Andrelton Simmmons, Atlanta Braves: Simmons turned in a fantastic first full season in the majors, and was rewarded with a 7 year $58 million contract Thursday from the Braves. Simmons was valuable to fantasy lineups last season thanks to his above average power at shortstop. His 17 homers ranked fourth in 2013 and his 91 +wRC was eighth among qualified shortstops. Simmons had a horrific 17.8% IFFB last year (worst among ML SS) which played a key role in his average dropping below .250. Simmons is excellent at putting the ball in play (8.4% K Rate in 2013) and if he can level out some of those IFFB, he could make his way into the top 10 shortstop list for fantasy owners in 2013.
Grant Balfour, Tampa Bay Rays: Balfour looks to be the stopper for the Rays this season after two back to back years saving at least 20 games for the A's. Last year he set a career high with 38 saves thanks to a 10.83 K/9 and an 87% LOB rate. Strangely enough, Balfour racked up more saves, had a higher K/9, and had a lower xFIP than in 2012 but his WAR dropped from 1.5 to 0.6 in 2013. Balfour has always been a strikeout artist and that should continue that despite moving to a strong division. The stronger division could cause a spike in his ERA but it should not be too much, keeping him as a solid closer option in 2014.
Dylan Bundy, Baltimore Orioles: Bundy came in at number 15 on the Baseball America Top 100 Prospects list for 2014 after missing most of the 2013 season due to Tommy John. The highly touted righty is aiming for a June return to the majors and he could be a big lift for the Orioles down the stretch run. Bundy did the near impossible in 2012 starting in Low-Single A before High A and Double AA, eventually making it to the Orioles at the tail end of the season. Bundy has nothing left to prove in the minors, posting an over 4:1 K:BB over 103.2 innings. He also held the minor leagues to a .186 BAA and a 2.08 ERA.
Jameson Tallion, Pittsburgh Pirates: The Pirates already have a fantastic budding ace in Gerrit Cole, but they have another great arm on the rise in Tallion. Tallion ranked 22nd on the BA Top 100 Prospect list for 2014 and the righty has a chance to break camp with the club. He has flown through the system since being drafted number two overall out of high school in 2010, finishing in AAA this past season. Tallion's control can get away from him at times with a 3.1: K:BB rate, but his pure stuff will not keep him out of the big leagues for long. Expect Tallion to realistically make a few starts in AAA before graduating to the majors for the rest of the season.
Oscar Taveras, St. Louis Cardinals: Taveras might have the best pure bat in all of the minor leagues, and he could start filling in for the departure of Carlos Beltran as early as opening day. The towering outfielder was limited to just 46 games in AAA last year due to a nagging ankle injury, but he still posted a .306/.341/.462 triple slash with an .802 OPS. In 2012, a full season for Taveras in AA, he posted 23 homers and slugging a gaudy .572 (.252 ISO). The Oliver prediction source from Fangraphs predicts Taveras to play the whole season in St. Louis and post a great rookie year at .282, 18 homers, and 79 RBI. Even if Taveras does need a little more seasoning in AAA, he should not be there long as the outfield at Busch Stadium will be calling for the number three prospect in all of baseball.
Matt Adams, St. Louis Cardinals: Adams will finally get to play first base for the Cardinals thanks in part to the David Freese trade which allowed the team to shuffle some players around to get the powerful lefty more at bats. In just 319 at bats in 2013, he hit 17 homers and drove in 51 runs helping his gather a 136 +wRC. The power is plentiful for Adams as he recorded a .220 ISO last year and has never posted below a .225 ISO in a single season in the minors since his debut in 2009. With a full season worth of at bats, Adams could easily reach the 30 homerun plateau and should have plenty of RBI opportunities hitting in the heart of a solid Cardinals' lineup.
Ike Davis, New York Mets: Davis has been a powerful first baseman for the Mets, and a cheap source of power, but is not guaranteed a starting job in 2014. In 2012 he launched 32 homers with a very low .227 average. The following season his average dropped even more to .205 and he only hit 9 homers. In his main peripherals, not much changed for Davis as his walk and strikeout rates were in line with his career norms. What it came down to is he simply was not making as strong of contact 2013 as he did 2012. Davis saw his line drive and fly ball rates drop while his ground ball rate jumped by 7%. His IFFB rate jumped by 2% and his HR/FB% dropped slightly as well. If Davis can win the job out of spring he could easily be a cheap source over power if you can carry his low batting average.
Xander Bogaerts, Boston Red Sox: Bogaerts (#2 BA Top 100) went from top prospect to World Series champion for the Red Sox and is slated to start at one of the two positions on the left side of the infield in 2014. Bogaerts posted a .297/.388/.477 triple slash in 444 AAA at bats before getting called up to Boston. In his 2012 breakout campaign he launched 20 homers while driving in 81 and having a .238 ISO. He does have a tendency to swing and miss though, routinely posting over 20% K rates in the minors while having a walk rate hovering around 10%. Wherever Bogaerts takes the field, shortstop or third base, he should be a valuable asset in his first full season in the major leagues.
Yordano Ventura, Kansas City Royals: Flamethrower Yordano Ventura (#26 BA Top 100) lit up the radar guns at Kauffman Stadium with an average fastball at 97.5 MPH which led all of baseball. Ventura had a decent debut in 2013 for KC throwing 15.1 innings and having a 3.52 ERA. Advanced metrics show thought that he was helped by his defense, recording just a 4.30 xFIP. However there is a chance he could break camp as the number five starter in the rotation. Ventura should be given every chance to start and will only be moved to the bullpen if the team thinks that his velocity won't translate to a full 162 game slate. He will only be valuable to fantasy owners as a starter this year though due to the success of Greg Holland in the closer spot.
Travis d'Arnaud, New York Mets: If Travis d'Arnaud can stay healthy he looks to be an impact player for the Mets to help build their team around. However, that is an enormous if. d'Arnaud has recorded 300 at bats or more in just three seasons since being drafted. When he is on the field though he as good an offensive catcher as there is in the minors. In 2011 and 2012 he launched 21 and 16 homers, respectively, and recorded a .230 and .262 ISO in those seasons. d'Arnaud did not play well in his ML debut in 2013 hitting just .202 with a .061 ISO after missing most of the season with a fractured foot. It is very reasonable to expect those numbers to jump significantly not only from the small sample size, but that it has been seen what a fully healthy d'Arnaud can do.
Billy Hamilton, Cincinnati Reds: After a year of Sin Shoo Choo, the Reds are ready to hand centerfield over to the electrifying Billy Hamilton in 2014. The speed of Hamilton cannot be understated as he stole 103, 155, and 75 in the minors (2011, 2012, 2013) before swiping 13 bags in 13 games for Cincinnati at the tail end of the season. The craziest part about Hamilton is the fact he posts ridiculous steals number even in years where his OBP was low. In AAA in 2013 he had a .308 OBP and stole 75 bases basically meaning if he gets on, he is going to run. Even if Hamilton gets on base at a .320-.340 clip in the leadoff spot, that alone should make him a lock for 50-60 steals on the low end.
Aldemys Diaz, Free Agent: Diaz has not yet been signed by a MLB team, but it looks like that may change very soon as he is now eligible to be signed after serving his one year probation for falsely representing his age. Many teams have been linked to the 23 year old Cuban infielder including the Cardinals, Giants, Yankees, Dodgers, and Braves. Diaz has been described as being able to move very quickly after posting a .315/.404/.500 triple slash and hitting 12 homeruns in 2011-12. Consistency is a huge part of his game as he averaged a triple slash of .308/.401/.444 from 2008-12 in Cuba. His 2014 fantasy prospectus completely lays on which team signs him. The Yankees have an opening as second base after the departure of Robinson Cano and the pockets to outspend anyone in the league. St. Louis has been said to have serious interest in the SS, but they have Kolten Wong penciled in at second and they signed Jonny Peralta to a big contract this offseason. LA could have 1-2 spots for him depending on where they decide to play Hanley Ramirez this season, whether at shortstop or third base.
Bronson Arroyo, Arizona Diamondbacks: Arroyo signed a 2 year contract with the Diamondbacks this week for $23 million. Arroyo is the model of consistency throwing around 200 innings and having a strikeout rate around five for the past five seasons. Arroyo has had one outlying season in 2011 with an ERA of 5.07 but his xFIP was a 4.54 that season, which was just slightly worse than any of these past five years. In the end though, Arroyo just looks to be on the downhill slide as he has not recorded a WAR over two in any of the five years besides 2012. His only real value for fantasy owners is being a reliable arm to take the mound every five days and he has averaged 13.4 wins a season over the past five years.
Matt Harvey, New York Mets: Harvey, who underwent Tommy John surgery in October of 2013 has already been cleared to begin a throwing program just five months after surgery. Although there are no plans, or should be no plans, to rush him by the Mets, there is a chance we could see Harvey return to the majors in very late 2014. Harvey was one of the best pitchers in baseball in 2013 before injuring his elbow and is a vital part of the Mets plans to contend in a few years. Harvey still should not be in your draft plans except in keeper or dynasty leagues with a DL spot, where all of a sudden him throwing this soon will make things a little interesting.
Gregory Polanco, Pittsburgh Pirates: Polanco might be the best prospect a lot of baseball fans have not heard of. Polanco is a giant 6'6" centerfielder and has already been earning rave reviews at Pirates camp with his speed and hitting. With the reigning NL MVP in centerfield Polanco will make the move to right field once his debuts with the Pirates, where he will round out one of the most exciting outfields in baseball with Starling Marte and Andrew McCutchen. In Single A Polanco enjoyed a breakout season with 16 homers and 40 stolen bases and translated that success to moving from High-A to AAA in one season in 2013. His rise is eerily similar to Jason Heyward, who broke out in Low-A and then rose from High-A to AAA the next year. Heyward then impressed enough in Spring Training to earn the right field job in Atlanta, just as Polanco could do this spring. In a perfect world, Polanco makes the team out of spring training and a 20/20 season is not out of the realm of possibility for 2014.