Let me start with a quick disclaimer. These picks are meant to be bold, which means they're not definitely going to happen, or even likely to happen, but there's an outside (not just-a-bit-outside, but way-outside) shot that they could come true. These players are chock-full of breakout upside potential, and these possibilities are why I want them on all my fantasy teams. Thus, with the famous words of Lloyd Christmas in mind, let's get to it.
- Corey Dickerson will be a top-five outfielder this season
Dickerson finished as the No. 13 outfielder in 2014 by Yahoo's rankings. He accomplished that with 103 fewer at-bats than anyone above him on the list, and in some cases more than 200 fewer. But this year, he's expected to see full-time at-bats. Add in 81 games at Coors Field (where all he did was hit .363/.415/.684 in 2014) and even a slight improvement against left-handed pitching, and Dickerson should easily be a top-10 outfielder in 2015. From there, it's not that big a jump to sneak into the top five – remember, Michael Brantley ended up as Yahoo's No. 2 outfielder in 2014.
- Mookie Betts will be the most valuable Red Sox player in fantasy this season
Betts has cemented his job as the starting center fielder in Boston with a torrid spring. Mookie has hit at every level of baseball, including the 52 games he spent with the Red Sox in 2014 (.291/.368/.444). He'll most likely hit leadoff for a revamped BoSox lineup, which should lead to nice steal and run totals, and he has just enough pop to make an impact in the power department as well. Of course, few question that Mookie will produce – the bigger question is whether he'll outpace the rest of Boston's lineup ('cause we know they're not rolling out any elite pitchers). With David Ortiz pushing 40, Hanley Ramirez's injury history, and Dustin Pedroia's fall from fantasy prominence, this prediction may be the least-bold of the bunch
- Adam Eaton will bat .300 with 100 runs scored and 30 steals
This is probably the boldest prediction of the bunch. Aside from the batting average, Eaton has come nowhere near these numbers in his short time in the majors. But he displayed all the skills needed to achieve these numbers in the minors, and he's in a significantly improved South Side lineup this season. If Eaton can stay healthy – which is a huge if – he'll provide fantasy owners with a massive return on a pretty small investment.
- Nelson Cruz will not be a top-50 outfielder this season
Cruz was the No. 7 outfielder in 2014 by Yahoo's ranks, and he's currently the 21st outfielder off the board on average in NFBC drafts. He'll also turn 35 in July and will play his home games in one of the least-homer-friendly parks in the league. Cruz is also coming off a career-high-tying 159 games played last season; outside of those two 159-game campaigns, he's averaged 117 games played in his other four full seasons in the majors, so it's not that bold to predict he misses time to injury and sees his production fall. But it's pretty bold to say it'll fall this far – we're talking Jay-Bruce-disaster-season distance – in 2015.
- Jake Arrieta will be a top-10 fantasy starter
Arrieta finished up as Yahoo's No. 16 starting pitcher in 2014, he tossed fewer innings that any pitcher ahead of him on the list. The Cubs should be better in 2015, which should help Arrieta gain some more wins, and the former top prospect should have the opportunity to pitch a full season's worth of innings this time. Arrieta had an outstanding 27.2 percent strikeout rate in 2014, and his 2.53 ERA was not driven by luck (2.26 FIP and 2.73 xFIP). The one stumbling block is that Arrieta's 156.2 innings in 2014 were a career high, and he'll need to clear 200 to live up to this prediction. But hey, the skills are there, so I'm willing to believe that he will indeed take that next step into the league's elite.
Jason Kipnis played in a minor league game on Wednesday and is aiming to rejoin the Indians on Thursday. Kipnis has been dealing with a sore back, but appears to be almost back (no pun intended) to full health. His 2014 season was derailed by injuries, so hopefully this will not be a lingering issue.
Victor Martinez continues to make progress in his recovery from February knee surgery. V-Mart was able to participate in his first spring training game on Sunday and has not reported any setbacks. Look for Martinez to attempt to return to game action Thursday and Friday, which could put him on track to start Opening Day.
Yankees GM Brian Cashman insinuated that Alex Rodriguez could be the everyday DH this season. Rodriguez has had a better-than-expected spring and continues to slowly creep his way back into fantasy relevance. Might not be a bad time to capitalize on the fact that everyone hates him.
Alex Cobb, one of the most volatile names in drafts over the past two weeks, may have avoided a serious injury. Cobb said recently that the pain in his arm is "pretty much gone," which is great news for anyone who had the cojones to draft him after his forearm injury was announced (or the relative misfortune of drafting him beforehand). Cobb will begin throwing again before the end of the week; while he's not out of the woods yet, there's certainly reason to believe that Cobb may return to the mound before the end of April.
Will Middlebrooks appears to be the "leader in the clubhouse" in the battle for the Padres' starting third base job. Yangervis Solarte would then be relegated to a platoon/utility role.
Anthony Rendon may not be ready for Opening Day, as an MRI revealed little progress in his injured left knee. While there's no reason to panic yet, it may be time to move Rendon down your draft boards a round or two.
Jon Lester could be on a pitch count for his Opening Day start due to a bout of arm fatigue. Pitchers often go through "dead arm" periods in spring training, so don't worry too much. But keep an eye on this situation to see if it develops into something more substantial.
Jarred Cosart is the subject of a gambling probe by MLB. Allegedly, Cosart communicated with a "gambling authority" on Twitter, which led MLB to look into the situation. Who knows what will come of this, but things could obviously end bad for Cosart if the probe yields anything.
Hyun-Jin Ryu will be shut down for two weeks after the left-hander had an MRI on his pitching shoulder. We will know more in a couple weeks, but from the way this situation has progressed, not to mention Ryu's history of shoulder problems, I'd have a hard time drafting him at this point, even at a steep discount.
The Dodgers signed Cuban infielder Hector Olivera to a massive six-year, $62.5 million deal. However, Olivera will most likely not see time in the majors until later this season at the earliest, and he reportedly does have a partial UCL tear, which may push that timeline to next season.
Lucas Duda was hit in the back by a pitch on Wednesday and removed from the game. But it appears this was just precautionary, so he should be fine moving forward.