and runs scored contributions carry greater weight, and with some luck could rebound to the second-round projection in that format (and third/fourth in points), but the closer to those valuations you select him, the greater the prospect for disappointment.
2017 Outlook: A model of consistency, Jones is the only player in baseball to manage at least 25 home runs and 80 RBIs in each of the past six seasons, and he has ranged between 25-33 homers, 82-108 RBIs and a .265-.287 batting average annually during that span. Though that gives him good odds of another season within those ranges, it shouldn't be overlooked that he's now 31 years old and has lost a step on the base paths, meaning that he could gradually begin regressing in the power departments. That the league's power was significantly up last season, too, decreases the impact of his steady contributions, making him an eighth- or ninth-round pick in Rotisserie leagues, and perhaps a player worth waiting an additional round or two in points-based scoring.
2017 Outlook: Bradley's cumulative numbers might look great -- he finished 91st overall on the Player Rater, and scored the 80th most standard-league points, in 2016 -- but since he took over as a Red Sox regular in August 2015, he has been wildly streaky and frustrating to own in head-to-head leagues. In those eight months, he has enjoyed a wOBA of .480 or better in two, and a wOBA beneath .325 in three, including each of August and September/October last season. Inconsistent contact had a lot to do with it, as he improved his seasonal rate to 22.5 percent, but that swelled to 28 percent from Aug. 1 forward, and he regressed significantly against lefties over the full year. Bradley's glove is valuable enough to the Red Sox that he should continue to play regularly, even during his slumps, and he has enough pop and guile on the base paths to be a 25/15 candidate. Understand, however, that it might be a bumpy ride getting there.
2017 Outlook: Eaton's 2015 and 2016 statistics were eerily similar, and seem to set a safe, predictable baseline. With his trade to the Nationals, however, he might be in the best circumstance yet of his now-sixth year big-league career. Eaton's balanced 2016 splits -- righty/lefty and home/road -- and .360 on-base percentage baseline make him an ideal choice to lead off the Nationals' strong top of the lineup, and under Dusty Baker, it's conceivable he'll be given the green light to steal bases more often than he did in Chicago. Eaton was roughly a top-100 overall player during his recent White Sox career, and top-80 or so using standard points scoring, but there's slight, role-related growth potential in his new digs.
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: After Cain broke through in 2015, hamstring issues hampered his base-stealing ability and a widening platoon split took him backwards last season. He appeared in his fewest games (103) since 2012, the result being a fantasy points total that placed him outside the "own-able" tier in standard mixed leagues (270th overall). With better health, Cain could rebound, but as a 31-year-old, his odds will only begin to get longer with each passing year. He's a mid-round candidate in Rotisserie leagues, where his multi-category contributions carry more weight, but he's a potentially overrated pick before the 15th round in points leagues.