2014 Outlook: Kung Fu Panda has shed some pounds! As he enters his walk year, Sandoval spent the winter in Venezuela focusing on getting into shape, easing the San Francisco Giants' seemingly annual preseason concerns with a "svelte" Sandoval entering 2014. We hear the chatter from many players every February -- "I'm in the best shape of my career!" -- but in Sandoval's case, his offseason commitment did answer a key valuation question. Injuries have long held him back, not to mention hindered his speed (and with it, potentially his runs total), but perhaps he'll be able to improve upon his 134-game annual average. He's a handy source of batting average with a bit of pop, and a possible value on draft day should he impress in camp.
2014 Outlook: Middlebrooks' 2013 will surely be characterized as a disappointment for two specific reasons: (1) His batting average plummeted 61 points and (2) he took a seat in favor of Xander Bogaerts for substantial portions of last year's playoffs, casting some doubt upon his immediate future in Boston. When spring training camp opened, however, Middlebrooks stood alone as the Boston Red Sox's projected starting third baseman, with Bogaerts at shortstop, and that should classify him as a possible bargain pick. Middlebrooks is the type of free-swinging, decent-pop bat that has a place in rotisserie leagues, where his streakiness isn't as detrimental to a team. That said, do understand that he has limitations in points-based scoring as a result. He's a value selection if you can lock him into a corner-infield spot in the former.
2014 Outlook: Though he faced an uphill battle in his attempt to crack the Boston Red Sox's lineup last season, Bogaerts eventually succeeded: He moved off his natural shortstop position to third base, emerging in mid-August as an effective utility player, and then elevated himself to the team's hot-corner starter by the World Series. And as spring training dawned, 2013 starting shortstop Stephen Drew remained a free agent; Bogaerts appeared ticketed for regular duty there in 2014. As one of the most polished hitters in the minors -- he was Keith Law's No. 5 prospect overall entering last year -- Bogaerts could thrive in terms of batting average and on-base percentage, and, with a committed role, could also add significant runs, RBIs and a hint of pop. He's an initial third-base-eligible player who should quickly restore shortstop to his list, the dual eligibility another trait to boost his bargain-bet appeal. Don't let Bogaerts slip too far in redraft; plus, he's potentially one of the best youngsters to get in dynasty/keeper leagues.
2014 Outlook: Francisco is a handy platoon partner for a team in need of first- or third-base help, slashing .252/.312/.464 in his career against right-handers, compared to .179/.218/.221 against lefties, and the Milwaukee Brewers could have quite the use for that if Mark Reynolds and Aramis Ramirez wind up as their projected corner infielders. First base seems to be Francisco's likelier path to NL-only fantasy value, as despite the competition at the position this spring, he's the most obvious left-handed choice of the bunch. Make no mistake: As an all-power type, he's more real-game bench material than a potential future starter, so don't lock him in assuming a big boost in value.