In recent weeks, the Rotoworld staff has taken an in-depth look at some players whose value is on the rise headed into the 2016 season. We're breaking them down by division. The National League East, NL Central, NL West, American League East and AL Central are in the books. Finally, we finish with the AL West.
The Winter Meetings are in full swing. Keep refreshing Rotoworld's player news page for all the latest throughout the meetings and the rest of the offseason.
Carlos Correa SS, Astros
It's not a fluke that Correa's arrival coincided with the Astros' first visit to the postseason since 2005. The 21-year-old batted .279/.345/.512 with 22 home runs, 68 RBI and 14 stolen bases after his debut on June 8. Despite only logging 99 games on the season, Correa's performance was still impressive enough to take home American League Rookie of the Year honors this awards season.
And after playing almost the entire season as a 20-year-old, Correa should only continue to get better. He owns a .313 career average in the minors and stole 32 bases between Houston and the minor leagues last year, signs that his 2015 numbers could see a small uptick, and a player as naturally talented as Correa is simply going to make adjustments and keep improving as he gets more comfortable. Even if he didn't, he's a first-division fantasy shortstop without question.
Taijuan Walker SP, Mariners
It wasn't always pretty, and his final numbers weren't the eye-popping kind, but make no mistake -- Walker did a lot of things well in 2015. The 23-year-old struck out 22.2 percent of the batters he faced while walking just 5.7 percent, and his 10 percent swinging strike percentage, per Fangraphs, was slightly above the league average. By many accounts, Walker enjoyed a successful season.
But a few too many home runs and some early struggles left the right-hander with a pedestrian 4.56 ERA in 29 starts. Shrewd fantasy owners will look past that and see the promise of what Walker could be if he put it all together. He showed signs of it in 2015, and there's reason to think 2016 can be that season.
Rougned Odor 2B, Rangers
Odor underwhelmed in his 2014 debut to the point that it was hard to remember he played the entire season as a 20-year-old. So it shouldn't have come as a huge shock when, as a 21-year-old, Odor was much improved at the plate.
The extent of that improvement surely caught many by surprise, though. Odor broke out in 2015, batting .261/.316/.465 with 16 home runs and 61 RBI in 120 games. He also showed some speed, stealing six bases and legging out nine triples. Sticking with a theme, Odor should keep taking steps forward as he comes into his offensive prime. The next step will likely come in 2016.
Lance McCullers SP, Astros
In the 2012 MLB Draft, the Astros saved money by selecting Correa, not the more hyped and more expensive Byron Buxton, with the first overall pick in hopes of securing more talent in the subsequent rounds. With the 41st overall pick they did just that, selecting McCullers and giving him a $2.5 million signing bonus, over the $1.2587 million slot value assigned to the pick. The idea was that both players could be part of the next winning Astros team.
And they were. McCullers, like Correa, made his debut in 2015, and like Correa, McCullers dazzled when given the opportunity. The right-hander posted a 3.22 ERA and 129/43 K/BB ratio over 125 2/3 innings with the big club and pitched well in a postseason loss to the Royals. With a guaranteed spot in the starting rotation and another year under his belt, the 22-year-old's arrow is pointing firmly up.
Billy Burns OF, Athletics
Burns has consistently been underestimated in his baseball career, first as a 32nd-round draft pick, then as the return for a left-handed reliever and, early last season, as a fluke. But in the face of doubts about his legitimacy, Burns managed to maintain his strong numbers all season en route to a breakout campaign. The 26-year-old finished the season batting .294/.334/.392 with 26 stolen bases and 70 runs scored.
The Nationals' Minor League Player of the Year in 2013, Burns has always had speed to, uh, burn. And now he's got the opportunity to show it off. Doubting his ability to contribute hasn't worked out well yet.
Andrew Heaney SP, Angels
Most top prospects don't get traded once in their youth, but Heaney was dealt twice in a matter of a few minutes last December. The southpaw was traded from the Marlins to the Dodgers in the trade for Dee Gordon, and shortly after he was flipped to the Angels in exchange for Howie Kendrick. In his new digs, Heaney went 6-4 with a 3.49 ERA over 18 starts.
With a year to get used to his surroundings, the 24-year-old should keep finding success this year. The Angels are once again expected to field a playoff contender and they're not yet done adding this offseason, so the opportunity for double-digit wins will be there. If more of the talent that made him a top prospect comes through as well, it could be a very good year for Heaney.
Delino DeShields OF, Rangers
DeShields is a great example of the value that can be found in this week's Rule 5 Draft. The 23-year-old was the No. 8 overall pick by the Astros in the 2010 MLB Draft, but he wore out his welcome in Houston and was left exposed in last year's Rule 5 Draft.
The Rangers took a chance on his talent, and it paid off in a big way. DeShields finished the year batting .261/.344/.374 with 25 stolen bases and 83 runs scored, pushing Leonys Martin to the bench and eventually out of the organization entirely. Speed always plays in the fantasy realm, and DeShields once stole 101 bases in a minor league season. In a good situation with a good team, DeShields could run wild next year.
Jesus Montero DH, Mariners
Montero's journey has been a strange one, complete with weight issues and an unfortunate ice cream sandwich incident, but he got his once-promising career back on track this past season. Montero batted .355/.398/.569 with 18 homers and 85 RBI at Triple-A Tacoma in 2015. His time in the majors didn't go quite as well, but Montero still managed to hit five homers in 116 plate appearances.
This winter, the Mariners have already traded away two roadblocks to playing time in Mark Trumbo and Logan Morrison, so Montero appears to have a legitimate shot at garnering regular at-bats. His pedigree is worth noting, too -- Montero was formerly a top prospect who was traded for Michael Pineda, so there's no questioning his talent. Still just 26, there's time for him to put it all together after all.
C.J. Cron DH, Angels
Cron got yanked around a bit in 2015, as Angels manager Mike Scioscia never fully committed to Cron as his designated hitter. Even so, Cron mashed 16 home runs in 404 plate appearances. If he can get a full slate of at-bats, it's not hard to envision the 25-year-old cranking 25 dingers in a formidable Angels lineup.
Shawn Tolleson RP, Rangers
With Neftali Feliz gone, Tolleson grabbed hold of the Rangers' closer job and never looked back. The right-hander finished the year with 35 saves, a 2.99 ERA and 76/17 K/BB ratio over 72 1/3 innings, and while the Rangers acquired Tom Wilhelmsen to shore up their bullpen it doesn't appear that Tolleson will have much competition for the job next summer. What else is there to say?
Josh Reddick OF, Athletics
Reddick likely reached the upper limits of his potential in 2012, when he hit 32 home runs with 85 RBI and 85 runs scored, but after two down years he's back on this list as a player headed in the right direction. The 28-year-old hit 20 homers with 77 RBI, 67 runs scored and 10 steals last season, and he batted a career-best .272 with a .781 OPS to boot. He won't cost much and he contributes in multiple categories, and that's worth a look.
Ketel Marte SS, Mariners
In the question of which shortstop, Brad Miller or Chris Taylor, would be the future for the Mariners, the answer ended up being Marte. The 22-year-old was promoted at the trade deadline and went on to hit .283/.351/.402 with 25 runs scored, 17 RBI, eight steals and two homers in 57 games. What's more, he proved trustworthy enough that he batted leadoff in 54 of those 57 games. With a new manager in place and a revamped lineup Marte may not enjoy such choice conditions, but his speed and ability to do a little of everything on offense could make him fantasy relevant.
Joey Gallo OF, Rangers
Speaking of dingers, Gallo's power is the stuff of legend. His 2015 debut didn't go as planned -- Gallo finished the year batting .204/.301/.417 while striking out in an absurd 46.3 percent of his at-bats -- but he only needs to make moderately better contact for the power to play. He'll likely always be a batting average drag, but Adam Dunn still found his way onto most fantasy rosters in his prime. Gallo is a lottery ticket with a huge potential payoff.