2016 Outlook: In just 80 games, Sano flashed the skills that matched the hype that chased him throughout the minors, with a .269/.385/.530 slash line in his first exposure to the majors. His 16-percent walk rate is amazing considering his youth and how he was rushed through the upper levels of the Twins' system. The 36-percent strikeout rate is alarming in a vacuum until you realize that Sano skipped right over Triple-A and didn't face any live pitching in 2014, as he missed the year due to Tommy John surgery. He is going to strikeout a fair amount, and that along with his slow foot speed will limit his batting-average upside, but he should be very productive in the power categories. One issue with Sano is that he only qualifies at Utility on draft day, as he failed to play 10 games at any one position in the 2015 season, but his powerful bat is worth plugging into that roster spot early – before you do so with David Ortiz.
2016 Outlook: Those who owned Cano last year are well aware that he hit just .251 with six home runs in 346 at-bats in the first half. His early struggles were not apparent in his season totals, however, as he turned it on in the second half, finishing with a .287/.334/.446 slash line while eclipsing 20 homers for the sixth time in the past seven seasons. His HR/FB spiked from 10.7% in 2014 to 15.9% in 2015, and his hard contact rate also jumped, which explains the rebound in home runs in his second season in the Emerald City. That said, his career 13.9% HR/FB suggests last year's power numbers may represent his ceiling as long as he is playing half of his games in Safeco Field. Cano is locked into the three hole for the Mariners, so he could lead second basemen in RBI for the second straight year in 2016.
2016 Outlook: Once again the class of the position in 2015, Posey finished fourth in home runs (19), second in runs (74), first in RBI (95) and first in average (.318) among catchers. He also finished with a career-high 623 plate appearances (also tops at the position), thanks to getting 41 games at first base -- up from 33 in 2014. Those starts at first base could continue to creep up this season in an organizational effort to preserve his body, which is great news for fantasy owners, as he will have fewer days off than other catchers. Kyle Schwarber, who qualifies at catcher but will primarily play left field for the Cubs, represents perhaps the most worthy (fantasy) challenger Posey has faced at the position in recent years. However, thanks to an unmatched track record of excellence, the Giants' backstop has remained the first catcher off the board in early expert drafts -- a trend that should continue through spring training.
2016 Outlook: Trading contact -- nearly 10 percentage points -- for power, Carpenter blasted 28 home runs in 2015, which tied him for eighth in the National League and ranked third among NL third basemen. He managed 19 homers in the second half of the season alone (71 games), and his .505 slugging percentage for the season bested the likes of Jose Abreu, Todd Frazier and Kris Bryant. The change in offensive philosophy did not coincide with a move to a more prominent RBI-producing spot in the lineup, as Carpenter continued to hit first or second in the order, as he will likely do to open 2016. Carpenter continues to walk at an outstanding clip, and even if he trades some of that power back in for contact, the 30-year-old should continue to do enough in four categories to warrant a lofty price on draft day. His .228 average against left-handed pitching can be mostly ignored for standard league purposes, as he is going to play every day regardless.
2016 Outlook: Few hitters have offered the yearly consistency that Seager has maintained for the Mariners over the past four seasons. During that span, he's homered at least 20 times annually, while providing a steady run-producing presence near the heart of the Seattle lineup. As the Mariners have brought in additional quality bats around him, Seager's counting stats have improved. Further, he's shown more pop in each of the last two seasons, while cutting his strikeout rate to a career-low 14.3 percent in 2015. After hitting 16 of his 25 home runs at Safeco Field in 2014, Seager's power shifted last season as he hit 19 of his 26 long balls on the road. A 30-homer season may still be lurking in his bat, but the Mariners have more talent around Seager in the lineup now than at any point in his career, so another level in runs and RBI may be on the horizon.
2016 Outlook: Dozier picked up right where he left off in 2014, delivering a .256/.328/.513 line with 19 home runs and nine steals through the first half. Although he was sent for an MRI on his hip after the regular season concluded, no structural damage was found and he avoided surgery. If nothing else, the MRI suggests that he wasn't 100 percent healthy during the second half, which may explain the 107-point drop in increased strikeout rate (ISO) and reduced activity on the basepaths (3-for-4 in stolen-base attempts) after the All-Star break. Dozier should spend another season at or near the top of the batting order, but his placement may ultimately hinge on the Twins' 2016 plans for Byron Buxton. A return to the 20-20 club is seemingly within reach, but Dozier is a career .240 hitter with a very high infield flyball rate, which makes significant improvement in that particular category a long shot.
2016 Outlook: Gonzalez is like that reliable pair of boots that won't fetch many compliments, but will keep the wearer comfortable while protecting against the elements. Once the six or seven flashy names at the position are off the board, Gonzalez represents about as reliable an option as can be found at any position. In three full seasons with the Dodgers, he has always hit 22-plus homers, with 90-plus RBI and at least a .275 average. Unfortunately, he has only scored 80-plus runs once in L.A., in part because the back half of the lineup has been oddly shaky for much of his tenure. That said, he's an extremely reliable contributor in the three categories that a first baseman needs to be able to prop up. Adding to his reliability is the incredibly impressive fact that he has played 156-plus games in 10 straight seasons. A full season of Corey Seager and Justin Turner hitting ahead of him could help Gonzalez get back over 100 RBI for the eighth time in the last 10 years.
2016 Outlook: A slow start to the season left many owners wondering if Beltre was simply out of gas in his age-36 campaign, and he limped into the All-Star break with a .255/.290/.396 line to go with seven homers and 24 RBI. Thanks to a huge second half, many of those concerns were erased, as his .318/.367/.509 line after the break included 11 homers and 61 RBI -- numbers more in line with his previous levels of output for the Rangers. Further, it was revealed that an injury initially labeled as a jammed thumb in May was actually a torn ligament that he managed to play through until he had surgery in October. A back strain limited Beltre in the Rangers' ALDS series against Toronto, but it's expected that he will be fully recovered from both injuries at the outset of spring training. At this stage of his career, Beltre is much more likely to hit 20 homers than 30, but he drive in plenty of runs given the quality of the bats around him. Further, he should continue to hit for a good average as he rarely makes soft contact, while maintaining a very low strikeout rate.
2016 Outlook: For the first time in 2016, Tulowitzki is not going to be taken by anyone in the top 20 in a fantasy draft. It has happened year after year despite the fact Tulo hasn't played more than 150 games since the 2009 season and has had one injury issue after another since. Last season, the inevitable happened as he was dealt away from Coors and went to Toronto, where he put up a very disappointing .239/.317/.380 line over 41 games and there too suffered an injury. Like all Rockies hitters, Tulo was amazing at home, but his career .274/.347/.462 slash line away from Coors is nothing to ignore. The shortstop position is not terribly deep in 2016 with youth (Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor, Xander Bogaerts, Corey Seager) making up most of the higher rankings. If he hits at the top of the lineup and can stay healthy in front of the Blue Jay bombers, then he could score plenty of runs, but health does not generally get better with age.
2016 Outlook: The Aruban shortstop displayed his plus hit tool and plus glove work last season, putting an end to the talk of a potential move to third base. He took advantage of hitting third for most of the season, and with the help of a slightly inflated batting average (.372 BABIP last season, .338 for his career), he was able to finish top-two in runs and RBI at the position. Bogaerts should remain in the three-hole for Boston in 2016, and while he may not hit .320 again, modest regression would allow him to still challenge for .300. His 10 steals may not sound like much, but it gives him an edge over players like Troy Tulowitzki, Brandon Crawford and Jhonny Peralta. The elephant in the room is Bogaerts' power projection. Scouting reports have always suggested he could hit 20-30 homers in his prime, and while he is just entering his age-23 season, his in-game power could start to click at any moment, which would make him a five-category monster.
2016 Outlook: Second base has seen an influx of talent in recent years with players like Rougned Odor and Kolten Wong coming up -- and DJ LeMahieu and Logan Forsythe emerging as viable options last season -- but paying up for the skills and consistency of Kinsler still makes sense. Kinsler continues to make contact at an exceptional clip and he got his walk rate back up to a respectable level during the first half of last season, though that number fell to just 3.4 percent after the break. Some luck on balls in played helped the average (.323 BABIP), and the power and speed are both in decline at 33 years old, but Kinsler has now gone double-double with 85-plus runs and 70-plus RBI in each of the last five seasons and seven of the last eight seasons. He's going to continue to bat first or second in the powerful Detroit lineup, so while this could be the first time in his career that he falls short of 10 steals -- he was caught six times in 16 attempts last season -- the power could rebound slightly and the rest of the counting stats are incredibly safe.
2016 Outlook: There are no problems with Freeman's skills, as he has everything you want in a hitter. Sure, he doesn't quite hit with the power we want to see from first base, but he hits for average, gets on base at an excellent rate, and can drive the ball to all parts of the field while making good contact. The issue is that he's the only guy in a rebuilding Atlanta lineup and pitchers could very well pitch around him to deal with the easier options behind him. Last season, Freeman had issues both in front and behind him, but Atlanta got him some help such that Ender Inciarte and Erick Aybar (as well as mainstay Nick Markakis) can get on base in front of him, which should help his RBI opportunities if pitchers don't have the open base to work with. If that trio can't get on base, then Freeman is going to set a career-high in walks.
2016 Outlook: Seager gave the Dodgers and baseball fans in general a tantalizing taste of his vast talent in his 113 plate appearances at the tail end of 2015. He managed an impressive .337 average despite a below-league-average contract rate, launching four homers and driving in 17 runs over that abbreviated stretch. He produced an impressive .387 BABIP, .561 slugging percentage, and .224 ISO, none of which represented uncharted territory from his minor league track record, and his walk rate was higher than it was during any stop on the farm. Seager projects as the everyday shortstop for the Dodgers, and should have ample opportunity to generate solid power numbers while frequenting the basepaths through his considerable ability to hit for average, though a knee has him questionable for Opening Day.
2016 Outlook: Lofty expectations come with being a third overall pick (2008), and while Hosmer hasn't developed into the middle-of-the-order thumper that many thought he would become as a prospect, he's a reliable anchor in the heart of the Kansas City lineup. Entering 2015, Hosmer was discounted on the heels of a mediocre 2014 performance that was likely impacted by a stress fracture in his hand. With an ability to hold his own against lefties, Hosmer doesn't fall into a platoon for the Royals, which has allowed him to eclipse 650 plate appearances in two of the last three seasons. With that heavy playing time volume, he proved last season that he can be an asset by sustaining a high average (.297) and piling up plenty of RBI (93) and runs scored (98), and he continues to chip in a handful of steals under aggressive manager Ned Yost. While Hosmer is still seeking his first 20-homer season at the big league level, he may reach that level at age-26 in 2016 after posting his highest ISO (.162) since 2011.
2016 Outlook: Conventional wisdom thought Lindor's glove was MLB ready but there was some concern if his bat could play. After a couple of months at Triple-A where his on-base skills improved across the board, he got the call. What followed was a complete surprise, as much like another more ballyhooed rookie shortstop (Carlos Correa), Lindor enjoyed a power spike completely out of line with his minor league history. Another parallel is Lindor's flyball rate being extremely low so a drop in homers is very likely. Further, sustaining a .348 BABIP is unlikely even though, with his very good contact rate, speed and groundball rate, Lindor's batting average floor is still solid. Factor in the fact that the sophomore is entrenched in the two-hole and the runs and steals should remain high. Just don't pay for last year's power.