Top 20 MLB Players Who Will Decline in 2016

Do you remember the recent glory days of the Philadelphia Phillies? The Phillies won a division title in 2007 with an NL MVP season from star shortstop Jimmy Rollins. One year later they were World Series Champions. The Phillies later briefly added star pitcher Pedro Martinez followed by Roy Halladay and ended up with five straight NL West crowns.

Heading into the 2012 season, the Phillies were expected to compete for their sixth consecutive division title, but what they didn't anticipate was the decline to the core of their team. The Phillies fell hard and the Phillies fell fast. Suddenly they were no longer one of the crown jewels of the National League, but rather a team full of old guys who could no longer compete at the level that they had become accustomed to. Not being able to foresee their decline, they weren't able to get maximize the return for players they later had to ship out. They're only now beginning to rebuild the foundation of their roster, but they're stuck with a well past him prime Ryan Howard on an immovable contract.

The tough part if you're a Phillies fan is that their drop-off was somewhat predictable. You can often anticipate a player's decline when you look at all of the factors including their past and recent performances, age, and injury history. Although you can't always tell to what extent they'll drop-off and some players decline more slowly than others or simply defy the odds, if you're paying attention you can usually see when a player has past their peak.

As we prepare for another Major League season, we've compiled a list of 20 players that you should anticipate a declining in 2016.

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20 Chris Colabello

John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

After seven years of independent ball and a cup of coffee with the Minnesota Twins, Chris Colabello found a home with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2015. He played 101 games, mostly platooning at first base with Justin Smoak before earning himself the bulk of first base starts in the postseason. Colabello finished the season slashing .321/.367/.512 with 15 home runs, 54 RBI, and 55 runs scored, but his strong play came on the back of a .411 batting average on balls in play that ranks seventh amongst players with at least at 350 plate appearances since the turn of the 20th century and the highest BABIP since 1924. We can expect that number to drop-off in 2016 and that rest of his numbers will suffer because of it.

19 Corey Dickerson

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In Corey Dickerson's first full major league season in 2014 he slashed .312/.364/.567/.931 with 24 home runs, 76 RBI and 74 runs scored in 131 games. He was limited by injuries to just 65 games in 2015, but still hit 10 home runs, drove in 31 runs, and scored 30. This offseason he was dealt to the Tampa Bay Rays in a deal for reliever Jake McGee. Dickerson won't just be leaving a hitter friendly ballpark and the thin air of Coors Field, he'll also be leaving a lineup that boasted the big bats of Carlos Gonzalez, Nolan Arenado, and until midseason in 2015, Troy Tulowitzki, for one that finished 25th in the Majors in runs scored in 2015. That transition should result in a drop-off to his play.

18 Jake McGee

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As part of the return in the Dickerson trade, relief pitcher Jake McGee is in the opposite situation. McGee had a lights-out 1.89 ERA in 2014 with 90 strikeouts over 71 1/3 innings. He was only slightly less effective in limited action in 2015 with a 2.41 ERA and 48 strikeouts across 37 1/3 innings. Now he'll be tasked with pitching in Coors Field where very few pitchers have found success on a team that's finished last in the Majors in ERA over the last two seasons. Unfortunately for McGee, a decline in his production is inevitable in 2016.

17 Ryan Madson

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Ryan Madson was terrific for the Kansas City Royals in 2015. After sitting out three full seasons with injuries, Madson returned to post a 2.13 ERA over 63 1/3 innings in a stellar Royals bullpen. He joined the Oakland Athletics as a free agent this winter and while going to a pitcher friendly ballpark could help him, he'll also be joining a team and a bullpen that's immensely inferior to the one he left. Health is also always a question mark with Madson and at 35 years of age, it's hard to tell how many quality years he has left in him. He could still be a great reliever for the Athletics, but you have to believe that his ERA will take at least a slight bump this season.

16 Pablo Sandoval

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Pablo Sandoval's first year in Boston was a disaster. He slashed .245/.292/.366/.658 with just 10 home runs, 47 RBI, and 43 runs scored in 126 games on a team that finished dead last in the AL East. So it may hard to imagine him being any worse in 2016. However, Sandoval has shown up to spring training out of shape and has stated that he has "nothing to prove" and is more worried about the team's success than his own. Neither of those two things might mean much; Sandoval has never been a great physical specimen and athletes always tout team success over their own, but he doesn't exactly sound like a guy who is motivated for a bounce back year. Even if the Red Sox as a team rebound in 2016, things could still get worse for the Kung Fu Panda.

15 Shin-Soo Choo

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After a disappointing first season in Texas in which he slashed .242/.340/.374/.714 in 2014, Shin-Soo Choo rebounded nicely in 2015 going .276/.375/.463/.838 with 22 home runs, 82 RBI, and 94 runs scored. He was especially great in the second half, slashing .343/.455/.569/1.016 with 11 home runs, 44 RBI, and 56 runs scored in 69 games after the All-Star break and can thank a .420 batting average on balls in play for his success. Choo probably isn't as bad as his first season with the Rangers suggested, but there's little chance he'll be as good in 2016 as he was in the latter half of 2015.

14 Carlos Beltran

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The Yankees had a resurgence from several veteran players in 2015, among them was Carlos Beltran. He hit 19 home runs, while driving in 67 runs and scoring 57 in 133 games. Beltran will be 39-years-old in April and it's hard to say how much he has left in the tank. He can't play the outfield very well anymore and with the addition of Aaron Hicks and top prospect Aaron Judge nearly Major League ready, Beltran is sure to lose some starts in the outfield. He'll get some playing time as a designated hitter, but with Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira on the team, the Yankees can't afford to make Beltran their full time DH. You can expect a decline in Beltran's numbers in 2016, if for no other reason than because he'll no longer be an everyday player.

13 Brian Dozier

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Brian Dozier has seen his home run totals increase in each of the last three seasons. The Minnesota Twins second baseman hit 18 home runs in 2013, 23 in 2014, and 28 in 2015. He also scored 101 runs last season while driving in 77. However, Dozier saw his walk rate decline from 2014 and struck out at a career high 21 percent rate in 2015. He also got worse as the season went on for the second straight year. Dozier's post All-Star break slash line in 2015 was .210/.280/.359 and his OPS dropped from .911 in June to .715 in July to .662 in August and .665 in September.

It's hard to say that he'll be as equally as bad over a full season in 2016, but he's definitely not as good as his 19 home runs in the first half of 2015 and 18 home runs in the first half of 2014 suggest either. So don't be surprised if his full season totals suffer and if he gets off to another hot start in 2016, expect a drop off in the second half.

12 Matt Carpenter

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Matt Carpenter headed into the 2015 season with just 25 Major League home runs on his resume in almost 1,800 plate appearances. He broke out last season with a 28 home run campaign to go along with 84 RBI and 101 runs scored. He decreased his ground ball rate while increasing his fly ball rate leading to an increase in power, but he also struck out a career high 151 times – a seven percent increase in his strikeout rate from 2014. It's difficult to see the 30-year-old Carpenter replicating his career year in 2016 and a drop-off of some sort should be expected.

11 Mark Teixeira

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Mark Teixeira joined in on the Yankees' resurgence in 2015 hitting 31 home runs and driving in 79 runs in 111 games before injuries put an early end to his season. Teixeira cut down on his strikeout rate while increasing his walk rate and had his first 30 home run campaign since 2011. However, Teixeira's 23.5 percent home run per fly ball rate was easily a career high and that number is sure to regress closer to his career 18.3 percent rate in 2016. His glove also isn't what it used to be, he will be 36 years old in April, and he hasn't played more than 123 games in a season since 2011. If he can stay healthy, Teixeira should still be able to provide some power, but don't expect another 30 home run season.

10 Todd Frazier

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Todd Frazier improved upon a 29 home run season in 2014 with 35 home runs in 2015. The reigning home run derby champion was traded from the Cincinnati Reds to the Chicago White Sox this offseason in a three team deal and while the switch from one hitter friendly ballpark to another doesn't suggest a decrease in production, Frazier's second half numbers do. He hit just 10 of his 35 home runs in 2015 after the All-Star break and sported a slash line of .220/.274/.390/.664. His .664 second half OPS represents a 258 point drop-off from the first half. So don't expect another 35 home runs this season.

9 Lorenzo Cain

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Lorenzo Cain is another guy who had a breakout season in 2015. The Royals' centerfielder was an MVP candidate with 16 home runs, 72 RBI, 101 runs scored, and 28 stolen bases while slashing .307/.361/.477/.838. Cain increased his walk rate while also decreasing his strikeout rate. His .347 batting average on balls in play was a bit high, although it was a drop-off from his .380 BABIP in 2014, but that number should still come down a bit in 2016. Cain's 2015 season seems like an anomaly, more than anything, from a guy who will be 30 years old in April and has never put up those types of numbers.

8 Yoenis Cespedes

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Over the past two seasons, Yoenis Cespedes has bounced around from the Oakland Athletics to the Boston Red Sox to the Detroit Tigers before finally finding a home with the New York Mets. He had a breakout season in 2015 with 35 home runs, 105 RBI, and 101 runs scored thanks to his midseason trade to New York. Cespedes had 17 of his home runs, 44 of his RBI, and 39 of his runs scored in just 57 games with the Mets, helping them to reach the postseason. There's little chance that he sustains such a performance over the course of a full season in New York, although a 30 home run season isn't out of the realm of possibility.

7 Nelson Cruz

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After a 40 home run season with the Baltimore Orioles in 2014, Nelson Cruz signed with the Seattle Mariners where many expected his production to drop-off in his age 35 season in a pitcher friendly ballpark. That didn't happen. Instead Cruz hit a career high 44 home runs to go along with 93 RBI and 90 runs scored while slashing .302/.369/.566/.936. His .302 batting average was his highest since 2010. Some of Cruz's success can be attributed to a batting average on balls in play of .350. That and an increased strikeout rate of 25 percent suggest Cruz's play should take a dip in 2016.

6 Alex Rodriguez

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After sitting out a year and a half serving his suspension for PED use, Alex Rodriguez returned to join the Yankees renaissance in 2015. He hit 33 home runs, with 86 RBI and 83 runs scored while carrying a .356 on-base percentage. Rodriguez seemed to fade in the second half though. He batted just .216 with a .324 on-base percentage after the All-Star break and saw his strikeout rate jump from 21 percent to 26.5 percent. It would be foolish to think that he'd produce another 30 home run season at the age of 40 and given that he's only capable of playing as a designated hitter at this point, he's likely to get more time off with the Yankees having a couple of other guys who are approaching DH only territory.

5 Albert Pujols

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Albert Pujols has been a bit of a disappointment since joining the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for the 2012 season, but he had a bit of a home run resurgence in 2015. Pujols went deep 40 times while driving in 95 runs and scoring 85. Unfortunately, his ability to hit the ball out of the park came at the expense of his ability to get on base. His .244 batting average and .307 on-base percentage were both career lows. Pujols also faded down the stretch with only 14 of his home runs coming post All-Star break. It's clear his best days are behind him and it'll show more clearly in 2016.

4 Joey Votto

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Former NL MVP Joey Votto has been a consistently good hitter for the Cincinnati Reds and in 2015 he slashed .314/.459/.541/1.000 with 29 home runs, 80 RBI, and 95 runs scored. However, at 32 years of age, Votto isn't getting any younger and the Reds are expected to be extremely bad in 2016. They've already dealt away Todd Frazier and there's a good chance they trade away Jay Bruce before the season starts. Votto will see a drop-off to his offensive numbers if for no other reason than because pitchers won't be hesitant to pitch around him in a lineup with no other offensive threats.

3 Chris Davis

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Chris Davis has been an offensive juggernaut since joining the Orioles. He hit 33 home runs in 2012 and followed that up by hit 53 long balls in 2013. Injuries and a suspension limited him to 26 home runs in 2014, but he rebounded in 2015, going deep 47 times while driving in 117 runs and scoring 100 with a slash line of .262/.361/.562/.923. However, Davis' increase in production has also come with an increase in strikeouts. He went from 169 Ks in 2012 to 199 in 2013 to 208 in 2015. He'll be 30-years-old when the 2016 season starts and we've seen numerous times in the past that when power hitters get older and their strikeout rate goes up, the power can disappear pretty quickly. Davis may have another couple of years as an offensive force left in him, but if he continues to swing and miss at an Adam Dunn like rate, his days as a 40 home run guy are likely going to be in the rearview mirror.

2 Jake Arrieta

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The reigning NL Cy Young Award winner, Jake Arrieta had a breakout campaign in 2015, going 22-6 with a ridiculous 1.77 ERA and 236 strikeouts. He was especially brilliant in the second half, sporting an ERA of just 0.75 and a .148 opponents batting average. Arrieta was pretty good in 2014 as well, so it may not be so much a case of a one year wonder, as some have suggested, as it is of a player who is finally coming into his own. Still, seasons in which a pitcher posts a sub-2.00 ERA are rare and there's not much chance of him doing it again, so at least a slight drop-off is inevitable.

1 Zack Greinke

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Zack Greinke was about as ridiculously good for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2015 as Arrieta was for the Cubs. He finished the season with a 19-3 record to go along with 200 strikeouts, while carrying a 1.66 ERA. That's an ERA that's half run lower than his previous career best set in 2009 with the Kansas City Royals. A drop-off in production would be expected under any circumstances, but Greinke will also be adjusting to a new and likely inferior team and leaving the pitcher friendly ballpark of Chavez Ravine for the less friendly, dry desert air of Chase Field. So, a decline to his numbers his pretty much guaranteed.

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