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: 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: 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: 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.
2017 Outlook: An 80-game suspension for testing positive for PEDs early last season cast a shadow upon Gordon's past career accomplishments, but during his active portions of last season, he seemed the elite speedster he has always been, with "regression to the mean" as rational an explanation as any for his lesser hitting numbers. He enjoyed a 59 steal pace per 162 team games, maintaining his three-year baseline at roughly 60 in the category, but a drop in both his quality of contact as well as his batting average on balls in play reset his batting-average baseline at closer to the .270-.290 range, with only minimal walks to boost his on-base percentage from there. In short, he's only an early-round pick in Rotisserie leagues for his one-category (steals) contribution, with his brilliant, more well-rounded 2016 statistics probably in his rearview.
2017 Outlook: One of the most consistent five-category Rotisserie contributors -- he and Mike Trout were the only players with at least 10 home runs and stolen bases apiece and at least 70 RBIs and runs scored apiece in each of the past five seasons -- Kinsler shouldn't be mistaken for a superstar in any one, even if he enjoyed a 17-homer increase in 2016 compared to 2015, his 28 total homers his best single-year total since 2011 (32). His value comes from his consistency, and his balanced, above-average-but-not-necessarily-elite skills in all facets of the game. Kinsler's line drive-oriented approach makes another outcome within range of his 2014-16 three-year average highly likely, though his career-high 16.9 percent strikeout rate does raise questions about his stability in the batting-average category as well as whether he's shifting his swing somewhat more towards a power stroke. He's a reliable early-to-mid round pick in any format.
2017 Outlook: It's a credit to his ability to adjust that LeMahieu has become such a valuable player in fantasy despite rarely being regarded a top-10 prospect within his own organization in the minors. The No. 38 finisher on the 2016 Player Rater, and 46th in points-based scoring, last season, LeMahieu has quietly become one the most adept in baseball at not only making contact, but squaring up the ball solidly. He led the majors in hard-contact line drives (75), had a major league-leading .316 batting average in plate appearances in which he faced an 0-2 count, and had an 87 percent contact rate after the All-Star break. He also enjoyed a career-best 10.4 percent walk rate, giving hope that he'll be a safe, consistent five-category contributor for the foreseeable future. LeMahieu might not seem like a star, or an early-round pick, but he has improved his game to the point that he absolutely warrants that status.
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: Pedroia enjoyed a modest bounce-back last season, partly because he entered the year healthier than he had been in either of the previous two campaigns. As he had typically done, he hit for a high average, flashed good plate discipline and a bit of pop, things that annually make him one of the more reliable mid-round picks. However, Pedroia's speed has declined since his 30th birthday, and as he enters 2017 at the age of 33, it's unlikely to return. He's a player worth targeting because of his high floor in batting average and on-base percentage, and his likelihood of a good runs scored total as a top-third-in-the-order Red Sox hitter. Pedroia's skill set is more valuable using points-based scoring, though he probably doesn't have much room for growth at this career stage.
2017 Outlook: Ramirez's contact ability has been extremely overlooked in recent years, and he posted a career-best 89 percent rate in 2016 and 91 percent during the season's second half. These fueled his breakthrough numbers, lending legitimacy to his healthy batting average and on-base percentage and explaining both his playing-time increase as well as his stolen-base total. The Indians will use Ramirez regularly again in 2017, presumably mostly at third base, and he's not nearly the regression candidate you might think. He should continue to contribute in all five Rotisserie categories, be slightly more valuable in points-based formats thanks to his contact and ability to generate many extra-base hits, and has the added advantage of dual position eligibility (third base and outfield). Ramirez is a worthy mid-rounder.
2017 Outlook: Kipnis finally broke through as a power source last season, setting career highs with 23 home runs, a .469 slugging percentage and .193 isolated power (the latter two among his five full big-league seasons), doing so thanks to improved quality of contact and greater success against left-handed pitching. His speed, however, continued to suffer for the second consecutive year; he now appears to be more of a 25/15 candidate than the 15/30 player he was in his first three seasons. The changes to his hitting game grant him an advantage, however: He's now more likely to repeat his 2016 effort, whereas earlier in his career he was more unpredictable year-to-year. Kipnis belongs amongst the game's 10 best fantasy second baseman, and he's well worth your early-to-mid round pick.