2016 Outlook: It didn't take a sabermetrician to see that Donaldson's situation was improved greatly by moving from Oakland to Toronto, but even the most aggressive projections couldn't have seen the obscene 245 runs plus RBI he put up in 2015, most in the league since Miguel Cabrera's 248 in 2012. Donaldson paced the AL with 123 RBI and all of baseball with 122 runs. He was the first player since 2009 to put up 120-plus in both categories (Albert Pujols, 124 and 135) and given the rarity of such a feat in the Strikeout Era, he's unlikely to repeat. That said, he could legitimately shave 15 off of each category and hit five fewer home runs, yet still be a $30 player with relative ease. This didn't come out of the blue; Donaldson is a superstar in one of baseball's most potent lineups.
2016 Outlook: Arenado was one of the biggest draft season risers, along with fellow third baseman Kris Bryant, and both easily paid off on the hype with only Josh Donaldson and Manny Machado topping Arenado on the Player Rater. The crazy thing is there could be more in store. Perhaps not with the home runs or RBI, but Arenado's skills point to a batting average north of .300, especially in Coors Field. His high-contact approach is particularly useful in a place like Coors and its expansive outfield, but thus far Arenado has only hit .307 at home. Rockies who have hit the ball as frequently and as well as Arenado (think Cargo and Tulo) have lived in the .330s or higher at home. Arenado did a fantastic job of taking his power out on the road last year with 22 homers thanks to a 20 percent HR/FB rate after an impossibly-low 3 percent mark in 2014. Bid confidently.
2016 Outlook: Seasons like Machado's 2015 are why we play the game of fantasy baseball. There was nothing in the stats that could have forecasted it, especially on the heels of a second massive knee injury. Machado showed no ill effects with an MLB-high 713 plate appearances and he more than doubled both his home run and stolen base totals. Coming into the season he had 33 homers and 10 steals in 1,266 plate appearances and then dropped 35 homers and 20 steals in a breakout effort. He will struggle to repeat if for no other reason than the fact that 162-game seasons are rare these days. There have only been 14 since 2011 with only Prince Fielder (3) and Hunter Pence (2) logging more than one. With the health concern muted, however, Machado has vaulted into a guaranteed first-rounder.
2016 Outlook: Bryant's rookie season was a virtuoso performance, complete with parts of at least seven games in each outfield position and even a game over at first base. This is less relevant for fantasy purposes since he came up just shy of the 20-game plateau in the outfield, but it shows a measure of acumen for the game that shouldn't go unnoticed. Lost in the fervor over his amazing power potential is the fact that Bryant posted the fifth-best BABIP in baseball (.378) en route to just a .275 average. Unless he improves the strikeout rate (31 percent, tied for the highest in MLB), his batting average is at risk. He was tied with Chris Davis, a profile you should look at when trying to assess Bryant. Davis has averaged .256, 40 homers, 103 RBI, and 83 runs over the last four seasons with some incredible highs, but also the 2014 meltdown. There is a lot to love with Bryant, but he's not at all risk-free.
2016 Outlook: The trade from Cincinnati to Chicago should not affect Frazier's power numbers as his former park and current park are practically identical in terms of home run park factors. What should help Frazier out are the bats in front of him in the lineup. Adam Eaton, Melky Cabrera, and Jose Abreu project to be batting ahead of Frazier while he bats cleanup, which should provide frequent RBI opportunities and assist him in finally breaking the 90-RBI plateau. While Frazier is no Mike Trout, only Frazier and Trout have hit at least 25 homers, stolen at least 10 bases, driven in 80 or more runners and scored at least 80 times in both of the past two seasons. The only knock on Frazier is the batting average, but he plays every day and piles up the counting stats. There is no reason to expect differently in 2016.
2016 Outlook: In just 80 games, Sano flashed the skills that matched the hype that chased him throughout the minors, with a .269/.385/.530 slash line in his first exposure to the majors. His 16-percent walk rate is amazing considering his youth and how he was rushed through the upper levels of the Twins' system. The 36-percent strikeout rate is alarming in a vacuum until you realize that Sano skipped right over Triple-A and didn't face any live pitching in 2014, as he missed the year due to Tommy John surgery. He is going to strikeout a fair amount, and that along with his slow foot speed will limit his batting-average upside, but he should be very productive in the power categories. One issue with Sano is that he only qualifies at Utility on draft day, as he failed to play 10 games at any one position in the 2015 season, but his powerful bat is worth plugging into that roster spot early – before you do so with David Ortiz.
2016 Outlook: Trading contact -- nearly 10 percentage points -- for power, Carpenter blasted 28 home runs in 2015, which tied him for eighth in the National League and ranked third among NL third basemen. He managed 19 homers in the second half of the season alone (71 games), and his .505 slugging percentage for the season bested the likes of Jose Abreu, Todd Frazier and Kris Bryant. The change in offensive philosophy did not coincide with a move to a more prominent RBI-producing spot in the lineup, as Carpenter continued to hit first or second in the order, as he will likely do to open 2016. Carpenter continues to walk at an outstanding clip, and even if he trades some of that power back in for contact, the 30-year-old should continue to do enough in four categories to warrant a lofty price on draft day. His .228 average against left-handed pitching can be mostly ignored for standard league purposes, as he is going to play every day regardless.
2016 Outlook: Few hitters have offered the yearly consistency that Seager has maintained for the Mariners over the past four seasons. During that span, he's homered at least 20 times annually, while providing a steady run-producing presence near the heart of the Seattle lineup. As the Mariners have brought in additional quality bats around him, Seager's counting stats have improved. Further, he's shown more pop in each of the last two seasons, while cutting his strikeout rate to a career-low 14.3 percent in 2015. After hitting 16 of his 25 home runs at Safeco Field in 2014, Seager's power shifted last season as he hit 19 of his 26 long balls on the road. A 30-homer season may still be lurking in his bat, but the Mariners have more talent around Seager in the lineup now than at any point in his career, so another level in runs and RBI may be on the horizon.
2016 Outlook: A slow start to the season left many owners wondering if Beltre was simply out of gas in his age-36 campaign, and he limped into the All-Star break with a .255/.290/.396 line to go with seven homers and 24 RBI. Thanks to a huge second half, many of those concerns were erased, as his .318/.367/.509 line after the break included 11 homers and 61 RBI -- numbers more in line with his previous levels of output for the Rangers. Further, it was revealed that an injury initially labeled as a jammed thumb in May was actually a torn ligament that he managed to play through until he had surgery in October. A back strain limited Beltre in the Rangers' ALDS series against Toronto, but it's expected that he will be fully recovered from both injuries at the outset of spring training. At this stage of his career, Beltre is much more likely to hit 20 homers than 30, but he drive in plenty of runs given the quality of the bats around him. Further, he should continue to hit for a good average as he rarely makes soft contact, while maintaining a very low strikeout rate.
2016 Outlook: There's a lot to like about Franco, most notably a solid contact rate and above-average raw power. On the other hand, for said power to manifest into more homers, he needs to be more selective at the dish along with putting more balls in the air. After spending about a month at Triple-A, Franco's long-awaited promotion came on May 15 and he was immediately inserted as the Phillies' starting third baseman. He remained there until mid-August when a non-displaced wrist fracture sent him to the disabled list, returning for only the final three games of the season. His good contact rate and spot in the order will keep Franco's production floor solid, but expecting him to maintain last season's power is a risk until he learns to loft the ball more. That said, as a 23-year old who knows how to put the ball in play, the transition is quite possible.
2016 Outlook: Had Murphy gone on his power binge a little later in the playoffs and had it propelled the Mets to the title, the message would be not to pay for a well-publicized hot streak. There's still some residual optimism and the National League Championship Series hero can carry some of it over to 2016, but now it's a little easier to remind everyone that Citi Field boosts left-handed power while Nationals Park depresses it. Thus, on paper, Murphy's home run output should actually drop in his new digs. Murphy changed his approach last summer leading to a second-half featuring nine homers. If the change subsists, a total in the high teens is plausible. Perhaps a result of some nagging leg injuries, Murphy barely ran last season. That could change under Dusty Baker as the Nationals skipper is on record as saying he'd like the club to be aggressive on the basepaths.
2016 Outlook: Pop quiz: Who has garnered the sixth-most plate appearances in MLB since 2013? After averaging 127 games over his first five seasons, Longoria has missed just four games combined in the last three years. Unfortunately, Longoria's skills have settled well below the level exhibited early in his career. Most disappointing is that his power has been just league-average for the past two seasons with no indication of a huge spike to previous levels. Additionally, his production is tempered by playing half his games in one of the more favorable pitching venues, nestled in a lineup that isn't all that explosive. Since he doesn't run much anymore, Longoria is very reliant on volume to be a fantasy asset. He's done it for three seasons, but betting on a fourth is a risk. However, it's one worth taking if the rest of the league is reticent to take the chance.
2016 Outlook: Rendon checks many of the boxes that seasoned owners look for when pinpointing bounce-back candidates. He was a borderline first-round pick in drafts last year and didn't come remotely close to returning that value. Injuries limited his playing time and sapped his production when he was on the field. However, at just 25 years old, all of the skills that made him a top-20 pick last year remain, and this year he should enter camp fully healthy. Rendon should hit in front of Bryce Harper in the two hole all year, which offers hope that he can return to scoring 100-plus runs like he did in 2014. He also qualifies at second base and third base in most formats, which provides lineup flexibility. His power and speed contributions are difficult to project, as 2014 represents his lone full MLB season, but evaluators have thrown plus grades on his hit tool since back when he was the sixth pick out of Rice in 2011, so he should at least offer a solid batting average.
2016 Outlook: A lot of people are ready to write off Lawrie, and understandably so as he's never been able to live up to the hype incited by his first 150 at-bats as a major leaguer. In a quick call-up back in 2011, he posted a .953 OPS with nine homers and seven steals. And since he was a heralded prospect, this kind of performance was almost expected over a full season. Predictably, he hasn't come close to delivering on those expectations and yet now might not be the best time to move away from him. Consider that he's still just 26 years old, moving back to a hitter-friendly environment, finally stayed healthy in 2015 (his first DL-free season), has dual-eligibility (2B/3B), set career-highs in homers and RBIs, joins that offense that rebounded after a wretched start while also adding Todd Frazier this offseason, and now costs next to nothing to acquire. One. More. Chance.
2016 Outlook: Turner followed up his studly super-utility 2014 with another brilliant campaign in 2015. While he couldn't repeat the ridiculous .340 average he managed in 2014, Turner proved his power production wasn't a fluke, as he hammered 16 home runs and 26 doubles in 439 plate appearances en route to a .294/.370/.491 batting line. Finally, Turner is slated to get an Opening Day starting job, as he tops the Dodgers' depth chart at third base. He will likely lose his second base (five games, three starts) and shortstop (one start) eligibility this season, but he has been so good the past two years that he can be an asset at a corner position as well. Even if he regresses to his career numbers, Turner has a sharp .284/.351/.419 line in 553 games, and that will play at the hot corner.