|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 4/8/1983 | Team: Angels | Position: C|
Profile: The upcoming playing time battle between Chris Iannetta and Hank Conger has no clear favorite, but defense, youth, and offensive potential seem to favor Conger. Iannetta will likely play a little less than half of the time, but can still provide respectable home run production in his starts. While his great eye creates good on-base percentages, his batting average is going to be a liability, fantasy-wise. That shouldn’t change — his strikeout rate is bad and is only going to get worse as he ages. With a bit of an uppercut swing, no speed, and few balls in play, there’s always the risk of a disastrous average on balls in play, too. If the Angels are bad in 2014, the 31-year-old is probably not going to be considered a part of the franchise’s long-term plan, either. Look for him to finish around 40th in standard fantasy catcher rankings (or low 30s if OBP is used instead of AVG) with more downside than upside. (Steve Staude)
Quick Opinion: Hank Conger will likely usurp playing time from Iannetta this season, diminishing the latter’s fantasy value to the point where it won’t make sense to draft him in most leagues.
|Debut: 1996 | BirthDate: 6/2/1972 | Team: Angels | Position: OF|
Profile: Raul Ibanez sits next to Ted Williams in the record books, that’s how nutty a season his 2013 was. A player who was signed ostensibly to occupy a left-handed platoon role was thrust into nearly 500 plate appearances due to injury and ineffectiveness on the part of his teammates. With the Mariners never really sniffing contention, Ibanez, 41, figured he might as well have some fun. The result was swinging from his backside in most at bats in an attempt to hook just about everything out of the ballpark and he wriggled himself back into fantasy relevancy with 29 home runs — good for fourth among all outfielders. Yeah, you read that right. But headed into 2014, it would be rather miraculous if we saw a repeat. His role with the Angels will probably be similar to that described above — platoon designated hitter — and although he takes great pride in his defense, he shouldn’t ever see the outfield grass again. With 300 home runs and nearly 1200 RBI, it’s been a pretty nice career for Raul Ibanez — but it’s probably just about over. (Michael Barr)
Quick Opinion: If you can use a .240 batting average and 12 home runs in a part-time role, then Raul Ibanez could be your man. And the line to compete in your league will be long. The old man had a fun run in Seattle in 2013, and it gave fans something else to watch that didn’t start with an F and end in “elix”. Ibanez is unlikely to find everyday work in 2014, and even if he did his production would still leave him on the fringe of fantasy usefulness.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 1/5/1990 | Team: Tigers | Position: 3B/SS|
Profile: Iglesias is an absolute magician with the glove, and didn’t have a bad year with the bat in 2013, as his weighted offense was actually 2% above league average. Unfortunately, that .303/.349/.386 slash line came thanks to a .356 batting average on balls in play. In reality, the 24-year old is a classic all-glove, no-bat shortstop. In 916 career plate appearances in Triple-A, Iglesias slashed a putrid .244/.296/.292. (Scott Strandberg)
Quick Opinion: Iglesias will never have a double-digit home run season, and 10-12 seems to be a realistic ceiling for stolen bases. Add in his below-average on-base skills, and he’s irrelevant in all but the deepest fantasy leagues.
|Debut: 2002 | BirthDate: 12/26/1981 | Team: Royals | Position: 2B|
Profile: Infante enters the offseason coming off the best offensive season of his career. The 32-year-old had been a rarely-useable fantasy starter until he started hitting for more power the past two seasons. His contact-oriented approach makes it likely he’ll hit for a decent average, but he doesn’t typically provide much in the stolen base department. Infante isn’t likely to get any better, but as long as he continues to hit for double-digit home runs, he’ll have value. He may have a hard time reaching that benchmark in Kauffman, though. The Royals’ stadium is a homer-suppressor, and without at least 10 home runs, that’ll be an empty, empty average. (Chris Cwik)
Quick Opinion: Infante’s new-found power has made him a useful fantasy asset over the past two seasons. Unfortunately, he’s headed to a pitcher’s park. Make him a back-end middle infielder then — still useful, but not a league-winner.
|Debut: 2001 | BirthDate: 5/19/1977 | Position: 2B/3B|
Profile: There was a time, back when he was hitting 27 homers and using his plus defense to stick in the lineup, that Brandon Inge might have been useful in fantasy baseball, if you squinted hard enough to look past his batting average. That time is long past, especially now that Inge hit just .181/.204/.238 in his age-36 season before being cut loose by Pittsburgh in July. That line is actually just .204/.261/.321 over the last three seasons combined, so it seems likely that this is the end of the road. So long, Brandon. We’ll always remember you for somehow spinning a .301 weighted on-base average into a 13-year career. (Mike Petriello)
Quick Opinion: If you were actually thinking about adding Brandon Inge to your fantasy team, it might be time to find another hobby.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 9/24/1983 | Position: 1B/DH|
Profile: It’s rarely a good sign when a 29-year-old first baseman manages only nine home runs in roughly 300 plate appearances in Triple-A. As such, Ishikawa probably will begin the season in the minors once again. The only silver lining is he signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates, who currently are stuck with Gaby Sanchez as their starting first baseman. Of course, cavernous PNC Park would only lessen his already-poor power potential, so who cares. (JP Breen)
|Debut: 2001 | BirthDate: 2/10/1980 | Position: 2B/SS|
Profile: It’s fascinating that Cesar Izturis keeps gaining employment, since he can’t hit (.277 on-base percentage over the last five seasons), doesn’t add power or speed, and is only mildly useful these days up the middle with the glove. He’s more or less the perfect example of “replacement player” when discussing WAR, yet teams still let him stick around. Needless to say, if he ever did have any fantasy value, those days are long, long gone.(Mike Petriello)
Quick Opinion: Cesar Izturis? In a fantasy league, in 2014? You’re joking, right?
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 9/12/1980 | Team: Blue Jays | Position: 2B/3B|
Profile: Maicer Izturis looked like a nice under-the-radar acquisition for the Blue Jays during their big 2012-2013 off-season. His final season with the Angels in 2012 had been poor at the plate, but it was only about 300 plate appearances against several seasons of being close to average at the plate — not bad for a player who could credibly play any infield position, and some thought could start. Rather than 2012 being put in the distance, though, 2013 was even worse. The lack of doubles continued, his walk rate dropped to one of his career-worst levels, and his batting average on balls in play was the worst of his career. BABIP and doubles are subject to a relatively high amount of random variation, so even after two down years, they can be expected to regress back towards the mean. Still, it’s a bad sign on balance. Izturis doesn’t have much going for him at the plate other than contact (he might be able to steal double-digit bases in full-time play, but he has never hit more than eight home runs in a season). He finished the year hurt, which is another bad sign for a 33-year old. Izturis is not totally useless in fantasy if he is healthy to start the year. He will probably qualify at both second and third, and perhaps shortstop in some leagues. His only competition at second base at the moment is Ryan Goins, and neither Jose Reyes nor Brett Lawrie are pictures of health — the playing time should be there. Given his contract, he won’t be simply dumped. He might add a few homers and steals. Don’t count on him, but do not totally ignore him, especially in deep AL-only leagues, as he could prove to be a useful endgame pick. (Matt Klaassen)
Quick Opinion: Maicer Izturis now has had two terrible years at the plate in a row, and never had much upside even before that. Still, he has positional versatility on the infield, will probably get decent playing time, and is not totally terrible, so he should probably end up being picked up in at least deep AL-only leagues.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 2/1/1987 | Team: Tigers | Position: OF|
Profile: For the first three years of Austin Jackson’s career, his stolen base totals declined (27-22-12) while his homers (4-10-16) and isolated slugging percentage (.107-.125-.179) steadily increased. Jackson was changing from one type of player to another, culminating in a fantastic 2012, but that trend didn’t quite remain steady in 2013. His steals dropped again (eight), but his power dropped along with it. The end result was a .272/.337/.417 year that now very closely resembles his career line. But even that can’t be relied upon, because Jackson’s 2013 contained some seriously monthly highs and lows, along with time missed for a hamstring injury. Still, with some hope that replacing Jim Leyland (who rarely gave the green light on the bases) could help return some of those lost steals, Jackson remains an underrated player who can contribute in several categories at a valuable position. (Mike Petriello)
Quick Opinion: Even in a 2013 that didn’t match his excellent 2012, Jackson remained a valuable multi-category player, and if he can put the various pieces of his game together at once, the Tigers may yet find themselves a star.
|Debut: 2012 | BirthDate: 5/10/1988 | Team: Padres | Position: 2B/3B|
Profile: Jackson is a glove-first middle infielder who has done a little more with his bat in the minors than what may have been expected, but he hasn’t done nearly enough to indicate he could ever be a useful fantasy commodity. With Jhonny Peralta taking over at short and Kolten Wong likely to man second, Jackson’s big league role would be limited to a utility spot. But Mark Ellis, Daniel Descalso and Pete Kozma may be in line ahead of him for the main backup roles. (Brett Talley)
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 10/12/1982 | Position: 3B|
Profile: The slick-fielding Janish is deceptively old and is entering his age-31 season. He was non-tendered by the Braves and remains un-signed as of this writing. Janish can’t hit worth a lick, so fantasy owners can easily ignore him. Fans of the real world sport shouldn’t mind if their team signs him to a minor league contract since his good defense can be leveraged in a late inning role. His defense isn’t superlatively good, so there’s really nothing to get excited about. (Brad Johnson)
Quick Opinion: Janish is a good defender and utility infielder. Unfortunately for him, he’s compiled over 1,200 terrible plate appearances, and he’s probably out of chances.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 9/19/1983 | Team: Athletics | Position: C/DH|
Profile: Jaso missed the last two months of 2013 with a concussion, but oddly enough, this may actually be a good thing for his fantasy value going into 2014. The Athletics are reportedly planning on giving Jaso much more time as a designated hitter this season than he has in the past, which should help keep him off the disabled list and prevent him from piling up as many nicks and bumps as a regular catcher does. The 30-year-old has significantly enhanced value in on-base percentage leagues, as he has more walks than strikeouts in his 381 major-league games. He only has 23 home runs in 1,297 plate appearances, but his on-base skills definitely play at catcher. (Scott Strandberg)
Quick Opinion: I like Jaso as a low-end AL-only or two-catcher league starter this year. He’s a relatively safe bet to provide that level of production, and could be a pleasant surprise, especially if he sees regular at-bats at DH.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 3/15/1985 | Team: Cardinals | Position: OF|
Profile: When a hitter with little power and only some speed relies on a high batting average on balls in play, the downside doesn’t look pretty. Suddenly a decent contributor becomes worthless and that’s exactly what happened to Jay in 2013. With Peter Bourjos now in town, and top prospect Oscar Taveras looming, the Cardinals have options, which means that Jay isn’t guaranteed to open the season as the team’s starting center fielder. Even if he does win the job, he’ll have to hit right away. Bourjos plays better defense and Taveras will be breathing down his neck at Triple-A. With the team able to move Allen Craig to right field to replace the departing Carlos Beltran, a role as reserve outfielder looks to be in his future. With no outstanding skills and playing time questions galore, he won’t be a risk worth taking on draft day. (Mike Podhorzer)
Quick Opinion: The biggest issue facing Jay is that of playing time as Allen Craig may move to right field with Peter Bourjos and then top prospect Oscar Taveras staking out outfield duties at some point. Even if those things don’t happen immediately, Jay’s limited power and mediocre speed just don’t give him enough upside to offset the playing time questions.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 10/30/1986 | Team: Rays | Position: OF|
Profile: The world is still awaiting the 20-homer Desmond Jennings to arrive, the Desmond Jennings that appeared ready for his five-tool debut in 2011. But in the meantime, this 15-homer version does quite well for himself. He blapped a dandy .252/.334/.414 slash in a pitcher’s park to go with double-digit homers and 20+ steal talent. His generally strong fielding will keep him in warm embrace of Steady Playing Time, and his right-handedness means he’s probably nowhere near platooning danger — because that would mean benching his glove two out of every three games. Entering his age-27 season, one must imagine he’s at about the peak of his SB talent, with potentially a bit more power to come. He’s a useful player and a potentially potent mid-round steal. (@BradleyWoodrum)
Quick Opinion: If he’s still available in the mid-rounds of your draft, then consider him the workhorse multi-talent you want. Jennings hits, runs, and fields, so draft him twice if you can, once in fantasy and once for real.
|Debut: 1995 | BirthDate: 6/26/1974 | Team: Yankees | Position: SS|
Profile: After 17 straight seasons of at least 119 games played, Derek Jeter was limited to just 17 games in 2013 because of a persistent ankle injury which he originally sustained in the 2012 playoffs. Now 39, Jeter is unlikely to return from his missed season to his previous elite form. In particular, his stolen base totals — already in a three-year decline from 30 in 2009 to just nine in 2012 — may never again reach double digits. However, Jeter has always been a multi-category contributor. As a shortstop, even a season that only approaches double digits in homers and steals can be useful when paired with a .300 average and 100 runs scored, and the retooled Yankee offense should make the latter possible if the former keeps him at the top of the lineup. The best case for Jeter is the lack of contingency plans, and given his stature, a healthy Jeter should continue to play even if he struggles. The upside is limited, but Jeter still deserves consideration as a low-end middle infield option. (Scott Spratt)
Quick Opinion: Coming off an ankle injury, Jeter will be a health risk with limited speed potential. However, his contact skills and supporting lineup make him a low-end middle infield option.
|Debut: 2013 | BirthDate: 1/18/1988 | Team: Angels | Position: 3B|
Profile: Luis Jimenez is a solid defender with some serious issues at the plate. In 2013, he mustered up offense that was 29% worse than league average despite the aid of a .351 batting average on balls in play. His ratio of 28 strikeouts against two walks was the second-worst in the majors for those with at least 100 plate appearances. The good news is that his Triple-A strikeout rate is about half of that. The bad news is his Triple-A numbers are pretty unimpressive for a third baseman. That said, his glove, combined with David Freese’s back, may earn him a bit of playing time in 2014. Despite being a highly undisciplined real-world batter, he does have the potential to add a slight bit of fantasy value in home runs and steals, without being a huge liability in batting average. (Steve Staude)
Quick Opinion: Jimenez’s glove may earn him some playing time, but he’s not likely to be a valuable offensive contributor — unless it’s in spurts as an injury replacement.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 8/10/1979 | Position: 1B/DH|
Profile: You’re reading about Dan Johnson in a fantasy-themed online publication. In 2013! In a universe not ruled by lizard people! It’s the sort of thing that would have been crazy to imagine two years ago, or fifteen seconds ago. Johnson spent the year toiling away in Triple-A, waiting for Mark Teixeira to get injured, and then waiting some more after that. In reality, Johnson probably has more power, on-base skills, and defensive value than a guy like, say, Lyle Overbay, but that certainly isn’t going to bring Dan, or a prospective fantasy owner, any comfort. Johnson has been invited to spring training with the Blue Jays for 2014, ostensibly for his Yankee and Red Sox-killing expertise, which he should consider applying to other opponents. (Patrick Dubuque)
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 2/22/1982 | Team: Yankees | Position: OF|
Profile: Depending on how the Yankees roster shakes out, Kelly Johnson could be in line for some serious playing time in the Bronx. He started the 2013 season as one of the Rays’ hottest hitters, but struggles in the second half eroded his plate appearances. A fresh start with the Robinson-Cano-less, Alex-Rodriguez-less Yankees could put the flexible Johnson into overtime infield duties. Johnson also has almost no discernable platoon split, though he does hit ground-ball pitchers a skosh better the fly ball pitchers. His .235/.305/.410 may be as sexy as hotel bathrobe (so mildly sexy), but he managed that line in a pitchers park. He’s likely eligible at left field in all leagues, as well as second and potentially third base. Add in that low, near right-field wall in Yankee Stadium and, hey!, you got yourself a stew! A stew of success. (@BradleyWoodrum)
Quick Opinion: Depending on the state of the Yankees roster, Kelly Johnson could be in line for not only serious playing time boosts, but also production boosts. And a lefty-friendly stadium will mark a positive change from the power-suppressing confines of Tropicana Field for this potential mid-round steal.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 10/1/1984 | Team: Braves | Position: 3B|
Profile: Johnson posted his best offensive season to date in 2013. The aid of a .394 batting average on balls in play led to a .321 batting average. As is typical with Johnson, a 21 percent strikeout rate and five percent walk rate limited his offensive production. Johnson consistently posts a high line drive and ground ball rate, which is why he generally has a high BABIP and low home run total. Due to the strikeout rate, Johnson can’t be counted on to provide an elite batting average every season, but he’s typically a positive asset in that category. Unfortunately, his production in the other standard fantasy categories leaves something to be desired. He also contributes poor defense at the hot corner, so an extended slump could lead platoon work in the future. (Brad Johnson)
Quick Opinion: Johnson requires the BABIP gods to be on his side in order to post a batting average over .300. That happens to be the only category where he can provide positive value with any reliability. He hits a ton of line drives and ground balls, which fall for hits more often than fly balls. That’s why he has a career .361 BABIP, but it also means that he won’t hit many home runs.
|Debut: 2003 | BirthDate: 12/8/1976 | Position: OF|
Profile: Johnson is currently a free agent after the Braves declined his $1.6 million option for 2014. The 37-year-old is not a fantasy asset in any sense of the word, unless you’re playing some form of razz ball. If it just so happens that you are, his combination of low batting average, low power, high strikeout rate, and low walk rate is golden — assuming he somehow manages to find playing time. At this point, there is no obvious reason why a team would offer a major league contract. He may want to consider closing out his career in Japan. (Brad Johnson)
Quick Opinion: Johnson is entering his age-37 season and may need to settle for a minor league contract this winter. He’s a below average contributor in every way, which makes it hard for major league teams to scratch value out of him.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 3/9/1984 | Position: 2B|
Profile: Elliot Johnson has yet to sign with a team and his bat isn’t good enough to guarantee him a starting position. He doesn’t hit for average (.218 career value) because of both a high strikeout rate (26% career) and low batting average on balls in play (.263 career). He has shown a bit of power which may translate into 10 homers over a season. Finally, the 30-year-old does steal a few bases and could easily go over 20 with a full-time position. His problem going forward will be linked to playing time. He has the ability to play several positions (five positions in 2013 — outfield, second, short, and third). Now he just needs to convince a team he should play one everyday. I see him eventually becoming a team’s utility player, but his bat is not worth consideration unless he has a starting role. (Jeff Zimmerman)
Quick Opinion: Elliot Johnson could be a deep-league fantasy option, but first he will need to swindle himself into a starting position somewhere first.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 6/21/1981 | Team: Marlins | Position: 1B/OF|
Profile: Garrett Jones has managed to carve out a career as a platoon power bat who can crush righty pitching and sort of play first and right, but 2013 marked a low point for him. Thanks to a strikeout percentage that jumped to 23% and a slugging percentage that dropped nearly 100 points from 2012, Jones put up the worst of his five seasons in Pittsburgh. 94.7% of his plate appearances came against righties, so it’s not like he was suddenly asked to face more lefty pitching, either. The good news is that his line drive percentage was the best of his career, so there’s reason to think there may yet be some value here, though landing in Miami means he won’t have his best position — DH — available. (Mike Petriello)
Quick Opinion: Jones had the worst season of his career at age 32, and he’ll always be limited by a complete inability to hit lefties and poor defensive skills, but in the right situation, may warrant a bench spot in deeper NL-only fantasy leagues as a power option.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 8/1/1985 | Team: Orioles | Position: OF|
Profile: Pull up players with a comparable profile, and Adam Jones doesn’t inspire confidence. He has one of the worst swinging strike rates in baseball, he almost never walks and contact rate on pitches outside the zone tends to erode with age. Still, Jones matters in a major way because he ranked third in outfielder fantasy value last year, posting his second-straight 30-homer season and adding triple-digit runs and RBI with 14 steals. Even if his average were to tail off to .250 with the expected strikeout increase, he’d be a top-15 outfielder in standard formats. Don’t buy his stat lines from the past two seasons because a reckoning is coming with that discipline profile, but rest assured there are few more reliable power producers in the outfield. (Blake Murphy)
Quick Opinion: Adam Jones is going to decline, and probably soon, if his current plate discipline profile holds up. Even then, though, he’s one of the most reliable outfield power producers and 20 homers and 10 stolen bases feels like the downside.
|Debut: 2013 | BirthDate: 10/28/1988 | Position: 1B/2B|
Profile: The 25-year-old infielder got a quick taste of the big league life in May, getting seven plate appearances before shoulder surgery ended his season. He was removed from the team’s 40-man roster, yet remains in the organization. His main focus should be getting back on a minor league field in 2014. (Erik Hahmann)
Quick Opinion: Even the Yankees infield situation isn’t bad enough to warrant Joseph seeing much time this season.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 8/3/1984 | Team: Rays | Position: OF|
Profile: Matt Joyce enters the 2014 season as a member of a suddenly crowded Rays outfield. He will rotate into the designated hitter slot on occasion as Joe Maddon looks to creatively give playing time to each of his four starters, but ultimately, Joyce’s outfield eligibility should not be in jeopardy. In fact, a full year of Wil Myers should increase his left field playing time, helping those who play in leagues with specific outfield positions. But Joyce has a very clear ceiling, and that’s around 490 to 510 plate appearances. He is a platoon player through and through (with a sickly .194/.270/.322 slash in his limited showings against lefties), but can still hit homers and get on base (a career .249 batting average, but .340 on-base percentage). Owners willing to commit to whipping Joyce in and out of a lineup according the opposing pitcher’s handedness will no doubt benefit from the lefty’s overall solid game. (@BradleyWoodrum)
Quick Opinion: Joyce has the all-around skills that make him a good, quiet addition to many teams, but he needs a little extra TLC as the Rays are unlikely to ever play him against lefties.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 3/28/1988 | Position: OF|
Profile: Ryan Kalish has been struggling with a shoulder injury off and on since 2011. That’s taken some of the shine off of what used to be a rising star prospect resume. The lefty outfielder had power, patience, speed, and center field defense at one point. Now it looks like the power ceiling is a bit more muted, the speed isn’t as top-shelf, the defense is better in the corners, and the contact rate might be a problem. But the shoulder is supposedly healthy this season, so there’s a bit of light at the end of the tunnel. And as close as he is to being out of baseball, Kalish has opportunity at the big league level. All he has to do is be better than one of Darnell McDonald, Justin Ruggiano and Ryan Sweeney, really. That seems do-able, especially since the 25-year-old is younger than the other options and the Cubs are re-building. Projections might not know enough about Kalish’s history to be believable, but in 282 major league plate appearances accrued while still hurting, Kalish has gone .243/.293/.351 with four homers and 13 steals. If you play in deeper leagues and accept that he has upside beyond those numbers — he’s certainly showed more power and patience most of his career — then you might be interested right now. (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: Now with the Cubs, Kalish has to prove his shoulder is healthy, and that he has more power and patience than he’s shown in the big leagues so far. Deep leaguers shouldn’t forget he once had promise, and that the outfield depth chart ahead of him is underwhelming.
|Debut: 2012 | BirthDate: 6/3/1981 | Position: SS|
Profile: Come back, David Eckstein, all is forgiven. In a mostly disastrous season for the Toronto Blue Jays, Munenoro Kawasaki was a bright spot. I mean, he hit (using “hit” loosely) .229/.326/.308, which was totally awesome. But he had some big hits and a fun warm-up routine and other stuff and the internet loved him, even some cold-hearted saber-bloggers. Maybe Eckstein’s problem was that he could actually sort of play major-league baseball decently, rather than being a homeless man’s Willie Bloomquist. Who knows? At this point, Kawasaki looks like he will be returning to Japan to play in 2014, but that is what people said last year after he got cut by the Mariners. He has the potential to have both an on-base and slugging over .300, so you can’t ignore him, right? (Matt Klaassen)
Quick Opinion: If Kawasaki somehow latches on with a major league organization and your league has a spot for “guys who warm up in an entertaining fashion,” he might have some value in very deep AL-only leagues.
|Debut: 2002 | BirthDate: 5/20/1980 | Position: OF|
Profile: Remember when Austin Kearns was a top prospect in the Reds farm system? Yeah, me neither. At age 33, Kearns has become a journeyman reserve outfielder, having played for four different organizations over the past five years. Only one of those seasons did he record more than 250 plate appearances. His one asset — power — has disappeared, making him useless in fantasy leagues. (Mike Podhorzer)
Quick Opinion: With the opportunity for a starting role long gone and his one main asset, power, having gone MIA, there’s nothing to see here. Move along now kiddies.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 2/15/1980 | Team: Tigers | Position: OF|
Profile: Every year, there is a player that piques the interest of the statistical community, a player who inexplicably seems to get job after job despite any discernible talent. One of the poster children in this example is Willie Bloomquist, who has accumulated just 1.4 WAR in a 12-year major league career. Don Kelly is trying very hard to follow in Bloomquist’s footsteps, as he has totaled just 0.4 WAR in a six-year major league career. Kelly has never been worth more than 1.2 WAR, and has been worth 0.0 WAR or less in four of his six seasons in the majors. He has a good batting eye, but despite his respectable walk rate the past two seasons, he has posted on-base percentages of .276 and .309. He comes with a good fielding reputation, but overall he has been a negative defensively the past two seasons, by both UZR and DRS. He has decent speed, yet he has never been a go-to for stolen bases. He has never stolen more than three bases in a single season. Kelly has decent power, but it is still generally well-below league average. In short, there’s just not that much redeeming about him, other than a willingness to play wherever and whenever he is told. The Tigers can do better, and so should you.
Quick Opinion: Kelly has survived at the major league level for six seasons, despite never being worth much of anything. He was a warm security blanket for manager Jim Leyland, but if Brad Ausmus is interested in optimizing his roster, Kelly will soon be history.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 9/23/1984 | Team: Dodgers | Position: OF|
Profile: It’s difficult to overstate just how badly 2013 went for Matt Kemp, who was awful for two months, then missed time with injuries to his shoulder, hamstring, and ankle. If there’s hope here, it’s that his early power struggles were mostly attributed to recovery from offseason shoulder surgery, and he was very productive from July 1 on (.333/.400/.630), but since that was done in only 60 plate appearances interrupted by two injuries, it’s difficult to put much stock in that. Kemp enters 2014 as one of the biggest boom-or-bust players around; it’s now been two full years since he was the superstar he’s paid to be, but headed into his age-29 season, it’s far from too late — if he can stay healthy. (Mike Petriello)
Quick Opinion: Matt Kemp is arguably the biggest question mark in all of fantasy headed into 2014, because his name and youth will keep him drafted highly, yet his continued injury problems make him hugely risky.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 7/12/1983 | Team: Angels | Position: 2B|
Profile: There are players you target, there are plan B players, and then there are the fallback options. I see Howie Kendrick as the quintessential fallback for your second base strategy. The great thing about Kendrick is he provides just enough across the board to be useful. He has a career .292/.329/.429 slash line, and after eight seasons and almost 4,000 plate appearances, you can probably hang your hat on him reproducing something in that range going into 2014. Kendrick should break through to double digit home runs and steals, although it might take him until September to get there. Depending on where he hits in the lineup, he ought to provide a decent number of runs and RBI as well. He’s certainly not an impact fantasy player, but he’s not a black hole in any particular category and he won’t cost but a few bucks or late round flier on draft day. He’s kind of a Martin Prado prototype with a dearth of hype. (Michael Barr)
Quick Opinion: Howie Kendrick is a handy little player to either stash on your bench in case disaster strikes your starting second baseman, or he is a decent play should you have a middle infield spot to fill. He doesn’t do anything particularly great, but he doesn’t do anything poorly in standard roto formats. He’s better than you thought he was, and yet still not a player to target on draft day. If .280, 12 home runs, 12 stolen bases, 65-75 runs and RBI floats your boat, Kendrick is your guy.
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 4/21/1980 | Team: White Sox | Position: 2B/3B|
Profile: After ranking 27th in third base weighted offense in 2012, the White Sox brought in Keppinger to provide stability to the position. In 2013, the team ranked 29th. Keppinger completely collapsed, hitting .253/.283/.317 in 451 plate appearances. He even lost his effectiveness against lefties, which had previously been one of his strengths at the plate. Keppinger had shoulder surgery in September, which might explain some of his ineffectiveness. Even if Keppinger bounces back, it’s tough to utilize him in fantasy. He’s rarely been utilized as a full-time player, and doesn’t hit for enough power or rack up enough steals to be fantasy-relevant. (Chris Cwik)
Quick Opinion: A shoulder injury may have impacted Keppinger’s numbers last season. Even if he bounces back, he’s not going to have fantasy value to matter in mixed leagues.
|Debut: 2013 | BirthDate: 4/22/1990 | Team: Rays | Position: OF|
Profile: At the bare minimum, Kiermaier is an elite defensive outfielder. On that merit alone, Joe Maddon slipped him into the ninth inning of their final game of 2013 so that Kiermaier could play in the playoffs in a possible pinch-running, defensive replacement role. In 2014, there’s a chance he could develop into more than that. The left-handed hitter hit .263/.338/.423 in Triple-A and could be a doubles and steals guy in the majors. However, the present Rays outfield situation is such that Kiermaier will not receive steady playing time until a whole string of hitters plop onto the disabled list. If and when Kiermaier reaches the majors, his ceiling is probably closer to Peter Bourjos than Brett Gardner. (@BradleyWoodrum)
Quick Opinion: Kiermaier could develop into a fantasy weapon, but for now he’s got the raw talent of a fourth outfielder. If he develops well, he can offer a solid on-base percentage and some steals (and stellar defense), but that won’t likely happen in 2014.
|Debut: 2013 | BirthDate: 1/21/1987 | Team: Giants | Position: OF|
Profile: If 27 is the magic age where baseball players hit their physical prime and have breakout seasons, then 2014 should be Kieschnick’s year. Unfortunately, that myth has been disproved all too often and Kieschnick is probably nothing more than a Triple-A ballplayer anyway. While you can blame some of Kieschnick’s offensive shortcomings on injuries, the fact remains that he has a total of just 28 home runs in the very hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League over the last two seasons and he has roughly a 26% strikeout rate over that span. He got a quick call-up in 2013, but hit just .202 with no home runs and five RBI over 95 plate appearances and whiffed more than 30% of the time. With the Giants bringing in Mike Morse to join last year’s outfield crew for 2014, there is little chance that Kieschnick even comes close to making the 25-man roster. What does that mean for fantasy purposes? Exactly what you thought. Nothing. (Howard Bender)
Quick Opinion: There was a time when Kieschnick had some potential as a left-handed bat in an outfield platoon, but injuries and a lack of legitimate offensive output has left him as nothing more than organizational depth. He’ll bide his time at Triple-A Fresno in 2014, but there’s little chance he’ll have any remote impact in the fantasy world this season.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 6/22/1982 | Team: Tigers | Position: 2B|
Profile: Whatever one makes of the Ian Kinsler – Prince Fielder trade between the Tigers and Rangers in real baseball, it is hard to deny that the shift in parks will hurt Kinsler’s fantasy numbers a bit. Comerica is not the pitcher’s paradise it is sometimes said to be, but it is definitely harder on hitters than the Ballpark in Arlington. Moreover, Kinsler is clearly on the decline — he will be 32 in June, and the home run power and speed just are not what they where in 2009 a few years ago. That being said, it is hard to imagine a fantasy league in which Kinsler is not drafted. Kinsler is not on the same level as Robinson Cano, Matt Carpenter, or Dustin Pedroia anymore, but if those three players make up the top end of fantasy second basemen, Kinsler (at least for 2014) is still clearly right behind them. He has always popped up a lot, which hurts his batting average on balls in play and keeps his average from being great, but he has enough other skills to make up for it. His walk rate has been only average the last couple of years as opposed to the good walk rates of 2010 and 2011, but he also has excellent contact skills. His power and speed are not what they used to be, but 15-20 homers and roughly the same number of steals is still excellent from a second baseman. Don’t treat him as a second base star, but do not let his declining numbers and tougher park let Kinsler slip too far. (Matt Klaassen)
Quick Opinion: Ian Kinsler is not what he used to be, and his new park will be tougher on his numbers, but he still projects as a one of the better second-tier fantasy second basemen in almost all leagues.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 4/3/1987 | Team: Indians | Position: 2B|
Profile: Quick, off the top of your head, who leads second basemen in stolen bases over the last two seasons? If you guessed Jason Kipnis, you could be forgiven, since this is about him. The actual answer is Jose Altuve, but Kipnis is second. What about homers? This time if you guessed Kipnis, you are not forgiven, as he is only eighth on this list. But combined, Kipnis has comfortably more stolen bases plus homers than any other 2B, averaging 15 HR and 30 SB over the last two seasons. And another 15-30 type season (at least 15-25, maybe even 20-30) seems likely for Kipnis in 2014. His average won’t be the best (.284 in ’13, but propped up by a .345 batting average on balls in play), but he walks at a good clip, bats near the top of the Indians lineup, and runs the bases well, which means he is going to pile up the runs, as well. Kipnis had a rough second half, and if you are lucky, that means his cost will come down a bit. Or maybe you can find an owner who is bearish and willing to sell him. But if you can, you want to have Kipnis on your roster. A year without his second-half fade will have him atop the second base rankings by September. (Chad Young)
Quick Opinion: For the last two seasons, Jason Kipnis has been a top-five fantasy asset at second base, and is in the argument for the top three (he’s fourth in ottoneu Points). His second half wasn’t pretty, but don’t let that scare you away from an elite producer at a middle infield position.
|Debut: 2013 | BirthDate: 6/30/1988 | Team: Nationals | Position: OF|
Profile: It’s a shame that Kobernus doesn’t have much on-base ability, because he has speed to burn. In 385 career minor-league games, the 25-year-old has 162 steals. Unfortunately, he just doesn’t get on base enough to utilize his speed. Both Steamer and Oliver project Kobernus for a sub-.300 on-base percentage in 2014, and he’s stuck behind Bryce Harper, Jayson Werth, Denard Span, Tyler Moore and Scott Hairston on the Nationals’ outfield depth chart. (Scott Strandberg)
Quick Opinion: Even if Washington lost their entire starting outfield to injuries, Kobernus would be fighting for a roster spot with Brian Goodwin, Eury Perez, Michael Taylor, Brandon Miller and Steven Souza. All of those players are more highly regarded prospects than Kobernus.
|Debut: 1997 | BirthDate: 3/5/1976 | Team: White Sox | Position: 1B/DH|
Profile: Konerko decided in early December that he would return for one more season before retiring. The soon to be 38-year-old joins a team that already employs Adam Dunn and Jose Abreu, so there was some question about how much playing time Konerko would receive. Konerko cleared up those issues admitting he didn’t think his body could hold up in a full-time role anymore. He’ll play a few times a week, and act as a mentor to younger players on his off days. It’s hard to say if age or injuries led to Konerko’s poor 2013, making it tough to know what he’ll do in his new role. There’s a chance he has a slight bounce back, but his reduced role won’t make him a fantasy asset. (Chris Cwik)
Quick Opinion: Konerko is back for another season, but will take on a reduced role so he can be a mentor to the younger players on the team. An injury to Adam Dunn or Jose Abreu could lead to more playing time, but Konerko’s age may prevent him from being a useful fantasy asset.
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 2/22/1983 | Position: 1B|
Profile: Kotchman last played a full season in 2012, when he compiled a .612 OPS as a designated hitter and part-time first baseman. He earned a total of 21 plate appearances in 2013, over which he went hitless before having his season ended by a lingering oblique strain. When 2014 begins, Kotchman will be one the wrong side of 30, with no defensive value and a career OPS below league average. He has posted an OPS+ of 100 or better over a full season but once in his career. He doesn’t possess any sort of platoon dominance. If he’s healthy, he’ll probably find his way onto a roster, perhaps more likely in the American League, as a spot starter and pinch hitter, but would not possess value unless he manages to land a regular gig, which itself would be the source of that value and apply only in deep leagues. (Derek Ambrosino)
Quick Opinion: Kotchman will be 31 in 2014, and coming off a season lost almost entirely to injury. His future is uncertain and does not appear likely to land a starting job in 2014. Were he to do so, he’d have value in shallow leagues on the basis of regular at bats only. He also has no dramatic handedness splits, and therefore doesn’t project as a useful platoon option either.
|Debut: 1997 | BirthDate: 12/2/1975 | Position: OF|
Profile: Kotsay retired at the end of the 2013 campaign and immediately took a position in San Diego’s front office as a special assistant. If you’re in a dynasty front office league, Kotsay could be an intriguing target in the middle rounds of your draft. (JP Breen)
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 5/10/1983 | Team: Cubs | Position: C|
Profile: George Kottaras is more useful in real baseball than he is in fantasy baseball. He is a left-handed hitting catcher who should give the Cubs’ Welington Castillo some days off against tough right-handed pitching. Short of an injury to Castillo, though, Kottaras will probably have around 200 plate appearances. Even if he does end up with a full-time role, his value is limited. First, he doesn’t hit for average at all (around .200 the last two seasons). When he is able to hit the ball, he does hit a decent number of home runs (29 in 820 career PA) which would be expected from a player with a career 20%+ home run per fly ball rate. While he may be drag in batting average leagues, in on-base percentage leagues he has a little more value — he’s averaged a .350 OBP the past two seasons. The other down side to Kottaras is he should probably only be played against right-handed pitchers. Over his career, he has a .749 OPS against righties and only .655 against lefties. The only way I see him as being rosterable is in a deep NL-only league and then only if Castillo gets hurt. (Jeff Zimmerman)
Quick Opinion: While Kottaras will be useful for the Cubs, he has little-to-no use for fantasy owners. The lack of projected plate appearances and low batting average make him pretty much useless.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 4/11/1988 | Team: Cardinals | Position: SS|
Profile: A defensive-minded shortstop with questionable offensive skills, Kozma tested the Cardinals’ patience by posting a woeful .241 weighted on-base average. With no power, far too many pop-ups and a walk rate that fails to offset the lack of hitting skills, the team understandably signed free agent Jhonny Peralta to take over the everyday shortstop duties. Usually a middle infielder will offer power or speed, with the elite displaying both. However, Kozma has neither power, nor speed, making him an absolute zero to fantasy owners even if he does end up lucking into some playing time. (Mike Podhorzer)
Quick Opinion: After coming off the worst offensive performance of the season if he qualified, Kozma has been replaced by the newly-signed Jhonny Peralta, making the former just a late-inning defensive replacement. The free agent pool is precisely where a bench bat with no power or speed belongs.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 6/15/1980 | Team: Blue Jays | Position: C|
Profile: The former Phillie was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays this offseason where he’s behind Dioner Navarro and Josh Thole on the depth chart. The Jays will probably try to sneak Kratz down to Triple-A at some point during the offseason or spring training, but it wouldn’t be surprising if he landed with a new team. Kratz has a decent profile for a backup catcher, but he isn’t anything to write home about for fantasy owners. He got his opportunity late in his career since he’s preparing to enter his age-34 season. He does offer good pop, including a career .188 isolated slugging percentage over 417 plate appearances, so fantasy owners who stream the occasional Sunday start may benefit. (Brad Johnson)
Quick Opinion: With two decent catchers ahead of him on the Blue Jays depth chart, Kratz will have to hope that another team claims him if and when the Jays place him on waivers. Kratz turns 34 next June, so he doesn’t have much time left in his career for playing third fiddle in Triple-A. As a fantasy player, his power is streamable, but that’s the extent of his value.
|Debut: 2013 | BirthDate: 10/5/1987 | Team: Astros | Position: DH/OF|
Profile: Marc Krauss was part of the trade that sent Chris Johnson to the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2012. The former second round draft pick owns a career .277/.375/.481 slash line across five seasons in the minors, and after hitting .281/.401/.478 at Triple-A in 2013, he earned a call up to the Astros big league roster in late June. His results were disappointing, however — he slashed .209/.267/.366 with four home runs over 146 plate appearances. Krauss struggles enough making contact that he’ll probably never hit for a great average, but he has always demonstrated the ability to draw a walk and he’s had plus power at every stop. Not widely recognized as a gifted defender, his role might eventually evolve as a platoon designated hitter type. (Michael Barr)
Quick Opinion: If given the opportunity to play every day, Krauss might hit 20+ home runs, but he’s also likely to hit about .220. There’s no assurance that he’ll receive regular playing time in 2014, however, so Krauss is probably best on a deep keeper roster, but in standard formats, you can cross him off your 2014 draft plans.
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 5/25/1982 | Position: OF|
Profile: It’s entirely unclear what the circumstances were that contributed to Jason Kubel’s performance this past season — but the result was unmitigated disaster for fantasy owners. After signing a two-year contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2012, Kubel posted his first 30 home run season, slashing .253/.327/.506 while driving in 90 runs. While most projection systems saw a moderate drop in expectations for 2013, nobody thought that Kubel’s stock would drop so far that he’d be dumped in a trade to a different team, and subsequently designated for assignment. But that’s what happened, and it’s a bit of a head-scratcher as to why. But the end result from 2013 was an unseemly .216/.293/.317 line with just five home runs over 290 plate appearances. There’s potential here for a dead cat bounce as Kubel is just 31 and he’s really had just the one stinker since being a regular in 2007. Perhaps he’ll feel right at home coming back to the Twins on a minor league deal, but as such, there’s no guarantee of regular at bats. If he does make the big league roster, he’s likely to split time in the outfield, DH, and maybe spell some guy named Joe at first base on occasion. I might think about a last round coin flip on him just in case lightning strikes. But don’t go hanging any hats on him. (Michael Barr)
Quick Opinion: Jason Kubel had a nightmare of a season in 2013. He’s probably going to be lucky to find a platoon role at best, but he might fall into 400 plate appearances. If he can find the swing that made him a pretty nice third or fourth outfielder, he could be worth a look. But after a season in which he produced a .267 wOBA, I’m probably letting someone else burn that roster spot.
|Debut: 2013 | BirthDate: 3/17/1989 | Team: Mets | Position: OF|
Profile: Have you watched Juan Lagares? You should watch Juan Lagares. At least for his arms and legs. Well, not for the shape of those limbs, but for the actions they undertake. This is getting weird. Lagares has one of the best outfield arms in the business, and showed great range in his rookie season. And that should give him a regular job in center field for the Mets. Unfortunately, he rarely walks and often strikes out, and his power is likely to remain at league average or worse, even through his peak years. There’s a chance the 25-year-old might make more contact in 2014, and if he adds just a modicum of power, and a dash of line drives, the whole package might be more palatable from a fantasy perspective. The worst-case scenario — a bad batting average and single-digit offerings in homers and stolen bases — is enough to make him a deep leaguer either way. The reduced upside means he’s a deep league flyer at best. But at least he’s worth watching! (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: Some line drives and added effectiveness on the basepaths could make Juan Lagares a mixed-league waiver-wire injury replacement sometime in 2014, but his flaws make him a bench pick in deeper league drafts — at best. At least his real-life skills are strong enough to keep him in the lineup.
|Debut: 2003 | BirthDate: 11/13/1979 | Team: Braves | Position: C|
Profile: With Brian McCann headed north to New York and the acquisition of Ryan Doumit, Laird’s role with the club is not set in stone. He’ll probably be rostered as a backup, but it’s unclear if there will be much playing time available when the team is at full strength. Laird has been a solid backup catcher in limited work these past two seasons and has posted a batting average above .280 in each. Unfortunately, that’s the extent of the upside in his fantasy profile since he doesn’t have much in the way of power and will probably bat eighth when he plays. Owners in very deep leagues (at least 30 catchers rostered) may consider taking a flier on him as a backup in case he does see increased playing time. That could happen if an outfielder gets injured or Gattis fails to repeat his strong 2013 season. (Brad Johnson)
Quick Opinion: Laird enters the season as the club’s second or third catcher. His offensive potential is severely limited due to a lack of power, so he’s a non-factor in nearly all fantasy leagues.
|Debut: 2013 | BirthDate: 3/27/1990 | Team: Cubs | Position: OF|
Profile: Lake has been teasing scouts, prospect analysts and diehard fans with his raw athleticism and potential for years. He finally started tapping into that promise in 2013 and made his much-anticipated big league debut, however, the same old concerns remain. Lake is an overly-aggressive hitter with lightning-quick bat speed that generates above-average power when he makes contact. He also runs well enough to steal more than 20 bases if he can polish his base running. Along with a low on-base percentage, Lake is likely to provide high strikeout rates. And inconsistent defense. (Marc Hulet)
Quick Opinion: Lake is currently penciled in as the Cubs’ starting left-fielder and the job should be his to lose. Expect growing pains during his first full MLB season, but also plan on seeing some flashes of brilliance.
|Debut: 2013 | BirthDate: 8/11/1988 | Team: Pirates | Position: OF|
Profile: Once a top Dodger prospect, Lambo originally made it to Triple-A in 2011 and failed badly, not returning until 2013 with a shocking six (!) partial Double-A seasons under his belt. That makes it hard to take him seriously in the bigs, but it’s difficult to ignore the 33 homers he put up at three levels in 2013, including one in Pittsburgh. The power is real, though so is the inability to make enough contact to put it to use — it’s not good when you strike out a quarter of the time at 24 in Double-A, as he did. That limits his value significantly, as does the uncertainty about whether the Pirates will give him a real opportunity in 2014. (Mike Petriello)
Quick Opinion: Lambo’s power makes him worth keeping an eye on, though a history of contact issues and lack of a clear path to playing time limits his fantasy value
|Debut: 2002 | BirthDate: 2/20/1980 | Position: 1B|
Profile: Ryan Langerhans was a sabermetric darling back in 2008 and 2009. Teams seemed hung up on the low batting average and unexceptional power for a corner outfielder. What they seemed to be missing was that his walk rate was enough to make Langerhans project as a roughly league average hitter and, more importantly, his excellent defense made him not only useful, but perhaps even worthy of starting in the right situation. Even back then, Langerhans’ underrated skills did not translate to fantasy value. Now in his thirties, Langerhans has spent the last two seasons as minor league depth for the Angels and Blue Jays. He probably will latch on to some other team in a similar role. He seems unlikely to get significant playing time, and even if he does, his skills, never worth much in most fantasy leagues, have declined to much for owners to bother. (Matt Klaassen)
Quick Opinion: Even in his prime as an underrated sabermetric darling, Ryan Langerhans’ skills did not really translate to fantasy. That was four or five years ago, and now, without the prospect of significant playing time (or even a major league contract), he shouldn’t be on any fantasy draft boards.
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 11/6/1979 | Team: Nationals | Position: 1B|
Profile: After capturing owners hearts and becoming a fantasy darling in 2012, LaRoche saw himself drop out of the top-30 fantasy first basemen in ESPN leagues last season. His weighted on-base average dropped from .361 to .321, while his isolated slugging and home run numbers similarly similarly declined. The dagger for fantasy owners was the .237 batting average (his 12.2% walk rate mitigated the damage in on-base percentage leagues). The culprit? His platoon woes returned with a vengeance. LaRoche owns a career .316 wOBA against left-handed pitchers. In his banner 2012 season, he bucked the trend and compiled a .349 wOBA. Even with the walk and strikeout rates hinting the improvement wasn’t sustainable, it provided significant hope. Unfortunately, LaRoche crashed back to earth. Hard. He posted a .253 wOBA with only three homers against southpaws in 2013. That proved insurmountable and his overall numbers tanked. He still clobbered 17 homers versus righties and hit .250/.357/.434 on the season. The platoon splits may not be that severe again in 2014, but they are real. At most, he profiles as a platoon option at first base for those owners who don’t mind playing daily matchups, as he remains valuable at the plate against righties. (JP Breen)
Quick Opinion: After a tremendous 2012 campaign that saw him launch 33 homers, LaRoche reverted to being barely relevant in fantasy leagues last season. Creative owners may still find sneaky value by treating him as a platoon option, starting him solely against righties.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 9/13/1983 | Position: 3B|
Profile: Remember when Andy LaRoche was the third base prospect the Dodgers just wouldn’t give a fair shake? Don’t worry, neither does anyone else. Seriously, LaRoche was on the Baseball America Top 100 list every year from 2005 to 2008, including being number 19 in both 2006 and 2007. It is not like things were always hopeless. Probably forgotten now, but LaRoche actually was actually decent for the Pirates in 2009, hitting .258/.330/.401 over 590 plate appearances — acceptable from a third baseman. That was about it for LaRoche, and for whatever other reason, he has been awful in the brief chances he has had on various teams. LaRoche has a minor league deal with the Blue Jays, but with Brett Lawrie a fixture at third and other people on the major-league depth chart, LaRoche might be lucky to get a single plate appearance in the majors in 2014. I guess Joe Torre was right. (Matt Klaassen)
Quick Opinion: Unless someone in your league might mistake him for Adam and trade for him, do not draft blocked prospect blast from the past Andy.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 8/7/1987 | Team: Red Sox | Position: C|
Profile: Lavarnway is a bat-first catcher who will take a walk and hit for power but lacks the bat speed to hit quality pitching. As a hybrid catcher/first baseman/designated hitter he’d have some nice value because of catcher eligibility. Sadly, that opportunity seemingly won’t come with Boston anytime soon, as they have players ahead of him everywhere on the depth chart. He could have some value if injuries open up some at bats. (Al Skorupa)
Quick Opinion: Lavarnway could have some value as a catcher eligible player who can hit for some power, but the depth chart ahead of him in Boston is packed for the upcoming season.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 1/18/1990 | Team: Blue Jays | Position: 3B|
Profile: Normally, a great contact rate, league-average power, above-average speed and an average batted ball mix produce better than a .254 batting average. And normally a season with a .254 batting average, 11 homers and nine stolen bases from a 23-year-old eligible at second (in some leagues) and third wouldn’t be met with as much scorn as Brett Lawrie’s season had to endure. Regression from a career-low .280 batting average on balls in play should improve the batting average next season, and being pre-peak with regards to power is enough to push him to .270 with 15 homers and 15 stolen bases if you’re feeling a healthier season coming. And that’s valuable enough to spend some money on, especially on the inield. How much upside he has beyond is a better debate, particularly when it comes to power. He has that short-sample debut in Toronto (.287 isolated slugging), and that great Triple-A run (.308 ISO) and then a whole lot of average-ness (.158 career ISO). Be safe, and don’t spend on superlative power. But he’s worth looking at a little harder than some, because he’s shown great skills in the past and he’s capable of flashing those abilities again in the future. Just because it seems like he’s been around forever doesn’t mean he’s damaged goods. (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: Brett Lawrie is probably not that guy that tore up the league the first time he ran all through it. Brett Lawrie is also probably not that guy that struggled through two injury-plagued seasons since. He’s 24 this season, and that’s too young to call him a bust.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 7/13/1988 | Team: Rockies | Position: 2B|
Profile: Acquired in the deal that sent Ian Stewart and Casey Weathers to the Cubs, LeMahieu has been a nifty little acquisition for the Rockies. The team has been historically terrible at second base, and with LeMahieu in the fold the Rockies have at least been able to count on good defensive play up the middle. But while the LSU product is adept with the leather, those skills do not translate at the dish. LeMahieu has never met a pitch that he didn’t want to swing at, but unfortunately he misses far too frequently for that to be an effective strategy. His .28 BB/K ranked 28th worst out of 204 hitters last season (min. 400 PA). That might be an acceptable strategy if he had say, Nelson Cruz’s power. But he doesn’t. LeMahieu’s power is non-existent, and so he is forced to rely on singles. When he did get on base last season, he stole bases at an acceptable 72% clip, but that is about all he has going for him. Bottom line — if you end up with LeMahieu on your team, there’s approximately a 0.0% chance that you’re going to win your league.
Quick Opinion: If he ends up winning the Rockies’ second base job, LeMahieu might be an option in deep leagues if you are desperate for stolen bases. But if you end up rostering him, you should definitely go and take a shower, because such an action will make you feel quite dirty.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 8/14/1988 | Position: 1B|
Profile: Alex Liddi is not a MLB-caliber player. He has a little bit of power, but he’s a homeless man’s Mark Reynolds at the plate. Stop wasting precious moments of your life looking at his player page. (Zach Sanders)
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 9/18/1983 | Position: 2B/3B|
Profile: There’s good news and bad news when it comes to Brent Lillibridge. Lillibridge has played for seven organizations in eight years. He currently has no job. He’s no longer a young man. He has hit .200 or worse in four of his six major league seasons. He strikes in about one third of his at bats. His career slash line is .205/.267/.332. His career accumulation of wins above replacement is -1.9 WAR. The good news is… well, he’s versatile on defense, having played every position but catcher and pitcher in his career. You be the judge on draft day. (Michael Barr)
Quick Opinion: Brent Lillibridge had a nice little contribution in 2011, but the remainder of his major league career hasn’t been anything you want associating with your fantasy baseball team. He’ll land somewhere as a versatile bench guy who can play multiple positions, but you can cross him off your draft list.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 7/17/1983 | Team: Blue Jays | Position: 1B/DH|
Profile: Just when everyone was about ready to give up on Adam Lind coming off of three pretty terrible years, in 2013 he went ahead and had his best season since 2009. His .288/.357/.497 in 2013 might have been interpreted as a “free agent push,” except it just encouraged the team (rightly) to pick up the first of three team options. John Gibbons wisely platooned Lind most of the time, who has trouble against southpaws. He will probably be mostly platooned again in 2014, but although that might hurt his counting stats a bit, he will still get the majority of plate appearances at designated hitter (with occasional forays at first) for the Blue Jays, and the platooning will help his rate stats, too. Lind was probably a bit over his head in 2013, so do not expect a high average (and thus on-base percentage or slugging). A reasonable projection for Lind in 2014 might be .270/.340/.470, and perhaps a bit better on the rate stats if he is platooned. Even at just 500 plate appearances, he could easily hit 20 home runs. The limited playing time does hurt his value, and Lind is not a world beater, but he is useful enough as a first baseman or utility player that he should be drafted in just about every AL-only league and even some deep mixed leagues. (Matt Klaassen)
Quick Opinion: It might be a stretch to say that Adam Lind saved his career in 2013, but it would not be far off, either. He is not a first- or even second-division starter any more, but he is good enough to be more than just bench fodder.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 10/21/1984 | Team: Nationals | Position: C|
Profile: Jose Molina and the newly-acquired Ryan Hanigan both rank ahead of Lobaton in the catcher depth chart in Tampa. While Lobaton offered better hitting than Molina, and possibly even Hanigan, the switch-hitting Lobaton will require a trade to match even the partial playing time he received in 2013. If he’s still on the Rays, he’ll start the season in the minors and only get partial time if/when catcher injuries occur. With a .249/.320/.394 career slash and just-above league average weighted offense, Lobaton ranks as an above-average hitter at the catcher position. He hits for a smidgen of power and sports a solid on-base percentage; for a catcher, that’s great. He may never be a darling of the batting average leagues, but with steady playing time, he could make for a good, cheap catching option. But until his name is higher than number three on the depth chart, look elsewhere. (@BradleyWoodrum)
Quick Opinion: The Rays’ acquisition of Ryan Hanigan puts Lobaton on the bottom of a three-tiered pecking order. So barring a trade to a new team, Lobaton’s value is limited to the health of Jose Molina and Hanigan. If he does get steady playing time, with the Rays or elsewhere, Lobaton could make for a clever waiver wire or late draft acquisition.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 9/20/1988 | Team: Tigers | Position: 2B/OF|
Profile: Lombardozzi entered 2013 looking like a solid utility infielder, but his offensive performance declined to the point of uselessness. Not that much actually changed in his profile. His walk rate dropped from 4.6% in 2012 to 2.6% and his batting average on balls in play declined by 20 points. Otherwise, he was the same hitter as he was in 2012. The Nationals viewed him as a backup second baseman and outfielder, but he’s played shortstop and third base in the past and could probably be called to do so again in a pinch. He’ll get a chance to rebound with the Tigers next season after being dealt as part of the Doug Fister trade. Lombardozzi showed more power and plate discipline in the minors and it’s possible that the Tigers can coax a little extra out of his bat. It’ll still be in a super-utility role. (Brad Johnson)
Quick Opinion: Lombardozzi was a below replacement level player last season, but he’s only entering his age-25 season and isn’t too long removed from some strong minor league numbers. The Tigers may hope that a little instruction can help him to tap into a little extra power, which would make him a more useful bench bat.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 5/7/1984 | Team: Rays | Position: 1B|
Profile: After receiving his allotted dose of Rays magic, James Loney — like Carlos Pena and Casey Kotchman before him — heads into the 2014 season with a renewed vigor. His platoon split renders him a tough sell for full-time duty, but even the platoon-happy Rays could not afford a roster space for a right-handed first baseman all season (thus Loney got more playing time and was less effective as the 2013 season progressed). Still, his strong defensive chops and considerable contact skills will continue to make him a viable major league first baseman in 2014. Steamer and Oliver both project league-average weighted offense or thereabouts, which doesn’t bode well for fantasy purposes. But his high-contact hitting style has netted him a .285 batting average and .340 on-base percentage despite playing his career across two pitchers’ parks in LA and Tampa Bay. Don’t turn to Loney expecting a repeat of 2013, but hey, worse chances could be taken in a 4×4 or 5×5 league. (@BradleyWoodrum)
Quick Opinion: Do not bank on a repeat of 2013, but if you want batting average or on-base percentage on the cheap, James Loney might just be your man. If possible, platoon him.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 10/7/1985 | Team: Rays | Position: 3B|
Profile: The perennial All-Star third baseman played a stalwart 160 games in 2013, helping push back the ominous Eric Chavez comparisons for at least another year. Longo hits homers, takes walks, and even sports a solid (but not elite) batting average — all while playing third, a position that averaged a .256/.317/.398 slash in 2013. When healthy, Longoria can be a franchise building block. He has 30+ HR power, a career .350+ on-base percentage and his weighted offense has been an impressive 35% better than league average. In all but batting average leagues, Longoria is among the top two or three third baseman — possibly infielders — in the league. But his injury history — though all unrelated, non-connected injuries — make us wary of Longoria in the long term. He began seeing more time at designated hitter in 2013, and he is widely expected to finish his career at first base, despite being an elite defensive third baseman at present. But for now, and for the next few seasons, it’s hard to anticipate anything but great 3B production from Longoria. (@BradleyWoodrum)
Quick Opinion: After an injury-shortened 2012 season, it was comforting to see Longo play 160 games in 2014. He bashes homers, gets on base, and does it all at a position lacking offense. Longoria, when healthy, can anchor a fantasy lineup.
|Debut: 2012 | BirthDate: 1/20/1986 | Team: Orioles | Position: OF|
Profile: David Lough’s baseball life just got rejuvenated after being traded to Baltimore. With the Royals he was likely the fifth outfielder. Now with the Orioles he looks to be the starting left-fielder, or at least part of a platoon with Steve Pearce. The 28-year-old left-handed hitter is probably a better real-life player than fantasy, since he plays defense well and hits doubles. He is a contact-first player who will use an above-average batting average on balls in play to drive a decent batting average (~.275). He has some pop (8-10 homers) and can still steal a few bases (~10). A .275, 10 HR, 10 SB is usually not an every-day outfielder in shallow leagues, but he does look to have some usefulness as a plug-and-play because his average will likely be neutral or better. Also, in AL-only or extremely deep leagues, he will be playing every day (or two-thirds of the time), which means he can accumulate counting stats. Lough hasn’t demonstrated any extreme career splits, so he shouldn’t start in a platoon with Baltimore, but Steve Pearce has been excellent against lefties in his short career. (Jeff Zimmerman)
Quick Opinion: David Lough’s value jumped significantly after being traded to Baltimore. While he is not good enough to be an option in shallow leagues, he has some value in AL-only and extremely deep leagues.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 4/17/1984 | Team: Athletics | Position: SS|
Profile: Jed Lowrie set career highs in games played, plate appearances, as well as most offensive statistics. His 15 home runs were one shy of his career high. However his runs, RBIs, and batting average were all career bests. Given his extensive injury history, it shouldn’t be surprising to hear that last season was the first year he qualified for the batting title. He kept the ball on the ground and with the knowledge that ground balls have a higher batting average on balls in play than fly balls, Lowrie’s .290 average was kept afloat by his nearly .320 BABIP. Going into this season is similar to last season for Lowrie: he is a skilled offensive player, but playing time — and more accurately injuries — will always be the question. If one chooses to roll with Lowrie as one’s primary shortstop, make sure to handcuff him with another shortstop-eligible player or at least pay close attention to his health and the waiver wire for potential replacements. (David Wiers)
Quick Opinion: Lowrie’s health will always be a question but his offensive prowess shouldn’t be. If healthy, expect excellent offensive numbers for a shortstop; just make sure to handcuff him with another SS-eligible player to cover yourself.
|Debut: 2013 | BirthDate: 5/21/1982 | Team: Marlins | Position: 3B|
Profile: The 31-year-old journeyman was quite the surprise in Miami, accumulating 384 plate appearances and literally playing all over the infield, plus left field. He didn’t show much offensively though, displaying little power and posting a below-average walk rate. With his ability to play all over the diamond though, he could take on a role as a super-utility guy. But he should thank his lucky stars, because he’s unlikely to ever see nearly 400 plate appearances again. (Mike Podhorzer)
Quick Opinion: You know times are tough when a 31-year-old journeyman collects nearly 400 plate appearances for your rebuilding team while just being terrible. Lucas is unlikely to ever get such playing time again and his limited fantasy intrigue should prevent owners from considering him outside of deep NL-Only leagues.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 6/13/1986 | Team: Brewers | Position: C|
Profile: The 27-year-old Brewer catcher is too often overlooked in fantasy circles because he doesn’t look the part. Many owners forget he posted a fantastic .378 weighted on-base average with 12 home runs in only 346 plate appearances in 2012. More importantly, he backed it up over a whole season by hitting .280/.340/.455 with 18 homers and a .175 isolated slugging percentage last year. The improved performance at the plate coincided with a large jump in his contact rate between 2011 and 2012, which was 83.7% to 87.6%, respectively. He consequently cut his strikeout rate in half, and those positive contact trends carried over into the 2013 season. There are two main reasons why Lucroy was the fifth-ranked fantasy catcher last year despite ranking tenth in wOBA amongst catchers with at least 300 PAs: (1) his 580 plate appearances were third-most in the league for catchers, which meant more opportunities to amass counting statistics, and (2) he produces in every category. For example, his nine stolen bases were tops at the position. Pay attention to where he bats in the Brewers’ batting order because with the return of Ryan Braun and Aramis Ramirez, he could either move down to fifth/sixth or up to the two-slot. Both will impact his potential fantasy output, but he’s safely a top-10 catcher no matter what and could push for more depending upon his batting average on balls in play. (JP Breen)
Quick Opinion: Lucroy is easily a top-10 catcher heading into the 2014 season. He provides value across the board — even leading the position in steals — and should have an opportunity to improve his counting stats with Ryan Braun and Aramis Ramirez returning to the Brewers’ lineup.
|Debut: 2002 | BirthDate: 7/13/1978 | Team: Reds | Position: OF|
Profile: After a big 2012, Ryan Ludwick’s 2013 was ruined by a separated shoulder on Opening Day. Ludwick missed three months and hit only .240/.293/.326 in 140 plate appearances after returning. As he turns 36 in July, is future is uncertain. His righty power plays well in Cincinnati, but he’s also had only one notable season in the past four. Ludwick’s home run per fly ball rate was a career-low 4.9% when he could play, and while it’s obviously unfair to have expected him to come back from the shoulder injury like nothing happened, it was also unlikely he was going to match 2012’s 18.4%. In 2014, 15-20 homers would seem to be a decent rebound projection, but considering the risk at his age and the fact that he won’t contribute on the bases or in batting average, Ludwick should be considered a buy-low candidate, if at all. (Mike Petriello)
Quick Opinion: Ludwick’s best days are most likely behind him, and while his home park might help him pump out another year of double-digit homers, the risk and lack of help in other categories severely hurt his fantasy value.
|Debut: 2013 | BirthDate: 2/6/1989 | Team: Reds | Position: OF|
Profile: Lutz made his MLB debut in 2013 but primarily came off the bench and appeared in the starting lineup just 14 times (34 overall appearances). The left-handed hitter has above-average raw power and can back up both corner outfield positions and first base. He’s not penciled in for regular playing time in 2014 but could be the first player called upon to back up for an injured Ryan Ludwick, Jay Bruce or Joey Votto. Lutz has some value as a big league contributor but he’ll probably spend the majority of his career coming off the bench or platooning. (Marc Hulet)
Quick Opinion: Lutz is only a fantasy option if an injury occurs to a big league veteran at one of the three positions that he plays. Even with regular playing time, though, he probably won’t be an impact performer.
|Debut: 2012 | BirthDate: 6/3/1986 | Team: Mets | Position: 3B|
Profile: Zach Lutz is another of the seemingly endless list of Mets players in their mid- to late-20s who are still working to establish themselves in the majors. He is a corner infielder who has shown notable, but not exceptional offensive prowess in the minors. Lutz appeared in 15 games last season, about two-thirds of which he came in off the bench. With David Wright at third and a crowded first place situation, there doesn’t appear to be a role for Lutz in 2014. If he lands somewhere else or has a hot spring, it doesn’t seem crazy that somebody might take a chance and give him some semi-regular at bats to see if he can produce at the major league level. One thing to note about Lutz is that throughout the minors, as a righty, he actually hit right-handers better than lefties, so a platoon role doesn’t seem to be among the scenarios in which he could earn regular major league playing time. (Derek Ambrosino)
Quick Opinion: At the age of 27, Lutz has had a lengthy minor league career as a productive, but not off the charts right-handed corner infielder (mostly at third). There’s no room for him on the Mets, and if there’s no room for him there, it seems there are few places he could go where he’d play. His minor league history indicates he may be worth a shot, but until he does, he doesn’t require fantasy consideration in any format.
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