MLB.com Columnist

Fred Zinkie

5 fantasy facts to take away from '15 season

5 fantasy facts to take away from '15 season

The 2015 regular season was one that fantasy owners will remember for a long time. A handful of sizzling starters and scorching sluggers caused league standings to fluctuate constantly, while a cavalcade of impact freshmen dominated the second-half storylines. Here are five fantasy facts that should be remembered as we begin to look forward to 2016.

1. First-round picks are riskier than they appear
Owners expect dominant performances from their No. 1 selections, but few players met that standard in 2015. In fact, just three of the initial 12 picks of most fantasy drafts rank among the 12 most productive fantasy assets. So while Clayton Kershaw, Paul Goldschmidt and Jose Altuve have maintained an elite level of production, popular first-rounders such as Andrew McCutchen, Miguel Cabrera and Jose Abreu have been more good than great. Next year, wise owners may consider immediately trading their 2016 first-round selection for two or three good players.

2. Elite basestealers have tremendous value
Fantasy owners have a tendency to chase power in the early rounds of fantasy drafts, but it may be wise to come out of every draft with an elite speedster. Only Billy Hamilton, Dee Gordon, Altuve, Charlie Blackmon, A.J. Pollock and Ben Revere have at least 30 swipes. Because only a few players produce high stolen-base totals, fantasy teams tend to be bunched in that category. Owners who surround one high-end basestealer with a few 15- to 20-steal players should be able to cruise to one of the top spot in said department.

Hamilton's stolen base in 10th

3. Aces are safer than many believe
Out of fear of a long-term injury, fantasy owners often avoid heavy investment in mound aces. However, this year's crop of elite hurlers managed to mostly meet expectations. Of the top seven starters to come off 2015 draft boards, just one -- Stephen Strasburg -- has failed to rank among the 15 most productive starters. Because a dominant hurler can have a major impact on a fantasy squad's strikeout total and ratios, aces such as Zack Greinke, Jake Arrieta and David Price should fly off the board during the initial rounds of 2016 drafts.

Arrieta earns MLB-best 21st win

4. Harper stands tall
Bryce Harper's masterful 2015 performance has made him the top hitter asset. Making his success even more remarkable is the fact that the 22-year-old has posted game-changing totals despite a less-than-great supporting cast. In fact, just one Nationals lineup piece ranks among the top 100 fantasy hitters. Can you guess who? Yunel Escobar. When making the first overall pick in 2016 drafts, owners will imagine what the ultra-talented Harper could do with a few productive sluggers by his side.

5. Goldschmidt is not the best fantasy asset on his own team
For much of the season, Goldschmidt reigned supreme as the most productive fantasy hitter. However, the first baseman has hit .283 with 10 homers and five steals across 285 plate appearances since the All-Star break. Although Goldschmidt remains a fantasy stud, he has been passed in overall 2015 production by teammate Pollock. Also a five-category asset, Pollock is hitting .317 with 19 homers, 106 runs and 37 steals across 645 plate appearances. It is hard to envision Pollock being selected before Goldschmidt in 2016 drafts, but the 27-year-old deserves to be drafted in Round 1.

Fred Zinkie is the lead fantasy baseball writer for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @FredZinkieMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.