2017 Outlook: For the second consecutive season, Arenado managed at least 40 home runs and 130 RBIs, pacing the majors in the latter category in each. Don't downplay the feat as a product of Coors Field's thin air, either; he hit a combined 38 home runs with 104 RBIs in his road games in those two seasons, both ranking among the majors' top 10. What's more, Arenado boosted his walk rate to a career-best 9.8 percent in 2016, not to mention he'll 2017 at a prime-of-his-career 26 years old. As a heart-of-the-order hitter in an underappreciated lineup, he's as good a bet to repeat (or at least approach) his 2016 numbers as anyone, making him a first-round, building-block pick regardless of format.
2017 Outlook: After securing National League Rookie of the Year and MVP honors in consecutive years to begin his big-league career, plus helping his Cubs snap a 108-year World Series championship drought, Bryant might seem to have already peaked at the age of 25. Now look closer: He significantly boosted his contact rate last season, from 64 to 75 percent, while adding 49 points to his isolated power and increasing both his fly-ball and hard-contact rates in the process. Scouts gave Bryant's future power an 80 grade, tops on the 20-80 scale, and his keen sense of the strike zone hints that he might reach that ceiling, with minimal adverse impact upon his batting average. A "championship hangover" (or, as we'd call it, natural regression to the mean) is possible, but with a skill set like Bryant's, a repeat or even a small step forward -- which would probably manifest itself best in points-based leagues that penalize for strikeouts -- is at least as likely.
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: After capturing American League MVP honors in 2015, Donaldson followed it up with a season that was every bit as good using points-based scoring -- just eight fewer points, to be exact -- and only marginally less valuable in Rotisserie -- top-30 rather than top-10. In the process, he improved his play against right-handed pitching, posting a career-best .960 against that side, as well as his walk rate, registering a career-high 15.6 percent mark that was mostly fueled by greater pitch recognition deeper in the count. Those quick to doubt Donaldson's repeat prospects following the offseason departure of Edwin Encarnacion, the man who immediately succeeded him in the lineup, could cause his draft stock to slip slightly, to the point that he's a relative value; anything outside of the top 10 picks would qualify.
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: 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: It's a shame that Kyle hasn't garnered the same level of national attention as brother Corey has (and Corey's has been in just one big-league season), as the older Seager is a tremendously underrated asset, both in the real and fantasy games. Kyle Seager's points-based owners can attest: He actually finished with the greater point total of the two brothers (450-422), in 11 fewer plate appearances. Along with David Ortiz, Seager was one of two players to hit at least 20 home runs with an 80 percent or better contact rate in each of the past five seasons, and during that five-year span he exhibited incremental gains in terms of his isolated power and hard-contact rates, making his career-best 2016 look entirely repeatable (at the very least).
2017 Outlook: Though Beltre's defensive exploits fuel a decent portion of his future Hall of Fame prospects, don't mistake that in the slightest for a knock on his skill at the plate. In 2016, he became only the ninth player in history to bat .300 and hit at least 30 home runs at the age of 37 or older, and in the past three seasons combined, his 87.9 percent contact rate was 13th-best among players with at least 1,000 plate appearances and his 199 hard-contact line drives tied for the most. He's a contact-making, line drive-spraying machine, one of the highest-floor players around, and that's a good thing to be in a lineup as deep as the Rangers' in a ballpark as favorable for offense as Globe Life Park because of what it means for a hitter's RBIs and runs scored. Beltre is a top-50 pick in any format, but in points-based scoring he's even more appealing because of these traits.
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: As Frazier has aged, he has continued to embrace a power-oriented approach, as he set career highs in 2016 in terms of his pull rate (50 percent of balls in play) and fly-ball rate (48 percent), but also his strikeout rate (24.5 percent of his PAs). In short, his 35/15 homer/steals baselines of the past three seasons seemed entirely legit, though they're increasingly coming at the expense of strikeouts and his batting average. That risk/reward approach at the plate lowers his statistical floor, and that his White Sox are in the midst of a rebuild doesn't help his counting-numbers potential (RBIs and runs scored), with the added point that if the team does trade the walk-year player midseason, he could wind up in a ballpark less conducive to power. Frazier remains a viable early-to-mid round pick in any format, but he's one to be cautious not to overrate.
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: Once labeled an "injury-prone" fantasy player, Longoria has silenced those critics, appearing in a major league-leading 482 games the past three seasons combined. Between that and greater lift to his swing in 2016 -- his 32.5 percent ground-ball rate was a career low -- Longoria's odds of repeating his rebound-year numbers are substantially better, and help ease some of the concerns of his aging curve, now that he's beyond his 30th birthday. A five-year pattern of decline in his walk rate serves a caution flag, but Longoria remains a top-10 capable fantasy third baseman in Rotisserie leagues, and his ability to generate extra-base hits gives him roughly equivalent value in points-based scoring as well.
2017 Outlook: The National League's defending Comeback Player of the Year, Rendon's 2016 looked quite a bit like his 2014 in the end. Predictably, better luck in the health department was behind it, though his strong finish was an encouraging sign for the future, as he batted .291/.357/.508 in the second half. Rendon possesses the same five-category potential he has always had, but his injury past shouldn't be completely ignored. He's best valued a borderline top-10 third baseman in Rotisserie leagues, but more of a sure thing to join that group in points leagues.
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: Injuries, the adjustment to a new position (right field) and struggles making contact resulted in a disappointing first full big-league season from Sano in 2016. He was an awful defensive right fielder, something that might've affected his hitting game, he missed 38 total games with hamstring, elbow and back issues, and his 297 whiffs through his first 196 career contests set an all-time record. Still, Sano's power potential remains massive, as even in a "down" year he finished among the top one-fifth among qualifiers in fly-ball rate, home run/fly ball percentage and average fly-ball distance, and he hit 10 home runs in his final 40 games. If there's to be an off-the-radar home run champion in 2017, Sano's as good a bet as any, though he might not contribute much more in an era where power is abundant. He's a mid-round upside pick, both in Rotisserie and points-based scoring, where his patience carries added value.