Predicting best and worst scenarios for top fantasy baseball players

Monday March 16th, 2015

Whenever we talk about players and their projections, there’s a reason we say that you should pencil them in rather than etching them in stone. Every player, from Mike Trout all the way on down to Pete Kozma, has a range of possible outcomes. There will be players who surprise and fall outside that range, both on the good side and the bad, but for the most part, players end up landing somewhere within their parameters.

• Fantasy baseball 2015 draft kit: Everything you need to prep for your draft

As such, you should not think about exact numbers when building a fantasy team. Instead, you should consider each player’s range and the likelihood he ends up closer to the top of it or the bottom. Below, we present the best- and worst-case scenarios for the top 30 players in our Top 250 (and here's a printable version of our Top 250). 

  • 1
    1Mike Trout
    BEST CASE: Trout is the best baseball player on the planet. Another season where he slashes .300/.400/.500 with 30-plus homers, 20-plus steals and 100-plus RBI and runs is well within his reach.
    WORST CASE: Trout did post a 26.1% strikeout rate last season, and that conspired to push his batting average down to a career-worst .287. If he keeps up that strikeout pace, he will not be among the league leaders in batting average. He also curbed his running last year, which could be the beginning of a trend for him. If the Angels' offense takes a step back as a whole, Trout’s counting stats will suffer through no fault of his own. And even if all this happened, he’d likely still end the season as a top-five hitter.

  • 2
    2Andrew McCutchen
    BEST CASE: There is one player who has compiled a .300/.400/.500 line for three straight seasons, and that is the Pittsburgh superstar. McCutchen is closer to Trout than you think, and he could realistically outproduce last year’s AL MVP this season. Cutch walked more than ever before last year and increased his fly-ball rate, which resulted in more of them leaving the park. You can take his rates to the bank, and if everything falls into place, he’ll hit 25-to-30 homers with 20-plus steals.
    WORST CASE: Like Trout, even the worst-case scenario for McCutchen is that of an elite fantasy player. He has had more than 25 homers just once in his career, and his 18 steals last year were his least since joining the Pirates in 2009. With the holes in the Pittsburgh lineup, it could be a struggle for him to do much better than 85 runs and RBIs.

  • 3
    3Paul Goldschmidt
    BEST CASE: Goldschmidt stays healthy all season and on the trajectory he set for himself in both 2013 and '14. If that’s the case, he’ll hit 30 homers, swipe 15 bags, drive in 100 runs and cross the plate 100 times while hitting at or near .300 with an OBP that pushes .400.
    WORST CASE: With no one else to fear in the Arizona lineup, pitchers treat Goldschmidt like he’s Barry Bonds. His rates might go through the roof, but that sort of respect keeps a ceiling on his counting stats and prevents him from hitting more than 25 homers.

  • 4
    4Clayton Kershaw
    BEST CASE: Kershaw keeps on doing his best Sandy Koufax impression, posting his third consecutive season with an ERA below 2.00. In a season with 33 starts, he reaches the 250-strikeout plateau for the first time in his career, and the Dodgers push him to 20-plus wins yet again.
    WORST CASE: Last year’s strand rate regresses to the mean, and that leads to his first ERA north of 2.00 since 2012. He also reverts to the great, but not elite, strikeout pitcher he was before last season. Yeah, even the worst-case scenario here is sterling.

  • 5
    5Giancarlo Stanton
    BEST CASE: Protective helmet or no, Stanton proves himself to be the game’s foremost slugger, belting 45 homers and driving in 120 runs. He over-taxes the home run sculpture in Miami to the point that it gives out and the dolphins are forever stuck in mid-air.
    WORST CASE: You can never be sure how a player will react after being hit in the face, and it takes Stanton a while to get comfortable in the box. He, too, is given the Bonds treatment, and that limits him to 30 home runs.

  • 6
    6Jose Abreu
    BEST CASE: Remember, had it not been for a couple minor injuries, Abreu might have pulled off the Ichiro last year, winning the AL Rookie of the Year and MVP. He doesn’t come up short this season, building on his monster rookie of the year and earning his first career MVP award while contending for the Triple Crown.
    WORST CASE: Abreu doesn’t live up to his monster rookie season, and the White Sox supposed improvements fail to give him a better supporting cast. He still brings plenty of pop, but last year’s .356 BABIP proves to be a mirage, and the regression pushes his batting average into the .280s.

  • 7
    7Miguel Cabrera
    BEST CASE: Cabrera returns to being the very best righthanded hitter in the league, rather than just being one of the three best like he was last year. That means another .300/.400/.600 season with 35 homers and 120 RBIs.
    WORST CASE: Last season was the start of a true skills decline for one of this generation’s best hitters. He’s still great, but the 30-homer power is gone, and with the entire Tigers' offense taking a step back, he fails to reach 100 RBIs or runs. He’s also forced to miss 20 games due to various injuries.

  • 8
    8Carlos Gomez
    BEST CASE: Gomez remains one of the premier power-speed combo players in the majors and is this season’s only 25-40 hitter. Thanks to his speed, his BABIP increases, and that helps push him to the first .300 season of his career.
    WORST CASE: Gomez HR/FB ratio falls again this season, and he fails to hit 20 homers for the first time since 2012. His strikeout rate ticks back up from the already-high 21.9% it was last year, and that brings his batting average down into the .260s.

  • 9
    9Anthony Rizzo
    BEST CASE: Last year was just the start, and Rizzo takes another step forward, vaulting himself into the truly elite tier of hitters. He belts 35 homers, and with a much-improved lineup around him, he drives in 100 runs for the first time in his career.
    WORST CASE: Rizzo’s struggles against lefties return, making him a black hole without the platoon advantage. The Cubs' youngsters prove they’re still at least a year away, and that means Rizzo is fighting the same battles he was last year when he had just 78 RBIs despite 32 homers.

  • 10
    10Edwin Encarnacion
    BEST CASE: Encarnacion has 112 homers over the last three season, and he continues on that pace this year. However, he stays healthy all season, and circles the bases 40 times, while the powerful Toronto lineup helps him eclipse the century mark in runs and RBIs.
    WORST CASE: The injury bug returns and forces Encarnacion to miss a significant portion of the season. He hits just .265, and while he does bring power when he’s on the field, it isn’t enough to offset his injuries and batting average.

  • 11
    11Adam Jones
    BEST CASE: Mr. Consistency keeps on rolling this year, hitting .280 with 30 homers, 90 runs and 100 RBIs. With Chris Davis, Manny Machado and Matt Wieters filling out the lineup around him, he ends up having the best year of his career.
    WORST CASE: Jones’s declining HR/FB ratio is more trend than mirage, and he fails to hit 25 homers for the first time since 2010. His teammates also don’t come all the way back this year, and that results in him falling short of 80 runs and RBIs.

  • 12
    12Jose Bautista
    BEST CASE: One of the game’s premier power hitters, Bautista again drills 35 bombs, drives in 100 runs and scores 100 of his own. One of the best eyes in baseball leads him to another OBP north of .400.
    WORST CASE: Bautista played just 92 games in 2012 and 118 in '13, and those injury problems resurface. He hit .286 with a .287 BABIP last year, and that, not surprisingly, proves unsustainable. The batting average reverts to the .250s, and injuries keep a lid on his counting stats.

  • 13
    13Anthony Rendon
    BEST CASE: Rendon picks up right where he left off in his breakout 2014 season and goes 20-20 for the first time in his career. Hitting at the top of the potent Washington lineup pushes him to the major league lead in runs.
    WORST CASE: Rendon was playing a bit over his head last season, and both his home run and stolen base totals are cut by one-third. A lower BABIP knocks his average into the .270s, and the Nationals' offense as a whole isn’t nearly as good as everyone expects it to be.

  • 14
    14Robinson Cano
    BEST CASE: Cano hasn’t hit worse than .300 since 2008, so why would he all of a sudden do so this season? He ends up leading the AL in hitting and returns to his previous 20-homer self.
    WORST CASE: Unfortunately, he can’t change his home park or the way the ball travels in Seattle, which means he just can’t hit more than 15 homers. The rest of his counting stats suffer, as well, with the Mariners falling short of expectations again in 2015.

  • 15
    15Felix Hernandez
    BEST CASE: The King remains the King, but this season he has a cavalry. Hernandez leads the AL in every meaningful stat, wins 20 games for the first time thanks to an improved offense and is crowned Cy Young for the second time in his career.
    WORST CASE: His walk rate jumps back up to his previous career totals, and that bumps his ERA back above three. Meanwhile, the supposed upgrades in Seattle fail to materialize, and he once again finishes the season with an average win-loss record.

  • 16
    16Adrian Beltre
    BEST CASE: The unbreakable Beltre can’t be stopped into his age-36 season, again challenging for the batting title while hitting 25 homers. He also produces unlimited GIF material with partner in crime Elvis Andrus.
    WORST CASE: Time waits for no one as age finally catches up to Beltre. He hits below .290 for the first time since 2010 and fails to reach the 20-homer threshold for the second straight season. The Rangers struggle again, and that keeps him below 80 runs and RBIs.

  • 17
    17Chris Sale
    BEST CASE: After missing the first week of the season, Sale makes 30 starts and has the best year of his career at age 26. He leads the AL in all pitching stats, and the White Sox are as good as advertised, which helps him win more than 20 games, as well as the Cy Young Award.
    WORST CASE: Sale’s broken foot lingers to the point that it hampers him for his first few starts, and that puts a damper on his overall numbers. The White Sox aren’t nearly as good as they looked during the offseason, keeping Sale below 15 wins for the third year in a row.

  • 18
    18Troy Tulowitzki
    BEST CASE: Tulo stays healthy for an entire season and rewards anyone willing to take a risk on him. He finishes in the top three in all Triple Crown categories and wins the NL MVP despite the Rockies finishing in last in the NL West.
    WORST CASE: Yet again, Tulo just can’t stay on the field. Injuries limit him to fewer than 100 games for the second straight season, robbing the baseball world of one of its most talented players.

  • 19
    19Ian Desmond
    BEST CASE: The only player to go 20-20 in each of the last three seasons does it for the fourth year in a row. With the guys in front of him in Washington’s lineup having a better year, he also reaches 100 RBIs for the first time in his career.
    WORST CASE: Desmond’s high strikeout rate submarines his batting average, as he fails to make it out of the .250s. He still hits for decent power, but falls short of 20 homers for the first time since 2011.

  • 20
    20Jose Altuve
    BEST CASE: Altuve doesn’t just meet last year’s numbers, but exceeds them. He proves himself one of the game’s best pure hitters and leads the AL in batting again, all while stealing 60-plus bases. Houston’s improved lineup pushes him beyond 90 runs.
    WORST CASE: Altuve crashes back down to earth, hitting in the .290s instead of last season’s .341. With fewer times on base, he doesn’t steal nearly as many bags or score as many runs, which basically makes him a glorified Elvis Andrus.

  • 21
    21Yasiel Puig
    BEST CASE: Puig takes the next step in his development at age 24, becoming a more consistent power threat. He hits a career-high 25 homers and steals 15 bases, all while keeping his batting average and OBP in the same stratosphere as his first two seasons in the league. He also continues to make baseball more fun by being himself.
    WORST CASE: Puig lost 10 percentage points of his HR/FB ratio from 2013 to '14, and that proves to be the real Puig. He falls short of 20 homers again while stealing just 10 bases. He’s still wildly fun, but that helps make him overrated in fantasy leagues.

  • 22
    22Stephen Strasburg
    BEST CASE: The batted-ball luck that killed Strasburg last year smiles on him in 2015, bringing his ERA below 2.00 for the first time in his career. He also strikes out 250 batters, wins the NL Cy Young and leads the Nationals to a 100-win season.
    WORST CASE: Strasburg loses five starts due to injury, and the walk issues that plagued him during his first two seasons rear their ugly head. All of that makes him overshadowed by teammates Max Scherzer and Jordan Zimmermann.

  • 23
    23Josh Donaldson
    BEST CASE: Moving from one of the worst hitter’s parks to one of the best agrees with Donaldson, as he sets career-highs across the board. Along with Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista, he’s part of the best 3-4-5 in all of baseball.
    WORST CASE: Donaldson’s 2014 BABIP carries over to 2015, and he hits no better than .265. The move to Toronto doesn’t take as well as it should, and he falls back to the low-20s in homers.

  • 24
    24Max Scherzer
    BEST CASE: Scherzer remains the dominant force he was with the Tigers the last three seasons, but gets the natural statistical bump from moving to the Senior Circuit. He wins his second Cy Young, becoming the sixth pitcher to do so in both leagues.
    WORST CASE: After racking up a ton of mileage over the last three seasons and turning 30 last July, the workload catches up to Scherzer. He’s still a strong fantasy pitcher, but a reduced strikeout total knocks him out of the top 10.

  • 25
    25Michael Brantley
    BEST CASE: Last year was just the start of Brantley becoming a bona fide star. His power surge proves to be legitimate, as he posts another 20-20 season, and the improved lineup around him lets him push up near 100 RBIs and runs for the second straight year. He’ll be on the short list for the AL MVP if Cleveland wins the AL Central.
    WORST CASE: Last year was nothing more than a mirage. Aided by a fluky BABIP and unsustainable HR/FB ratio, it proves to be by far the best year of his career. Brantley falls back down to the low-teens in homers while his batting average dips back into the .280s.

  • 26
    26Justin Upton
    BEST CASE: Petco is supposed to be hard on hitters? Upton would beg to differ. He belts 30 homers for the first time since 2011, drives in 100 runs and adds 10 steals to boot.
    WORST CASE: Upton falls victim to 81 games in Petco Park and hits fewer than 25 homers for the first time since 2012. The stadium also swallows would-be doubles, and he has the worst batting average of his career.

  • 27
    27Hanley Ramirez
    BEST CASE: Ramirez stays healthy and takes advantage of the Fenway Park layout. He hits 20-plus homers, surpasses the .300 mark, swipes 15 bags and has his best overall season since 2010.
    WORST CASE: Ramirez just can’t stay healthy. He plays fewer than 130 games for the third straight season and crushes the dreams of any owner who used a pick on him in one of the first three rounds.

  • 28
    28Bryce Harper
    BEST CASE: Harper stays healthy and becomes the superstar everyone has expected him to be since he broke into the majors in 2012. He’s more important to the Nationals than any of their Cy Young candidates, pushes 30 homers and .300, and contends for the NL MVP.
    WORST CASE: Harper’s reckless ways keep him off the field for a significant portion of the season yet again. When he is on the field, he strikes out just as much as he did last year, when he fanned in more than one-quarter of his plate appearances. Even though he’s just 22 years old, it becomes time to recalibrate expectations.

  • 29
    29Freddie Freeman
    BEST CASE: Freeman rides another line-drive fueled season to a .310 batting average, while getting back into the mid-20s in homers. His consistency helps him push 90 RBIs and runs.
    WORST CASE: Have you seen this Atlanta lineup? Why would anyone pitch to Freeman? Freeman is pitched around more than anyone in the majors, and that results in him having the worst counting stats season of his career.

  • 30
    30Corey Dickerson
    BEST CASE: Dickerson picks right up at last year’s per-game pace, and that means he approaches 30 homers with an everyday job in Colorado. He continues to rake at home and against righties, but also improves his performance on the road and against lefties.
    WORST CASE: Dickerson is a train wreck any time the Rockies leave Coors Field and continues to struggle against southpaws. At the same time, his rates come down at home, and he falls short of 20 homers, 70 RBIs and 70 runs.

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