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: Here's how awful Uggla's 2013 was: His .179 batting average was the lowest by any batting title qualifier in 22 seasons, and it was the sixth-worst since 1900. Even August laser eye surgery didn't help; he batted .133, had only one extra-base hit and whiffed 25 times in 60 at-bats to conclude the year. The Atlanta Braves tried to find a taker for the final two years and $26 million on his deal all winter, but having failed to do so, will presumably allow Uggla to enter spring training the favorite to start again at second base. He remains a capable power bat at a position not known for it, and a walker whose on-base percentage is more attractive in leagues that reward it, but Uggla would encourage more than those in NL-only formats with a strong spring.
2014 Outlook: In 2013, Wong parlayed .303/.369/.466 triple-slash rates and 10/20 homer/steal numbers in Triple-A into a late-season cup of coffee with the St. Louis Cardinals, but this is the season during which he'll have a legitimate opportunity to lock down a starting big league job. Don't read too much into his poor numbers in the majors; he made just 10 starts in 59 Cardinals games and never got into a groove. Mark Ellis will vie for playing time at second base, but considering the veteran is a right-handed hitter and Wong is a left-handed hitter, a straight platoon seems likely. Wong is a contact hitter with speed, and even in a limited role he'll be an NL-only asset. Still, his fantasy appeal should be greater in leagues that afford daily transactions.
2014 Outlook: LeMahieu is the favorite to capture the second base job in Colorado primarily on the strength of his glove. In addition, there are whispers that he's a candidate to lead off, which could help his stolen base total if that comes to fruition. The Rockies have other options, so LeMahieu will have to hit a little. If he looks to be a regular come opening day, he deserves a spot on an NL-only roster. Just don't bid as if he'll keep the job all season, since there's at least a possibility he won't.
2014 Outlook: Olé! After being cut by the Kansas City Royals this winter, Bonifacio latched on with the Chicago Cubs, who will use him as a utilityman, an important role considering the team's weaknesses at second and third base. He might not ever score regular at-bats with the Cubs, but should sneak in enough playing time to provide NL-only owners with a healthy number of stolen bases.
2014 Outlook: Weeks' career has fallen considerably short of the predictions made at the time he was tabbed the No. 2 pick in the 2003 amateur draft, and as a 30-year-old in 2013, both his strikeout and ground-ball rates rose and cast doubt on his future status as a full-timer. He has always drawn walks, hit for pop and contributed a handful of steals, but Scooter Gennett enters camp with greater odds of beginning the year the Milwaukee Brewers' second-base starter. Weeks is NL-only, on-base percentage league material, unless he somehow overwhelms during spring training.
2014 Outlook: A miserable 2013 cost Espinosa his job; the Washington Nationals shifted top prospect Anthony Rendon to second base as Espinosa's replacement, and as spring training opened, the team intended to have Rendon start there with Espinosa battling for a reserve role. It's conceivable Espinosa could make the team, and his power/speed combination makes him worth final-round NL-only consideration. Still, he's a free swinger who strikes out a lot -- 27.1 percent of the time in his career to date -- so be prepared to absorb a low batting average and some painful slumps, even if he somehow recaptures a regular role somewhere.
2014 Outlook: Last year, there were 453 hitters to register 100 or more plate appearances and only 14 had a lower batting average on balls in play than Barney. Fewer line drives and more fly balls resulted in a .222 mark. And considering Barney is good for only single-digit homers and steals, he needs every point in batting average he can get. A correction should be in the offing, but that won't help his meek production. At best, he's an endgame middle infield play in deep leagues.
2014 Outlook: With Emilio Bonifacio in tow and Mike Olt and Kris Bryant looming, Valbuena's days of starting at the hot corner in Wrigley Field could be numbered. Valbuena does have a little pop, as evidenced by his 17 homers in 639 big-league plate appearances the past three seasons, but it comes at the cost of a .218 average over that span. The Cubs may be forced to stick with Valbuena; you have better options.
2014 Outlook: A contact-hitting, on-base specialist, La Stella represents a low-risk fallback to Dan Uggla at second base for the Atlanta Braves, whether on Opening Day or in-season. La Stella batted .343/.422/.473 in 81 games in Double-A ball in 2013, then got on base at a .436 clip in the Arizona Fall League, his keen batting eye enhancing his chances at making a quick big-league adjustment. NL-only owners might want to tuck this name away as a late-round sleeper.
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: While Baker will miss the jet stream in The Ballpark in Arlington, his prowess versus lefties can be gamed in formats allowing daily moves, particularly if Baker platoons with Garrett Jones at first base. While Baker will be hard-pressed to repeat last season's 1.073 OPS versus lefties -- especially since Marlins Park suppresses offense -- he could be a matchup play.
2014 Outlook: A good defender with a keen batting eye, Ellis signed with the St. Louis Cardinals this winter to serve as a veteran fall-back to rookie Kolten Wong at second base. As Ellis is right-handed with a .300 batting average against left-handers from 2010-13, while Wong is left-handed, a straight platoon might be most fantasy owners' assumption. The Cardinals, however, claim they'll grant Wong every opportunity to start, meaning that Ellis' fantasy value will be reserved to NL-only roster filler and the prospect of more at-bats (and therefore counting numbers like runs and RBIs) should Wong struggle.
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.