|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 3/11/1980 | Team: Braves | Position: 2B|
Profile: Uggla was dreadful last season and he may need to rebound quickly in 2014 if he wants to retain a starting job. With Braves prospect Tommy La Stella waiting in the wings, Uggla is working with a short leash. That should keep his cost to fantasy owners low, making him a high risk, high reward candidate. Uggla’s ugly .179/.309/.362 batting line was held down by a low .225 batting average on balls in play and career worst 31.8% strikeout rate. The low BABIP is partially supported by a career worst 13.2% line drive rate, which was also the worst among all qualified hitters by a whopping 2.9%. It’s unclear if there’s an explanation for that low rate. His strikeout rate is also supported by peripherals — a 1.5 percent increase in his whiff rate. Despite the doom and gloom, Uggla managed to come up only nine percent short of the league’s average weighted offense last season. That’s right about average for a major league second baseman. If he featured better defense and base running last season, he would have still been a respectable player. Going forward, there is still much uncertainty in Uggla’s profile. (Brad Johnson)
Quick Opinion: Uggla is coming off the worst year of his career and is now entering his age-34 season. He’s not a bad guy to take a flier on, especially if you’re stuck with a mid-tier second baseman like Neil Walker, but he’s probably more likely to stay the same or get worse than he is to substantially improve.
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 8/21/1984 | Team: Braves | Position: OF|
Profile: It cannot get any worse! It’s all uphill from here! Those are the battle cries from the Braves organization and its fans and Upton owners in keeper leagues. Calling Upton’s season a disaster might be the understatement of the year. The worst part is that we can’t even point to an injury or get any clear explanation. The one beacon of light is that, for at least half the 2014 season, he will remain on the good side of age 30, and players of his age don’t suddenly forget how to hit. Especially players that possess such an intriguing combination of power and speed like Upton does. At the right price, and he should certainly come at bargain basement prices, he’s worth gambling on given his vast upside. (Mike Podhorzer)
Quick Opinion: Nothing went right for Upton this past year and it’s hard to identify any reason for optimism. But assuming he opens the season as the Braves starting center fielder, his proven combination of power and speed make him someone you cannot afford to ignore given his likely bargain draft cost.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 8/25/1987 | Team: Braves | Position: OF|
Profile: Had the season ended with April, Upton would have been the best player in baseball. Alas, that is not the case and he dropped into a deep slump through May and June before rebounding to finish out the season. Upton has not been the most reliable fantasy asset year to year. He always teases elite upside, which has led to high acquisition costs, but he’s put together just two outstanding seasons out of six. Upton is still young — he’s entering his age 26 season — but it’s probably time to stop dreaming on the upside. He was a bit whiff heavy in 2013, which led to a high 25% strikeout rate. His stolen base total dropped from 18 in 2012 to eight last season, and it’s possible that his seasons of 20 stolen bases are a thing of the past. He bounced around the Braves lineup last season, and it will be interesting to see if Freddy Gonzalez gives him a more consistent lineup slot next season. That will impact his runs and RBI opportunities. (Brad Johnson)
Quick Opinion: Upton has been quite streaky throughout his career and 2013 was no different. He launched 20 of his 27 home runs in April and May, and provided minimal fantasy value over the season’s other four months. Owners will hope for more of the good streaks in 2014 and perhaps a handful more stolen bases too.
|Debut: 2001 | BirthDate: 3/22/1979 | Team: Dodgers | Position: 3B|
Profile: Juan Uribe went from a massive — pun intended — free agent bust in 2011-12 to a shockingly valuable third baseman in 2013, putting up five wins for Los Angeles. Just like the Dodgers drew it up, right? Uribe didn’t even really change his approach all that much, with walk, strikeout, and swing percentages that roughly aligned with his horrendous 2012. But what he did manage to do was get himself into better shape, while getting his line drive rate above 20% for the first time since 2009. Faced with a lack of other alternatives, the Dodgers brought him back for 2013, but since so much of his value came from spectacular defense, he’s the type of player who is far more valuable in real life than in fantasy. The Dodgers will take another .278/12/50 season with plus fielding, but that’s only a middle-of-the pack player in fantasy terms. (Mike Petriello)
Quick Opinion: Uribe’s shocking 2013 turnaround might be maintained if he keeps the weight off, but because he’s so unpredictable and offers most of his value on defense, his fantasy worth is limited.
|Debut: 2013 | BirthDate: 2/13/1987 | Team: Orioles | Position: DH|
Profile: Urrutia occupies a strange netherspace so far as Cuban emigres are concerned, insofar as he’s neither an older but obviously MLB-ready talent (like Jose Abreu, for example, or Yoenis Cespedes), nor is he a younger but very promising prospect (like Yasiel Puig or Jorge Soler). Rather, he’s a corner outfielder with probably decent offensive skills entering his age-27 season. A more difficult profile, that, upon which to build great excitement. Still, he produced promising offensive lines both at Double- and Triple-A in 2013, before earning a major-league promotion — where, one will note, he produced a less promising offensive line in 58 plate appearances. Urrutia probably isn’t much of a downgrade from any of David Lough, Nick Markakis, Steve Pearce, or Nolan Reimold — i.e. the contingent likely to enter 2014 responsible for Baltimore’s corner-outfield and DH spots. An injury to one or more of them might be necessary for Urrutia to record real playing time, however. (Carson Cistulli)
Quick Opinion: Urrutia has demonstrated some promise offensively. Given the ceiling on his defensive ability, however, and place on the Baltimore depth chart, he’s unlikely to accumulate much in the way of counting stats in 2014.
|Debut: 2003 | BirthDate: 12/17/1978 | Team: Phillies | Position: 2B|
Profile: Two separate knee injuries attempted to put Chase Utley out of business, but he rebounded with a successful 2013. Now 35 years old, Utley is clearly in decline, and at least one of those knee problems is degenerative and likely to continue bothering him. But the former star is still capable of putting up strong fantasy numbers at second base. Overall, the numbers he put up last season were just a hair under his career averages, so there’s definitely something left in the tank. The problem is, Utley is a lock to miss 25+ games each year due to rest and injuries. Age is also somewhat of a concern, as he’s approaching a point in his career where many players go south. Those issues will push him a little lower than they should among second baseman. He’ll probably put up decent numbers again, but make sure you have a backup plan if — or when — he misses time. (Chris Cwik)
Quick Opinion: Utley is no longer in his prime, but he’s still an effective fantasy second baseman. He’ll miss a few games due to rest and injuries, so make sure you have a backup plan when that happens.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 8/14/1985 | Position: 2B/3B/SS|
Profile: Valaika signed a minor league deal with the Cubs over the offseason, and will enter spring training in one of the more muddled positional battles in the National League. Incumbent Darwin Barney figures to start the year at the keystone for Chicago, but the franchise has no shortage of Plan Bs, including prospects Logan Watkins, Arismendy Alcantara, and possibly even elite shortstop prospect Javier Baez. With a career minor league triple slash of .278/.322/.409 (including many stops where he was old for his league), it would take a stunning turn of events for Valaika to win that camp battle, and an even crazier twist for the 28-year-old to have fantasy relevance. (Jack Weiland)
Quick Opinion: At least Darwin Barney doesn’t have much of a bat? If he carves out some time in the Cubs infield, Valaika could have some short-term value in the deepest of leagues.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 11/30/1985 | Team: Cubs | Position: 3B|
Profile: If you squint, Valbuena’s 2013 season was impressive. His 391 plate appearances were the most he’s had since 2009, as a member of the Indians. His walk rate was a career high 13.6%, and he managed to cut his strikeouts as well (16.1% vs. a career rate of 18.8%). His .160 isolated slugging percentage was 15th best among third basemen with at least 350 plate appearances — ten points better than Chase Headley. Only a .233 batting average on balls in play conspired to rob Valbuena of the credit his 2013 deserved. Assuming that rebounds closer to his career .260 rate, the Venezuelan might be capable deep league roster filler. The Cubs elected not to sign an everyday third baseman over the winter, but with Mike Olt and Kris Bryant in the fold, playing time at the hot corner will be a storyline to follow in spring training. (Jack Weiland)
Quick Opinion: A batting average on balls in play 27 points below his career rate masked a season in which Valbuena walked often and hit for solid power. How his playing time shakes out in 2014 with the likes of Mike Olt and Kris Bryant breathing down his neck will determine his value.
|Debut: 2012 | BirthDate: 12/23/1987 | Position: 2B/OF|
Profile: Valdespin, perhaps best known for his childish temper tantrums and performance-enhancing drug use, is one of those cases in which one wishes intangibles were quantifiable. In 2011, Valdespin seemed to be a five-tool stud in the making, hitting .297/.341/.483 as a shortstop in Double-A, with 15 homers and 33 steals in 107 games. Unfortunately, after a hot start in the majors in 2012, he fell flat on his face. He was so bad as a middle infielder that the Mets moved him to the outfield, where his defense was still sub-par, and his bat completely vanished. By the time a PED suspension ended his 2013 campaign, Valdespin’s career slash line was a putrid .219/.271/.380. Now he gets a shot in Miami, with Mets fans flashing him a finger — probably not the thumb. (Scott Strandberg)
Quick Opinion: The Mets non-tendered the 25-year-old even though he was not yet eligible for arbitration. Need I say more?
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 9/19/1984 | Team: Royals | Position: DH|
Profile: Danny Valencia flashed appreciable power in 2013, hitting 14 home runs in just 65 games at Triple-A and adding eight more in 170 major league plate appearances. The third baseman has only once been the recipient of a full workload, a disappointing 2011 with Minnesota, but a trade to the Royals might get him some half-time run in 2014. In 335 career games, he’s posted a weighted offense just around league average with an extra-base hit every 12 times up, so while he’s not necessarily a good player, he has utility in a bench role. He’s better against lefties — his career slash line of .329/.367/.513 against southpaws is downright useful — but that just means that he’ll be an okay player one-third of the time if the team decides to platoon Mike Moustakas. That’s not super fantasy useful. (Blake Murphy)
Quick Opinion: Danny Valencia isn’t a good all-around hitter but he showed in 2013 why the Twins had once been high on him, smacking 22 home runs and slugging .539 between Triple-A and Baltimore. Keep an eye on his role in spring, but he’s likely got the shorter half of a possible platoon at third base in Kansas City.
Scott Van Slyke
|Debut: 2012 | BirthDate: 7/24/1986 | Team: Dodgers | Position: OF|
Profile: The fact that Scott Van Slyke is even getting a FG+ profile a year after all 30 teams declined to pick him up following the Dodgers designating him for assignment should show how productive his 2013 was. Van Slyke went back to Triple-A and destroyed the ball — yes, Albuquerque and the PCL in general promote offense, but still, .348/.479/.627 — and he eventually got enough playing time with the Dodgers to hit seven homers in just 152 plate appearances. With some ability to take a walk and hit a dinger, Van Slyke is an interesting possibility as a bench piece, though his opportunities will be limited in Los Angeles since first base and the corner outfield spots are very well-staffed. (Mike Petriello)
Quick Opinion: Van Slyke has real power and some amount of plate discipline, perhaps enough to make him an NL-only fantasy bench option, though he’ll have difficulty finding playing time on a stacked Dodger roster.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 10/29/1982 | Team: Padres | Position: OF|
Profile: After four seasons of flying under the fantasy radar, Venable jumped into the limelight in 2013 with a very strong breakout season. For years he was a fairly well-kept secret. He never seemed to have a full time job, but was a virtual lock for roughly 10 home runs and 20-plus steals at a very reasonable cost. His average wasn’t the greatest, and given the numbers he posted, with an average of just 413 plate appearances per season, there was little impact to be felt there in mixed leagues. Last season Venable played in more games than he had in any other season and not only did he swipe another 22 bases, but he hit also a career-best 22 home runs, pushing his isolated slugging percentage to .216, another career-high. The power increase and the improved work at the plate against lefties allowed him to stay in the lineup regularly and he will likely be listed as the team’s starting right fielder walking into 2014. Fantasy owners should remain leery of Venable’s power increase though, as there is very little evidence in his batted ball data that suggests it was a potential starting point rather than a fluke. The only real outlier is the spike in his home run per fly ball rate while virtually everything else stayed well in line with his career averages. Sure, he could be a late-bloomer, finally seeing his breakout during his age-30 season, but the likelihood of regression to his previous four season’s averages seems much more likely. (Howard Bender)
Quick Opinion: After a breakout season in 2013, Venable has gone from flying under the radar to the fantasy spotlight. Posting a 20-20 season is fantasy gold. But those seeking a repeat performance may want to temper their expectations as the power surge seems to be more fluke — his batted ball data says that a power regression is on its way.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 3/10/1989 | Team: White Sox | Position: OF|
Profile: Two years into the Dayan Viciedo experiment, the White Sox still aren’t quite sure they have a good player. Viciedo does have power, but he’s still too raw to provide much else. He isn’t patient at the plate, and an elevated strikeout rate will ensure a lower than normal batting average. Year three will be crucial for Viciedo. At 25, he’s hit a point where he can’t hide behind his inexperience any longer. The White Sox also traded for Adam Eaton this offseason, which could impact Viciedo’s playing time unless another deal gets made. Viciedo could be a cheap source of power, but he won’t contribute in other areas. And the worst-case scenario — a platoon where he only faces lefties — would make him tough to roster in most leagues. (Chris Cwik)
Quick Opinion: Viciedo has shown some promise in his career, but has yet to live up to expectations. He can provide cheap power, but little else.
|Debut: 2003 | BirthDate: 11/30/1980 | Team: Red Sox | Position: OF|
Profile: Victorino’s first season in Boston was an odd one. He always seemed injured, saw his walk rate fall, and whiff rate climb — yet he posted the second-best offensive season of his career. He, interestingly, ditched switch-hitting after a hamstring injury caused leg weakness. Batting exclusively from the right side, pitchers pounded the strike zone on him, but Victorino responded by posting a higher righty-on-righty isolated slugging percentage than his career mark from the same side versus southpaws. It might be better for the player (and his owners) if Shanf ditched switch-hitting for good, but it sounds like that is not in the cards. Depending on what the Red Sox do as they head into spring training, Victorino could be moving back to center field (he started 11 games and appeared in 15 there in 2013), which would be a nice boost to his value in fantasy leagues that separate the outfield positions. Either way, he’s a high-floor, low-ceiling kind of guy once the top 20 outfielders come off the board. (Colin Zarzycki)
Quick Opinion: Victorino had an up-and-down 2013, partially marred by hamstring injuries and postseason strikeouts. His aggregate numbers were solid, however, placing him amongst the top-30 mixed league outfielders. While he lacks the upside of other guys who will be drafted around him, he should have a much higher floor, too.
|Debut: 2013 | BirthDate: 5/2/1991 | Team: Astros | Position: SS|
Profile: After the combination of Marwin Gonzalez and Ronny Cedeno predictably failed to work out, the Astros called up Villar to take over the starting shortstop job in late July. The 22-year-old had displayed excellent speed, a respectable walk rate and some decent pop throughout his minor league career. Unfortunately, making contact was a real issue as his strikeout rate typically hovered in the mid-25% range. Those contact problems followed him to Houston, and he batted just .243 despite an inflated .362 batting average on balls in play. He didn’t swing and miss at an overly high rate, but he may have been a bit too passive by swinging much less frequently than the average hitter. He’s set to open the season as the Astros’ starting shortstop and has enough speed and power to consider at the end of your mixed league draft, even with a batting average likely to disappoint. (Mike Podhorzer)
Quick Opinion: Though he strikes out much too frequently, Villar is likely to open the season as the Astros’ starting shortstop. He brings excellent speed and even a bit of pop, so despite the potentially weak batting average, could still help fantasy teams in several categories.
|Debut: 2012 | BirthDate: 8/27/1989 | Team: Cubs | Position: 3B|
Profile: I guess Josh Vitters deserves a player cap. His team cares enough about his future that they moved him to left field, after all, instead of just letting him keep plug away at third base. But he lost a year due to injury in 2013 and at 24 years old hasn’t been able to produce despite some compelling numbers in the minor leagues. Keep an ear out, maybe. (Eno Sarris)
|Debut: 2012 | BirthDate: 11/1/1984 | Team: Athletics | Position: C|
Profile: A “Vote 4 Vogt” poster will be hanging in the present author’s apartment this season, because everyone should root for their favorite team’s backup catcher. Vogt may not posses much fantasy value, but whenever a player’s first hit is a home run — on an 0-2 pitch in his 33rd career plate appearance, no less — it is time to break out the fun posters. (David Wiers)
Quick Opinion: Vogt has a little pop, but as a backup catcher he won’t get enough playing time to justify a roster spot on your fantasy squad.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 9/10/1983 | Team: Reds | Position: 1B|
Profile: A $15 first baseman — seventh-best at the position according to our end-of-season rankings — is probably not what people had in mind when they drafted Joey Votto last March. And the thing that might hurt just a little bit for a fantasy player that’s also well-versed in real-life value is the fact that his missing RBI probably had a lot to do with that shortcoming. 73 RBI is about twenty short of a full stack for an elite first baseman in the fantasy game. If you’re in an on-base percentage league, you don’t care. His .435 OBP led baseball again last year, and that probably floated some shortcomings in other departments. But batting-average league players were left with a decent batting average, good runs scored, a few stolen bases, and not much more. The thing is, there’s not much of a reason to believe he’s going to do much more. His power peripherals have been reasonably steady for three years now, and it’s part of his self-declared approach at the plate. So, pay for a .300 batting average (or a .400+ OBP), mid-twenties homers, and hope the Reds offense provides him more RBI opportunities in 2014. Just don’t expect 2010 to come back. (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: Joey Votto is not your monkey. His current approach is worth too much to his real-life team for him to to start swinging harder, or swinging at worse pitches, just because you want more RBI and homerz. That doesn’t mean he’s not a great player. In real life.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 9/10/1985 | Team: Pirates | Position: 2B|
Profile: Since becoming a regular player in 2010, Walker has homered at least 12 times a season, and his 54 total home runs place him 11th among second basemen. He can’t compete with the likes of Robinson Cano (117 homers) and Dan Uggla (110), but his number is respectable. Walker’s .340 on-base percentage also places him 11th among qualified second basemen in that time frame, and his .426 slugging percentage places 10th. Such a consistent skill set is often underrated, and we see this when we boil it down to one number. His 112 wRC+ places him a bit better — seventh. Most fantasy leagues don’t use wRC+ in their scoring of course, which is why Walker tends to fall down draft boards. His career .273 batting average isn’t exactly headline worthy, and he has never stolen 10 bases in a single season. In other words, he’s not flashy. And he also has had some back problems in the past, and those sorts of injuries tend to not go away. But despite that Walker has produced, and there is little reason to think he will do otherwise in 2014. If you can land Robinson Cano or Dustin Pedroia or Jason Kipnis or Matt Carpenter, then do so, but if you can’t, waiting things out and landing on Walker is definitely a good Plan B.
Quick Opinion: “Solid yet unspectacular” is a phrase that perfectly defines Walker — he has for three years been a very reliable hitter, even if he doesn’t excel in any one area. He should remain a vital cog in the Pirates’ machine this season, and if you miss out on the top second basemen, Walker is definitely a great fallback option.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 8/26/1986 | Position: 1B|
Profile: Wallace earned a spot on the 25-man roster to open the 2013 season, but quickly found himself back in Triple-A after a 1-for-24 start with 17 strikeouts. It was there that things seemed to turn around for Wallace as he hit .326/.398/.554 with 11 home runs over 60 games for Oklahoma City and the Astros quickly brought him back up. He hit well through July, but quickly fell back into his early-season slump to close out the year, batting .205 with 59 strikeouts over the last 44 games and earning himself the dreaded Quad-A label. He’ll have to compete for a roster spot to open the 2014 season but seems likely to make the club, maybe to platoon with Jesus Guzman. How long before prospect Jonathan Singleton pushes them both to the bench? (Howard Bender)
Quick Opinion: Wallace has struggled to find consistency at the plate at the big league level, though a lack of real depth and the need for a designated hitter seem to keep him employed in the majors. He’s got power potential, but until he can limit the strikeouts and hit with some semblance of regularity, he will always be in danger of being sent back down to Triple-A. Should he open the 2014 as the Astros first baseman, he’ll spend the majority of his time looking over his shoulder for prospect Jonathan Singleton who is expected to make an impact as early as this year.
|Debut: 2013 | BirthDate: 9/5/1989 | Team: Nationals | Position: 3B/SS|
Profile: After showing little power throughout his minor league career, Walters put on a power show at Triple-A in 2013. He did that by seemingly swinging at everything, as he continued to strike out too frequently, but this time did so while rarely taking a walk. While his offensive game and approach would be questionable if he were a corner infielder, he has actually primarily played shortstop. Showing that much power as a shortstop is intriguing, even though it comes with few other skills. Unfortunately, the 24-year-old is stuck behind Ian Desmond at the moment, so he may remain stuck at Triple-A for a while longer. Ryan Zimmerman’s throwing problems might become relevant to Walter’s playing time if they continue, so don’t throw this name away. (Mike Podhorzer)
Quick Opinion: Walters posted an impressive .265 isolated slugging percentage, primarily coming as a shortstop, and showed other skills that are not typical of a middle infielder. The power is intriguing, but he does little else offensively and is currently blocked at shortstop in Washington, so Major League playing time could be tough to come by.
|Debut: 2013 | BirthDate: 8/29/1989 | Team: Cubs | Position: 2B|
Profile: His minor league track record may not pluck at the heart strings like those put forth by higher profile prospects, and although he made his major league debut last year, the best thing to happen to Logan Watkins in 2013 was the absolute-zero-level of offense provided by Cubs incumbent second baseman Darwin Barney. The Gold Glover’s OPS sank to just .569, and in the process, he may have opened the door for Watkins to steal playing time next season. The challenger doesn’t have plus power, but he does walk, and he does make league average contact. So if something happens to Barney this season (trade/injury/unlikely steroid scandal), and prospects Javier Baez and Arismendy Alcantara are not yet ready, Watkins may have value in very deep leagues as second base filler. (Jack Weiland)
Quick Opinion: With Darwin Barney swinging a wet noodle at the plate, the door may be opening for Watkins to replace him as the Cubs generic “plays good defense, walks, and makes contact” second baseman. There’s some value there, if not much.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 1/26/1987 | Team: Orioles | Position: 2B/DH/OF|
Profile: Weeks arrived in Baltimore as the return for O’s Closer Jim Johnson heading to Oakland. While this appears to largely have been a cost-saving move, the Orioles do seem to like Weeks considerably. The second base job in Baltimore is open, but he will have to beat out Ryan Flaherty in the short term and perhaps Jonathan Schoop in the long term if he wants the job. Weeks should get the chance to show what he can do at least until Manny Machado returns from knee surgery. In college at the University of Miami and in the minor leagues, Weeks proved to be a dangerous power/speed combo who controlled the strike zone well. We’re only a couple years removed from Weeks looking like Oakland’s best young piece, too. There is definitely potential for surprising fantasy upside in hitter friendly Camden Yards if Weeks can get himself straightened out. (Al Skorupa)
Quick Opinion: After an exciting rookie season Weeks bombed his sophomore year and never got back into favor in Oakland. With plus speed and surprising pop, Weeks has considerable fantasy upside moving to Baltimore.
|Debut: 2003 | BirthDate: 9/13/1982 | Team: Brewers | Position: 2B|
Profile: In 2012, Weeks spun his wheels out of the gate, hitting .158/.292/.294 in April and May before vastly improving for the remainder of the season. His sluggish start was viewed as a mere aberration. After struggling to a .209/.306/.357 slash line in 2013, however, we now can see that 2012 was perhaps more of a harbinger for things to come. Weeks experienced familiar contact issues with his contact rate dropping to 74.2%, but even more concerning was his 1.51 ground ball to fly ball ratio. He hit the highest percentage of ground balls of his career. Not surprisingly, his power declined significantly, as his .149 isolated slugging percentage was his lowest since the 2006 season. Worst of all, the Milwaukee Brewers have all but completely committed to Scooter Gennett as their everyday second baseman. There’s no harm grabbing Weeks late in deeper drafts — as he could become a platoon partner for Gennett if the latter continues to get eaten up by lefties, or he could be traded — but even that appears to be wishful thinking at this point. (JP Breen)
Quick Opinion: Unless Weeks wears a different uniform on Opening Day, he likely won’t have the opportunity to rebound from his career-worst season. Milwaukee seems to have turned the page. Unfortunately, so should you.
|Debut: 1999 | BirthDate: 12/8/1978 | Position: OF|
Profile: While no one was buying the 2013 comeback, fantasy owners who at least recognized the short-term value were able to take advantage of his first two months in which he hit .258 with 10 home runs and 24 RBI. Obviously the average had little to be desired, but the addition of those totals to the counting stats at that point in the season was a sure-fire way to rise to the top early in the game. You’d like to think he was the perfect sell-high candidate, but again, no one was buying the comeback story no matter how hard you pushed. And rightfully so — Wells hit just one home run the rest of the way with a very Vernon Wells-like .213 average. With the Yankees revamped outfield, there is little room for Wells even at the designated hitter position in 2014 and he’ll likely spend most of his time on the bench awaiting any potential pinch-hitting opportunity that comes his way. He may see an occasional start against a lefty early on in the season, but unless he is traded or there is a serious injury, he appears to be the odd-man out this season. (Howard Bender)
Quick Opinion: There was just enough left in the Wells’ tank for him to produce a solid first two months of the season in 2013, but once those fumes dissipated, so did the 35-year old’s performance. With the Yankees revamping their outfield through free agency he’s the odd man out and there’s little or no room for him even as a DH.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 11/23/1984 | Position: OF|
Profile: There’s an old saying that when you get claimed on waivers, you can look at it as someone not wanting you or someone wanting you. Casper Wells probably looks at it as a conspiracy or a bad joke. Baseball’s Favorite Hobo got passed around four franchises last season, and begins 2014 on yet another, signing a minor league deal with the Chicago Cubs. It’s hard to tell exactly what went wrong last year, thanks to the small sample size, but a botched LASIK surgery and living out of a bindle are two candidates. He’s 29 now, so don’t suffer any pretensions, but Casper is not the guy we saw last year; he’s a good fourth outfielder. He has to be. The alternative is that justice doesn’t exist. (Patrick Dubuque)
Quick Opinion: Baseball’s Favorite Hobo.
|Debut: 2002 | BirthDate: 5/20/1979 | Team: Nationals | Position: OF|
Profile: After an injury-plagued 2012, Werth had his most productive season in a Nationals’ uniform in 2013, posting a .318/.398/.532 slash line and finally looking like the player Washington thought they had signed three years ago. Werth actually put up the best weighted on-base average (.403) of his career and his weighted offense was 60% above league average, thanks in large part to the return of his power stroke. After two years in which his isolated power sat in the .150 range, that figure surged to .214 as Werth hit 25 home runs. For fantasy purposes, he was a true five-category contributor, adding 80+ runs and runs batted in, along with 10 steals, despite missing the entire month of May. At .358, his batting average on balls in play was a bit high, but not quite the outlier it would seem, as Werth’s career BABIP is .331. As long as he stays healthy, there’s no reason to think he can’t have another highly productive season in 2014. (Scott Strandberg)
Quick Opinion: It appears that Werth has fully recovered from the wrist injuries that sapped his power and limited him to 81 games in 2012. He’ll turn 35 in June, but he seems to have enough left in the tank for a couple more productive seasons.
|Debut: 2012 | BirthDate: 7/10/1988 | Team: Rockies | Position: 1B|
Profile: After a 2012 season in which a 23-year-old Wheeler produced a 143 wRC+ in Triple-A, there was some hope that he could be a productive big leaguer. But since the Diamondbacks had that Paul Goldschmidt guy already in the fold at first base, they shipped him off to Colorado. There, he didn’t do nearly as well, despite plying his trade in the minors’ best run environment. He regressed to a 113 wRC+ at Colorado Springs, and when called up to Denver, he “contributed” just a 21 wRC+ in his 42 major league plate appearances. That’s obviously too small a sample to conclude that Wheeler will never be a good major league hitter, but taken in combination with his less than stellar production in what was his second year at Triple-A, and there’s very little reason to be optimistic. The Rockies first base plans are not yet solidified, but if they sign someone in free agency and/or if Michael Cuddyer logs time at first base, Wheeler probably won’t end up with a significant chunk of playing time. Either way, the 25-year-old isn’t someone you should look to have on your fantasy team.
Quick Opinion: A top-10 prospect in Colorado’s depleted farm system heading into last season, Wheeler did very little to impress. With Todd Helton now retired, there is a chance that Wheeler may see some more action at first base in 2014, but even if he does he shouldn’t be anywhere near a fantasy player’s radar.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 5/21/1986 | Team: Orioles | Position: C|
Profile: Matt Wieters had his most disappointing season so far in 2013, once again failing to live up to the prophecies that were foretold and falling to 12th in catcher value. Over the past three seasons, he’s second in homers for backstops, tops in RBI, third in runs and, perhaps most impressively, second in plate appearances. The issue, however, is that Wieters average doesn’t look likely to stay above .250 because, in short, he’s not a switch-hitter. His weighted offense from the left side has been 23%, 9% and 35% worse than league average the past three years and that’s really sapped his season-ending numbers (.235/.287/.417 in 2013). He’s still a great power hitter for the position and will get plenty of chances to accumulate the counting stats, but short of becoming a full-time righty, he won’t have the average to rank as an elite option. (Blake Murphy)
Quick Opinion: The prophets were wrong when they spoke of Matt Wieters becoming outlawed in fantasy baseball. Still a top power producer behind the plate, Wieters’ inability to hit for average from the left side leaves him out of the top tier.
|Debut: 2002 | BirthDate: 10/11/1977 | Position: 1B/3B/OF|
Profile: As of this writing, Wigginton was a free agent. After signing him to a two-year deal prior to the 2013 season, the Cardinals released him on July 9, 2013. Considering that Wigginton has not produced an above-replacement season since 2008, it would be a surprise if he landed a job anywhere. (Brett Talley)
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 2/17/1979 | Team: Twins | Position: DH/OF|
Profile: On the surface, Willingham’s 2013 looks like an unmitigated disaster. Not only did he hit just .208/.342/.368, but he posted the worst strikeout rate of his career (27.2%), the worst popup rate of his career (17.6%), and his second-lowest home run per fly ball rate of his career (11.8%). Add to that his typical brand of less-than-adequate outfield defense, and just 111 games played due to a knee injury, and it’s easy to see why he was exactly a 0.0 win player. But if it’s possible to sell hope on Willingham, here it is: On April 27, Willingham stole his only base of the season versus the Rangers. It was an awkward play, and one which ended with Willingham making an ugly slide at second which wrenched his knee. On that day, he was hitting .254/.397/.542. From that day, until he went on the disabled list on July 2 with a medial meniscus tear, Willingham hit just .214/.342/.353. And for whatever reason, Willingham rushed back to the team five weeks later, just to hit .182/.318/.315 down the stretch. While it’s certainly possible that Willingham has begun his inevitable decline at age 34, there’s also some buy-low potential on a guy who was nagged by a knee injury for almost the entire season. He’s already shown his power plays well at Target Field with 35 home runs in 2012, and if his poor defense necessitates a move to designated hitter — a position the Twins have no present in-house options for at this time — that’s fine for fantasy players. He should be a popular bargain-bin guy this upcoming fantasy season. (Brandon Warne)
Quick Opinion: Willingham is coming off an injury-riddled 2013 season, and as a result should be viewed as a possible buy-low, lottery ticket type of player for the 2014 fantasy season.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 3/26/1981 | Position: 2B|
Profile: After signing a minor-league deal with the Texas Rangers in the offseason, the 32-year old Wilson added a ninth team to his underwhelming big league resume. He managed 65 plate appearances for the Diamondbacks in 2013 and, in typical fashion, failed to produce much of anything on the offensive front, so it came as no surprise when they let him walk. The fact that he plays shortstop could help him in his bid for a roster spot with the Rangers, but he’s going to have to show some serious growth during spring training to even warrant consideration. It is probably best that you just move along now. Nothing left to see here. (Howard Bender)
Quick Opinion: Now with his ninth team in as many professional seasons, Wilson will attempt to carve out a role for himself as a back-up shortstop for the Rangers in 2014. There is little or no fantasy value to be had here and the only way he’ll see regular playing time is if perhaps something catastrophic were to occur, like if a giant meteor were to hit and wipe out all of the infielders in Arlington and most of the ones found at Triple-A Round Rock.
|Debut: 2000 | BirthDate: 2/24/1978 | Position: OF|
Profile: Wise is a strong defensive outfielder who can’t hit a lick. Even in a full-time role, he’s not going to produce enough fantasy value to be a factor. (Chris Cwik)
|Debut: 2013 | BirthDate: 10/10/1990 | Team: Cardinals | Position: 2B|
Profile: There are probably a number of reasons why the St. Louis Cardinals felt that exchanging third-baseman David Freese with the Angels for outfielder Peter Bourjos made sense. Because of Freese’s declining skills, for example. And because of Bourjos’s excellent defensive range, also for example. It’s difficult to imagine the club pursuing such a trade, however, were they also not pretty convinced that Wong was capable of producing wins at something like a league-average rate in 2014 as the Cardinals’ starting second baseman. His major-league debut wasn’t what anyone would call a “rousing success”: in 62 plate appearances, Wong recorded a -1 weighted Runs Created plus, which is actually impossible. He also produced an iconic moment of the 2014 World Series, ending Game Four as the result of a pick-off with the tying run at the plate in the form of very talented Carlos Beltran. Still, Wong’s overall resume is quite a strong one and really does indicate that he’s probably already a league-average player right now. (Carson Cistulli)
Quick Opinion: Wong’s minor-league resume suggests he’s much better than he looked in his August and September call-up. A starting second baseman for the Cardinals, is what he appears like to be in 2014.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 9/30/1985 | Position: 3B/DH|
Profile: What’s Danny Worth? Not a whole lot, badumching. There was a chance, once, that he’d be a patience-and-contact third baseman, but now the defense is gone, the patience has never translated, and his true-talent contact rate looks worse than league average. There’s nothing to hang your hat on here, Danny boy. (Eno Sarris)
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 12/20/1982 | Team: Mets | Position: 3B|
Profile: When it comes to banking on elite fantasy production, David Wright has been as virtually reliable as they come throughout his career. After battling the first significant non-flukish injury in 2013, Wright returned for the final week of the season and seems poised to continue to be one of the game’s best in 2014. When on the field last season, Wright was in prime form, posting strikeout and homer per at-bat rates on par with his best seasons while going 17/20 in attempted steals. A mediocre supporting cast and average home park limits the gaudiness of his numbers, but Wright is still the elite entity he was five or six years ago and remains one of the games true five-category studs. He might be a second rounder in mixed leagues, and a mid first-rounder in NL-only leagues. (Derek Ambrosino)
Quick Opinion: David Wright has been one of the most reliably elite fantasy entities of the last decade. He’s a five-category stud and one of the game’s best and should be treated as such on draft day.
|Debut: 2013 | BirthDate: 12/5/1991 | Team: Marlins | Position: OF|
Profile: Yelich entered the 2013 season as probably the most promising Marlins prospect without an impressive nickname for his curveball — and while he didn’t scale the heights of excellence like Jose Fernandez, the results were still entirely acceptable. Promoted towards the end of July, the 21-year-old Yelich recorded a 1.4 WAR in less than a half-season’s worth of above-average plate appearances, a performance which has earned him the opportunity to begin the 2014 season as the club’s starting left fielder. While his future is certainly promising, it might be unreasonable, however, to expect a facsimile of last year. Yelich’s .380 batting average on balls in play is likely not representative of his true talent, and a drop to something like the .320 projected by Steamer renders Yelich more of a league-average hitter. Pretty excellent for a 22-year-old, in other words; less so, however, for a major-league corner outfielder. A combination of increased physical maturity and just continued exposure to advanced pitching, however, should help Yelich for 2015 and beyond. (Carson Cistulli)
Quick Opinion: Yelich will begin the season with a starting job. He probably won’t match his 2013 stat line on a rate basis, but his trajectory is decidedly an upward one.
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 3/15/1979 | Position: 3B|
Profile: Kevin Youkilis did not carry over his 2012 late-season bounce into 2013, posting an ugly .290 weighted on-base average over 118 early season plate appearances for the Yankees. The news got worse for the 34-year-old after his slow start, as a bulging disk in his back caused the rapidly aging corner infielder to sit out the remainder of 2013. While some major league teams showed interest in investing in him as a bench player in 2014, the Rakuten Golden Eagles decided he would make a good partner for Andruw Jones in Japan’s Pacific League. To Youkilis’ credit, four million dollars is about five times what he was going to get in the States. Here’s to hoping he likes sake. (Colin Zarzycki)
Quick Opinion: Unless you A) found a time machine and plan to clean up in fantasy leagues between the years of 2008 and 2010 or B) have friends in Japan who really, really want to start a fantasy baseball league, you shouldn’t be drafting Kevin Youkilis.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 9/14/1985 | Position: DH/OF|
Profile: Delmon Young is a DH that can’t hit. What he lacks in hitting ability, he makes up for in a generally terrible personality. He strikes out way too much, barely walks, and can’t play defense. For the good of your squad, for the good of baseball, and for the good of humanity, don’t add Delmon Young to your team. (David Temple)
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 9/5/1983 | Team: Mets | Position: OF|
Profile: Once a consistent 20-20 threat, Chris Young hardly cracked the top-100 in outfield value in 2012 and missed the list entirely in 2013. While his home runs and stolen bases remain strong on a per-plate appearance basis, Young has become a part-time player the past two years, failing to reach 400 trips to the dish. That’s partially due to poor performance, and he’s also missed 59 games with injuries — a right thigh issue in 2013 and a right shoulder injury in 2012. The New York Mets saw fit to give Young $7.25 million this offseason, rolling the dice that his .203/.282/.375 slash line since the shoulder injury will correct after another offseason to heal. Consider us skeptical that the average cracks .235, but that kind of pay day means Young will play regularly, providing ample opportunity to make a run at 20-20 again. Consider him firmly back on the fantasy radar, a solid late-round gamble if you can protect your average elsewhere. (Blake Murphy)
Quick Opinion: Chris Young is back in our lives as an average-killing fantasy asset. The home run and stolen base production have dipped only because the playing time has, and the Mets are now paying Young to play every day. He’s a solid gamble late as a possible 20-20 outfielder.
|Debut: 2000 | BirthDate: 10/19/1976 | Position: 3B|
Profile: In 2013, Michael Young played in over 135 games for the 12th straight season. While the 37-year-old is still looking for a team to sign him (and is also still considering retirement), his value can be guesstimated without knowing where he ends up. In 2013, his homer total dropped under double digits for the second straight year. He had a career low 23.7% fly ball rate and a 7.7% homer per fly ball rate which was under his career average of 9.3%. Five to eight home runs over an entire season would be about right. Any stolen base over one I would consider a win at this point in his career. His batting average is about 100% driven by his batting average on balls in play, which has fluctuated between .299 and .369 over just the past three seasons. To be on the safe side, a .310 BABIP would probably put his AVG near .275. So we have a .275, 6 HR, 0 SB player who may or may not have a job come opening day. With Young’s decent batting average, he’s useful in some situations, but the only way I could see him used for now is a plug-and-play. (Jeff Zimmerman)
Quick Opinion: Michael Young may still have some fantasy value, but much of his value will be determined by him finding a team and an everyday position.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 5/25/1985 | Team: Mets | Position: OF|
Profile: The stuff that doesn’t show up in a fantasy box score doesn’t always matter. Plenty of players get opportunity after opportunity despite flaws on the field. But Eric Young’s particular brand of problems are so deep that they threaten to end his career at any moment. It might be surprising to say this after the best fantasy season of his career, but it’s worth repeating right now. He doesn’t walk. He strikes out at a league average rate. He doesn’t have power. Even in the corner outfield, his glove is not an asset. He’s a one-trick pony — speed is his only above-average tool. That speed makes him a fantasy asset, but reaping those awards again this year will require that his team look past all the issues that made him a near-replacement player in his breakout year. Will the Mets play him over surprising young defensive asset Juan Lagares despite his potential? Some talk of trading Daniel Murphy and installing Eric Young at his former position, but junior probably can’t hack it at that position. One team saw him there for six years and decided he wasn’t a second baseman, and it’s rare to go against the defensive spectrum with age. At 28, Eric Young Jr is at or near his peak, and that might mean some fantasy value in the short-term. But don’t forget how marginal he really is when you dream on 46 stolen bases. (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: With Curtis Granderson, Juan Lagares and Chris Young in town, the Mets outfield is suddenly capable looking. That might mean Eric Young’s flaws with the glove and at the plate will see his playing time dwindle despite the speed that will make fantasy owners interested. Be careful.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 9/28/1984 | Team: Nationals | Position: 3B|
Profile: Zimmerman had just about the most predictable season of any player in baseball last season, as nearly all of his statistics were right in line with his career averages. He hit nearly his exact career slash line of .286/.352/.477, and his isolated power, batting average on balls in play and weighted on-base average were all incredibly close to his career averages as well. He missed a little bit of time, as he usually does, playing in 147 games (he averages 140 games per season over his eight full major-league seasons), but as always, he provided steady production as a mid-tier starting fantasy third baseman. His 21.0% strikeout rate was a career high, but not too far above his 17.5% average. That rate should come back down this year, as he saw more first-pitch strikes last year than he had since 2006, and his swinging-strike rate, while also a career high, was just a slight notch above his 2012 mark. (Scott Strandberg)
Quick Opinion: Zimmerman isn’t the flashiest fantasy third baseman, but he’s certainly one of the most reliable. Expect another season of 20+ home runs with his usual solid batting average. He will continue to slot into the second tier of everyday fantasy options at the hot corner, just a step behind the David Wrights and Evan Longorias of the world.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 5/26/1981 | Team: Rays | Position: 2B|
Profile: Odds are, you don’t have a chance to acquire Ben Zobrist. If he’s not shortstop eligible in your league, there’s always a chance he could regain it because he’s the Rays backup shortstop — as if being eligible at both second and in the outfield isn’t enough of a value boost itself. Zobrist has a career .263 batting average and .354 on-base percentage, and though he’ll be 33 in 2014, he’s yet to dip beneath double digit steals or homers in a full season. In almost any league — and especially in linear weights leagues, which incorporate the value of Zobrist’s doubles-heavy hitting — Zobrist is a premium player. Most projection systems anticipate Zobrist repeating his offensive success from 2013, if not improving upon it, his .275/.354/.402 slash in 2014. Zobrist has always been a durable player too, playing in 150+ games since 2009, but durable players are durable until they aren’t anymore, and in his age-33 season, Zobrist is ever closer to the possibility of injuries. But if you’re going to bet on a player’s health and value to your fantasy team, Zobrist isn’t a bad bet. (@BradleyWoodrum)
Quick Opinion: Zobrist is an annual producer of strong plate appearances and steady, all-around fantasy value. He’s the kind of player worth premium draft picks or auction bids, if he’s available — especially given that he’s the Rays’ backup shortstop too. But he’s older than we might expect (33 in 2014), so be mindful of his health.
|Debut: 2013 | BirthDate: 3/25/1991 | Team: Mariners | Position: C|
Profile: Fantasy owners and the Mariners were hoping for better than a .214/.290/.329 line from Mike Zunino. Given the circumstances of his reaching the majors, that line and his five home runs can’t be too disappointing, though. Even though he was a college draftee who wasn’t expected to spend a long time in the minors, it’s hard to characterize Zunino’s accelerated timeline as anything other than “rushed.” He spent a total of 96 games in the minors and only got 110 at-bats below Double-A. Despite this and with some very aggressive assignments the former Florida Gator had his way with minor league pitching to the tune of .286/.365/.571. Contact was a major problem for Zunino in 2013, but that wasn’t totally surprising as he never projected as a high average hitter. Pitch recognition on breaking and soft stuff was always a problem for Zunino, who looked more in the mold of a low average/good on-base percentage/lots of power slugger. A broken hamate bone in July makes his rookie season that much harder to evaluate. Even after the injury, Zunino continued to hit for power and that’s both a great sign and his best skill. The long term prognosis remains sound, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see Zunino struggle and again be inconsistent in 2014. (Al Skorupa)
Quick Opinion: Rushed to the majors, Zunino broke his hamate bone in July and was somewhat of a disappointment in his big league debut. The Mariners backstop remains a strong bet to hit for power in an improved lineup.
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