2016 Outlook: Of all the Cubs' rookies, Russell garnered the least attention. Part of that was by design as the club grew more reliant on his defense at shortstop than counting on offensive production. In fact, Russell hit out of the nine-hole, a favorite Joe Maddon ploy. Unfortunately, the attempt to get a second leadoff man didn't come to fruition as Russell's contact rate fell precipitously, fueling a rather anemic .307 on-base percentage. With nearly a full season under his belt, look for the 22-year-old infielder to cut down on the strikeouts, though not enough to work his way much higher in the order. The element of Russell's game that did not manifest during his rookie campaign was speed. As his confidence grows, so will the running opportunities. Still, so long as Russell is buried in the order, his production, despite sneaky power, will be tempered.
2016 Outlook: Harrison couldn't live up to his excellent 2014, and even giving him a break for the torn thumb that cost him over a month doesn't really help because he was actually better after the injury. He just wasn't the hitter we saw in 2014. The .353 BABIP regressed as many expected, but it wasn't that substantial and definitely not the issue behind his drop-off. He lost a full 100 points off of his slugging percentage and his 3.4 percent HR/FB rate was 21st lowest among 211 batters to log at least 400 plate appearances. Some of that might've been bad luck, but he also pulled the ball a lot less and hit fewer fly balls. The Pirates are undaunted, clearing the path for Harrison to have a guaranteed spot with the trade of Neil Walker. It's a solid lineup and he should regularly be near the top of it.
2016 Outlook: Opportunity knocked for Forsythe in 2015, not only the opportunity to play every day for the first time in his career, but also the chance to bat in the heart of a major league batting order. He answered the challenge in his age-28 season, finishing second on the Rays in home runs, runs, and RBI (behind Evan Longoria in all three categories), with a final line good enough to rank him 10th among all second basemen in earned 5x5 rotisserie value. His 8.9 percent walk rate was a career best, and the uptick in power did not come at the expense of contact as he maintained an above-average contact rate of 83.4 percent, a mark right around his career average. He also swiped nine bases in total, but was only 2-for-4 on the basepaths in the second half and it's hard to imagine he will get the green light to run more often this year. A dip in the power department could return him closer to fringe mixed-league status, but Forsythe has the second base job to himself and the projected lineup spot is fruitful for counting stats.
2016 Outlook: While Kendrick may be a boring player to own in fantasy, he is certainly entertaining to observe statistically. Over the past five seasons, his batting average has very little variance and he's hit over .290 for the last three seasons. He's either scored more than 85 runs or fewer than 65 in that same five year span and he's stolen either six or 14 bases depending on the year. He's back with the Dodgers on a two-year deal as the free agent market did not work out like he hoped, and projecting Kendrick is one of the easiest projections to do any offseason. He'll hit for a good average and provide owners with a little bit in the counting categories, but not enough in any one of them to make any significant impact. A second baseman in his 30s rarely surprises statistically, so unless he mimics what Brandon Phillips did in 2015, it will be another bland season from Kendrick in 2016.
2016 Outlook: 2015 was a rough year for Pedroia owners, as he appeared in just 93 games and became a total non-factor on the basepaths. At 32 years old and in the 11th year of a career that has seen him consistently banged up, it's easy to wonder how long his body will withstand the rigors of playing the game. Pedroia missed 27 games in 2014 before missing 69 in 2015, and he isn't getting any younger. Still, second base is a very weak position in 2016 and Pedroia has hit at least .270 every year since his sophomore season in 2007. Between his consistent contact ability and the surprising power he showed in 2015 -- 12 home runs in the short campaign after failing to reach double-digits in 2013 and 2014 -- he at least provides more upside than the typical fodder at the position.
2016 Outlook: Entering last season, it appeared Panik would be able to hit for a high average but it would be vacuous. However, before a balky back prematurely ended his second season, he displayed a little pop and ran a bit. There's no doubt Panik's primary contribution will be in batting average and runs; it's nice to know he can chip in here and there with homers and steals. His on-base skills feature an excellent contact rate with an improving eye. His line drive percent is above league average and he hits more grounders than fly balls, which props up a well above-average batting average on balls in play. Panik's potential depends on your team construct. If you sold out on average to pound power and speed, Panik is a great way to get back some average while scoring a bunch of runs.
2016 Outlook: November shoulder surgery is expected to keep Travis on the shelf for at least the first few weeks of the 2016 regular season. Acquired in a trade with the Tigers for Anthony Gose in November of 2014, he gave the Jays a tantalizing taste of his talent in 62 games played in 2015 before going on the disabled list. He displayed solid power and hit for average despite posting a subpar 80 percent contact rate and striking out in 18.1 percent of his plate appearances. The whiffs have been a persistent trend for Travis, whose strikeout rate rose for four successive seasons in the minors before his 2015 major-league debut. However, his above-average .349 BABIP and .361 OBP and .859 OPS figures all generally fall in line with the numbers Travis managed in those categories throughout his three-year minor-league career. Even five months in a lineup that features the likes of Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Josh Donaldson should allow Travis to generate solid multi-category production.
2016 Outlook: Impatient middle infielders that make high contact are a dime a dozen. Unfortunately for the Yankees, Castro costs more than a dime, but they traded for his contract from Chicago in hopes that a change of scenery does him well. Castro is an enigma who has flashed talent earlier in his career but has been rather inconsistent in recent years. He has had nearly 50 points in batting average variance in recent seasons and while he has continued to hit double-digit homers, the Cubs put the brakes on his stolen bases because he was costing more run than he was creating on the bases. Girardi is no more likely to let Castro run than Maddon was last season, so unless Castro somehow improves his ability to read pitchers, that part of his game is likely on mothballs. The homers, runs, and RBIs are rather easy to forecast while his batting average could be anyone's guess.
2016 Outlook: Phillips is one of the most dangerous fantasy players in 2016 after an out-of-nowhere 23-stolen base campaign in 2015. Phillips had just 22 stolen bases in 1,788 plate appearances from 2012-14. The 35-year-old second baseman used to be a fantasy stud, but three straight seasons of sub-.400 SLG suggest he is unlikely to reach the upper-teens/low-20s in home runs after six years of 18 to 21 dingers from 2008-13. A key to Phillips' success has been playing time -- he's amassed at least 600 plate appearances in eight of his last nine seasons -- but second basemen don't generally hold up too well in their mid-30s. There have been only two seasons of 600-plus PA at second base over the last decade: Chase Utley (2014) and Marco Scutaro (2012). Neither season was particularly special, either. Be careful.
2016 Outlook: There's no doubting Villar's speed, but the question is whether he can get on base often enough to make use of those wheels. He has a little bit of power, with 44 extra-base hits and a .117 ISO in his 658 career plate appearances, and the 24-year-old switch-hitter has the frame to inspire confidence that there's still room before he hits his power ceiling. Traded to the Brewers in the offseason, Villar is expected to step in at shortstop for the since-departed Jean Segura, an ideal fit for Villar given the low bar for offense that was set by the incumbent.
2016 Outlook: Schoop's strikeout rate was over 20 percent for the second straight season (23.4), and he walked at a measly 2.8 percent clip in 321 plate appearances. He experienced a notable boost in performance against righties, raising his average against right-handed pitching 89 points to .301. Schoop also put the screws to the ball more often in 2015, as his hard-contact rate of 34.5 percent represented a notable leap from his 2014 figure of 26.1. The book on Schoop for 2016 appears pretty straightforward; if he can pare down his strikeouts while maintaining the power and boosting his on-base percentage, he'll likely be able to retain the starting second base job for which he's currently slotted. This would enable plentiful fantasy production from a spot in a lineup that offers Schoop considerable protection in the form of Chris Davis, Adam Jones, and Manny Machado.
2016 Outlook: Due to the league's (since changed) rules prohibiting drafted players from being traded in their first year under contact, Turner did not join the Nats' organization until mid-June, seven months after being dealt. After hitting well over .300 in consecutive stops at three different minor league levels, he received a rude welcome to the majors in 44 plate appearances. His 27.3 percent strikeout rate was the highest he'd posted at any level, while his batting average (.225), OBP (.295) and slugging percentage (.325) were his worst numbers in those categories. Last season's admittedly small -- and therefore potentially misleading -- sample size notwithstanding, Turner could see a return to numbers much closer to his solid minor league metrics with a full season of playing time in 2016. Ian Desmond's departure in the offseason put Turner one step closer to the top shortstop job, with veteran Danny Espinosa slated to head into training camp as the starter. While expecting him to wrest that spot in the exhibition season might be a bit ambitious, the talented Turner could conceivably accomplish the feat at some point during the first half.
2016 Outlook: Segura was dealt from Milwaukee to Arizona in January, but the change in ballparks should not have much of an impact to his offense. Miller Park was as cozy an offensive park as Chase Field, and while Segura may enjoy the bigger gaps in center field, there are larger issues with Segura. He was amazing in the first half of 2014, then cooled off and has never warmed back up. While he has never been a patient hitter, he continues to expand his strike zone to go fishing for bad pitches, and the quality of his contact has suffered from it. While he remains a plus in the field, he's been a big minus at the plate, and his value has been tied into his stolen bases. Oddly, GM Dave Stewart has indicated that Segura will bat near the top of the lineup, which hurts other D'backs more than it helps him, and in the absence of A.J. Pollock, there's not much competition for him to lose his spot in the order.
2016 Outlook: Peraza was a big-time prospect heading into the 2015 season. At age 20 in 2014, Peraza tore up Double-A to the tune of .335/.363/.422 with 25 stolen bases in just 44 games. But he struggled in Triple-A and was dealt from Atlanta to Los Angeles and now to Cincinnati, where he'll enter the season as Brandon Phillips' backup at second base. With the Reds in full rebuilding mode, they'll likely try to find a way to get Peraza in the lineup, most easily accomplished by trading Phillips. If he can get in the lineup, there's a lot to like. Peraza has posted excellent contact rates throughout the minor leagues and has hit at least .270 at each stop despite being far younger than the league-average player. He stole 64 bases in 2013 and a combined 60 in 2014 before slowing down in 2015 as he switched organizations. If he can work his way into the lineup, Peraza should be a strong source of cheap speed.
2016 Outlook: Perhaps it's the fact that Spangenberg plays for the Padres that he gets overlooked. Or it could be that he has played just 128 big league games, yet has not been ranked as a top-100 prospect since before the 2012 season. Either way, he offers profit potential this year in drafts. He should bat atop the Padres' lineup and offer solid production in batting average, runs and steals. That's not to say he should be targeted or reached for in standard leagues, but inevitably there will be second base and middle infield targets who get taken ahead of their ADP, and in that case, Spangenberg represents a tolerable fallback option. It's possible he could sit against lefties, but his career splits suggest he could hack it as an everyday player.