2014 Outlook: If such a thing as a "first-half player" exists -- it's a notion that has been largely overstated during the 30-plus-year history of Rotisserie baseball -- Trumbo would top the list of candidates. Through three big-league seasons, he has hit 60 of his 95 home runs before the All-Star break, his batting average 41 points higher before (.268) than after (.227) it and his slugging percentage 107 points higher before (.517) than after (.410) it. Tuck that away if you're the lucky owner to secure his draft-day rights; ads for your Trumbo sale should run during every commercial break by mid-June. That said, he's still a remarkably powerful slugger, and one surrendering Angel Stadium for the more hitting-conducive dimensions of Chase Field, meaning a fourth consecutive season of setting new personal bests in home runs is possible. To be clear: No double coupons, and no deep Black Friday discounts. (OK, maybe we'll allow it in leagues that penalize for strikeouts or use on-base percentage.)
2014 Outlook: After making substantial gains in terms of his contact rate and ability to drive the ball to all fields in 2012, Lucroy extended those trends into a 2013 that put him in the clear top 10 of fantasy backstops. For the second consecutive season, he boosted his walk rate while cutting his strikeout rate, with the result being career highs in home runs (18) and RBIs (82). What's more, Lucroy continued to contribute a handful of steals, with his nine swipes a personal best and matching his professional high set in 2008. These skill improvements make him one of the safer investments among catchers, even if he has most likely reached his statistical peak.
2014 Outlook: Whoa! Michael Cuddyer, 2013 NL batting champion? Believe it. Now believe this: His .382 BABIP, third-highest among batting-title qualifiers, was 54 points higher than he had previously performed in his career, and 70 points higher than his career numbers in the category (.312). Yes, there's plenty of reason to call his .331 batting average fluky, though in Cuddyer's defense, Coors Field continues to prop up his numbers, and it has historically been one of the best venues in baseball for BABIP. Cuddyer looks much more the part of a .290 hitter, and his penchant for injuries over the years further builds the case for him being overrated entering 2014. Tread carefully.
2014 Outlook: Rizzo doesn't garner much attention on a bad Chicago Cubs team, and after a letdown of a 2013 season, he might slide too far in many drafts this season. Though his batting average was destined to regress after his standout 2012, few expected it'd decline by 52 points. That leaves room for improvement, and considering he's now 24 years old with nearly 300 games of big league experience under his belt, not to mention a power hitter in Wrigley Field, Rizzo could be a potential value. He's a smarter hitter than you'd think -- his walk rate soared to 11.0 percent last season -- meaning he's an even more attractive selection in walks/on-base percentage leagues.
2014 Outlook: Most everyone expected a decline in homers from Butler's career-high 29 in 2012, but not to the extent that occurred. Last season, Butler's already low fly ball rate dropped even further, so when his percentage of fly balls that leave the yard returned to normal after a big spike the previous season, the result was a precipitous drop in power. Butler's contact skills and patience remained intact, so it was not a completely lost season, just very disappointing for those expecting more production. The good news is last season was likely the floor with respect to power. Don't expect a return to 2012 glory, but a return to the roaring 20s, albeit a low-20s expectation, is most reasonable.
2014 Outlook: Adams' bat packs a wallop: His 17.4 at-bats-per-home-run rate was 16th-best among players with at least 300 trips to the plate last season. He also showed the St. Louis Cardinals his capabilities as a regular at a critical time, batting .283 with nine home runs and a .500 slugging percentage from Sept. 4 onward (playoffs included), that marking the date Allen Craig sprained his left foot, an injury that limited him to only one start at first base the remainder of the year. Now here's the problem: A winter's respite has presumably healed Craig's foot, casting Adams' playing time somewhat in doubt, though there's little question that he's deserving of regular use. The Cardinals can slot Craig at an outfield corner, but will they, knowing his propensity for injury? It's that question which depresses Adams' draft stock, though as a potential 30-homer power source, albeit one with some batting average risk, he's an intriguing mid-rounder in any format.
2014 Outlook: McCann is one of the game's more consistent power sources; he is one of only 11 players to have hit at least 20 home runs in each of the past six seasons, and the only one to have hit between 20-25 in each, and keep in mind that he scaled the 20-homer plateau in 2013 despite missing the first month recovering from shoulder surgery. His odds, however, of exceeding that group increased once he put on the pinstripes, as his pull-power swing is perfectly crafted for Yankee Stadium's short porch. A player whose injury risk has seemingly increased while his batting-average potential has slipped in recent seasons, McCann might be destined for his best year yet. He's a mixed-league starter regardless of format, and as a player with a 9.5 percent career walk rate, he's especially intriguing in leagues that weight on-base percentage.
2014 Outlook: It can be assumed that since Boston signed Napoli to a two-year contract, they are satisfied with the state of his degenerative hip. Now the chief concern is whether he shaved during the offseason. Of all the facial adornments seen during the team's run to the World Series title, Napoli's was the one getting dangerously close to interfering with his batting stance. Napoli is an extremely difficult read, as not only are his skills all over the place, but they've been influenced by luck, which makes it even harder to baseline. The biggest outlier is 2011's huge drop in strikeout rate. The safe play is to expect a ton of whiffs as has been the case the past two campaigns. Though the level fluctuates, it's safe to say Napoli has above-average power, though a dropping fly ball rate is noteworthy. The best course of action is to draft Napoli if you need power and cross your fingers his batting average doesn't hurt you.
2014 Outlook: After a late-2012 power surge, Moss truly broke through granted quasi-regular playing time in 2013, maintaining practically identical power rates -- adjusting for natural regression to the mean, that is -- and quietly reaching the 30-homer plateau. His was a stunning effort, considering his power-suppressing home ballpark and his wide lefty/righty platoon split (68 points better in batting average and 164 points better in slugging percentage versus right-handers). Moss returns to a similar role in 2014, presumably pairing with Nate Freiman or Alberto Callaspo at first base, but in exchange for the lost counting numbers (runs, RBIs), his ratios should stabilize as a result. That also means that he's particularly attractive in a daily league, where you can mix and match his lefty/righty matchups. Moss made enough strides making contact -- he whiffed just 23.1 percent of the time in the second half, down from 30.8 percent in the first half -- and has enough of a power-oriented approach -- he led the majors in fly-ball rate -- to make a compelling case for a repeat.
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: After consecutive, successful big-league debut seasons by Cuban imports Yoenis Cespedes (2012) and Yasiel Puig (2013), it's understandable that fantasy owners are giddy over the prospects of a third in a row, this one by Abreu. He's the ultimate unknown commodity entering 2014: Scouts have suggested a range as wide as his being a low-average, big-power type like Pedro Alvarez; a higher-average, modest-power type like Cespedes; or perhaps as little as a fringe big-league regular. A 2011 league MVP in Cuba, Abreu excelled at filling two specific categories: Home runs and times hit by pitch, the latter a direct result of his close-to-the-plate batting stance. (Hey, at least the latter fuels on-base percentage.) He'll presumably be the White Sox's starting first baseman, in a ballpark that plays beautifully for power. Abreu might be wildly streaky and a feast-or-famine type initially, but he's well worth your mid-round consideration.
2014 Outlook: Let's emphasize from the beginning that Martinez will open the season with designated hitter/utility eligibility, as his days behind the dish are history. There's a good chance he picks up in-season eligibility at first base. It took a little while for Martinez to shake the rust off from missing the entire 2012 season, but by season's end it was the same old story: a high average with a smattering of power and decent run production. That said, Martinez's post-break .361 average was fueled by a .371 BABIP that is sure to regress. But since his contact skills are as strong as ever, Martinez should continue to be a run-producing cog in a still-potent Tigers attack.
2014 Outlook: Lind is daily-league gold: He is an effective All-Star against right-handers, having batted .288/.351/.520 against them over the past five seasons, but against left-handers he often sits, due to .213/.253/.337 rates against them during the same time span. It is that wide split which casts him deeper down the mixed-league rotisserie rankings, labeling him more "specialty player," though among that group, few are his equal. Now 30 years old, Lind has probably reached the extent of his growth potential; the only compelling case to make for him taking another step now is that he's a free agent at year's end. Still, he's worth a mid- to late-round selection even in mixed formats.
2014 Outlook: After missing the entire 2013 campaign with knee woes, Hart landed in the Pacific Northwest, where he should be in the mix for playing time at first base, designated hitter and, health permitting, corner outfield. Seattle is being cautious early on with Hart, waiting until the spring to see how his knee can handle the rigors of chasing flies. Not only is his playing time a question, but so is his on-field performance, considering the likely rust after missing a full season and the fact he is a free swinger. One thing, however, is certain: Even with the new dimensions, Safeco Park is not as hitter-friendly as Miller Park, so a decline in power is likely, regardless of the other factors. Dual eligibility at first and outfield helps make Hart an intriguing utility, or perhaps reserve until we get a better feel for his playing time and production.
2014 Outlook: A season-long battle with a sore left shoulder may be the reason the switch-hitting Swisher saw his numbers versus left-handed pitching plummet last season. But even so, his final line was almost the exact same as the two previous seasons, save for a drop in batting average. Swisher is reporting that he no longer feels any pain in the area, so there is reason to hope he tacks on a few more dingers to last season's total, and is again a solid three-category contributor (HR, RBI, runs). The best part is that you won't have to pay for it, as Swisher is largely ignored in favor of younger players with more upside. His dual first base and outfield eligibility also helps insure maximum output at a couple of spots where the available players are stronger than other positions.