Matt Yallof

A View From Studio 3: Sluggers under pressure in 2015

A View From Studio 3: Sluggers under pressure in 2015

The heat is on, on the street
Inside your head, on every beat
And the beat's so loud, deep inside
The pressure's high, just to stay alive
'Cause the heat is on

-- Glenn Frey, 1984

Frey sang about it three decades ago, and the lyrics still make sense today. Apply it to baseball and you could have a theme song for a number of high-profile players entering 2015.

To be clear, I'm not necessarily referring to the highest-paid players in the game, though many of them do fit that description. What follows is a list of guys who will have extra pressure to turn in All-Star seasons, or risk tarnishing their image and feeling the heat like a desert cactus in July.

Giancarlo Stanton
If anyone appears ready to handle the pressures of the largest contract in North American sports history, it's Stanton. He says the right things. He does the right things. Most important, Stanton is as good at playing baseball as anyone walking the earth.

The Marlins are praying they made the right choice by giving Stanton a deal that could be worth $325 million. No one questions his ability, but the team's future success depends on Stanton's success. He must be a stud for the club to win. Period.

But it gets more complicated than that. No one knows how Stanton will respond in the batter's box after sustaining serious facial injuries as a result of a fastball to the head last season. The list of players who were never the same after such injuries is formidable. Dickie Thon, Tony Conigliaro and Ellis Valentine come to mind.

Joey Votto
When you are owed $200 million, you're expected to play like a star. In Votto's case, the fans just wanted him to play. 2014 was a lost season for the Reds first baseman.

Votto missed 100 games and didn't play at all after July 5, as the fans were frustrated that he did not return from a quad injury. To make matters worse, Votto was a bit elusive when questioned about the length of time he spent rehabbing. He reportedly has no restrictions when Spring Training begins. Without his dominance, Cincinnati has no shot to contend in a bulked up National League Central.

Votto's rehab progress

Chris Davis
One year ago, we were marveling at Davis' remarkable 2013 campaign, in which he led the Majors with 53 homers and 138 RBIs. We thought we were watching a superstar in the making.

Two positive drug tests later, we're wondering who the real Chris Davis is. This coming season will be telling. By testing positive for Adderall, Davis' disappointing '14 season (26 home runs, .196 average) was cut short. If he starts slowly in 2015, everyone will be breathing down his neck.

Davis poised for success in 2015

Prince Fielder
The Rangers need a bounce-back season. They have no prayer without Prince performing like the star his was in his 20s.

Until 2014, Fielder was the modern day Cal Ripken Jr., playing nearly every day. You couldn't get him out of the lineup. After a two-year stint in Detroit, Fielder and his $200 million contract were shipped to Texas in a blockbuster deal.

But after just 42 games, Fielder was done for the year with a herniated disk in his neck. Cervical fusion surgery and questions about his future followed. With Fielder's superstar status threatened, the Arlington heat won't be the only thing to make him sweat this summer.

Pablo Sandoval
When you choose to give up on a dynasty and your cult following, you'd better come out the gates like a man -- or bear -- possessed. The Panda felt that moving his career to Boston was the right choice for himself and his family. Fine. Be warned: goodwill generated by the Bay carries no weight in Beantown.

The Red Sox's attempt to go worst to first for the second time in three seasons is predicated, in large part, on Sandoval's success. If he starts slowly, the critics will question his decision to leave San Francisco, but they'll get on Boston's brass for its new blueprint for success that features Sandoval as a centerpiece.

Matt Yallof is the co-host of The Rundown on MLB Network from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. ET. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.