2014 Outlook: While 2013 was not completely injury-free, Utley played in more than 130 games for the first time since 2009. The good news is the missed games were due to ailments other than the degenerative knee condition that cost him so much time in 2011 and 2012. Skills-wise, Utley is still solid, more than capable of delivering double-digit homers and steals, but, at 35 years old, the other assorted ailments are likely to continue, and there's no telling if or when the knee will act up again. The probable injury discount makes Utley a viable play, just have a contingency since you'll likely need it.
2014 Outlook: Injuries, injuries, injuries. Oh, if only Hill could stay healthy like he did in 2009 (158 games) and 2012 (156). Consider his per-162-games averages the past five seasons combined: .266 batting average, 26 home runs, 88 RBIs, 11 stolen bases, 90 runs. Those are star-caliber fantasy numbers from a second baseman, and in his defense, the fractured left hand that cost him more than two months last season was more of the fluke variety. If you're willing to take a chance, Hill is one of the more intriguing mid-round second basemen available, despite his history of injuries and wildly varying BABIPs. Pick him, then cross those fingers.
2014 Outlook: In 2013, Lawrie battled through assorted injuries (ribs, oblique, ankle) as well as a brief position change to second base, yet he managed to improve his skills, albeit marginally. Lawrie fanned less and walked more than 2012, hitting the same number of homers in 78 fewer plate appearances. Still just 24 years old, Lawrie has plenty of time to realize the potential many thought he possessed when he was a top prospect in the Milwaukee Brewers' organization. To do so, other than health, he could stand to take a few more walks and hit a few more balls in the air, as a fly-ball rate below 35 percent caps his homers in the high teens. Injuries may be to blame, but Lawrie's stolen base success rate also needs some polish. The term post-hype sleeper is a bit clichť, but Lawrie fits the profile. The skills are still there, health permitting.
2014 Outlook: The 50-game suspension that ended Cabrera's 2013 prematurely might tarnish the true value of his statistics; understand that he was a top-five shortstop and top-40 player overall on our Player Rater at the time the penalty was announced. Cabrera did this thanks to two skills that shouldn't change in 2014, regardless of your opinion on the influence of PEDs: He draws walks, with a 9.5 percent career rate and a .355 on-base percentage in 2013; and he steals bases, with the third-most stolen bases the past two seasons combined (81, behind only Rajai Davis' 91 and Mike Trout's 82). Cabrera will be back as the San Diego Padres' regular shortstop and leadoff hitter, and while he'll never be mistaken for a power hitter, he'll be quite valuable due to his position even if he's a mere one-category rotisserie performer. Besides, he might be more: He makes enough contact to not hurt in batting average, he's underrated in on-base percentage leagues and his ability in the latter could drive his runs scored total.
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: This once-fragile shortstop has missed only seven games total the past two seasons. Still, it's best to hedge a bit on health and allow for one stint on the disabled list as you break down the numbers. Hardy's usefulness lies in above-average power for a middle infielder, while a low line-drive rate suppresses his batting average and he doesn't run. If you can make up the speed and cover his low average, Hardy is often a cheap source of power, as his injury past and lack of speed drop his market price lower than they should.
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: When Ramirez first came over to the States, the expectation was for considerably more speed than power, but he surprised by displaying more pop than expected while not running very much. In other words, last season was supposed to be the norm for the Cuban Missile. The thing is, it's rare that a stolen-base spike at age 32 is sustained, so the safe play is to expect pullback. On the other hand, a return to double-digit homers would not be shocking, so, at the end of the day, Ramirez is what he always has been: an extremely durable and reliable middle-infield option for those who don't draft for scarcity early on.
2014 Outlook: A career-worst strikeout rate in tandem with his lowest-ever batting average on balls in play harpooned Cabrera's usually consistent batting average downward 30 points, though it should be noted he hit into some bad luck, as his line drive rate was identical to 2012. His home runs per fly ball dropped for a second straight season, though an influx of fly balls helped maintain a teens home run total. It seems like he's older, but at just 28 years of age, chances are 2013 was just a down year for Cabrera, especially since he had to fight through assorted back, wrist and leg woes. The 25 bombs Cabrera smacked in 2011 are a distant memory, but a total in the mid-to-high teens is plausible, as are double-digit steals. If you don't chase scarcity, Cabrera is a nice consolation prize.
2014 Outlook: As a rookie, Gyorko defied conventional logic when it comes to San Diego Padres hitters: He led his class in home runs (23), the one category that Petco Park tends to suppress. It is for that reason, especially considering 15 of those homers came from Aug. 1 forward, that we have some hesitation simply handing him a far better sophomore-year projection and a ranking that makes him clearly one of the best at his position. We look at Gyorko and see a player with underlying numbers that remind us of Chase Headley's 2012; there's a chance that regression to the mean might bring Gyorko slightly back to the pack. Still, there's plenty of power potential in Gyorko's bat, and further growth is always possible. He'll be a mid-round pick, one who makes a more compelling case in dynasty/keeper formats, and could by all rights be a top-10 second baseman in 2014.
2014 Outlook: Though he faced an uphill battle in his attempt to crack the Boston Red Sox's lineup last season, Bogaerts eventually succeeded: He moved off his natural shortstop position to third base, emerging in mid-August as an effective utility player, and then elevated himself to the team's hot-corner starter by the World Series. And as spring training dawned, 2013 starting shortstop Stephen Drew remained a free agent; Bogaerts appeared ticketed for regular duty there in 2014. As one of the most polished hitters in the minors -- he was Keith Law's No. 5 prospect overall entering last year -- Bogaerts could thrive in terms of batting average and on-base percentage, and, with a committed role, could also add significant runs, RBIs and a hint of pop. He's an initial third-base-eligible player who should quickly restore shortstop to his list, the dual eligibility another trait to boost his bargain-bet appeal. Don't let Bogaerts slip too far in redraft; plus, he's potentially one of the best youngsters to get in dynasty/keeper leagues.
2014 Outlook: Simmons' fantasy owners are probably the very ones who have spent his year-plus in the big leagues lobbying their commissioners to begin rewarding for defensive excellence; he is widely regarded as the game's best defensive shortstop and one of the five best defenders overall in baseball. Though those contributions are overlooked in the vast majority of formats, they do fuel his playing time, which is important for a player with the kind of blossoming power he showed in 2013. Simmons hit 11 of his 17 home runs from July 1 forward; combined with his boost in doubles and triples, that hints at legit growth. He might be a couple steps away from garnering the kind of offensive reputation to match that of his defense, especially since his walk rate detracts from his value in sabermetrically-oriented scoring, but some growth should be expected in 2014.
2014 Outlook: The most alarming number in Lowrie's 2013 stat line is the 662 plate appearances. This was by far a career high and, in fact, only 66 fewer trips to the dish than he amassed the previous two seasons combined. That said, 15 homers was a disappointment considering he swatted 16 the previous campaign in far fewer chances. On the other hand, a drop in strikeout rate in concert with a bump in hit rate helped Lowrie set a career high in average. Lowrie enters 2014 as the Athletics' regular shortstop, but the safe play is to account for some missed time. It's also best to anticipate some regression in terms of batting average on balls in play. Even with the warnings, dual eligibility (second base and shortstop) renders Lowrie a viable candidate to man middle infield assuming you have speed elsewhere.
2014 Outlook: Dozier happened upon the second base job almost by default, then proceeded to hit his way into the spot full-time. He's always been able to run a little, the question will be how much of the power gains he maintains, especially since Target Field depresses right-handed pop by nearly 10 percent. According to ESPN's Home Run Tracker, only one of Dozier's homers was deemed lucky while just three were labeled just enough. However, it should be noted that all 18 of his dingers were pulled, and there are studies that show opposite field power is an indicator that a power spike is more apt to be real. As such, a drop in homers is likely, but not too precipitous. Add in a few more plate appearances from hitting higher in the order and the raw number could be similar. So long as you can absorb the average, Dozier is a quiet multicategory performer.
2014 Outlook: Rollins' base skills have been trending in the wrong direction since 2010. In fact, he finished last season with his highest strikeout rate since 2003, and lowest walk rate since 2009. He had been averaging about 20 homers and swiping 30 bases per season. Unfortunately, Rollins ran less last season, and his power not only fell off the table, it dug a hole underneath that table and buried itself. On the plus side, a 14 percent whiff rate is above average, and his stolen base success rate remains strong, so he should be able to snag at least 20 bags again. That's useful, especially since the market sees Rollins as a fall-back middle infielder. If you can buffer a low batting average driven by one of the league's highest number of infield pop outs, Rollins can provide cheap speed with the strong chance of returning to double-digit homers.