2017 Outlook: Where did the steals go?! A summer after he swiped a career-best 20 bags, at the time tripling his big-league total, Machado was held without a single steal in 2016. No matter, as he was an exceptional performer in practically every other facet of the game, and fantasy owners gained an unexpected piece of flexibility when Machado appeared in 45 games at shortstop -- that thanks to an injury to J.J. Hardy -- to capture eligibility there for 2017. Machado was one of eight players to hit 35 or more home runs in each of the past two seasons, and he's one of only six in history to do it in both his ages 22 and 23 seasons. He has the prime of his career ahead of him, showed enough growth in the quality of his contact last season that further improvement is a reasonable assumption, and he has shown us in the past that he's capable of stealing a base when he wants to. Machado is a compelling a first-round candidate in any format.
2017 Outlook: He was worth the wait. Though it took until after the 2016 All-Star break for it to happen, when Turner finally arrived, he appeared in 70 of 72 Nationals games and batted .340 with 33 stolen bases, ranking sixth and second in those categories and resulting in arguably the most impactful second-half performance in fantasy baseball. Most unexpectedly, he chipped in 13 home runs (for a 4.0 percent rate) and .225 isolated power, both of those easily the greatest rates in his professional career. How much of Turner's outburst is sustainable? Some regression is inevitable, but his skill set seems like that of a .280-hitting, double-digit power, which is enough to fuel a run at 40-plus stolen bases, and as the No. 2 hitter between Adam Eaton, Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy, Turner's counting numbers (runs/RBIs) would experience quite a boost. It feels awkward to describe him a candidate for a first-round pick, but the truth is that his upside makes him a legitimate one.
2017 Outlook: Correa, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 amateur draft, arrived in the majors in June 2015 as a 20-year-old with the loftiest of expectations, and promptly delivered, capturing the American League's Rookie of the Year award that summer. His encore in 2016, unfortunately, was a comparative let-down, but that's mainly because he failed to take a substantial step forward (something his National League counterpart, Kris Bryant, did). Correa did make some subtle improvements: His walk rate increased by two percent, his well-hit rate rose 27 points and he chased fewer non-strikes. He did strike out more frequently while hitting more ground balls, though minor ankle and shoulder injuries might have contributed. Still 22, Correa possesses MVP potential, every bit as likely to arrive in 2017 as in some future season. He's now one of several star-caliber young shortstops, putting him in a worthy debate with Corey Seager, Francisco Lindor, Xander Bogaerts and Trevor Story as to who makes the best early-round pick, but few dispute that Correa is the one with the greatest long-term potential.
2017 Outlook: The National League's defending Rookie of the Year, Seager became only the 17th rookie in history to manage at least a .300 batting average, 25 home runs and 300 total bases. What might he do for an encore? While regression is a popular assumption for a player who tasted this much early success, there are areas of potential growth that could result in a louder encore. For one, he went backwards against left-handed pitching as a rookie, a facet that was a strength of his in the minors, posting mere .260/.336/.394 rates against them in the second half. Seager's batted-ball breakdown also shows a distinct shift from ground balls to line drives and hard-contact fly balls; that might mean some loss of batting average but a home-run boost. He's not quite a player worth burning your first-round pick or significant portion of your auction budget, but even if he spins his wheels, he'll be well worth the investment for slightly less than that.
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: 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: 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: 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: Segura's one-year stop in Arizona resulted in a dream outcome: Installed as the Diamondbacks' leadoff hitter and starting second baseman, he set career bests in practically every hitting category, finishing sixth on the Player Rater. While that helped erase a reputation as a one-category performer -- he stole at least 20 bases in each of the past four years, averaging 30 per year -- his underlying numbers hinted he'll probably regress in 2017, perhaps significantly. Half of his 20 home runs were hit in his final 39 games, he continued to have major issues covering the outer third of the plate (a career-long problem), and he continued to exhibit a free-swinging approach masked by his backing into an unusually large number of hitters' counts. Worse yet, the move to Seattle, despite Safeco Field's homer-friendly 2016 output, hurt his power upside. Segura has made enough adjustments to contribute with the bat, but they're probably closer to his four-year baseline of .281 and 11 home runs, which means he's more of an early-to-mid round pick than something better, and in points-based scoring he's a player who probably isn't even a top-100 overall player.
2017 Outlook: The No. 2 overall pick in the 2015 amateur draft, Bregman tore through four minor-league levels in 13 months and no greater than 62 games played at any one stop, then enjoyed a 20-homer, 86-RBI full-season pace in his second-half stint with the Astros. Crazier yet: Bregman began his big-league career going 0-for-18 and 1-for-34, then missed 14 of the team's final 15 games with a hamstring injury, those included in said pace. When healthy, he looked like an All-Star, capable of hitting for a high average with pop, his underlying metrics backing up his immense skills. Bregman earned himself a place amongst 2017's breakout candidates, and it's not unreasonable to regard him a top-10 fantasy third baseman regardless of format.
2017 Outlook: Russell finished 108 spots higher on the Player Rater in 2016 than 2015, and saw his fantasy points increase by 56 percent, but it's dangerous to misconstrue that for substantial improvement to his skill set. Much of that was the product of his 95 RBIs, second-most among shortstops, a potentially fluky number considering he saw the second-most runners on base per plate appearance of any batting title-eligible player. Russell showed modest growth in terms of raw power as well as to his contact rate during the season's' second half, which hint at a possible improvement to his batting average and home-run total, but potential regression might neutralize much of that, perhaps causing him to spin his wheels fantasy-wise. He's a top-10 shortstop nevertheless, but perhaps isn't quite ready to join his young brethren in the upper tiers of the position's rankings.
2017 Outlook: Andrus' rate of declining stolen bases is accelerating somewhat quicker than his advancing power; and "power" probably belongs in quotations since he has never hit more than eight home runs or managed greater than .136 isolated power in a season, both of which occurred last year. He's the kind of player who seems a lock to match his three-year average in 2017, though a 10/30 outcome with some batting-average luck could represent his ceiling. If you're in need of stolen bases and have an available shortstop spot in the middle rounds, he's well worth your while.
2017 Outlook: In his first year with the Rays, Miller set all sorts of career bests: 30 home runs, 81 RBIs, .482 slugging percentage, .172 well-hit average. A slight adjustment to his stance -- he incorporated a leg kick -- helped, as he put more of a charge into the baseball, evidenced by a third consecutive season increasing his average fly-ball distance. Miller also, unfortunately, set a career high with his 24.8 percent strikeout rate, so with the added power came the price of a lower batting average. He'll probably regress somewhat after such a successful year, but this is a new Brad Miller, capable of .250-25 numbers and worthy of your mid-round pick.
2017 Outlook: Predictably, Tulowitzki's fantasy numbers have suffered since his July 2015 trade from the Rockies, part of that due to the ballpark effect of leaving Coors Field (even for a hitting-friendly park like Rogers Centre), and part due to his continued struggles with injuries. He has had an extremely difficult time staying on the field, only three times in 10 full seasons appearing in as many as 140 games, averaging 119 in the past four years. Now 32 years of age, Tulowitzki's MVP-caliber statistics are probably now in his past, though he has exhibited All-Star ability over smaller snippets of time in Toronto, indicating his healthier periods. He's a worthwhile middle-round pick -- perhaps a middle-infield pick for mixed leagues for the first time in years -- but beware that owning him means a more-than-occasional absence or injury-influenced slump.
2017 Outlook: After Jhonny Peralta succumbed to thumb surgery last March, Diaz captured the Cardinals' starting shortstop role and got off to a scorching start, batting .423 with eight multi-hit efforts in 22 April games. He cooled to a more-in-line-with-his-skill-set .273/.352/.462 triple-slash line thereafter, thanks in part to an 83 percent contact rate that elevates his statistical floor. Diaz will begin the season as the Cardinals' starter once more and should serve as their No. 2 hitter, where his ability to get on base and contribute to turning over the lineup should be good for his counting numbers, making him a top choice for a mixed-league middle infield spot, and perhaps a top-10 candidate at the position in points leagues.