2014 Outlook: For a little more than a calendar year in the big leagues -- three-plus as a professional -- Machado appeared a youngster with limitless upside; entering last September, he had batted .297/.328/.465 with 46 doubles as a 20-to21-year-old major leaguer (he turned 21 last July 6). Even more remarkably, he appeared in every one of his first 212 scheduled Baltimore Orioles games (playoffs included) through last Sept. 22, sitting only six innings total during that time. Unfortunately, a nasty knee injury on Sept. 23 ended his year prematurely, requiring an Oct. 14 surgery to repair the medial patellofemoral ligament in his left knee and setting a projected six-month rehabilitation timetable that would have placed his return around mid-April. All indications during Machado's winter rehab, however, were glowing, and many hints were dropped that he'd beat that projection and make the Opening Day lineup. His health bears watching during spring training, and a somewhat conservative approach -- in redraft leagues, that is, as his dynasty-league potential remains massive -- to his draft-day stock and early-season expectations is warranted. But considering Machado has already tasted success over an extended big league period, and should only regain strength as the year progresses, he's a possible value due to the injury question. He's a mid-rounder in mixed leagues, and one well worth an in-season trade inquiry if you don't land him on draft day. Stephania Bell: Machado expects offseason's knee surgery to pay off in the long term, even if it delays his 2014 start. Whether it's April or May, he expects to start strong.
Addendum (3/12): Machado continues to exceed expectations. He has added running to first base and his confidence landing on the bag has him closer to game play. The next visit with his surgeon could result in full clearance which will then help determine how far he remains from a return to the lineup.
2014 Outlook: Prado got off to a sluggish start for his new team, the Arizona Diamondbacks, last season, but come the second half of the year, he looked much closer to his old self. He batted .324/.374/.490 after the All-Star break, en route to a career-low 8 percent strikeout rate, and he logged enough time at three defensive positions -- second base, third base and the outfield -- to carry valuable flexibility into 2014 in fantasy leagues. In defense of Prado's up-and-down year, it was his first in any other organization than the Atlanta Braves in a decade of pro experience, and adapting to the change might have contributed. He's not at a stage of his career where a significant step forward should be expected, but he's a reliable, versatile mid-round bet in any fantasy format.
2014 Outlook: Adams' bat packs a wallop: His 17.4 at-bats-per-home-run rate was 16th-best among players with at least 300 trips to the plate last season. He also showed the St. Louis Cardinals his capabilities as a regular at a critical time, batting .283 with nine home runs and a .500 slugging percentage from Sept. 4 onward (playoffs included), that marking the date Allen Craig sprained his left foot, an injury that limited him to only one start at first base the remainder of the year. Now here's the problem: A winter's respite has presumably healed Craig's foot, casting Adams' playing time somewhat in doubt, though there's little question that he's deserving of regular use. The Cardinals can slot Craig at an outfield corner, but will they, knowing his propensity for injury? It's that question which depresses Adams' draft stock, though as a potential 30-homer power source, albeit one with some batting average risk, he's an intriguing mid-rounder in any format.
2014 Outlook: McCann is one of the game's more consistent power sources; he is one of only 11 players to have hit at least 20 home runs in each of the past six seasons, and the only one to have hit between 20-25 in each, and keep in mind that he scaled the 20-homer plateau in 2013 despite missing the first month recovering from shoulder surgery. His odds, however, of exceeding that group increased once he put on the pinstripes, as his pull-power swing is perfectly crafted for Yankee Stadium's short porch. A player whose injury risk has seemingly increased while his batting-average potential has slipped in recent seasons, McCann might be destined for his best year yet. He's a mixed-league starter regardless of format, and as a player with a 9.5 percent career walk rate, he's especially intriguing in leagues that weight on-base percentage.
2014 Outlook: It can be assumed that since Boston signed Napoli to a two-year contract, they are satisfied with the state of his degenerative hip. Now the chief concern is whether he shaved during the offseason. Of all the facial adornments seen during the team's run to the World Series title, Napoli's was the one getting dangerously close to interfering with his batting stance. Napoli is an extremely difficult read, as not only are his skills all over the place, but they've been influenced by luck, which makes it even harder to baseline. The biggest outlier is 2011's huge drop in strikeout rate. The safe play is to expect a ton of whiffs as has been the case the past two campaigns. Though the level fluctuates, it's safe to say Napoli has above-average power, though a dropping fly ball rate is noteworthy. The best course of action is to draft Napoli if you need power and cross your fingers his batting average doesn't hurt you.
2014 Outlook: It was basically the perfect storm for Murphy, as everything went right in 2013. More fly balls in tandem with a modest increase in percentage of homers per fly ball, and Murphy's 13 home runs bested his combined total of the previous two campaigns. After swiping 10 of 12 bags in 2012, Murphy parlayed that excellent conversion rate into a career high 23 in 2013. Something to keep in mind is that last year Murphy was another year removed from a couple of serious injuries while covering second, so not only was he healthier, he was likely more confident as well. Repeating last season will be tough, but another double-digit total in both homers and steals is well within his grasp.
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: After hitting 23 homers after the All-Star break in 2012, much was expected from Headley last season. Upon closer inspection, the switch hitter pulled the majority of those homers right down both lines, so a repeat was optimistic, especially if Headley did not reverse his trend of hitting fewer fly balls. As it turns out, Headley continued to hit an abundance of grounders, which capped his power. Clouding our projection is the fact that Headley played the bulk of the season with a torn meniscus, which is now healed. It's a bit of a leap of faith, but with a healthy knee, Headley should loft more homers as well as return to double-digit steals.
2014 Outlook: Both the San Francisco Giants' conservative approach to his role and his lefty-power-suppressing home ballpark have caused Belt to fall beneath the radar in many fantasy leagues his first three seasons, though he showed many signs of growth in 2013 that could portend greater things ahead. Besides setting career highs in many offensive categories -- hits, doubles, home runs, batting average and slugging percentage, to name a few -- he finished the year with impressive .326/.390/.525 triple-slash rates and a lowered 19.8 percent strikeout rate in 61 games after the All-Star break. The Giants finally made Belt a lineup fixture, only benching him against the toughest lefties or when Buster Posey needed a breather from playing catcher. Belt is still 25 years old and could develop more power with experience, making him one of the more intriguing first-base bargains once the big boys are off the board.
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: After consecutive, successful big-league debut seasons by Cuban imports Yoenis Cespedes (2012) and Yasiel Puig (2013), it's understandable that fantasy owners are giddy over the prospects of a third in a row, this one by Abreu. He's the ultimate unknown commodity entering 2014: Scouts have suggested a range as wide as his being a low-average, big-power type like Pedro Alvarez; a higher-average, modest-power type like Cespedes; or perhaps as little as a fringe big-league regular. A 2011 league MVP in Cuba, Abreu excelled at filling two specific categories: Home runs and times hit by pitch, the latter a direct result of his close-to-the-plate batting stance. (Hey, at least the latter fuels on-base percentage.) He'll presumably be the White Sox's starting first baseman, in a ballpark that plays beautifully for power. Abreu might be wildly streaky and a feast-or-famine type initially, but he's well worth your mid-round consideration.
2014 Outlook: Let's emphasize from the beginning that Martinez will open the season with designated hitter/utility eligibility, as his days behind the dish are history. There's a good chance he picks up in-season eligibility at first base. It took a little while for Martinez to shake the rust off from missing the entire 2012 season, but by season's end it was the same old story: a high average with a smattering of power and decent run production. That said, Martinez's post-break .361 average was fueled by a .371 BABIP that is sure to regress. But since his contact skills are as strong as ever, Martinez should continue to be a run-producing cog in a still-potent Tigers attack.
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: Lind is daily-league gold: He is an effective All-Star against right-handers, having batted .288/.351/.520 against them over the past five seasons, but against left-handers he often sits, due to .213/.253/.337 rates against them during the same time span. It is that wide split which casts him deeper down the mixed-league rotisserie rankings, labeling him more "specialty player," though among that group, few are his equal. Now 30 years old, Lind has probably reached the extent of his growth potential; the only compelling case to make for him taking another step now is that he's a free agent at year's end. Still, he's worth a mid- to late-round selection even in mixed formats.