2014 Outlook: Aoki's arrival in Kansas City was one of the more unexpected developments of the winter, and those who align his value with whom he was traded for (Will Smith) shouldn't take it as any knock on his fantasy stock. In two seasons in the States, the Japanese speedster has shown a remarkable level of consistency, his half-season numbers in terms of batting average, on-base percentage and walk rate scarcely showing any variance. Aoki is amazing at putting the bat on the ball; in 2013, he had the majors' lowest strikeout rate (5.9 percent) and second-lowest miss rate on swings (8.1 percent). That results in minimal downside, reliability in terms of his hitting ratios and enough opportunity to drive his steals and runs categories. This is the kind of value selection a mixed-league owner should seek to round out an outfield, especially those in points-based leagues.
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: After he spent years as a reserve/occasional starter, the Cubs handed Schierholtz the strong side of a platoon and he expressed his appreciation by topping 20 homers, and in general being one of the few bright spots in a dim offense. Back for a second stint in Wrigley Field, Schierholtz should again have a productive campaign, especially if you play in a format with daily changes. Last season, Schierholtz's OPS versus right-handers was .799 as opposed to .553 versus southpaws, albeit in limited chances.
2014 Outlook: Stolen bases represent one of what we frequently call "counting numbers," and regular playing time following his June trade to the New York Mets is the easiest explanation for Young's 2013 breakthrough. He attempted and succeeded on his steals at roughly the same rate he did for his entire Colorado Rockies career, and he offered little in the way of hitting help, his career highs in games (148) and plate appearances (598) almost entirely the product of the Mets' dearth of outfield talent. Investing in Young is a gamble upon his retaining his starting left-field role and staying at the top of the order, and the Mets have more candidates this year than last. Be careful not to overpay -- especially not in points-based leagues, where he has steep downside -- as he's a one-category performer with more appeal in NL-only rotisserie formats.
2014 Outlook: The Chicago White Sox's primary haul in last July's three-team Jake Peavy trade, Garcia batted .304/.327/.447 in a 42-game stint for his new squad, setting himself up for a starting role entering 2014. Those stats, however, don't grant the promise of a substantial breakthrough, even if his power should play well in U.S. Cellular Field. Garcia is a noted free-swinger, making him susceptible to slumps, which is a concern for a player fighting for at-bats in a crowded outfield. He's an intriguing, up-and-coming talent, but he's more fringe candidate in mixed leagues rather than one you should target in AL-only formats.
2014 Outlook: Talk about a comeback. Initially invited to camp on a non-guaranteed deal last season, Byrd not only cracked the New York Mets' roster, but also became their second-most valuable player plus netted them relief prospect Vic Black in a late-August trade, en route to setting personal bests in numerous offensive categories. Unfortunately, as is often the way, the Philadelphia Phillies then paid him handsomely for historical statistics, ignoring warning signs such as Byrd's .353 BABIP, 13th-highest in the majors and 28 points higher than his career mark, or his 16.4 home run/fly ball percentage, almost double his career number (9.3 percent). Fantasy sometimes imitates life, but the smarter owners forecast forward, as the Mets did a calendar year ago. That's not to say that Byrd can't repeat the effort and be a viable mixed-league asset; it's saying he's better valued as NL-only fodder.
2014 Outlook: Promoted to the majors when Albert Pujols was placed on the DL in July, Calhoun proved to be quite the spark plug for the Los Angeles Angels, tallying time in right field and at first base while enjoying better-than-average performance in terms of power, batting average, walk and contact rates. Though always considered more of a fourth outfielder than future regular, Calhoun did manage career .317/.402/.541 rates and per-162-games averages of 25 home runs and 21 stolen bases in the minors. Now he'll get a chance to display those skills every day in the majors. Overall, he's well worth a look in AL-only and deep-mixed formats.
2014 Outlook: If Joyce's skills each of the past three seasons were table legs, you could put a baseball on the table and it wouldn't roll off; they're remarkably stable. However, his batting average on balls in play is in free fall despite his consistent hit distribution since 2010. The reason is likely, somewhat ironically, the same defensive shift the Rays have deployed with great frequency. As a means to combat this, Joyce claims he has packed on 20 pounds of muscle so he can cease trying to hit through the shift but instead hit over it. Regardless, since more muscle won't mean Joyce can suddenly hit lefties, he's best utilized in daily formats where you can leverage his career .835 OPS versus righties into favorable matchups.
2014 Outlook: Markakis is coming off of the worst season of his career, as he set career lows in both home runs and batting average. While Markakis has never been known for his power prowess, 30 years old is a little young to see it evaporate so quickly. Until he demonstrates the ability to drive the ball out of the yard with a greater frequency, Markakis is basically mixed league roster filler if you need some batting average support. On the other hand, there's probably going to be a pretty steep discount in AL-only formats making the veteran an intriguing play in the hopes he regains some of his lost power.
2014 Outlook: After being on the cusp of a 20/20 campaign in 2012, Saunders frequented many sleeper and breakout lists this time last season. But even though he totaled double-digit steals and homers, 2013 was a major disappointment. Saunders enters 2014 as part of a very crowded outfield, though he has the advantage of wielding a superior glove while his mates are mostly there for their thump. By the numbers, while Saunders possesses a nice mix of power and speed, he fans too much to render it useful in mixed formats, especially with the playing time question. However, he makes for an interesting play in AL-only leagues, where his average won't inflict as much damage.
2014 Outlook:The most aggressive base stealer in baseball -- his 0.44 attempts per game the past five seasons combined was tops among anyone with at least 200 games played -- Davis might have the veneer of a one-category rotisserie performer, but he has sneaky value when utilized properly. He possesses a wide lefty-righty split, batting .297/.363/.455 against left-handers compared to .232/.269/.329 versus righties the past three seasons, and has historically fattened his steals totals against weaker-armed backstops, including his stealing seven bases in 2013 against Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who afforded the most steals of any catcher. Davis' new team, the Detroit Tigers, surely recognized this, and could regard him a left-field platoon partner for left-handed Andy Dirks (or a potential Dirks early-season fill-in), insurance at all three outfield spots and a pinch-runner. They'll use him wisely, decreasing the damage he could do to your batting average, perhaps to the point his steals will make him mixed league-worthy.
2014 Outlook: Escaping Marlins Park might have been the best thing that could have happened to Ruggiano: Twenty-four of his 31 home runs the past two seasons combined came on the road, and he had a slugging percentage 97 points higher in his road games during that time. He has a clear path to regular -- or near-regular -- playing time with the Chicago Cubs, and will call a more hitting-friendly environment his home. Still, Ruggiano's skills aren't much greater than those of a fringe big league regular, his fantasy appeal greater because of his double-digit potential in homers and steals. Speculate if you wish, but try to limit it to NL-only formats if you can.
2014 Outlook: San Francisco is hoping Morse fills its gaping hole in left field. In order to do so, he's going to need to cut down on the whiffs, as well as prove his wrist is at full strength after arthroscopic surgery in the offseason. Morse is a risky but tempting play in NL-only formats, since the cost to find out if he's 100 percent will be minimal and the power potential is there.
2014 Outlook: Struggles against lefties continue to plague Ethier to the point he's likely to end up in a platoon. The problem is that for two of the past three seasons, Ethier hasn't hit for much power versus right-handers either. A strong line drive rate continues to buoy Ethier's average, so he does have some value, but if his at-bats are reduced it's only significant in deep formats.