2014 Outlook: It was basically the perfect storm for Murphy, as everything went right in 2013. More fly balls in tandem with a modest increase in percentage of homers per fly ball, and Murphy's 13 home runs bested his combined total of the previous two campaigns. After swiping 10 of 12 bags in 2012, Murphy parlayed that excellent conversion rate into a career high 23 in 2013. Something to keep in mind is that last year Murphy was another year removed from a couple of serious injuries while covering second, so not only was he healthier, he was likely more confident as well. Repeating last season will be tough, but another double-digit total in both homers and steals is well within his grasp.
2014 Outlook: Both the San Francisco Giants' conservative approach to his role and his lefty-power-suppressing home ballpark have caused Belt to fall beneath the radar in many fantasy leagues his first three seasons, though he showed many signs of growth in 2013 that could portend greater things ahead. Besides setting career highs in many offensive categories -- hits, doubles, home runs, batting average and slugging percentage, to name a few -- he finished the year with impressive .326/.390/.525 triple-slash rates and a lowered 19.8 percent strikeout rate in 61 games after the All-Star break. The Giants finally made Belt a lineup fixture, only benching him against the toughest lefties or when Buster Posey needed a breather from playing catcher. Belt is still 25 years old and could develop more power with experience, making him one of the more intriguing first-base bargains once the big boys are off the board.
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: With only 609 plate appearances the past two seasons combined, Howard is the modern day Forgotten Man. Howard's 2013 was ended prematurely in July after surgery to repair the meniscus in his left knee. Now healthy, Howard will look to regain the power stroke that made him one of the league's most productive hitters prior to rupturing his Achilles tendon. Perhaps due to dealing with knee soreness most of last season's first half, Howard hit only 11 homers, though he did swat 20 doubles to provide hope. As always, expect Howard to do the bulk of his damage versus right-handers.
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: Since arriving in Washington, LaRoche has had a career year sandwiched between a pair of clunkers. Offseason surgery to clean loose bodies from his left elbow may be at least in part related to LaRoche having his home run per fly ball rate drop to one of its lowest levels of his career. LaRoche's contact rate didn't suffer, so assuming his power drop was induced by his elbow woes, there's a good chance of a bounce-back. The best part is it won't cost very much on draft day to test this theory.
2014 Outlook: After spending his entire career in power-suppressing parks, Morneau must be licking his chops, since he'll play half his games a mile high. That said, it would behoove the new Rockie to reverse his recent trend of an increased groundball rate. Another concern is that Colorado has hinted that Morneau could lose some at-bats when a left-hander is on the hill, which makes sense, since his OPS versus southpaws the past three seasons is a paltry .520. A return to the 20-homer level is well within Morneau's grasp, just temper greater expectations despite the move to Coors Field.
2014 Outlook: Alonso is more of a contact hitter than a power guy, and the fact he plays his home games as Petco Park -- despite its shrunken dimensions -- further mutes his home run potential. Injuries also limited him in 2013, casting some doubt upon his future potential. Now 26, Alonso needs to show a hint of pop if he's to elevate himself beyond NL-only corner-infield status or that of a matchup-play option -- he's a noted fastball hitter who hits righties better than lefties -- but at least he should get regular playing time at first base entering 2014.
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: 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: For the second consecutive season, Davis got off to a miserable start, posting a .505 first-half OPS after .659 in 2012, but this time, unlike in 2012, he couldn't rescue his year with a 20-homer second half. After a brief stint in Triple-A, he returned with .286/.449/.505 triple-slash numbers in his final 40 games, showing a somewhat more disciplined approach, albeit at the expense of his power. Still, that Davis spent the winter on the trade rumor mill hinted his future with the New York Mets is now cloudy, and his mighty struggles against breaking balls cap his future potential, putting him at serious batting-average risk. He's a speculative pick in NL-only and deep mixed leagues, and more so in leagues that reward walks/on-base percentage.
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.