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: A whiz with the glove, Lindor is also very good with the bat as well as on the base paths. Though his power predictably regressed in 2016, that was almost entirely a function of his luck evening out; he actually increased his fly-ball and line-drive rates as well as his average fly-ball distance, which bodes well for the future in that department. He also improved his contact and walk rates, providing stability in the batting average and on-base departments and maximizing his opportunities to steal bases. While he might not contend for the league's lead in any one category, he should fill all five traditional Rotisserie departments and generate another healthy point total thanks to his well-above-average capability making contact. Lindor's upside is great enough that he makes a viable case to be the second shortstop off your draft board, and certainly he should be selected no later than the third round in mixed leagues.
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: In an era of great, franchise-caliber young shortstops, Bogaerts' 2016 sometimes gets overlooked. (Strange for a Red Sox player, eh?) He set pro-career bests in practically every traditional Rotisserie category: 21 home runs, 115 runs scored, 89 RBIs, 13 stolen bases, at only minimal cost to his batting average. Still, following Bogaerts' career progression, he appears to be a hitter in transition, his second half revealing a distinct shift towards getting better lift on the ball at the expense of his contact rate and batting average. It's unclear what kind of player he'll ultimately be during his prime -- let's not forget that it's still ahead of him, as he's just 24 years old -- and while the end result in 2017 might be that of a top-five shortstop and top-25 overall hitter, he could get there by being either a high-average (.300-plus) or decent-pop (20-25 home runs) player, but probably not both just yet.
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: When we point out the power explosion exhibited across Major League Baseball in 2016, Dozier is our poster child. A .199/.288/.318 hitter with only four home runs through his first 40 games of the season, Dozier belted another 38 home runs while slashing .291/.356/.621 the rest of the way, in the process setting a single-season record for home runs by an American League second baseman. Though that pace will be nearly impossible to replicate, especially since it's unclear precisely how much warmer temperatures in typically cooler Minneapolis might have influenced it, Dozier did show enough growth in terms of both his fly-ball and hard-contact rates that another 30-plus is within reason. He's one of the game's rare 30/15 candidates, making up for his deficiencies in terms of batting average, but don't go overboard drafting him in the first two rounds chasing last year's stats.
2017 Outlook: Staying healthy, especially for a player who has previously had difficulty doing so, can do wonders for a hitter's seasonal numbers. Gonzalez has enjoyed his top two single-year games played totals of his career in the past two seasons -- 153 in 2015, then 150 in 2016 -- which followed a multi-year period in which he struggled to stay on the field. During that 2015-16 span, Gonzalez enjoyed one of the most productive power outbursts in baseball: In the calendar year spanning June 6, 2015, through June 5, 2016, he had the majors' best home-run rate (7.7 percent of his plate appearances) and ranked second in slugging percentage (.605) and isolated power (.309). Regression to the mean struck him thereafter, though .292/.346/.476 rates and a 21-homers-per-162 games pace from June 6, 2016, forward hardly warrants criticism and is a somewhat fair expectation from him in 2017. If there's any concern for Gonzalez's prospective fantasy owners, it's that he's an in-season trade candidate while playing the final year of his seven-year, $80-million contract, and a departure from Coors Field could adversely impact him, as he has a whopping 106 point wOBA home/road split the past three seasons combined. Keep that risk tucked away as you begin considering him in the third or fourth round.
2017 Outlook: After struggling to replicate his Yankees power numbers during his first two seasons with the Mariners, Cano exploded for a career-best 39 home runs in 2016, which came on the heels of a Cactus League-leading seven. Though most every hitter seemingly improved in the power department last season, Cano exhibited a distinct increase in his fly-ball rate to back it up, boosting it into the ranges he enjoyed in his best years as a Yankee. For a follow-up, he'll need to answer the question as to whether he'll continue to pattern his swing towards hitting fly balls, which could threaten his batting average, or restore the kind of line drive-hitting ability that'd probably assure a .300 average, but with only 20-25 homer power. The answer would have somewhat greater repercussions in points-based leagues than Rotisserie -- the homers fueled a seventh-among-hitters finish in the former in 2016 -- but either result should still keep him among the game's 50 best fantasy picks. Now 34 years old, however, Cano's odds of greatly exceeding that bar will only continue to decrease by year.
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: 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: 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: Puns aside, it's fitting that Story rewrote the record books as a rookie: He became the first player to hit two home runs in a major league debut played on Opening Day, he hit a record seven home runs through his team's first six games of a season, he tied a rookie record for home runs in April (10), and he set a National League rookie record for home runs by a shortstop (27). None of it was fluky, as his underlying metrics revealed an unusual ability to barrel up the ball, even if much of the rest of his offensive game wasn't without its flaws. This is a natural 30-homer power hitter, with Coors Field only helping his chances there as well as potentially masking batting average deficiencies, and Story possesses enough speed to chip in double-digit stolen bases. His propensity for strikeouts might make him somewhat streaky, which could be a problem in head-to-head leagues during the Rockies' lengthier road trips, and there's also a chance that the torn UCL in his left thumb could linger into spring training and result in a somewhat sluggish start to 2017, but neither should push him deeply down the draft-day rankings. Story is a clear top-50 asset in Rotisserie leagues, though his strikeouts do make him more of a sixth- or seventh-rounder in points-based scoring.
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.