2014 Outlook: Desmond is riding back-to-back 20/20 seasons, a rare feat for a shortstop, illustrated best by the fact that only three shortstops in history -- Hanley Ramirez (4), Jimmy Rollins (4) and Alex Rodriguez (3) -- have had more in their careers. Always a capable base stealer, Desmond picked up the power pace in 2012, utilizing a more aggressive approach in which he improved by leaps and bounds covering the inner third of the plate. He's a bit more strikeout-prone than a points-league owner might prefer, but preferences should be cast aside for a player aged 28 with his recent track record of success. This is an early-round pick, well worth building around in any format.
2014 Outlook: Though Zimmerman's 2012-13 shows a much more consistent .280/25/85 performer than fantasy owners tend to give him credit for, his critics do raise important points. Injuries have long been an issue -- he averaged 133 games during the past six seasons -- his eroding defense at third base lends legitimacy to chatter that the Washington Nationals might eventually shift him across the diamond to first base and both his strikeout and swing-and-miss rates have risen in back-to-back seasons. For 2014, however, Zimmerman retains his third-base eligibility -- and he'll probably keep it at least through 2015, too -- meaning that, once again, he should settle in as a top-10 mixed-league third baseman and top-75 overall player. At this stage of his career, however, any upside from that status might be gone.
2014 Outlook: A career-worst strikeout rate in tandem with his lowest-ever batting average on balls in play harpooned Cabrera's usually consistent batting average downward 30 points, though it should be noted he hit into some bad luck, as his line drive rate was identical to 2012. His home runs per fly ball dropped for a second straight season, though an influx of fly balls helped maintain a teens home run total. It seems like he's older, but at just 28 years of age, chances are 2013 was just a down year for Cabrera, especially since he had to fight through assorted back, wrist and leg woes. The 25 bombs Cabrera smacked in 2011 are a distant memory, but a total in the mid-to-high teens is plausible, as are double-digit steals. If you don't chase scarcity, Cabrera is a nice consolation prize.
2014 Outlook: Rendon was recalled for good in early June, and he held his own after transitioning to second base. His strong suit is smacking line drives all over the yard, which should help support a useful batting average. The problem from both a fantasy and real-life perspective is that Rendon possesses below-average power and almost no speed while former second baseman Danny Espinosa has some pop and can run, and would love to get his old gig back. Espinosa is going to have to beat out Rendon, just be aware that Rendon's job as the regular second baseman is not set in stone.
2014 Outlook: Since arriving in Washington, LaRoche has had a career year sandwiched between a pair of clunkers. Offseason surgery to clean loose bodies from his left elbow may be at least in part related to LaRoche having his home run per fly ball rate drop to one of its lowest levels of his career. LaRoche's contact rate didn't suffer, so assuming his power drop was induced by his elbow woes, there's a good chance of a bounce-back. The best part is it won't cost very much on draft day to test this theory.
2014 Outlook: A miserable 2013 cost Espinosa his job; the Washington Nationals shifted top prospect Anthony Rendon to second base as Espinosa's replacement, and as spring training opened, the team intended to have Rendon start there with Espinosa battling for a reserve role. It's conceivable Espinosa could make the team, and his power/speed combination makes him worth final-round NL-only consideration. Still, he's a free swinger who strikes out a lot -- 27.1 percent of the time in his career to date -- so be prepared to absorb a low batting average and some painful slumps, even if he somehow recaptures a regular role somewhere.
2014 Outlook: Frandsen is a contact-hitting utility man capable of playing first, second or third base, and he's right-handed, which is an advantage if you consider that the Philadelphia Phillies' starters at those three positions are all left-handed. A lifetime .289/.343/.435 hitter against southpaws, Frandsen could be a handy plug-in for NL-only owners in daily leagues; he is more of a filler in weekly NL-only formats.