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.
2014 Outlook: Professional baseball's only 30/30 man last season, and an individual who hit the fifth-most home runs (37) among pros en route to coming within three homers of becoming the minors' first 40/40 man in at least 50 years, Springer is one of the most tantalizing fantasy baseball prospects thanks to his elite combination of power and speed. Those abilities should fuel his fantasy value once he reaches the majors, though as a high-strikeout hitter (26.5 percent career rate in the minors), he might be susceptible to streaks and an overall low batting average initially, as he adjusts. Springer can draw a walk, however, with a 12.2 percent pro rate, so he'll be a more attractive stash in leagues that reward those or on-base percentage. He'll come to Houston Astros camp with a chance at a starting job, though as he's not currently on the 40-man roster, he's much more likely to be one of 2014's most attractive midseason call-ups.
2014 Outlook: For the first time in his career, Parra was a regular, which on the surface should be a good thing, until you realize all the extra plate appearances came against lefties. Parra had 463 plate appearances against right-handers, hitting .297 with 10 homers. This was basically what he did the previous two seasons while in a platoon. In 200 plate appearances facing lefties, Parra hit an anemic .198 with zero homers. You'd have been better off with the higher average and fewer runs and RBIs. Because he plays such great defense, Parra is perfect for simulation games where you can set a lineup versus lefties and righties. In traditional fantasy, he's just an emergency fill-in for mixed leagues.
2014 Outlook: Arcia's bat packs some punch, and he's a dead-red fastball hitter, making him an interesting sleeper if he lingers out there long enough in deep mixed or AL-only drafts. He averaged 25.1 at-bats per home run during his 2013 stint with the Minnesota Twins, and has averaged 24.6 per during his pro career; bear in mind those averages are better than what teammate and fellow power hitter Josh Willingham produced in 2013 (one per 27.8). Arcia also batted .311 and hit 12 of his 16 homers off fastballs, further establishing his matchups candidacy. He's a player in adjustment -- he barely touched breaking stuff as a rookie and he had a 48-point wOBA split tilting in favor of right-handers -- but also one with a high ceiling, not just long term but also for 2014.
2014 Outlook: One of the top prospects in baseball, and arguably one of the safer rookie candidates thanks to his high-average potential, Taveras' chances at a regular gig with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2014 have taken a hit in the past calendar year. Though he showed continued minor-league mastery in Triple-A in 2013, batting .306/.341/.462, a high ankle injury limited him to just 46 games and led to eventual surgery. In addition, the Cardinals added Peter Bourjos this winter, giving them three viable starters to choose from between center and right field and affording them patience with Taveras. Taveras will presumably begin the year in Triple-A, making him more in-season pickup than immediate fantasy asset, but he'll be an NL-only stash and a top dynasty-league prospect nevertheless. And as he should hit for a good average with some power immediately, he'll warrant an instant pickup in all formats once he arrives.