2017 Outlook: Few players possess such outstanding batting-title odds -- leading both leagues, that is -- as Altuve, but don't mistake him for a mere speed-and-average type. He made noticeable improvements in the power department last season, setting personal bests with 24 home runs, a .531 slugging percentage, .194 isolated power and .196 well-hit average, as well as against right-handed pitching, his .348/.398/.544 triple-slash rates against that side all career bests, and he did it while also improving his walk rate to a career-high 8.4 percent. Only his declining stolen-base total is a valid criticism, and one explained by team decision rather than slowing speed, as the Astros have been slightly less apt to give Altuve the green light as they've acknowledged his increasing offensive value by moving him from leadoff to the No. 3 spot in the order. Ultimately, he's the same premium pick in Rotisserie leagues that he was last year; it's points-based leagues in which he must now be recognized as such. To that point, he gained a whopping 115 points in 2016 compared to 2015 using our standard scoring system, finishing the year as the third highest-scoring hitter.
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: Few players in baseball possess as keen an eye at the plate coupled with elite power as Rizzo; he, Edwin Encarnacion and David Ortiz were the only three in the game to walk at least 10 percent of the time, make contact at least 75 percent and hit at least 30 home runs in each of the past three seasons. Adding the fact that Rizzo possesses a minimal platoon split, he possesses one of the highest statistical floors of anyone in the game, with his range of outcomes -- health-willing -- likely between a .275-290 batting average and 28-34 home runs. He's points-league gold, but even in Rotisserie leagues warrants an early (late-first/early-second) selection thanks to his predictability and place in one of the game's most productive lineups. If there's any criticism of Rizzo to he had, it's that he has cooled after the All-Star break in each of the past two seasons, but if that merely means you consider your trade options for him in June or July, so be it.
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: 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: 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: 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: Odor is an extremely unusual hitter, a slugger with poor -- and actually declining as he continues to progress towards his prime years -- plate discipline who somehow makes it work, as he was one of only 19 players with at least a .270 batting average and 30 home runs in 2016. To that point, he became only the second player in history to hit 30 or more home runs while walking fewer than 20 times (Andres Galarraga, 31 and 19 in 1994), and Odor's 3.0 percent walk rate last season was the lowest by any player to hit at least 30 homers. This free-swinging, power-oriented approach puts Odor at greater-than-normal risk in the strikeout, and therefore batting average, categories, resulting in an unexpectedly lower-than-normal floor in points-based scoring. As one of the better power sources among second basemen, he's well worth your early-to-mid round selection in Rotisserie scoring, but he's one to be cautious not to overrate in a points league.
2017 Outlook: A shift in his approach in 2015 turned Carpenter, previously a walks-and-contact hitter, into more of a power source, and he only continued to adapt his swing for that last season. He's now more pull-conscious, but has done so without sacrificing much contact, so while a .318 batting average (his mark in 2013) might be in his past, there's reason to believe he'll remain a .270-25 player with a .375 on-base percentage for the foreseeable future. In fact, Carpenter could exceed those numbers with some luck; an oblique injury hampered his second-half performance and the Cardinals should provide him more run-producing opportunities (and perhaps more PAs) now that they've signed Dexter Fowler as their leadoff hitter. Carpenter is a low-risk, top-100 overall pick in Rotisserie leagues, but his elite plate discipline makes him a much better pick in sabermetric and points-based formats: Perhaps a top-50 player overall.