2016 Outlook: Trout is still a lockdown top-3 pick heading into 2016, but he has both come back to the pack some and watched the pack catch up to him. The craziest thing about that sentence is that it, while true, comes after Trout posted a career-best .991 OPS and 41 home runs in 2015. Power jumped up league-wide last year, though, so the impact of those 41 homers wasn't as stark as it would've been just a year before, let alone in 2012 or 2013. Meanwhile, the tradeoff was another dip in stolen bases, down to a career-low 11. Worse yet was that he needed 18 attempts to get those, yielding a putrid 61 percent success rate. The tricky part is determining whether or not the stolen base slide will continue or spike back up at age 24. When the speed isn't in question, steals become an opportunity and effort category. Will the manager let him and/or does he want to? Luckily with Trout, it doesn't really matter because everyone would gladly take a 2015 carbon copy.
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: Altuve was part of the power surge across the league, more than doubling his previous career-high (7) with a 15-homer campaign. He couldn't keep all of his 2014 stolen bases (56), but still delivered an AL-best 38 swipes. He is starting to look like this era's Ichiro. He hasn't yet registered a 100-run season -- Ichiro had eight -- but this era's run context is much stingier. Like Ichiro, Altuve stays relatively undervalued as he should be a lockdown first-round pick every year given the value his fantasy stats return, but he regularly lingers as a mid-teens pick. Even if the power doesn't all stick, he is a good bet for a third-straight 200-hit season.
2016 Outlook: Bautista is about to enter the stage of his career where he's the fantasy baseball hot potato. Even as his skills remain steadily excellent, the community as a whole will undervalue him for fear of being caught holding the bag should he collapse. Once a player reaches his mid-30s, there is no guarantee that there will be a smooth decline, as injuries can have a much more severe effect. That said, Bautista has yet to show any signs of decline. He has played 155 and 153 games the last two seasons, going at least 35-100-100 in both while walking more than he struck out. Even with a modest .250 average, he is still a fantastic fantasy option. He is essentially already doing what is constantly projected from Giancarlo Stanton and yet is taken a full round or more later. The age is a factor so Stanton's appeal is very understandable, but at some point the actual performance has to matter, too.
2016 Outlook: Encarnacion has seemingly been around forever (debuted in 2005) and he always seems be nursing some kind of injury (7 DL stints; 150+ games just once), yet since 2012 he is second in home runs (151) and RBI (423), 10th in runs (352), and seventh in OPS (.919). He also has an elite approach with just a 16 percent strikeout rate, atypically low for such a tremendous power hitter. These skills plus a continued dominance of right-handed pitchers should make for a smooth decline for Encarnacion. His .918 OPS against right-handed pitching since 2012 is third-best among right-handed hitters since 2012 behind only Mike Trout (.981) and Miguel Cabrera (.980). It’s not like lefties get a break against him as his .926 OPS is still good for 13th. Just beware that the injuries are already rearing their ugly head; Encarnacion has not played in spring training, as he first dealt with an abscessed tooth then an oblique injury.
2016 Outlook: Those that had Abreu down for significant regression in 2015 were dead wrong. There was some give in his numbers, but he still put up a fantastic effort in his sophomore campaign with the White Sox. In fact, the projections in this very space last year prepared prospective owners for most of the fall off, pegging him for 78 runs, 34 homers, 100 RBI, and a .286 average. It was light on the runs and average, heavy on the homers, and virtually dead-on with the RBI. After just two seasons, Abreu already feels like that reliable rock upon which to build your team. He has a solid foundation of skills while also still holding some upside. If he sold out for more power, he could join the 40-homer club, but likely at the cost of some batting average.
2016 Outlook: An Orioles hitter has led the majors in home runs in each of the past three seasons, and Davis has accounted for two of those crowns, so it was fantastic news when he re-upped with Baltimore on a seven-year deal this offseason. It is debatable how good that deal will look for the club in a few years, but for fantasy purposes, it works perfectly. Park factors suggest Camden Yards is the best hitter's park in the American League, which is one of the reasons Davis has averaged 40 homers a year over the last four seasons. Another reason is that he has exquisite raw power from the left side, which he sells out to get to during games, leading to a 31 percent K-rate both last season and for his career. It is understandable that his all-or-nothing approach won't lead to any batting titles, but he has managed to hit above .260 in three of the past four seasons, which is excellent for a slugger of his ilk.
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: A fractured wrist cut into what would have been a very nice season for Springer as he put to rest any sophomore slump concerns in a hurry. Even with the shortened season, he contributed in all five categories and most importantly, made a lot more contact than people expected given his track record throughout his professional career. In just one season, Springer improved his strikeout rate by nine percentage points while still hitting for power. The increased contact and the already-strong walk rate helped him get on base 37 percent of the time and allowed him to steal bases at an 80 percent success rate. As long as Springer's health holds up in 2016, a 25-25 season with 100 runs is possible along with a shot at 100 runs driven in, depending on where he ends up in the lineup. If he can get some more loft in his swing, 30 homers is possible. Invest with confidence.
2016 Outlook: Cruz doubled down on his improbable 40-homer season with Baltimore in 2014 by doing it again, and then some, in the hostile offensive environment known as Safeco Field in 2015. 2015 was the sixth consecutive season in which Cruz has posted an Isolated Power (SLG-AVG) of at least .200, and lots of hard contact led to a .350 batting average on balls in play. That high BABIP allowed him to hit over .300 for the first time in five seasons despite a 25-percent strikeout rate. Cruz was able to double-up on the 40-homer season thanks to a 30 percent HR/FB, which is well above the 18-percent rate he had posted through his career heading into 2016. If that rate regresses to his career-level, Cruz will have a tough time getting to 30 homers, but the RBI opportunities should be plentiful with the projected lineup in front of him.
2016 Outlook: On the heels of his third consecutive 30-homer, 100-RBI season in 2015 at age-39, Ortiz announced that the 2016 campaign would be his last in the big leagues. Outside of a slight reduction in playing time when the Red Sox face left-handed starters (he hit .231/.277/.426 in 184 plate appearances against southpaws last season), the primary DH role should belong to Ortiz for another year. Since the start of the 2013 season, only five players have amassed more homers than Ortiz (102). With his combination of power (.280 ISO) and plate discipline (12.5 BB%, 15.5 K%), Ortiz remains a hitter to be feared, and he should have plenty of chances to drive in runs again from the heart of the order in Boston if the bats around him stay healthy.
2016 Outlook: Last year Fielder was one of only three first-base eligible players to hit over .300 with 20-plus homers, 75-plus runs and 80-plus RBI. The other two were Paul Goldschmidt and Joey Votto. Unfortunately, Fielder was not playing much first base, getting 139 of his 157 starts at DH, which eliminates his first-base eligibility in most formats. Additionally, his walk rate dipped to 9.2% -- his lowest such rate in nine years -- and his .323 BABIP was the highest since his rookie season. The good news is he re-established himself as one of the most durable players in the game, and when Fielder stays healthy there are few players more reliable in the four non-speed categories. Even as a player who will be locked into the UTIL spot all season, the 31-year-old slugger makes for an excellent offensive anchor who can be had at a slight discount, relative to his skills, now that he carries the unwieldy DH tag.
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: The biggest concern for Pujols as he enters his age-36 season is health, as the skills remain mostly intact despite last year's dip in both average and on-base percentage. While the walk rate has been backsliding in recent years, Pujols continues to put the ball in play, making contact more than 85 percent of the time and hard contact more than a third of the time. One area of skills regression that does need to be pointed out is against left-handed pitching -- Pujols hit just .219 with 11 of his 40 homers coming against southpaws, marking the second time in three seasons he's hit below .220 against left-handers. Pujols also seemed to wear down during the stretch run, managing a .231/.288/.419 line after the All-Star break with ongoing foot issues seemingly playing a part. He went under the knife to repair the foot in November, and with a four-to-five month recovery time expected, Pujols' availability for Opening Day is very much in question.
2016 Outlook: "The sky is falling" sums up how Dickerson's prospective owners felt about the 26-year-old lefty slugger after he was dealt from Colorado to Tampa Bay in late January. However, there are reasons to pump the brakes on eulogizing his status as a mixed-league outfielder. Coors Field has been only a marginally better place for left-handed power than Tropicana Field over the past three years, and three AL East parks -- Camden Yards, Yankee Stadium and Rogers Centre -- are among the best places in MLB for lefties to hit homers. However, his batting average could see a noticeable dip, as few environments can match Coors Field in that regard. That said, now that he is in Tampa Bay where there are platoon partners at the ready, he will no longer be exposed to many southpaws. His career .261/.297/.442 road slash line against righties may represent a realistic floor, since the Coors Field factor negatively affects hitters on the road, as breaking balls break differently away from Colorado. After a year-long bout with plantar fasciitis, it is impossible to assume he'll be healthy for all of 2016, as that specific ailment can flare up at any moment, and the move from grass to the turf in Tampa Bay probably won't help matters. Assuming he gets platooned, and given the injury concerns, Dickerson has more value in shallower leagues with daily roster moves.