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: Story bounced back with a bang in 2015 after having some of the luster removed from his prospect status during the two years prior. He began the campaign with Double-A New Britain and hit the lights out, slashing .281/.373/.523 with 20 doubles and 10 home runs. This helped him garner a promotion to Triple-A, where he posted a similar slash line with only two fewer extra-base hits. The 23-year-old does have some room to improve, as his strikeout rate only dipped below 20 percent in his first professional season and his walk rate halved upon his promotion to Triple-A, but that will come with more exposure to upper-level pitching. Story could very well find his way into the major leagues sometime during the 2016 season, and it could be sooner than expected if Jose Reyes' off-field issues cost him playing time.
2016 Outlook: Semien was a good hitter throughout his minor league career as he went double-double in homers and steals in both 2012 and 2013 while nearly going 20-20 in the latter season. He did not look as good in his time with the White Sox, who flipped him to Oakland last winter. Oakland gave Semien the everyday shortstop role and he was once again a double-double producer, but a lack of patience and poor contact held down his overall numbers. Despite playing all but seven games, he scored just 65 runs and drove in 45. While he has issues defensively (35 errors), he's not going to lose playing time and should once again be a stat compiler with a limited ceiling due to a lack of plate discipline.
2016 Outlook: Last March, Escobar was beaten out for the Twins opening day starting shortstop by Danny Santana. But as is often the case when the favorite is unseated, the underdog falters and Escobar was soon back manning the position, en route to a solid campaign including his first time mashing double digit homers. Manager Paul Molitor has already named Escobar as the team's starting shortstop, where he hopes to build on last season's campaign. Along with some sneaky pop, Escobar's league average contact rate and ability to carry an above average batting average on balls in play yields a batting average floor useful in American League only formats, especially at a position filled with a lot of risky, younger options. And, in case you need it, Escobar qualifies in the outfield as well.
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: Even with the benefit of playing his home games in two of the league's most hitter-friendly environments, Reyes posted the lowest batting average and OBP numbers since his rookie season in 2015. An oblique injury in April undoubtedly contributed to his slow start before forcing him to the disabled list, and an Achilles injury early in the season popped up again in September. Perhaps the latter ailment can justify the drop off in stolen bases (24), but he would have made a run at another 30-steal campaign without the DL stint. At his peak, Reyes had a combination of double-digit home-run power and 50-steal speed that made him a perennial early-round target. As the odometer reading has increased, he's experienced a steady decline in pop, and his ISO has fallen in each of the last four seasons, bottoming out at .104 in 2015. Traded to Colorado as part of the Troy Tulowitzki deal in July, Reyes scuffled at the plate after the trade. On the books for at least two more seasons for a total of $48 million, the number of teams interested in acquiring him is likely very limited. That list likely became shorter during the offseason when Reyes was arrested in Hawaii on charges of domestic abuse. Subsequently, Reyes was put on paid leave until his court proceedings wrap up, at which point the league will decide on whether disciplinary measures are required. The league has said it will have no further comments until Reyes' case is resolved.
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: If it ain't broke, don't fix it? Despite sporting a .296 on-base percentage hitting first, Escobar led off in 131 of the 148 games he started last season. Unless the Kansas City Royals decide to return Alex Gordon to the top, Escobar will likely assume the role again resulting in a healthy number of runs but not as many as most leadoff hitters. His primary fantasy asset is steals, though last season he swiped only 17 after averaging 26 over the previous four campaigns. Escobar's contact rate is excellent though his average is tempered due to one of the lowest hard-hit rates in the league. Escobar's steals and runs can be useful, so long as you're plush in other categories.
2016 Outlook: In his third season as a professional, Crawford gave Phillies fans something to get excited about once again. After slashing .392/.489/.443 in 21 games with High-A Clearwater, the 21-year-old got a promotion to Double-A Reading. His numbers there don't jump off the page by any means, but the fact that he was able to maintain his excellent plate discipline at the advanced level is quite impressive. In fact, the young shortstop managed to keep his walk rate above his strikeout rate at both High-A and Double-A. Crawford should develop more power as he gets accustomed to more upper-level pitching, and if he can do that while maintaining his elite plate discipline, he could be up with Philadelphia by the end of the season.
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: Cabrera has been a model of consistency from the shortstop position over the past four years, recording a batting average between .240 and .270, hitting 14 to 16 homers, scoring between 66 and 74 runs, knocking between 58 and 68 RBI and swiping between six and 10 bases every year since 2012. He moves to the Mets in 2016, continuing his trend of playing in pitcher-friendly ballparks (previously Cleveland, Washington and Tampa Bay). Given his experience, Cabrera should have no problem making the adjustment. And given the weakness of the shortstop position -- shortstops mustered just a .260/.308/.380 line with 11 home runs per 650 plate appearances last year -- if Cabrera's consistency holds up, he will be solidly above average once again.
2016 Outlook: The one column that keeps Ramirez relevant in fantasy baseball is the one that is virtually impossible to predict: games played. His 154 games last year was actually a six-year low, but the tough part is that he's now 34 years old and middle infielders can age quickly. If we operate under the assumption that he will give yet another 150-game season, then we can feel comfortable penciling him for 30 home runs plus stolen bases, but good luck figuring out the distribution. Ramirez only has a 58-point home/road split in OPS over his career so while US Cellular Field is better than Petco Park, the new environment shouldn't obliterate him. There is no longer any real upside in drafting Ramirez, but for those that want a reliable option that will keep them out of the shortstop free agent pool, he's the guy.
2016 Outlook: Suarez wasn't heralded when he was traded from Detroit to Cincinnati in the Alfredo Simon deal, but he might've been a hidden gem acquired for a fifth starter-type. The 24 year old held his own and then some for nearly 400 plate appearances and gave the Reds enough confidence to trade superstar Todd Frazier with the idea of slotting Suarez in his stead. Suarez never displayed any singular standout tool coming up, but just did a bit of everything, which is more than enough when you can capably play shortstop, second and third base. Don't get caught up in the extrapolation game and expect 20 homers from Suarez, but a best-case scenario could have him pushing that figure. His .341 BABIP was on the high end (fouth-highest among shortstops with at least 350 PA), but his .327 BABIP in the minors suggests that he might be someone who can maintain a mark north of league average.
2016 Outlook: Normally, older players display stable skills. That is not the case with Peralta. Last season, his ground-ball rate and fly-ball rate reverted back to levels he showed in the aughts, and yet he still ended up with 17 home runs. There is something to be said about playing nearly every day, because as his homer total only declined by four, his Isolated Power fell from .180 to .136. Peralta has played nearly every day since 2006 and piled up the at-bats, but that will all change in 2016, as he underwent surgery to repair a torn thumb ligament in March and is slated to miss most, if not all, of the seasonís first half. That takes him off the draft radar in most formats, and upon his return, Peralta will remain at the mercy of the BABIP gods; his power totals are going to be held down if he canít loft the ball more.
2016 Outlook: After the 2013 season, it seemed Simmons had a place as a viable fantasy shortstop, thanks to a 17-homer campaign as a 23-year-old. Anyone who bought into that power potential in 2014 or 2015 was left dazed and confused, however, as he hit just 11 homers in 293 games over those two seasons. He was dealt to the Angels during the offseason, and while the two-time Gold Glove winner holds plenty of real-life value, it's hard to make a case that he is anything other than a middle-infield injury replacement in most fantasy formats at this point. He might be playing in a better offense this year, but the NL-to-AL change can lead to initial struggles and he will be hitting low in the order, so Simmons won't get to benefit much from the thumpers in the middle of the lineup.