2014 Outlook: What is it about the Tampa Bay Rays and their facility for squeezing the best out of underpriced, defensively minded first basemen? From Carlos Pena to Casey Kotchman to now Loney, they've gotten a lot of value in the past half-decade, though they've since paid for it by locking Loney up to a three-year deal. He earned it, though you might prefer the more cautious approach to such a hefty fantasy investment, bearing in mind that Loney led the majors in line-drive rate (27.9 percent) while posting a BABIP (.326) 18 points higher than his career mark in 2013, things far more likely to regress than not in 2014. He also lacks the power most expect from a first baseman, making him more AL-only than mixed-league option in Rotisserie scoring.
2014 Outlook: After falling short of expectations in Miami, Morrison was traded during the winter to the Seattle Mariners, who will provide him with a welcome fresh start. He's locked into a crowded first base/DH/corner outfield picture, and frequent injuries on his resume only add to his playing-time risk, but at least escaping Marlins Park should increase his statistical ceiling: He hit 12 of his 17 homers the past two seasons combined on the road, and slugged 98 points higher on the road (.439, compared to .341) during that span. AL-only owners should target Morrison as a value selection late, and with a strong spring, he could crack the mixed radar.
2014 Outlook: The Texas Rangers' winter acquisition of Prince Fielder might have cast doubt upon Moreland's role, unfairly diminishing his perceived value in fantasy, as it's easy to forget that the team still has a wide-open designated hitter role and could be creative with Moreland's usage between first base and the outfield. He could yet approach regular at-bats, and he has enough power to warrant corner-infield consideration in deep mixed or AL-only leagues. Moreland's .255 BABIP shows that he could improve in terms of batting average in 2014, so regard him one of the better bargain candidates if he slips in the later rounds of those formats.
2014 Outlook: Dunn is the epitome of the "three-true-outcomes" slugger, having either walked, struck out or hit a home run in almost exactly 50 percent of his career trips to the plate, that the highest such rate of anyone in baseball history (minimum 5,000 plate appearances). As he has aged, more of those outcomes have shifted into the strikeout column, as he has the second- (2011), fourth- (2012) and 29th-highest (2013) K rates of any hitter in a single season of 450-plus PAs, all of those comprising his past three seasons. Dunn is more of a specialty player, valuable in leagues that reward walks and on-base percentage, but more of a liability in Rotisserie leagues which weight batting average. And with the Chicago White Sox sporting a new first base/DH candidate in Jose Abreu, Dunn's at-bats are at greater risk now than they were a half-decade ago.
2014 Outlook: Morales was a free agent as spring camps opened, teams hesitant to invest, knowing he would come at the cost of a draft pick. Don't take that as a knock on his fantasy value, as he would remain a clear mixed league asset should he land with a team with a wide-open first-base picture. Morales' contact rate has risen slightly the past two seasons, and in 2013, he improved by leaps and bounds as a right-handed hitter, batting .282/.353/.440 on that side. He is a lot more consistent than fantasy owners might be willing to give him credit for being, and remember, he has played the entirety of his career in parks that aren't great for power. In the right situation, he might be quite a midround value.
2014 Outlook: For the second consecutive season, Davis got off to a miserable start, posting a .505 first-half OPS after .659 in 2012, but this time, unlike in 2012, he couldn't rescue his year with a 20-homer second half. After a brief stint in Triple-A, he returned with .286/.449/.505 triple-slash numbers in his final 40 games, showing a somewhat more disciplined approach, albeit at the expense of his power. Still, that Davis spent the winter on the trade rumor mill hinted his future with the New York Mets is now cloudy, and his mighty struggles against breaking balls cap his future potential, putting him at serious batting-average risk. He's a speculative pick in NL-only and deep mixed leagues, and more so in leagues that reward walks/on-base percentage.
2014 Outlook: Reynolds, the owner of baseball's single-season strikeout record (223, in 2009) and three of the six instances of 200-K campaigns in history (also 2008, 2010), finds himself in a fight for playing time this spring, a non-roster invitee battling for the Milwaukee Brewers' first-base role. He's plenty capable of swatting 30-plus homers, and hitter-friendly Miller Park would only help his cause, but his fly-ball rate and isolated power have slipped the past two years, to the point that he might find himself in a platoon. NL-only and deep-mixed owners can take a chance on his considerable power potential, but doing so requires them to address his batting-average shortcomings. Know the risks.
2014 Outlook: While neither were that precipitous unto themselves, a drop in contact rate in tandem with a lower BABIP helped shave 41 points off Jones' 2012 batting average. The operative word is "helped," as losing 12 homers was also a major factor -- remember, home runs are hits, too. Now in Miami, Jones will continue in his familiar role as the strong side of a first base platoon, occasionally seeing time as a corner outfielder. Chalk up the 27 homers in 2012 as a fluke and expect a batting average bounce-back and homers in the teens. As usual, Jones makes for a useful back-end mixed outfielder since his dual outfield and first base eligibility helps assure you can pick up the strongest available bat in the event of an injury to an outfielder or corner infielder.
2014 Outlook: The second longest-tenured player with his current team behind only Derek Jeter, Konerko returns to one of the most cluttered first base/DH pictures he has seen in his 16 years with the Chicago White Sox. Jose Abreu's arrival threatens to cut into Konerko's playing time somewhat, but that's a decision that makes some sense, as Konerko begins 2014 at the age of 38 and riding a three-year pattern of declining OPS. Back issues might have made his career decline appear more extreme in 2013 than was reality, but even with a mild rebound, Konerko is more AL-only than mixed asset, and he has more of a look of a daily-league, play-against-lefties type, having batted .313/.398/.525 against southpaws last season.
2014 Outlook: Sometimes poor defense does have an impact upon playing time. Take the case of Duda, who has minus-41 Defensive Runs Scored in 316 career games in the field, which explains why the New York Mets so frequently bench or demote him to the minors even on the basis of a mere two-week slump. He is an American League style player, strikes out too much to ever expect consistency, and has a 31-point batting average and 66-point wOBA split that makes a straight-platoon arrangement a smart one. Duda has enough pop to help an NL-only squad, and walks enough to be of use in formats that count them, but the best way to maximize his value is to pick and choose his daily matchups wherever possible.
2014 Outlook: After a year in Japan, McGehee returns to the states on a one-year deal with the Miami Marlins, one of the few teams with a wide-open third-base job for the taking. Though his numbers plummeted in 2011-12, he managed .292-28-93 numbers in 144 games for Rakuten in 2013, including a 11.9 percent walk rate that offers the most encouragement for his bounce-back chances. NL-only owners can freely speculate with their corner-infield spot, but McGehee would need to open eyes during spring training in order to warrant greater fantasy consideration.
2014 Outlook: The Boston Red Sox have a bevy of platoon candidates on their roster, and Carp is one of the simplest to project: He is a left-handed hitter who mashes right-handers and has a hint of pop, and therefore can steal starts against righties at first base or in left field. He was a .300/.367/.537 hitter on his favorable side in 2013, and as a 27-year-old, he's in good shape for a repeat of last season's numbers. Consider Carp an AL-only late-rounder and an even more attractive plug-in in leagues that allow daily transactions.
2014 Outlook: Sanchez will be given every opportunity to reclaim his job as Pittsburgh's regular first baseman, but it would not be shocking if he fell into a platoon or time-share. Sanchez's contact remains solid but his isolated power has been trending downward. If Sanchez slips through the cracks and the cost of acquisition is low, he's a candidate to fill your corner-infield or utility spot in deep leagues.
2014 Outlook: A sizable power hitter whose career has been plagued by injuries, Blanks enters 2014 as another of the San Diego Padres' multitude of competitors for at-bats at first base and either corner outfield spot. As a feast-or-famine hitter, his high strikeout rates result in low batting averages and streaks, and his best use in fantasy is as a matchups consideration in NL-only and deep mixed leagues. Consider this: He batted .282/.373/.456 against left-handed pitchers in 2013.
2014 Outlook: A 50-game suspension delayed the start to Singleton's 2013, perhaps contributing to his disappointing .220/.340/.347 numbers in 73 games in Triple-A ball, but he looked much more the premium power prospect scouts expected when he led the Puerto Rico winter league in home runs (9). He's one of numerous candidates for the Houston Astros' wide-open first base job this spring, and even if he loses the race initially (which seems likely), the victor will almost assuredly be mere placeholder until Singleton proves he's ready. He should hit for power immediately, albeit at perhaps batting average risk with a wide platoon split, but there's much reason to term him an AL-only stash and a solid dynasty league selection.