2016 Outlook: Cespedes' offseason was a rollercoaster. But like any rollercoaster, it would up where it started, and Cespedes is once again a Met, this time for a full season. Lost in the fawning over his late-summer, early-fall with the Mets is the fact that he was having a really good season with Detroit prior to the trade. Of course, he almost doubled his production in about 60 percent of the plate appearances, but it should be noted that he had a great season start-to-finish; it wasn't a weak or modest start saved by the New York run. Now, can he repeat? No, of course not. His Mets numbers were about a 45/120 pace. He can definitely log a second straight 100-run/100-RBI season, though. The Mets' lineup is strong top-to-bottom with a league average or better contributor in every spot, plus some interesting platoon potential to leverage the bench. They should be able to avoid the pitfalls that beset last year's team and created the need for the Cespedes trade in the first place.
2016 Outlook: Upton's OPS dipped below .800 for just the third time in his nine-year career last season with the Padres, due in part to the lowest BABIP (.304) since his rookie season. Still, he was awfully productive in terms of counting stats, notching 25-plus homers and 18-plus steals for just the third time in his career, thanks largely to the improved hitting dimensions in San Diego. Petco Park actually ranked as the 10th-best place to hit homers in 2015, while Upton's new home, Comerica Park, ranked 26th, according to ESPN's park factors. The organization change is not all bad news, however. Detroit was ninth in stolen-base attempts last season, despite finishing 27th with a 61.9% success rate, so there's no reason to think Upton won't have the green light in many situations, which should allow him to push for double-digit steals again. He'll also have a chance to top last year's run totals, potentially hitting in front of Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez and J.D. Martinez in a potent Tigers lineup.
2016 Outlook: A 2015 roto darling, Cain posted career highs in every relevant offensive category, and perhaps most important of all, he set a career high with 140 games played. Cain legitimately has a plus-plus hit tool, and should be able to maintain an average around .300, thanks to a career .345 BABIP. He had an 82 percent success rate on the bases last year, so there is little doubt that he will remain a threat to run under manager Ned Yost, despite hitting third in the order. With average and speed locked in as a foundation for his value, his power must fairly come under scrutiny. Cain's 11.2% HR/FB last season exceeded his 2013 (4.4%) and 2014 (5.3%) rates combined, and while it is reasonable to grant him an uptick in power in the middle of his career, slight regression seems likely. Even so, Cain offers five-category production heading into his age-30 season, and makes for a safe bet as an OF2 in mixed leagues.
2016 Outlook: Gonzalez was hitting .215 with two home runs on June 2 last year, and he went on to hit .294 with 36 home runs and 84 RBI over his final 107 games. The Gonzalez owners who did not sell their shares amid his early season struggles were rewarded with the most home runs of his career, thanks in large part to a career-high 153 games played. Needless to say, his age-29 season was an unexpected time for Gonzalez to all of a sudden stay relatively healthy, after averaging just 110.5 games per year over the previous four seasons. The left-handed slugger has always fared better against righties (.931 OPS) than lefties (.745 OPS) over his career, but he was especially bad against southpaws in 2015, slashing .195/.222/.308 in 168 plate appearances. If that downward trend carries over to 2016, Colorado's improved outfield depth will likely lead to him getting more days off against lefties, which would lead to a higher average and slightly fewer counting stats.
2016 Outlook: In 2015 we saw what a down year from Jones looks like, and he was still one of eight outfielders with 27-plus homers and an average of .265 or better. He missed time at the end of the year with back spasms, and also missed time with shoulder, neck and ankle injuries earlier in the year, although he never landed on the DL. Still, the combination of those four ailments likely contributed to his suppressed numbers. His days as a threat for double-digit steals appear to be behind him, but there still seems to be a nice floor in the power and average categories heading into his age-30 season. If he can return to his pre-2015 durability, his runs and RBI should rebound, especially with Chris Davis back in the fold. While Jones was once a source of debate as a top-20 pick, he will now go in the fifth round of many drafts, which finally gives prospective owners a chance to profit on his top trait -- consistency.
2016 Outlook: Only Jose Altuve and Miguel Cabrera have a better batting average than Brantley's .319 over the past two seasons. It's hard to find a better pure hitter than Brantley, who posted a strikeout rate below 10 percent for the third time in four years in 2015 and actually walked more times (60) than he struck out (51). However, Brantley's power production dipped, as he fell from 20 home runs to 15, 97 RBI to 84, and 94 runs scored to 68. Brantley remains an extreme groundball hitter -- his 1.45 GB/FB in 2015 was the lowest of his career -- and as such a repeat of his 20-homer power from 2014 would be a surprise. His recovery from offseason shoulder surgery pushed deep into spring training, and he had some trouble bouncing back after his first couple spring games, but it sounds like Brantley has a chance to be ready relatively early on, if not on Opening Day.
2016 Outlook: Last year, Heyward spent most of the season batting either third, fourth or fifth for the Cardinals, but he should be locked into either first or second in the Cubs' order all season, so his counting stats could look a little different. There may not be a better middle-of-the-order power trio in all of baseball than Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber, so Heyward should be a run-scoring machine, despite scoring 90-plus runs just once in his six-year career. The Cubs were a top-10 team in stolen-base attempts last year, while the Cardinals were in the bottom 10, so that, along with batting higher in the order, could lead to more steals for Heyward. The Cardinals tweaked Heyward's approach last year, leading to a career-high 57.2% GB% and a career-low 23.5% FB%, without sacrificing any hard contact. This should make that .293 average more sustainable than it appears at first glance. The 20-plus homer power he displayed in 2012 could come back, but even if it doesn't, Heyward will be a three-category force in 2016.
2016 Outlook: After opening his 2015 campaign at Double-A, Schwarber played his way into a prominent place in the Cubs' lineup during the second half, including the team's postseason run in October. He forced the issue for regular playing time by adjusting quickly to big league pitching, showing impressive power (.241 ISO, 16 homers in 273 plate appearances) and the ability to draw walks at a good clip (13.2 BB%), albeit with the propensity to strike out (28.2 K%) at a steady rate. Thanks to a thumb injury suffered by Miguel Montero in July, the Cubs put Schwarber behind the plate for 21 games last season, giving him enough time at the position to qualify as a catcher in most leagues for 2016. As catchers go, only Buster Posey can match Schwarber's ability with the bat. Defensively, it remains to be seen if Schwarber's strong arm and high marks for work ethic will lead him to become a passable defender in left field, and there is a bit of uncertainty as to how the outfield situation will shake out with Jason Heyward and Dexter Fowler both now in Chicago, but Schwarber still projects to open the season with a regular role and a valuable run-producing spot in one of the league's best lineups.
2016 Outlook: It has now been three consecutive seasons in which Braun has failed to get to 600 plate appearances, thanks in part to suspensions as well as injuries. The latest injury was a bulging disc in his back that prematurely ended his 2015 season and required surgery in early October. The 30/30 version of Braun is likely gone for good, as he does not hit as many fly balls these days as he once did. But the 20/20 version we saw last year is certainly repeatable, as long as the recovery from the back surgery is 100 percent and the nerve injury in his hand is resolved as well. The concern with Braun is that his supporting cast is not as strong as it once was, and there's talk of further paring down the roster. Braun could see fewer pitches to hit as teams decide to deal with the contact-challenged hitters behind him in the lineup.
2016 Outlook: When a hitter is 29 years old, he usually is a finished product. Well, unless he was a pitcher through his early 20s, took some time off then resurfaced with the hopes of making it as an outfielder. The Diamondbacks took a chance on this talented Venezuelan and they've struck gold. Peralta refined his patience and improved against lefties to the point where he'll be the regular clean-up hitter for one of the most prolific attacks in the league. Peralta's .368 BABIP and spike in home runs-per-fly-ball rate last season will put him on the radar of many that would otherwise overlook him. Both marks should fall back some, though Peralta's raw production should rise since he's in line for full-time at-bats. He has less power than the typical four-hole hitter but should be productive with Paul Goldschmidt frequently on the pond, though the loss of A.J. Pollock does put a damper on that.
2016 Outlook: The 27-year-old center fielder played in a career-high 153 games in 2015 while setting personal bests in hits (175), doubles (28), homers (14), RBI (56), walks (58), stolen bases (18) and slugging percentage (.431). His .144 ISO was also his best since his .153 mark in a 2012 rookie campaign where he only made 103 plate appearances. Eaton clearly has the ability to continue contributing in multiple categories, but his atypical power surge in 2015 may ultimately prove to be an outlier. Eaton had never hit more than seven home runs in five combined major-and-minor-league seasons with the Diamondbacks and White Sox prior to last season. As Chicago's everyday center fielder however, Eaton will have ample opportunity to continue his streak of progressively improving in most major offensive categories in each season so far in his career.
2016 Outlook: Another slew of injuries (oblique, hip, knee, and back) limited Ellsbury's output in 2015, but he was on his way to a productive campaign before the knee injury stopped him in his tracks in mid-May. At that point, he was hitting .324 (.412 OBP) with 14 steals through 37 games, putting him on pace for 50-plus steals over 150 contests. An ugly overall line last season (.257/.318/.345) will likely drive down the price on draft day, but the league-wide decline in stolen bases should keep savvy owners interested. The drop in batting average, and subsequently OBP, appears to be directly connected to the increased strikeout rate (17.7 K%), but that number may have been inflated by the four months he spent playing through injuries as he maintained a K% below 15.0 percent through the April and May. Even with the short porch in right field at Yankee Stadium, the 16-homer season in 2014 is likely an outlier, but Ellsbury should be a valuable source of steals and runs without doing damage in the batting average department.
2016 Outlook: It's rare that leaving a team that led the league in runs scored the previous season benefits a leadoff hitter, but that's exactly the case for Revere. Most of the Blue Jays' lineup is in scoring position when they step in the batter's box, mitigating the need for Revere to run. Now back in the Senior Circuit as a member of the Nationals, the veteran speedster will be asked to replace the spark Denard Span gave them at the top of the order. Revere sports one of the best contact rates in the league, taking full advantage of his speed by hitting mostly groundballs and line drives. The Nationals let Span run, so there's no doubt Revere will have the green light more often than not. If the meat of the order can stay healthy, Revere has a chance to set a career high in runs for the second straight year.
2016 Outlook: Polanco didn't bust out in his first year as a full-time player, as he failed to reach double-digits in home runs and he hit just .256/.320/.381. Still, there was a lot to like, as Polanco used his speed to mash 35 doubles and six triples, steal 27 bases and score 83 runs. It's easy to see room for growth for Polanco if a few of those doubles turn into home runs and a few of his caught stealings (10 in 37 attempts) turn into successes. He's shown the ability to hit home runs in the minors (16 in 2012, 12 in just 115 games in 2013), and at the age of 25 next season, he's getting to the stage where he can start generating more power out of his body. The tools are all there, so now he just has to harness the gifts.
2016 Outlook: Yelich scuffled in April and May, likely due to a back strain he suffered during the first month of the season. He was a completely different player from June on, although he missed time in the second half due to a knee contusion. With a .342/.392/.473 line in the second half (57 games), Yelich did everything other than provide home-run power, but the spike in extra-base hits after the All-Star break is an encouraging sign going forward. The fences at Marlins Park will be moved in for 2016, but Yelich's batted ball profile includes a career 61.9 GB%, which will continue to limit his long ball output barring adjustments to his swing and approach. Just 24 years old, Yelich offers a rare combination of plate discipline, bat control and the ability to spray line drives to all fields. Even if he simply sticks with what has worked for him through his first two-and-a-half big league seasons, Yelich should be an asset in batting average, runs scored, RBI and steals as the Marlins' No. 2 hitter.