2014 Outlook: Injuries, his advancing age (he'll turn 31 in June) and the perils of the turf in Toronto threaten to keep Reyes in the high-risk bin of fantasy players. That said, despite his lengthy absence in 2013 -- that a product of an awkward slide on a stolen-base attempt in April -- Reyes managed .296/.353/.427 rates and full-season paces of 17 home runs and 25 stolen bases. This is a player with substantial reward, so long as he recaptures the aggressiveness on the basepaths that he showed during the first 10 seasons of his career; much of that is tied to his confidence in the ankle he hurt last summer. Consider Reyes one of the first shortstops to target in any fantasy league, especially points-based formats, in which his high contact rate and top-of-the-lineup role carry added value.
2014 Outlook: One of these things is not like the others: 33, 32, 37, 21, 42. Have you figured it out yet? That's right, it's Andrus' career-low 21 steals of 2012, which now appear an outlier after he managed 10 baserunning WAR in 2013, best in the majors; he has the third-most baserunning WAR the past five seasons combined (24). Andrus is a speedster, though unfortunately that is all that he is, relegating him to rotisserie-league building block but one much less useful in points leagues. That said, he might score the No. 2 spot in the Texas Rangers' lineup, wedged comfortably between Shin-Soo Choo and Prince Fielder. Andrus could be a two-category rotisserie performer, adding runs scored to his steals prowess, meaning a repeat or increase in value from his 2013 is within reach.
2014 Outlook: Zobrist is a fantasy darling for a variety of reasons: Most obvious is that he qualifies at three different positions in leagues with a 20-game requirement, including the critical middle-infield spots (second base and shortstop) to go along with the outfield. But he's also a category filler with additional value in walks and on-base percentage leagues; he is the only player in baseball to have at least 75 home runs, 75 stolen bases and 400 walks in the past five seasons combined, with his annual averages tallying 18/17 with 86 walks and a .366 on-base percentage during that time. Despite his declining homer and steal numbers in 2013, he is one of the more attractive early-to-mid rounders based upon the flexibility alone.
2014 Outlook: This once-fragile shortstop has missed only seven games total the past two seasons. Still, it's best to hedge a bit on health and allow for one stint on the disabled list as you break down the numbers. Hardy's usefulness lies in above-average power for a middle infielder, while a low line-drive rate suppresses his batting average and he doesn't run. If you can make up the speed and cover his low average, Hardy is often a cheap source of power, as his injury past and lack of speed drop his market price lower than they should.
2014 Outlook: When Ramirez first came over to the States, the expectation was for considerably more speed than power, but he surprised by displaying more pop than expected while not running very much. In other words, last season was supposed to be the norm for the Cuban Missile. The thing is, it's rare that a stolen-base spike at age 32 is sustained, so the safe play is to expect pullback. On the other hand, a return to double-digit homers would not be shocking, so, at the end of the day, Ramirez is what he always has been: an extremely durable and reliable middle-infield option for those who don't draft for scarcity early on.
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: 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: The most alarming number in Lowrie's 2013 stat line is the 662 plate appearances. This was by far a career high and, in fact, only 66 fewer trips to the dish than he amassed the previous two seasons combined. That said, 15 homers was a disappointment considering he swatted 16 the previous campaign in far fewer chances. On the other hand, a drop in strikeout rate in concert with a bump in hit rate helped Lowrie set a career high in average. Lowrie enters 2014 as the Athletics' regular shortstop, but the safe play is to account for some missed time. It's also best to anticipate some regression in terms of batting average on balls in play. Even with the warnings, dual eligibility (second base and shortstop) renders Lowrie a viable candidate to man middle infield assuming you have speed elsewhere.
2014 Outlook: Villar has two skills that make him an extremely attractive late-round, category-filling target: blazing speed and a keen batting eye that fuels the walk/on-base columns. If your league values either of those categories, as most do, consider that last year he attempted a steal nearly 40 percent of the time he was on base, his rate the third-highest among players with at least 50 opportunities; he also walked 10 percent of the time in the majors, after 8.9 percent during his minor league career. In short, this is a lesser-known version of Everth Cabrera, meaning that he's an on-base percentage/steals sleeper. Note that Villar has his weaknesses: He's a mediocre defender, which somewhat threatens his playing time, and he's not as powerful as his minor league history hints. Those are the reasons he doesn't garner a Cabrera-like ranking.
2014 Outlook: Aybar's production is trending in the wrong direction, which is a little curious considering he turned just 30 in January. His already below-average power is sliding into non-existence, but more disturbing is that he's running less, and last season was only successful on 12 of his 19 attempts after averaging 24 bags the previous three seasons with an impressive 80 percent success rate. Fortunately, Aybar's excellent contact rate is still intact, so he's still an asset in batting average. Steals are fickle, since they are as much opportunity-based as skills-driven. So, giving Aybar the benefit of the doubt and looking for a return to the 20-steal range is reasonable, especially since the cost is nothing more than a late-round flier.
2014 Outlook: Escobar is quick and smart on the base paths: He has successfully stolen 29 consecutive bases (dating back to September 2012), and took the extra base 57 percent of the time, eighth-best among batting title-eligible hitters, in 2013. That's where the fantasy excitement ends, however. Escobar is a free swinger who rarely walks, resulting in a low batting average and an on-base percentage that costs him steal attempts as well as depresses his counting numbers (runs/RBIs). That he's a shortstop is perhaps his best fantasy asset; he's a mixed-league middle infielder and AL-only starter, but to be clear, this is one-Rotisserie-category chasing.
2014 Outlook: Miller is fortunate to be the better defender and stronger 2013 finisher of the Seattle Mariners' shortstop combatants than Nick Franklin; Miller sure looks like the probable victor now that Franklin has been blocked at second base by Robinson Cano. Perhaps fantasy owners would prefer to see Franklin taking aim at 20/20 numbers, but Miller is a handy AL-only or deep-mixed asset in his own right, capable of cracking double-digits in homers and steals, hitting for greater contact and walking at a similar rate to his competition. He might not have a high career ceiling, but he's well worth a look in the late rounds.
2014 Outlook: Now 39 years old and coming off the most injury-marred of his 19 big-league seasons, Jeter's downside is growing by the year, and there's a legitimate danger that his name brand will cause him to be overpriced on draft day. He played only 17 games in 2013, unable to fully recover from an ankle injury suffered during the 2012 postseason, though as spring training dawned, he appeared on track to be ready on or soon after Opening Day 2014. Jeter should occupy his usual spot in the upper third of the New York Yankees' lineup, and even at his age he's a capable enough hitter against left-handed pitchers to fuel his run total, not to mention be a handy option for daily-league owners seeking favorable matchups. AL-only owners should still squeeze middle-infield value out of him, but beware overrating him based upon his history.
2014 Outlook: Drew's injury history, coupled with his free-agent status being tied to draft-pick compensation, probably had teams hesitant to invest in him this winter, and as spring camps opened, he had yet to pick a team. He's a valuable enough hitter and defender at shortstop to warrant a starting job wherever he winds up, but as he enters his age-31 season, he's a player more likely to hand you 120 to 130 games as opposed to 150-plus, not to mention he has a widening platoon split that makes him look like more of an "onlies" or daily league player. Drew could score one advantage depending on where he winds up: He was talked about as a potential second or third baseman for some teams, and if he shifts positions, he might quickly become a dual-qualifier who has additional value come draft day.
2014 Outlook: Now 31, Escobar presumably has passed the stage of his career at which he'll develop additional power, meaning that this is what he is: a good glove man who makes contact and knows the strike zone but isn't anything special in any of the counting-number categories. As he is sure to play shortstop regularly again in 2014, he'll warrant AL-only consideration, although he's slightly more appealing in those leagues with daily transactions, due to lefty/righty splits (albeit ones that aren't extreme) that have widened the past three years.