2014 Outlook: Hey Jason, we're waiting for that breakout ... A 2007 first-rounder, and Keith Law's No. 1 prospect entering his rookie year of 2010, Heyward has yet to become that MVP-caliber talent many predicted during his minor league days. Injuries have held him back: He made two trips to the DL last season alone, and has missed 17.9 percent of Atlanta Braves games during his four-year career. Heyward's BABIPs, not to mention his steals totals, have been all over the map, meaning that those speculating on his statistical ceiling need to brace themselves for inconsistency. Still, he's 24 years old, made huge strides in terms of his contact rate last season (80.9 percent, up from 74.1 in 2012), and has averaged 22 homers and 13 steals per 162 games played thus far to illustrate his power/speed potential. Don't let Heyward slip too far in your draft, as he's plenty capable at making a run at the top 25 fantasy players overall in any future year. An aside: For category counters, be aware that the Braves plan to bat him leadoff, meaning he's more likely to have a higher runs than RBI total.
2014 Outlook: One of the most successful hitters in postseason history -- he's a .333/.445/.683 career hitter with 16 home runs in 51 such games -- Beltran signed this winter with a team everyone annually assumes is playoff-bound: The New York Yankees. But before you pencil them in again and dream up wild Beltran expectations, remember that the 2013 squad fell short and Beltran, like many of his fellow Yankees, is getting up there in years; he turns 37 in April. He's no longer the base-stealing threat he was during his prime, and his numbers from the right side of the plate have tumbled, though Yankee Stadium coupled with occasional time in the DH spot to ease some of the physical strain might help slow his aging curve. As a middle-of-the-order hitter, Beltran's numbers come season's end might not look much different than they did in 2013. But he's a player with greater odds of regression than progression in 2014.
2014 Outlook: If such a thing as a "first-half player" exists -- it's a notion that has been largely overstated during the 30-plus-year history of Rotisserie baseball -- Trumbo would top the list of candidates. Through three big-league seasons, he has hit 60 of his 95 home runs before the All-Star break, his batting average 41 points higher before (.268) than after (.227) it and his slugging percentage 107 points higher before (.517) than after (.410) it. Tuck that away if you're the lucky owner to secure his draft-day rights; ads for your Trumbo sale should run during every commercial break by mid-June. That said, he's still a remarkably powerful slugger, and one surrendering Angel Stadium for the more hitting-conducive dimensions of Chase Field, meaning a fourth consecutive season of setting new personal bests in home runs is possible. To be clear: No double coupons, and no deep Black Friday discounts. (OK, maybe we'll allow it in leagues that penalize for strikeouts or use on-base percentage.)
2014 Outlook: Don't let the constant criticism of his bloated contract dissuade you from drafting Werth, as, despite an up-and-down three seasons with the Washington Nationals, he has averaged .277/23/77 numbers with 17 stolen bases per 162 games played. His 2013 was particularly productive: He set a career high with his .318 batting average and finished the season with .339/.432/.600 second-half numbers, including 15 home runs in 65 games. Werth's speed has been in decline for a couple of years, and he has missed enough time in his Nationals career to be of concern in the injury department -- there's a reason they signed Nate McLouth as their fourth outfielder -- but he's also a solid early-to-mid round pick with upside in leagues that use on-base percentage.
2014 Outlook: Whoa! Michael Cuddyer, 2013 NL batting champion? Believe it. Now believe this: His .382 BABIP, third-highest among batting-title qualifiers, was 54 points higher than he had previously performed in his career, and 70 points higher than his career numbers in the category (.312). Yes, there's plenty of reason to call his .331 batting average fluky, though in Cuddyer's defense, Coors Field continues to prop up his numbers, and it has historically been one of the best venues in baseball for BABIP. Cuddyer looks much more the part of a .290 hitter, and his penchant for injuries over the years further builds the case for him being overrated entering 2014. Tread carefully.
2014 Outlook: Don't worry about a thing, 'cause every little thing gonna be all right. Who knew how prescient Victorino's change in walk-up music would be for the soon-to-be playoff hero. But that was then, 2014 is now and the concern with Victorino is health, as he is coming off surgery to relieve pressure in his right thumb and wrist, as well as dealing with other assorted ailments, including back woes that troubled him in the playoffs. On the field, Victorino's numbers improved markedly from 2012, which is even more impressive considering the aforementioned right-hand issues forced him to eschew hitting from the left side. Even without the injury concerns, Victorino's numbers are bound to slide a bit, but if the injury discount is sufficient, he's still a solid source of steals without sacrificing too much power.
Stephania Bell: Victorino dealt with recurrent hamstring and back issues throughout 2013, but he also had a nerve-related thumb problem that lingered into the offseason. December surgery addressed the issue and the team expects him for Opening Day.
2014 Outlook: Hamilton's 2012 and 2013 stat lines show an astonishing level of contrast: He belted 43 home runs and finished in the top five in the MVP race in the former, but his homer total declined by more than half (to 21) and his slugging percentage plummeted 145 points in the latter. Which version will we get in 2014? Somewhere in between is your best bet, although the .304-hitting version of Hamilton we saw during the first six seasons of his big league career isn't especially likely. He's a much more strikeout-prone player these days, and he's declining in terms of plate discipline, whiffing a major league-high 209 times on pitches outside the strike zone over the past two seasons. Hamilton might be more comfortable in his new digs in Year No. 2, and after playing last year at a lower weight than usual, he's back to his traditional 230 pounds entering 2014. There's bounce-back potential here, but it's probably not to his former MVP-candidate form, but to possible top-20 outfielder form. Stephania Bell: Hamilton wasted no time sustaining his first injury, a calf strain in late February which forced him onto crutches for several days. He's returned to running and could play in games the third week of March. If all goes well he can still be ready by Opening Day but this is a reminder of what the risks are with Hamilton.
2014 Outlook: Venable has had his fans in deeper fantasy leagues over the years, most of those being his NL-only owners or those with the luxury of mixing and matching him against right-handers in leagues with daily transactions. In 2013, however, he became a more complete hitter, batting .276/.309/.524 against left-handers, a substantial improvement upon the .216/.295/.287 rates he had against that side in his first five campaigns. Those earned him one key advantage as he enters 2014: The San Diego Padres are sure to treat Venable as a regular this time around, meaning more at-bats to fuel his runs/RBIs totals. He's not quite the power source his numbers hinted -- he hit 15 of his 22 homers at Petco Park, an unsustainable rate despite the team having moved the right-field fences in before last year -- but he's plenty capable of double-digit homers, 20-plus steals and runs/RBIs that will help his rotisserie owners. His low walk rate, however, keeps him in more of the mix-and-match bin in on-base percentage leagues.
2014 Outlook: After a late-2012 power surge, Moss truly broke through granted quasi-regular playing time in 2013, maintaining practically identical power rates -- adjusting for natural regression to the mean, that is -- and quietly reaching the 30-homer plateau. His was a stunning effort, considering his power-suppressing home ballpark and his wide lefty/righty platoon split (68 points better in batting average and 164 points better in slugging percentage versus right-handers). Moss returns to a similar role in 2014, presumably pairing with Nate Freiman or Alberto Callaspo at first base, but in exchange for the lost counting numbers (runs, RBIs), his ratios should stabilize as a result. That also means that he's particularly attractive in a daily league, where you can mix and match his lefty/righty matchups. Moss made enough strides making contact -- he whiffed just 23.1 percent of the time in the second half, down from 30.8 percent in the first half -- and has enough of a power-oriented approach -- he led the majors in fly-ball rate -- to make a compelling case for a repeat.
2014 Outlook: Guess who's hit the ninth-most homers in the majors over the past three seasons? At an age where his skills should be declining, Soriano's are remarkably stable. Conventional wisdom suggests it is easy to pick up cheap speed later in drafts, but Soriano is a great source of cheap power. As batting average is dropping across the league, the fact that Soriano's is consistent means it isn't as detrimental as in past seasons. However, a repeat of 18 steals is unlikely, especially considering he swiped a total of just 22 the previous four seasons combined.
2014 Outlook: Upside, thy name is Leonys Martin. Let's first look at things straight. If you overload on home runs early, Martin is an ideal complement to balance your stats, since he'll run quite a bit while not inflicting lasting damage to your average or power. Now let's have some fun. Presently, Martin carries a fly ball rate of less than 30 percent. If he can increase that to even the mid-30s without any collateral damage and make better contact, a homers total in the teens is possible. Speaking of contact, Martin's minor league numbers suggest he can lower his 21 percent strikeout rate, which should not only increase his batting average but afford more stolen base opportunities. And finally, if Martin can accomplish any of the above while also taking a few more walks, he's a candidate for the cushy 2-hole in the Texas lineup, which would get him more chances along with ramping up his production. This is not a prediction this all will happen; it's simply a suggestion it could plausibly happen.
2014 Outlook: Don't race to affix the "injury-prone" label to Granderson; recognize that his 101 missed games last season were largely the result of two unfortunate hit-by-pitch incidents, one during his very first at-bat of spring training, the other 31 plate appearances following his return from the DL. Those effectively ruined his year, but not his winter payday, as he hopped aboard the seven train to Flushing to join the New York Mets. It's the ballpark change, not Granderson's health, that warrants greater concern, as he has historically been a feast-or-famine, yank-flies-to-right slugger; that is a style perfect for Yankee Stadium's short porch, but less so with all the right-field nooks and crannies at Citi Field. His power numbers might suffer, his low batting average is a liability in Rotisserie leagues and his high strikeout rate a problem in leagues than penalize for them, but the mere prospect of a 30- even if not 40-homer campaign makes him a modest bounce-back candidate.
2014 Outlook: A free agent until the Baltimore Orioles scooped him up shortly after camps opened, Cruz is a player surrounded by many questions. Draft-pick compensation was one of the initial obstacles standing in his way of a deal, but the 50-game suspension that cost him most of last season's final two months was a more compelling one, as his critics asked how much of his power -- 135 homers the past five years combined -- might have been aided. Cruz's draft stock might be deflated due to the the performance-enhancing drug question, but that could make him a value rather than a bust candidate entering 2014. He remains a powerful hitter, one who will call another hitter-friendly park his home, so mixed leaguers shouldn't let him slip too deep into the later rounds before taking a chance.
2014 Outlook: As expected, Hunter's 2012 .389 batting average on balls in play regressed, but since he shaved more than 5 percent off his strikeout rate, he topped .300 for the second straight year. Hunter's power slipped last season, but he is 38, so cut him a break. So long as he remains in the plush two-hole in the Tigers' attack, Hunter is going to produce bountiful runs and RBIs. He's not sexy, but Hunter can stabilize an outfield on the cheap.
2014 Outlook: After a breakthrough 2012, Reddick's 2013, by comparison, was a major disappointment. His power numbers tumbled as his isolated power declined 68 points, his ground ball rate swelled by nearly six percentage points and he made hard contact at a considerably lesser rate. That said, it was revealed after the season that Reddick had played through a sprained right wrist that he suffered back in April; he required October surgery for it. He's expected to make a full recovery by spring training, but Reddick would earn more fantasy owners' faith with a month of power hitting in the Cactus League. He has rebound potential, but as a result of his spacious home ballpark, he belongs in the latter rounds of mixed leagues and the middle rounds of AL-only.
Stephania Bell: A nagging wrist problem affected Reddick's power at the plate last year. Arthroscopic surgery in October has him pain-free and swinging freely this spring, hoping for a bounce-back season.