Nick Castellanos, 3B - DET
For some time, Castellanos has been the heir apparent at third base for Detroit. In 2014, the Tigers handed him the reins, and the 22-year-old responded with a good-not-great campaign, hitting .259/.306/.394 with 11 homers. His 700 OPS was below-average, but not by much, and while his plate discipline was lacking it was still an encouraging showing from the rookie.
Players often take a big step forward from Year 1 to Year 2, so many wondered whether Castellanos -- now more comfortable with the big-league environment after a rapid rise through the minors -- might have a breakout season in store.
Castellanos had a quiet spring and went 0-for-7 in his first two games of the regular season, but has since come to life, batting .318 with a 900 OPS in his past 13 games. He has also already drawn seven walks, which may not seem like a big deal until you consider that he didn't reach that number until May 25th last year.
The young third baseman has always been fairly strikeout-prone, but if he can cut down a little bit (his K-rate was ninth-highest in the American League last year) while adding a few more walks, he should be able to take a big step forward at the plate. Early signs are promising in that regard.
His offensive profile is more well rounded than specialized, so don't expect huge home run or steal totals, but hitting in this potent Detroit lineup -- even toward the bottom -- should provide Castellanos with plenty of opportunity to produce. He may end up being the best third baseman in the AL Central.
Carl Crawford, OF - LAD
Crawford is no longer the player he was in his mid-20s, when he would steal 50-60 bases per year with plenty of power sprinkled in, but at 33 he's still capable of producing in fantasy categories. The only question now, as it has been in recent years, is whether he can stay on the field.
Since his last full season with the Rays in 2010, Crawford has averaged fewer than 100 games per year, battling an assortment of frustrating and sometimes very rare injuries.
The good news is that, through it all, Crawford has remained productive at the plate, batting .277/.315/.418 over the past four years while fighting through health issues in Boston and Los Angeles. In 2014, despite being limited to just 105 games as a 32-year-old, he still batted .300 with eight homers and 23 steals.
If you extrapolate that production from the 370 plate appearances he had over, say, 500 plate appearances (a reasonable total even with a few injury stints), he'd be at 11 home runs and 31 steals. Certainly worthwhile numbers, especially in deeper fantasy leagues.
Obviously, we have no way of knowing whether Crawford will be able to stay healthy enough to reach those totals. Already, there have been some minor incidents -- a shin bruise in early spring training, a stiff ankle after jamming his foot on a base last week, and most recently a bout with the flu -- but none of his more serious, long-term ailments appear to be in play. And when he's been in the lineup, Crawford has typically been batting near the top (No. 2) or in the middle (No. 5/6), putting him in good position to provide in the runs/RBI categories.
He's aging and his health will always be a concern, but Crawford still has something left in the tank and should be able to reach double digits in homers and steals as long as he can stay on the field.