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: For the first time in their nine big-league seasons in 2016, Scherzer finally outperformed Clayton Kershaw, the man whose shadow in which he has had to live in fantasy leagues, on both the Player Rater and in terms of standard points scored. That's not to characterize Scherzer's remarkable run of production the past four seasons as second-rate. During that time, he won two Cy Young awards, one in either league, and had three seasons of a sub-3 ERA, sub-1 WHIP and at least 240 strikeouts, which makes him one of only five pitchers in history to have at least that many such campaigns in a career. In fact, the only thing that really separates Scherzer and Kershaw in terms of value is Scherzer's penchant for giving up home runs, and some of the cause for his career-high 31 home runs allowed in 2016 was the league-wide power spike. If we're to label aces and call Kershaw the best "per-start" pick, then Scherzer is the "safe" pick of the two, the 1A to Kershaw's 1.
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: Now a member of the Boston Red Sox, Sale's fantasy value might ultimately not change much from his 2016, which had him the seventh most-valuable starting pitcher in points-based leagues and ninth-best on the Player Rater. Sure, he'll have a more productive lineup backing him, but run support wasn't a severe issue for him last season, and he enjoyed a sizable increase in his average innings pitched per start from 2015 to 2016 -- 6.7 to 7.1 -- which already helped pad his win total. Sale lost a hint of fastball velocity and regressed slightly against right-handed batters last season -- the latter more of a problem because of how often opponents try to exploit the platoon advantage against him -- resulting in a noticeable decline in his strikeout rate, to 25.7 percent. He still, however, possesses top-shelf stuff and now has a four-year track record of greatness. Don't allow yourself to "chase wins" due to his trade, but Sale should regardless be one of the first five starting pitchers off the mixed-league board.
2017 Outlook: One of the few bright spots for the last-place Braves in 2016 was Freeman's emergence as one of the National League's most complete sluggers. After struggling through injuries in 2015, he rebounded with career highs in home runs (34), runs scored (102), slugging percentage (.569) and isolated power (.267) among other categories, and he only seemed to improve as the year progressed, his .323/.433/.634 second-half rates ranking among the game's best -- his .451 wOBA during that span, in fact, was second-best among qualifiers. Critical to his breakthrough was his increase in opposite-field power, as he tacked an additional six feet onto his average fly-ball distance in that direction while hitting 12 balls over the fence in that direction; these were all surefire signs that he played the year at 100 percent. Freeman and the Braves now move into their new digs, and despite the "unknown" variable of the new park's tendencies, it might only help his repeat/improvement prospects, as Turner Field was a below-average ballpark for left-handed power as well as the game top venue for strikeouts. He has arrived as a prime-of-career, top-25 overall player.
2017 Outlook: Baseball's most patient hitter, Votto has the majors' highest walk rate (18.5 percent) as well as most total walks (527) in the past five seasons combined, and he's among the most adept at hitting line drives, his 27.2 percent rate during that same time span second to only Freddie Freeman's 27.4. That combination makes Votto a good, low-risk investment in a traditional Rotisserie sense -- as do his remarkably balanced home/road and righty/lefty splits -- but it elevates him into the category of superstar in any sabermetrically inclined scoring format. In short: He's a potential first-rounder in a points league, as a near-lock for the cherished "500 point" plateau that defines a superstar hitter. In Roto formats, meanwhile, his elevated statistical floor keeps him a viable target in the third round.
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 many ways, Kluber's 2015 was statistically better than 2016, and his standard-league point total illustrates it: He scored 470 in 2015 and 540 in 2016, with his win-loss total differential alone more than making up the difference (a swing of 80 in merely those two categories from one year to the next). In short, don't discount Kluber as an unpredictable, "even/odd-year" pitcher, because he has pitched excellently for three years now. He can attribute much of that to his breaking pitches -- his curveball and slider/cutter -- which have helped fuel strikeout totals in excess of 225 in each of those campaigns, propelling him into the top 10 at his position even in Rotisserie formats. Wins and losses aside, Kluber has been one of the game's more consistent pitchers, and one who should be one of your first starting pitchers off the board in AL-only leagues.
2017 Outlook: Among star-caliber players, Marte possesses one of the wider valuation splits between Rotisserie and points-based fantasy leagues. In the former, his .290-hitting, 30-steal baseline (including upside in either category) makes him a viable second or third hitter rostered to your team. In the latter, his modest walk rate -- sub-4.5 percent in three of his four batting title-eligible big-league seasons -- and 10-homer decline last season makes him more of a top-100-overall, rather than top-25, candidate. Chances are, his 2016 numbers told the truer tale than his 2015, as his batted-ball metrics paint the picture of a line-drive-and-speed rather than power-oriented performer.
2017 Outlook: To put "Thor's" 2016 into perspective, consider that he finished as the No. 12 starting pitcher on the Player Rater as well as using points-based scoring, and he did so while pitching nearly 60 percent of the Mets' schedule with a bone spur in his pitching elbow. Syndergaard did not require postseason surgery to correct the problem, and his 3.19 ERA and 27.2 percent strikeout rate in his 17 starts after revealing the ailment show he's capable of being productive even if he's forced to pitch a portion of 2017 again at less than full strength, though his 1.31 WHIP during that same time span shows that he's not without warts. He possesses some of the best raw stuff of any pitcher, capable of reaching 100 mph with his fastball with a plus curveball, slider and changeup, weapons that would give him a legitimate chance to push for the top spot at his position if everything were to break perfectly in his favor. In a game where no pitcher can be deemed truly "safe," Syndergaard's potential earns him an easy top-10 place among starters.
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: Few players in baseball possess Encarnacion's combination of power, plate discipline and balanced splits -- both home versus road and against right-handers versus left-handers. He's the only player to hit at least 30 home runs in each of the past five seasons, doing so with combined 12.5 percent walk and 82.3 percent contact rates during that time. Encarnacion, too, was the major league's leader in road home runs during those five years (101), so the move to Cleveland shouldn't be construed as particularly damaging to his fantasy value. Perhaps a small handful of his home runs will turn into doubles at Progressive Field, which has a higher and slightly deeper left-field fence than Rogers Centre, but the net result would be negligible in points leagues and perhaps only a round's or $2-4 difference in Rotisserie formats compared to his 2016 value in Toronto.
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: Staying healthy, especially for a player who has previously had difficulty doing so, can do wonders for a hitter's seasonal numbers. Gonzalez has enjoyed his top two single-year games played totals of his career in the past two seasons -- 153 in 2015, then 150 in 2016 -- which followed a multi-year period in which he struggled to stay on the field. During that 2015-16 span, Gonzalez enjoyed one of the most productive power outbursts in baseball: In the calendar year spanning June 6, 2015, through June 5, 2016, he had the majors' best home-run rate (7.7 percent of his plate appearances) and ranked second in slugging percentage (.605) and isolated power (.309). Regression to the mean struck him thereafter, though .292/.346/.476 rates and a 21-homers-per-162 games pace from June 6, 2016, forward hardly warrants criticism and is a somewhat fair expectation from him in 2017. If there's any concern for Gonzalez's prospective fantasy owners, it's that he's an in-season trade candidate while playing the final year of his seven-year, $80-million contract, and a departure from Coors Field could adversely impact him, as he has a whopping 106 point wOBA home/road split the past three seasons combined. Keep that risk tucked away as you begin considering him in the third or fourth round.