2014 Outlook: A defensive whiz, Crawford's glove is his key to regular at-bats, and with them, the counting stats -- effectively runs scored and RBIs in this case -- NL-only owners so desperately seek with their back-end roster spots. Granted, he more than doubled his home-run output in 2013 (nine, up from four), but in five professional seasons he has averaged 7.4 per year. No matter, as this is all digging deep to find positives. Crawford is a low-average, low-walk player with few hints of improvement, though if your league rewards for defense ...
2014 Outlook: Although the Pittsburgh Pirates brought back defensive-minded Clint Barmes this winter, Mercer should begin 2014 as their starting shortstop. Simply put, Mercer can do more with the bat, and fantasy owners would much prefer him of the two, even if he receives 100 fewer at-bats. He batted .276 combined between the Double- and Triple-A levels, and .273 in his first two years in the majors, considerably better than Barmes, and he averaged 13 homers and 11 steals per 162 games played in the minors. NL-only owners should consider him a back-of-the-roster type.
2014 Outlook: Hechavarria is a budding defensive whiz who isn't much with the bat, but these days, elite defense at shortstop has value to a big league team. Besides, with his Miami Marlins again a noncontender, they can afford to let him play every day while polishing his skills. Hechavarria's weakness in fantasy is his low walk rate; couple it with his weak offensive skills, and he'll drag your batting average and on-base percentage down, meaning possible double-digit steals are all he'll provide. That's an NL-only player, simply put.
2014 Outlook: Despite several short-term opportunities over the years playing in place of injured, aging New York Yankees stars, Nunez has perfected just one skill at the big-league level in four years: stealing bases. His defense is questionable at best, resulting in a utility role that isn't a product of his versatility, but rather illustrates his team's attempts to find him a suitable long-term position. Nunez is in the mix for the starting second and/or third base jobs this spring, but he'd need to show vastly improved defense to land either, and the more likely part-timer role would lock him in as a cheap steals candidate in AL-only formats.
2014 Outlook: Plate appearances for Aviles will be hard to come by, especially if Carlos Santana makes a successful transition to third base. But since he is so versatile with both middle- and corner-infield eligibility, Aviles makes for a cagey late-round play in AL-only leagues, as he is an injury at any of three positions away from happening upon more playing time. And if he gets it, Aviles still makes excellent contact and prorates to teens power and speed if he plays regularly.
2014 Outlook: After a winter of Stephen Drew rumors, Tejada entered spring training as the favorite to be the New York Mets' starting shortstop; the team reiterated countless times its "comfort level" with him in the role. That's understandable considering his defensive contributions, but his bat is sorely lacking and teetering on the brink of being off the NL-only radar. The most compelling argument for him is as a draft consideration in that format given the chance of everyday at-bats. Tejada makes consistent contact, at least, and he did bat .289 two seasons ago in the majors and .271 during his minor league career. His is empty batting average, though.
2014 Outlook: Izturis is one of those guys who may not appear to be in line for much playing time, but his versatility always leads to a few hundred trips to the dish each season. The problem is last year with Toronto, Izturis wasn't nearly as productive in his utility role as he was for so many summers in Anaheim. Most disturbing was a paltry single pilfer in six attempts. The good news is Izturis again qualifies at second, third and short, so he adds flexibility to a deep roster and there could be an opening for some regular playing time at second if Izturis has a solid spring.
2014 Outlook: Florimon backed into full-time run with the Twins, as they had no else that could field the position. He's got some power and speed, but a terrible contact rate means he's a batting average liability. If you can buffer, or perhaps don't care about, his average, Florimon is a viable fallback if you don't want to pay the scarcity tax for the better middle infielders.
2014 Outlook: All you need to know about Oakland's confidence in Sogard to handle utility infield duties is they brought in the 36-year-old Nick Punto to shore up the bench. Sogard makes good contact and has a little speed, so he can fill a role as an endgame middle infielder.
2014 Outlook: A breakthrough campaign at Class A Stockton, including a .305/.424/.555 second-half triple-slash line, followed by a productive stint in the Arizona Fall League, has advanced Russell's timetable for arrival in the majors. He'll begin 2014 presumably in Double-A; with continued growth -- or an injury to Jed Lowrie -- he might arrive in Oakland by year's end. Russell is capable enough with the bat not to hurt you in terms of batting average or homers initially upon his arrival, but it's his speed that'll make him worth a pickup in any format once he's promoted.
2014 Outlook: Entering spring training, the Toronto Blue Jays said second base was Goins' to lose. It's an understandable strategy: Goins is a capable defender, and he batted .273 with a 7.8 percent walk rate during his minor league career, which suggests he could improve to the point that he's not a liability at the plate. Still, he has never hit more than eight home runs and only once in his five professional seasons has he stolen more than seven bases (15, in 2012), meaning he's more AL-only filler than a value selection in the format.
2014 Outlook: More defensive whiz than batsman, Iglesias nevertheless batted .303 last season, second-best among rookies with at least 250 plate appearances (Yasiel Puig led, with .319). It was fueled, however, by a .356 BABIP, 22nd-highest among the 316 players with at least that many trips to the plate, and backed by .083 isolated power, 35th-lowest among that same group, concerns for a player who rarely walks and doesn't possess blazing speed. Iglesias' glove is his path to regular at-bats, but he's a good bet for batting average regression, to the point that he's more AL-only filler than Rotisserie asset. Stephania Bell: The Tigers have announced that Iglesias could miss the entire season due to stress fractures in both shins.
2014 Outlook: A defensive whiz, Gregorius is unfortunately not much with the stick. Sure, he batted .322 in his first 38 games for the Arizona Diamondbacks, but from that point forward, he hit .202/.294/.284 in 65 contests, unable to do much with anything other than pitches left over the middle of the plate. His defense might be valuable enough to the Diamondbacks that he'll earn the starting shortstop job this spring, and he's knowledgeable enough of the strike zone -- he had a 9.2 percent walk rate in 2013 -- to not be a total liability in on-base percentage leagues. But Gregorius is effectively an NL-only late-rounder, one unlikely to take a big step forward offensively in 2014.
2014 Outlook: On one hand, Lucas can play all over the infield and last year hit lefties to the tune of an .883 OPS. On the other, he's 31 after finally making it to the majors last season. Miami's infield is still unsettled, so Lucas should get some playing time -- especially when a left-hander is on the mound. If you play in a daily league, you may want to check on his availability on travel days. If he's in the lineup against a lefty, chances are you'll have a spot to put him since he totes eligibility at first, second and third base.