2014 Outlook: After many years of chatter that his bat was too valuable to risk having him wear the tools of ignorance on a daily basis, Mauer finally was moved off catcher this winter: He'll be the Minnesota Twins' everyday first baseman in 2014. It took a season-shortening concussion in August to force the Twins' hand, but there are many fantasy advantages that result: Mauer should take less wear and tear at first base, increasing his chances at racking up games and plate appearances, and he'll remain catcher-eligible throughout 2014 in ESPN leagues, while accruing the larger number of PAs typical of a first baseman comparative to a catcher. That's big news for this batting-average/line-drive specialist; a .300-plus hitter, not to mention a .400-plus on-base artist, carries much more weight in those categories the more times he comes to the plate. (Incidentally, Mauer's .323 career batting average is tops among active players.) Take this to heart especially in points-based leagues; the case can be made that Mauer will pace the position in the format. But even in rotisserie leagues, he's one of the best at his "position" ... well, his eligible fantasy position of catcher.
Stephania Bell: Mauer's season ended in August due to a concussion, the result of a foul tip to his mask. He was symptom-free by October, and with the full-time move to first base this year, he should have an easier time staying in the lineup.
2014 Outlook: Ah, the possibilities. Santana enters a 2014 of change: He's catcher-eligible in fantasy leagues, but all indications are that the Cleveland Indians will move him off the position -- probably to designated hitter -- though he did dabble in some third base in winter ball. Chances are he'll be a catcher-eligible player who experiences a games played/plate appearances bump as a regular elsewhere on the diamond; such players gain an advantage because of the result on their counting numbers. Santana has made small gains in terms of making contact in each of the past two seasons, and he has always had underrated power. Might a new position help him finally reach the 30-homer plateau? It's that prospect which keeps him high in the catcher ranks, and those in leagues that reward walks or on-base percentage should be especially intrigued.
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: Perez is quickly earning himself a reputation as a risk/reward player. He has .301/.331/.451 lifetime rates and per-162-game career averages of 17 home runs and 89 RBIs, but he has also missed 117 of 370 scheduled Kansas City Royals games since making his major league debut in 2011. Perez is as adept at making contact as any player in the game, with an 11.1 percent career strikeout rate, and he has underrated pop to all fields, including nine home runs hit in his final 46 games of 2013. There's considerable upside in his bat, if you can live with his risk of injury, and his downside is somewhat lesser than his brethren thanks to his contact-hitting approach.
2014 Outlook: After three remarkably consistent seasons where Wieters smacked 22, 23 and 22 homers, most have given up hope the switch-hitting backstop takes the leap to the next level. But last season's homers came about a little differently than the previous campaigns, as his percentage of home runs per fly ball dropped, but this development occurred simultaneously to his hitting more fly balls. If Wieters can maintain the elevated fly ball rate and return to previous levels of percent of fly balls leaving the yard, he could threaten the 30-homer plateau many thought would be he his baseline when he broke in to the bigs. In a season where waiting on your catcher is a more viable strategy than usual, Wieters offers the luxury of a solid floor with a high ceiling still within arm's length.
2014 Outlook: Castro, a 25-year-old entering 2013, finally showed some power last season, and among the keys to his enjoying a breakthrough year was his narrowing a formerly wide platoon split: He batted .242/.324/.414 against his weaker side, more than doubling his OPS from a year earlier. This made him a legitimate starter candidate even in 10-team mixed leagues, and his rising walk rate made him one of the more underrated at his position in deeper as well as sabermetrically oriented leagues. Castro enters 2014 on the borderline of starters in ESPN formats, the one significant question surrounding him his history of knee problems: He missed 2011 recovering from knee surgery, had two DL stints for knee issues in 2012, and had surgery in September to remove a cyst from his right knee. All signs point to Castro being ready for the season, but understand that he's slightly riskier than some others.
2014 Outlook: After an encouraging 2013 season in a part-time capacity, Gomes graduates to supposed full-time duty behind the plate this year, now that Carlos Santana is ticketed for regular play at first base or DH. Like Santana, Gomes has considerable pop --his isolated power was .188 last season after .197 during his minor league career -- and additional at-bats will therefore only help him further fill the home run, RBI and runs scored departments. He'll be valued a No. 2 catcher in mixed leagues and is a worthy pick as that. However, he's an especially attractive bargain candidate in AL-only leagues that use two backstops.
2014 Outlook: To no one's surprise, Martin's homer total waned after he left Yankee Stadium for PNC Park, but he still hit a moderate total to go along with a handful of steals. He seems older but since he's still just 31, Martin should be able to keep hitting midteens homers with a low average for a few more years. Mixed leaguers needing just one receiver can look elsewhere, though.
2014 Outlook: Injuries to their other backstops forced the Chicago Cubs to summon Navarro last summer, and as a fill-in he enjoyed the best campaign of his 10-year career, including a ridiculously good .361/.451/.672 stat line as a right-handed batter. He parlayed that into a starting gig with the Toronto Blue Jays, where he'll join a deeper lineup to boost his runs/RBIs and enjoy one of the more favorable hitting environments in baseball. Navarro is a good enough defender to remain consistently in the lineup, and he makes enough contact to be a worthy No. 2 option in deep mixed or AL-only formats.
2014 Outlook: As a high-walk, high-strikeout and modest-power catcher, Avila is a player who has a bit more appeal in on-base percentage-oriented leagues than traditional rotisserie leagues, though even in the latter he makes a compelling case for No. 2 status. A forearm injury and a concussion limited him in 2013, but it's worth remembering that he has a 12.7 percent walk rate, .350 on-base percentage and .166 isolated power mark in his five-year MLB career. Plus, as a member of the Detroit Tigers, Avila's runs and RBIs enjoy a boost, making him a borderline No. 1 backstop in AL-only leagues.
2014 Outlook: Jaso might be a niche fantasy player, but if your league rewards his strengths, he's a sneaky little late-rounder. He's a noted walker -- he has a 15.4 percent rate and .391 on-base percentage the past two seasons combined -- and he's catcher-eligible, a viable No. 2 option in AL-only or points-based format. The Oakland Athletics also pick Jaso's spots well, starting him almost exclusively against right-handers, meaning he's more useful in leagues that afford daily transactions. He might no longer be prominent in the team's catching plans, but he still qualifies there and should accrue a fair share of time at DH in 2014.
2014 Outlook: Until J.P. Arencibia came along, Soto appeared ticketed for regular duty behind the plate for the Texas Rangers in 2014, and considering Arencibia's poor 2013 numbers, it isn't unthinkable that Soto will emerge in that role regardless. Although no longer the power source he was during his rookie year of 2008, Soto does have good pop, and his ability to mash left-handed pitching makes him a specialty fantasy player; he's a lifetime .286/.379/.489 hitter against that side. He's a viable No. 2 option in AL-only leagues, perhaps more if he emerges with the bulk of the at-bats. Stephania Bell: Soto, who had already missed time this spring as he recovered from a small surgery on his left foot, tore the lateral meniscus in his opposite knee and underwent arthroscopic surgery on March 26. The Rangers have indicated he is expected to miss approximately three months. Soto should recover fully but the demands the position places on the knees could extend the down time here (Royals catcher Salvador Perez missed three months in 2012 for a similar injury).
2014 Outlook: Pinto burst onto both the major league and prospect scene in 2013, as he slashed .309/.400/.482 between Double- and Triple-A while flashing improved enough defense that he was no longer a liability behind the dish, and in a 21-game stint for the Minnesota Twins he batted .342 with four home runs to convince the team to shift Joe Mauer to another position permanently. Still, the Twins brought in veteran tutelage in Kurt Suzuki, affording them the luxury of returning Pinto to the minors, or making him a little-used backup. Pinto would need a strong spring to capture half or more of the gig, but if he does, he's an intriguing AL-only or deep-mixed No. 2 catcher with upside.
2014 Outlook: Norris couldn't look more the part of specialty player: He's a .280/.361/.496 hitter against left-handers in his two big league seasons, .173/.271/.270 against right-handers. The Oakland Athletics, a team notorious for using platoons, will lock Norris into a similar role in 2014, picking his spots smartly and maximizing his value in AL-only leagues. Daily-league owners will squeeze the most value out of this up-and-coming backstop, but it's not entirely unthinkable he could improve enough against righties to be an in-season pickup in mixed leagues that start two catchers.
2014 Outlook: Before declaring Zunino's rookie season an out-and-out bust, consider a mulligan: He suffered a broken bone in his left hand in late July and batted .176/.256/.311 in 23 games thereafter. Granted, he struggled before the injury, too, but as catchers typically take time to fully adapt to the bigs, Zunino warrants at least your second chance. He was the No. 3 overall pick in the 2012 amateur draft, Keith Law's No. 2 catching and No. 15 overall prospect entering 2013 and was a .286/.365/.571 hitter with 24 home runs in 96 career minor league games. Always more an offensive than defensive prospect, Zunino is ticketed to start for the Seattle Mariners, and, while veteran John Buck lurks to steal at-bats, he'll get a large enough opportunity to warrant No. 2 catcher status in most leagues.