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: Kendrick was on pace for a career-best season, sporting a .310 batting average with 11 homers and six steals at the All-Star break. Then, a series of injuries -- including a hyperextended knee that forced him to the disabled list for over a month -- interrupted his fine campaign. Kendrick hit only .262 after the break, with a scant two more homers and nary a stolen base. He enters 2014 healthy, thus can again be counted on for his usual batting average between .280 and .300 with double-digit homers and steals. Fear of more injuries and lack of significant upside render Kendrick best slotted at middle infield, but his consistency when on the diamond helps balance risks incurred elsewhere.
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: Rendon was recalled for good in early June, and he held his own after transitioning to second base. His strong suit is smacking line drives all over the yard, which should help support a useful batting average. The problem from both a fantasy and real-life perspective is that Rendon possesses below-average power and almost no speed while former second baseman Danny Espinosa has some pop and can run, and would love to get his old gig back. Espinosa is going to have to beat out Rendon, just be aware that Rendon's job as the regular second baseman is not set in stone.
2014 Outlook: The St. Louis Cardinals absorbed a fair share of criticism for signing Peralta to a long-term deal after he had succumbed to a 50-game, late-season suspension for PEDs in 2013. But upon closer inspection, their decision was understandable. The veteran shortstop showed no loss of skills following his return -- granted, it was a minuscule 13-game sample mostly accrued during the playoffs -- and over the past five seasons he has averaged a respectable .267/14/74. Peralta belongs in the middle-infield class of NL-only and deep mixed leagues, although at 31 years old, he's not especially likely to repeat his career-high .303 batting average (fueled by a .372 BABIP).
2014 Outlook: Signed by the New York Yankees as a stopgap solution at either second or third base -- remember that they lost Robinson Cano to free agency and Alex Rodriguez to a season-long suspension -- Johnson is a hitter who fits the confines of Yankee Stadium. He's a left-handed pull hitter who had a 46.3 percent fly-ball rate in 2013, making him quite the attractive daily-league target. Although Johnson lacks the obvious platoon split that would lock him into such a role, the Yankees will more than likely pick and choose his games, most of them against right-handers, so understand that his fantasy potential is probably capped as AL-only or deep-mixed material.
2014 Outlook: Those playing in daily formats take note, from the "How Can That Be" Department: despite being a switch-hitter, since 2011 Walker has smacked 41 of his 42 homers swinging from the left side of the dish. If afforded the luxury -- and the Pirates don't simply do it for you -- Walker should be reserved when a southpaw is slated to start. For the rest, don't put that much into last season's batting average dip. Walker hit into some bad luck, as he hit his usual above-average number of line drives only to be snakebit with his hit rate. Injuries and last season's average slide have pushed Walker off the radar. Mixed leaguers can let him slide while those in deeper formats can look to add a little middle infield pop without hurting their average.
2014 Outlook: Cozart followed up his rookie campaign with more of the same: poor on-base skills, mediocre power and no speed. His skill set is stable, which leads means he's reliable, but on the flip side, there's no discernible upside. In fact, his value is reliant upon continuing to hit at the top of the Reds' order, and a new manager may think twice before inserting a player with a sub-.290 on base percentage in the two-hole. Mixed leaguers can do better elsewhere but despite his shortcomings, Cozart does accrue a fair number of counting stats for those playing in deep formats.
2014 Outlook: A contact-hitting, hit-for-average type, Infante could be a handy plug-in as a mixed-league middle infielder and as a stable mid-roster type in AL-only formats. Last year, he rode career bests in terms of his strikeout (9.2 percent) and contact rates (90.3 percent) into a long-term deal with the Kansas City Royals, who have every intention of playing him regularly at second base and perhaps batting him in the lineup's No. 2 spot. Infante's limited pop might not play as well at Kauffman Stadium as Comerica Park -- he primarily has pull power -- so make sure you're picking him as batting average/on-base percentage support rather than something more.
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: A power/speed prospect, Franklin got off to a hot start for the Seattle Mariners following his May recall but struggled late in the year, batting .172/.274/.264 with a 30.6 percent strikeout rate in 48 games from Aug. 1 forward. As his defense was also mediocre, the Mariners understandably blocked him at second base by signing Robinson Cano this winter, relegating Franklin to either trade bait or a lesser-used utility role. At-bats are critical to this counting-numbers type -- homers, steals and walks are his strengths -- so consider him only AL-only middle infield fodder, and a possible value in on-base percentage leagues, until his 2014 role is known.
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: Like a fine wine, Scutaro just keeps getting better with time, having set a personal best in terms of his contract rate in four consecutive seasons. This makes him an extremely valuable asset to owners seeking some stability in terms of batting average and/or on-base percentage in the late rounds; he has minimal downside and plays the tough-to-fill middle-infield spot. Now 38, Scutaro might have a few more seasons in him, although his 2013 campaign showed that he's slightly more of an injury risk than he was at a younger age. Stephania Bell: He must feel like it's deja vu. Last year was injury-laden and now it appears a back issue will keep Scutaro from starting the season on time. It's never the way you want to begin and often a sign of things to come.
2014 Outlook: A lack of viable alternatives plants Gordon in the de facto fallback role should Alexander Guerrero fail to quickly adapt to the U.S. game. The Los Angeles Dodgers dabbled in turning Gordon into a utilityman this winter, so there's a good chance he might make the team and receive enough playing time to fuel his stolen-base numbers. That is his road to fantasy success, as Gordon doesn't walk enough, lacks the power and isn't a good enough defender to develop into much more. He's NL-only roster filler on the strength of his speed, plain and simple.
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.