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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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.
2014 Outlook: After missing the entire 2013 campaign with knee woes, Hart landed in the Pacific Northwest, where he should be in the mix for playing time at first base, designated hitter and, health permitting, corner outfield. Seattle is being cautious early on with Hart, waiting until the spring to see how his knee can handle the rigors of chasing flies. Not only is his playing time a question, but so is his on-field performance, considering the likely rust after missing a full season and the fact he is a free swinger. One thing, however, is certain: Even with the new dimensions, Safeco Park is not as hitter-friendly as Miller Park, so a decline in power is likely, regardless of the other factors. Dual eligibility at first and outfield helps make Hart an intriguing utility, or perhaps reserve until we get a better feel for his playing time and production.
2014 Outlook: A season-long battle with a sore left shoulder may be the reason the switch-hitting Swisher saw his numbers versus left-handed pitching plummet last season. But even so, his final line was almost the exact same as the two previous seasons, save for a drop in batting average. Swisher is reporting that he no longer feels any pain in the area, so there is reason to hope he tacks on a few more dingers to last season's total, and is again a solid three-category contributor (HR, RBI, runs). The best part is that you won't have to pay for it, as Swisher is largely ignored in favor of younger players with more upside. His dual first base and outfield eligibility also helps insure maximum output at a couple of spots where the available players are stronger than other positions.
2014 Outlook: A wrist injury effectively ruined Teixeira's 2013 campaign, limiting him to 15 games and resulting in season-ending surgery in July to repair a torn tendon sheath in his right wrist. He'll be on the road to recovery this spring, and while he's projected to be in the Opening Day lineup, chances are we won't see him at 100 percent until sometime midsummer, if not until 2015. This is a major concern for Teixeira, whose OPS was in a six-year pattern of decline anyway, and who seemed to adapt his swing to surrender batting average points in exchange for taking aim at Yankee Stadium's short right-field porch. He could return as the kind of .250-average/30-homer threat he was in 2011 and 2012, or he could be a .270/20 type who must adapt to diminished power, or a player who struggles to remain on the field for a third straight year. Teixeira is one of the riskier picks entering 2014, though his ballpark, lineup and past reputation dictate that he shouldn't slide too far in your draft.
2014 Outlook: It was one four years in the making and at a lesser level than scouts' initial projections, but Smoak experienced a mini-breakthrough in 2013 that spawns optimism about his future. He drove the ball with more authority, setting career highs with 20 homers, a .412 slugging percentage and a 46.7 percent fly-ball rate. Still, Smoak is a liability at the plate from the right side, making him a more attractive choice in daily leagues or shallow mixed formats, where he can be freely mixed and matched. If you go cheap at first base, take a chance on him late.
2014 Outlook: In 2012, Frazier sported an above-average BABIP fully supported by a high line drive rate. The question coming into 2013 would be whether he could maintain an elevated line drive rate, and the answer turned out to be no. As such, Frazier's BABIP torpedoed, bringing his batting average along with it. Some positive regression should be expected, but even so, a high strikeout rate caps his average. Frazier has the pop to clear 20 homers, so if you can cover his average, he can be a decent source of power for those waiting on a corner infielder. Just realize that he hits lower in the order, so his run production will suffer a bit.
2014 Outlook: With only 609 plate appearances the past two seasons combined, Howard is the modern day Forgotten Man. Howard's 2013 was ended prematurely in July after surgery to repair the meniscus in his left knee. Now healthy, Howard will look to regain the power stroke that made him one of the league's most productive hitters prior to rupturing his Achilles tendon. Perhaps due to dealing with knee soreness most of last season's first half, Howard hit only 11 homers, though he did swat 20 doubles to provide hope. As always, expect Howard to do the bulk of his damage versus right-handers.
2014 Outlook: Signed by the New York Yankees as a stopgap solution at either second or third base -- remember that they lost Robinson Cano to free agency and Alex Rodriguez to a season-long suspension -- Johnson is a hitter who fits the confines of Yankee Stadium. He's a left-handed pull hitter who had a 46.3 percent fly-ball rate in 2013, making him quite the attractive daily-league target. Although Johnson lacks the obvious platoon split that would lock him into such a role, the Yankees will more than likely pick and choose his games, most of them against right-handers, so understand that his fantasy potential is probably capped as AL-only or deep-mixed material.
2014 Outlook: Feel that cool breeze: In 2013, Carter set an all-time record with his 36.2 percent strikeout rate. Take that to heart before you simply apply the label "three true outcomes" slugger, because unlike typical "TTO" feast-or-famine types, Carter's downside is greater. He's susceptible to slumps and, as a member of a bad Houston Astros lineup, suffers in terms of runs and RBI potential. AL-only owners will find value in his homers and walks, and he could be a handy stop-gap option even in shallow mixed leagues, but understand that he has at least one concern for every one of his positives.
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.