2014 Outlook: One of the most complete Rotisserie performers in baseball -- he has a .301 career batting average and has averaged 26 home runs, 103 RBIs, 22 stolen bases and 101 runs scored per 162 games played -- Wright has but one limitation preventing a run at the very top tier of fantasy studs: His injury history. He has made three trips to the DL in the past five seasons, missing 17 percent of his New York Mets' scheduled games during that time span, making the question valid. Wright's power is also slightly capped as a result of his spacious home ballpark -- that's despite the 2011 fence adjustments -- which keeps him a hair behind more proven third base-eligibles like Miguel Cabrera or Adrian Beltre. But back to that word, "hair": Aren't we splitting them when we're using comparisons to two top-20 overall players to discount Wright?
2014 Outlook: Though Zimmerman's 2012-13 shows a much more consistent .280/25/85 performer than fantasy owners tend to give him credit for, his critics do raise important points. Injuries have long been an issue -- he averaged 133 games during the past six seasons -- his eroding defense at third base lends legitimacy to chatter that the Washington Nationals might eventually shift him across the diamond to first base and both his strikeout and swing-and-miss rates have risen in back-to-back seasons. For 2014, however, Zimmerman retains his third-base eligibility -- and he'll probably keep it at least through 2015, too -- meaning that, once again, he should settle in as a top-10 mixed-league third baseman and top-75 overall player. At this stage of his career, however, any upside from that status might be gone.
2014 Outlook: A patient, line-drive hitter with one of the most keen batting eyes in baseball, Carpenter became a fantasy dynamo during a breakout 2013 campaign, finishing third on the Player Rater at his field position (second base) and 34th overall, while also earning high ratings at the three spots at which he carried over qualification from 2012: First base, third base and the outfield. Carpenter remains a dual-qualifying threat in 2014; he retains both second and third base eligibility, but will transition to third base full-time for the St. Louis Cardinals. He's plenty capable of a repeat -- or a season within range of his 2013 -- the primary statistical doubts whether his .359 BABIP might regress, lowering his batting average, or his 126 runs scored, the third-most by any player since 2008, might decline coming off a year in which the Cardinals were amazingly successful in clutch situations. Even with natural regression, however, Carpenter is a clear early-to-mid-round pick, most attractive in walk/on-base and points-based leagues, which reward him for his lofty doubles totals.
2014 Outlook: A knee injury held Ramirez back for most of the 2013 campaign, so it'd be understandable if his prospective fantasy owners had some doubts about him entering his age-36 season. That said, following a midseason DL stint for the injury, he managed .301/.387/.528 rates in his final 38 games, restoring hope of another top-10 fantasy season among third basemen. Ramirez enters camp healthier than he did a year ago, so it's fair to grant him a mulligan for his injury-marred 2013. But as he's entering the latter stages of his career, a .290 batting average and 25 homers might be his limit.
Stephania Bell: After spraining his knee in spring training last year, Ramirez went on the DL twice for the injury in April and July, and tweaked it in September to end his season. It's hard to be confident given his age (35) and the lingering nature of his symptoms.
2014 Outlook: Alvarez is your classic feast-or-famine slugger: He has the capability to lead the majors in home runs, but also in strikeouts, the latter resulting in streakiness and considerable risk in terms of batting average. But don't label this guy a fastball-crushing Pedro Cerrano; Alvarez has belted 15 home runs off curveballs and sliders the past two seasons combined, that particular skills improvement responsible for vaulting him into the upper tier of power hitters in baseball. Owning Alvarez is a matter of balancing your assets, as he'll hurt you in terms of batting average -- or on-base percentage, if you count that instead, as his walk rate isn't as high as your typical all-or-nothing slugger's -- but he'll surely fill your homers and RBI columns. If you select him, understand you'll need to address his shortcomings in other places on your roster.
2014 Outlook: Prado got off to a sluggish start for his new team, the Arizona Diamondbacks, last season, but come the second half of the year, he looked much closer to his old self. He batted .324/.374/.490 after the All-Star break, en route to a career-low 8 percent strikeout rate, and he logged enough time at three defensive positions -- second base, third base and the outfield -- to carry valuable flexibility into 2014 in fantasy leagues. In defense of Prado's up-and-down year, it was his first in any other organization than the Atlanta Braves in a decade of pro experience, and adapting to the change might have contributed. He's not at a stage of his career where a significant step forward should be expected, but he's a reliable, versatile mid-round bet in any fantasy format.
2014 Outlook: Kung Fu Panda has shed some pounds! As he enters his walk year, Sandoval spent the winter in Venezuela focusing on getting into shape, easing the San Francisco Giants' seemingly annual preseason concerns with a "svelte" Sandoval entering 2014. We hear the chatter from many players every February -- "I'm in the best shape of my career!" -- but in Sandoval's case, his offseason commitment did answer a key valuation question. Injuries have long held him back, not to mention hindered his speed (and with it, potentially his runs total), but perhaps he'll be able to improve upon his 134-game annual average. He's a handy source of batting average with a bit of pop, and a possible value on draft day should he impress in camp.
2014 Outlook: Everyone loves Colorado Rockies hitting prospects, right? Fortunately, Arenado's modest power numbers in Double-A and Triple-A (15 homers in 152 games combined at those levels from 2012-13) haven't caused fantasy owners to embrace outrageous expectations, though he possesses the kind of skills that minimize his downside and could lead to a big step forward in 2014. He's adept at making contact (14 percent strikeout rate last season) despite a tendency to swing at many pitches outside of the strike zone (his 39.2 percent rate was fourth-highest). Arenado batted .298 after the All-Star break, and at the very least should be a must-start in games as Coors Field, something to consider if your league affords a lot of transaction flexibility.
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: In 2012, Frazier sported an above-average BABIP fully supported by a high line drive rate. The question coming into 2013 would be whether he could maintain an elevated line drive rate, and the answer turned out to be no. As such, Frazier's BABIP torpedoed, bringing his batting average along with it. Some positive regression should be expected, but even so, a high strikeout rate caps his average. Frazier has the pop to clear 20 homers, so if you can cover his average, he can be a decent source of power for those waiting on a corner infielder. Just realize that he hits lower in the order, so his run production will suffer a bit.
2014 Outlook: We'll state the danger of reading too much into Johnson's 2013 success: His .321 batting average was fueled by a major league-leading .394 BABIP, which also ranked as the sixth-highest by any player since the turn of the century. In other words, he is almost assuredly going to experience some regression to the mean, and since his other numbers fall far from being termed "elite," that puts him in danger of being an NL-only option and little more. Given that he's a free swinger, Johnson might even have a steeper basement in leagues that give more weight to walks/on-base percentage, meaning that owners in points-based leagues should approach him with greater caution.
2014 Outlook: After a miserable 2012 that made him look finished at this level, Uribe bounced back with one of the better years of his career in 2013, particularly on defense. His batting average/on-base contributions, however, were fueled by some good fortune; his BABIP was .322, 40 points higher than his career mark. Nevertheless, Uribe managed to score another deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers, who effectively lacked an alternative at third base and therefore will allow him to play there regularly again in 2014. His ratios are due to regress, but if you address his shortcomings elsewhere, he's a fine NL-only roster filler in the late rounds.
2014 Outlook: Reynolds, the owner of baseball's single-season strikeout record (223, in 2009) and three of the six instances of 200-K campaigns in history (also 2008, 2010), finds himself in a fight for playing time this spring, a non-roster invitee battling for the Milwaukee Brewers' first-base role. He's plenty capable of swatting 30-plus homers, and hitter-friendly Miller Park would only help his cause, but his fly-ball rate and isolated power have slipped the past two years, to the point that he might find himself in a platoon. NL-only and deep-mixed owners can take a chance on his considerable power potential, but doing so requires them to address his batting-average shortcomings. Know the risks.
2014 Outlook: A .287/.343/.438 hitter who averaged 16 home runs and 11 stolen bases per 162 games played during his minor league career, Asche might not be a blue-chip prospect, but he's capable enough with the bat to have reached the majors in just two years as a pro, projecting as the Philadelphia Phillies' starting third baseman entering 2014. He managed an OPS 102 points higher against righties (.710) than lefties (.608) as a rookie, so there might be some matchup advantage to owning him, but as his ceiling isn't especially high, he's more NL-only than mixed material.
2014 Outlook: After a year in Japan, McGehee returns to the states on a one-year deal with the Miami Marlins, one of the few teams with a wide-open third-base job for the taking. Though his numbers plummeted in 2011-12, he managed .292-28-93 numbers in 144 games for Rakuten in 2013, including a 11.9 percent walk rate that offers the most encouragement for his bounce-back chances. NL-only owners can freely speculate with their corner-infield spot, but McGehee would need to open eyes during spring training in order to warrant greater fantasy consideration.