Editor's Note: Player analysis profiles appear in the positions at which the players are projected. Profiles of players who may be eligible at other positions in your league include fantasy baseball advice related to a potential increase in value as a result. A player must have started at least five games or have played at least 10 games to be eligible at another position. Criteria for fantasy baseball leagues vary, so check your league rules.
Pros: It looks like Utley is healed from his offseason hip surgery; he has looked fine this spring and will be in the Opening Day lineup. One of the most well-rounded players in baseball, Utley (hip) has topped .290, 20 homers and 100 RBIs in each of the last four seasons - as well as 100 runs scored in the last three. He still calls a bandbox home, but he doesn't lean on home-field advantage.
Cons: You still need to be careful if he starts to slump or complain about his hip. He played through it last year, but it hindered his production in the middle months.
Fantasy tip: Though he's on track for Opening Day, Utley will probably fall a bit in some drafts due to his questionable health, but don't count on nabbing him after the second round. You can draft him with confidence if he's in the wheelhouse of the late first or early second stanza.
Pros: An elite power-speed combination, Kinsler oozes 30-30 potential. He swiped at least 23 bags for the second straight year, and his isolated power increased by 21 points from his 2007 performance.
Cons: A sports hernia halted his 2008 season, the second straight year injuries have taken time away from him.
Fantasy tip: Expect Kinsler to leave the board at the end of the first round or early in the second round in 10- or 12-team leagues. His steals make him a great fantasy Renaissance man, but he doesn't provide an optimal power base and will probably miss some time. Though he'll probably be at your fingertips at the first serpentine turn, be sure to back him up with a more proven fantasy hitter if you pull the trigger.
Pros: The reigning MVP of the AL and scrappiness possesses a high-level batting eye and contact rate while also remaining aggressive in the box. He hit .345 after the 2008 break, and his spike in doubles (54 last year) suggests he could build on his 17 homers from last year.
Cons: He didn't run much in previous seasons (career-high 11 attempts in 2005 in the minors), so a repeat of 20 steals may be a stretch. His high batting eye ratio saw a small decline in his second full campaign.
Fantasy tip: Pedroia will probably go in the first two or three rounds of drafts this year (the end of the third is safer). Don't count on his power to increase drastically (if at all) for now, but he'll be a foundation for batting average and runs scored.
Pros: In 2008 Phillips slugged at least 20 dingers for the second straight year and stole at least 20 bases for the third consecutive campaign. The broken finger that ended his 2008 shouldn't delay his season. He may hit cleanup if the Reds don't acquire another bopper.
Cons: His contact rate and batting eye ratio are dodgy, suggesting he won't become a .300 hitter in the near future. The Reds offense is potentially dangerous but young.
Fantasy tip: If Phillips tumbles to the late second or early third round, take advantage, especially if you have or plan on netting one or two sources of high batting average. You may receive value if other drafters are scared of his down season.
Pros: Roberts posted 126 thieveries in the past two years while hitting at least .286 and nine homers in each of the last four seasons. The soon-to-be free agent remains a patient hitter, posting at least a 0.79 walk-to-strikeout ratio in each of the last four years.
Cons: At age 31, Roberts may show more palpable signs of decline. His batting eye ratio dropped 11 points last year, and though his isolated power jumped, his percentage of fly balls that left the yard declined for the third straight season.
Fantasy tip: Roberts would be a solid selection beyond the fourth round of serpentine drafts - or in that chapter if you crave steals. Realistically, expect a combination of his 2008 power (nine homers) and his 2006 steals (36).
Pros: Uggla, one of the best power-hitting second basemen, cruised to his second straight 30-homer season. His isolated power jumped 20 points, and though some of his swings are truly "Uggla," his batting eye ratio (0.45) increased for the second straight year. A move to the cleanup role is possible in 2009.
Cons: It's hard to expect him to top .260 for a full season - his 2008 clip is more realistic baseline expectation. His batting average on balls in play has vacillated each year, and he's prone to slumps.
Fantasy tip: If you're willing to take the batting average hit, Uggla can give you above-average power in the sixth or seventh round if you target other positions first.
Pros: Cano's .151 April clip fueled his 35-point batting average drop from 2007 (.306), but he didn't hit below .287 in any other month in 2008. This offseason, Cano is working on reducing the movement in his batting stance and has shed weight while gaining some muscle.
Cons: Cano doesn't take many walks, so erratic on-base percentages, slugging percentages and batting eye ratios may continue to haunt him. Some questions also remain about his in-game discipline.
Fantasy tip: His late-season batting average recovery is a positive sign, but you'd be best suited leaving him for the early middle rounds (around the seventh or eighth). As with Phillips, a refocused Cano could net you a steal this fantasy season.
Pros: A prime example of a "he won't hurt you" player, the vet has topped a .300 average in three of his last four seasons. He set a career high with 36 doubles and approaches double-digit homers in healthy seasons.
Cons: The 33-year-old is on the downside of his career. Though he has experienced spiked doubles totals in each of the last two years, this trend may be a partial cause of his decline in home runs.
Fantasy tip: Polanco remains a solid middle infielder in deep mixed leagues. Draft him if you need a batting average specialist, but recognize that some options ranked below him may outperform him.
Pros: Want a 10-homer, 10-steal option? Include Johnson in that deliberation. Johnson rebounded from a sluggish stretch with a .398 September performance. Johnson's place atop the Braves order all but ensures another 80-run season, also.
Cons: Last year he walked in just 8.7 percent of his at-bats, and along with an increase in doubles his rate of home runs per fly ball came down to earth. His groundball percentage decreased, which could hurt his effectiveness as a leadoff hitter.
Fantasy tip: Consider Johnson a middle infield option in deep mixed leagues. He's steady if not inspiring.
Pros: An above-average contact hitter, Kendrick has hit a combined .314 in the last two years. This clip is a product of his quick bat and his ability to minimize fly balls. He can also reach double-digit steals....
Cons: ....repeat after us: if he stays healthy. Kendrick's 340 at-bats last year were the most on his three-year MLB resume as injuries have marred his opportunities. Despite his high averages, he also has a poor batting eye ratio and modest contact rates. He hasn't displayed much power yet.
Fantasy tip: Kendrick usually goes in the middle rounds of mixed drafts. His talent would arguably slot him within the top 10 at this position, but his blemished medical chart makes him a risky fantasy starter. Let someone else worry about him.
Pros: Lopez quietly established career highs in 2008 (.297, 17 homers and 89 RBIs) while also hitting .313 and 13 dingers at pitcher-friendly Safeco Field. He hit 41 doubles (a good power indicator) all year and had 12 homers after the All-Star break. Lopez could have a spot in the heart or middle of a mediocre Seattle order and could see more time at first base.
Cons: Can he sustain his performance? His isolated power jumped a fluky 43 points from 2007. Infielder Ronny Cedeno may take some time away from Lopez if he doesn't play another position.
Fantasy tip: Given his somewhat random breakthrough, Lopez should be a late-round middle infielder at best in deep mixed setups. He's also an above-average backup in shallow mixed due to his potential pop.
Pros: Through his growing pains, Weeks has stolen at least 15 bases in each of his first four MLB seasons and hit double-digit homers in three of those years. Veteran second baseman Ray Durham isn't threatening PT, so Weeks has the job all to himself for now.
Cons: Injuries and poor averages have plagued his career. For fantasy owners, his power still isn't dynamic enough to balance out his ample strikeouts and meager contact rates. Prospect Alcides Escobar would probably be called up if Weeks endures another slump.
Fantasy tip: The upside-heavy Weeks finally offers proper value in the late rounds of deep mixed leagues. Now is the time to buy if you need a speedy middle infielder - just beware of his shoddy plate discipline.
Pros: The vacuum has also been stable with the stick, topping .287 in each of the last three seasons, including .305 in a shortened 2008 performance. He hit at least 10 dingers in each of the four seasons before 2008. He is a candidate to hit in the No. 2 spot, in front of a pair of emerging run producers and outfielder Manny Ramirez.
Cons: He underwent two wrist surgeries last year to correct a dislocated bone. Besides his recent batting average surge, he doesn't perform extremely well in any offensive category.
Fantasy tip: While Hudson's glove is among the best, his offensive stock sits on a rung as a late-round middle infield pick in deep mixed. Given his location in the lineup, he has upside.
Pros: Matsui has fallen into a baserunning groove in the last two years, combining for 52 stolen bags while also hitting a combined .290. He likely will man the leadoff spot if the 'Stros don't believe outfielder Michael Bourn is ready to start the season there.
Cons: His power well is pretty dry. He missed time last year due to a tweaked hamstring, an irritated disk in his back and surgery to repair an anal fissure.
Fantasy tip: He can give you steals and an otherwise empty average in the last few rounds of deep mixed drafts, but for everything else he's a pain in the you-know-where.
Pros: The Cardinals are turning their leadoff man into a second sacker; it would open up valuable time in the outfield. Schumaker scored 87 times in 540 at-bats last year; he could approach those totals again with the switch. He makes great contact, and his line-drive rate rose for the second straight year.
Cons: Schumaker is a platoon player unless he improves drastically against southpaws. He posted a high hit percentage, so his 2009 average may be more pedestrian. The move to second could be stressful enough to affect him at the dish; he has never played the position as a pro.
Fantasy tip: Kelly Johnson made a similar transition two seasons ago and was a solid fantasy asset, but he had played some short. Nevertheless, Schumaker's value increases; he's a sneaky middle-infield option in deep mixed leagues.
Pros: Hill (concussion) looks ready to go for Opening Day. In 2007 Hill showed promise with 17 homers and 78 RBIs along with his second straight .291 clip. He'll return to the top of Toronto's order, giving him ample chances to cross home plate.
Cons: Post-concussion syndrome ended Hill's 2008 season, stalling what many expected to be a breakout campaign, though Hill wasn't doing much before he was shut down (.263 in 205 at-bats). He didn't have a chance to prove the validity of his 2007 spikes in isolated power and home run percentage on flyballs.
Fantasy tip: Don't expect dizzying numbers from Hill, but he has more potential than arguably all his subordinates on this list. A late-round flier makes sense.
Pros: Hitting atop Tampa Bay's improved lineup, Iwamura saw his runs and RBIs increase in 2008. Iwamura has a moderate batting eye and does a little bit of everything. He won't necessarily hurt you in any offensive category.
Cons: He won't necessarily put you over the top anywhere, either. Iwamura will probably never offer the power he showed in Japan, and he doesn't make enough noise in the stolen base column to be considered a late-round source for them.
Fantasy tip: If you want to take "just a guy," you can tab Iwamura as a middle infielder in the final rounds of deep mixed leagues, but beware his blah fantasy game. There's no real upshot for him to offer you more than what his last two years presented.
Pros: The quadripositional journeyman ran off a .385 clip, six homers and four steals after signing with the St. Louis Cardinals in early August. Lopez's basepath aggression resurfaced with the Cards, and though the D-backs didn't run much last year, they are overall an offensively aggressive team. He also moves to a hitter-friendly home park.
Cons: His stolen base and home run totals experienced a free fall; after swiping at least 15 bags in the previous four years, he took just eight last year with just six dingers.
Fantasy tip: There's potential for double-digit taters and larcenies here, but don't pay a middle-round price for them. Save him for the last few rounds if needed. His best chance for value return comes with his versatility in NL-only leagues.
Pros: His 13 steals in 240 at-bats with the G-men last year screams fantasy potential - his .283 clip wasn't bad, either, a result of his career 0.71 batting eye ratio in the minors. He keeps the ball on the ground and pilfered 104 bases in 820 farm at-bats.
Fantasy tip: Burriss has more upside than several players listed before him if he earns the starting gig, and he's an exciting late-round source of steals with dual positional eligibility.
Pros: After an uneventful 2007 MLB stint, Casilla broke out in 2008 after his May promotion. He posted a favorable 0.69 batting eye ratio and reached base in one-third of his plate appearances. When given the green light, he can swipe some bags (seven in nine attempts last season).
Cons: He fell off after July, though, with a combined .225 clip. His home/road splits were glaring in batting average (.314 at home, .257 elsewhere) and homers (five of seven on the road). You also can't look to him for any significant power gains.
Fantasy tip: Casilla has some room to grow, but he shouldn't expand beyond a late-round trial. You'll probably be able to ride his streaks during the season from the free-agent pool.
Pros: Teahen's multipositional eligibility is his big calling card, but he has also clubbed 15 homers or hit .285 or better in two of the last three seasons. He is likely to add second base to his position list due to his hot spring and his improved defense there. He could improve on a .308 BABIP from '08.
Cons: His batting eye has declined in each of the last two seasons, and his annual contact rates are nothing special. Can he really improve from what he has shown in four seasons? He doesn't seem to offer much upside. The Royals may also - for some reason - alternate Willie Bloomquist and Alberto Callaspo in at second during the year.
Fantasy tip: Teahen is a suitable bench player in deep mixed leagues. You can plug him in around your lineup and reap benefits from streaky play. Don't overpay because of the position switch, though.
Pros: Ellis has delivered double-digit dingers in each of the last four years, and his steal total has increased in each of the last two.
Cons: His follow-up to a 19-homer 2007 fell flat. Shoulder surgery stopped his season in August as he hit just .219 after the All-Star break. The injury-prone Ellis has fallen below 500 at-bats in three of the last four campaigns, and he may not start the 2009 season on time.
Fantasy tip: His lofty 2007 line looks to be an anomaly. There aren't many factors that designate Ellis as anything more than a lackluster deep mixed middle infielder or AL-only starter.
Pros: Sanchez almost had his second straight 10-homer season while also reaching the 75-run plateau for the third straight year. He'll once again hit in the top third of this lineup, regardless of how questionable its output is.
Cons: Let us pinch you from your dreams of a repeat of Sanchez's 2006 or 2007. In almost the same amount of games as 2007, he drove in 29 fewer runs and lost 33 points on his batting average last year. His average, RBIs and runs have declined in consecutive seasons.
Fantasy tip: Sanchez is certainly no lock for another 80-RBI season, but he may reach .300 again. It's not worth banking a pick on him, though. In deep mixed games he's best suited for the post-draft free-agent process.
Pros: Castillo swiped 17 bases in 298 at-bats last season, giving him another double-digit campaign. A fluky batting average on balls in play (.269) helped tank his average to .245 in that time, so a turnaround could happen. He proved he could still run a bit, stealing four bases after coming back from injury in late August.
Cons: Castillo showed his age as a human infirmary last season, enduring injuries to his hip flexor (missed more than a month), wrist, quadriceps and knee. He hit just .111 in September after returning from his most serious injury.
Fantasy tip: Castillo typically goes in the last few rounds of deep mixed drafts to owners who neglected steals. They probably won't be as satisfied with Castillo's contributions there this year, though, even if the vet remains healthy.
Pros: Fontenot has essentially beat out Aaron Miles in the battle for the Cubs' second base job this spring. Fontenot proved he could hack it in part-time duty last year, hitting .305 with nine dingers and 40 RBIs in just 243 at-bats. He improved his batting eye, posted a solid line-drive rate and sustained a productive contact rate from 2007.
Fantasy tip: Fontenot's sweet stroke won't cost you much and could serve you well as a deep mixed middle infielder. Expecting anything more would be overrating him.
Pros: A-Cab rebounded from five disappointing months to hit .416 and drive in 22 runs last September; he finished with 47 RBIs in 352 at-bats last year - not a bad result for someone who had intermittent major league duty. He stole 50 bases in 1,616 minor league at-bats, including 23 at Double-A in 2007.
Cons: With outfielder Grady Sizemore entrenched at the top spot, Cabrera will lock into the bottom of the lineup. His numbers are very average if he fails to incorporate steals more often. He has a 0.59 batting eye quotient since 2007.
Fantasy tip: Cabrera is strictly a lottery ticket for the late rounds of deep mixed formats. A stagnant presence on the basepaths would strip much of Cabrera's fantasy potential.
Pros: Besides grit, not much. His batting eye ratio has hovered around even in the last six years and he has a career .351 on-base percentage. The two-time World Series champion is the favorite to start at second base.
Cons: Though he usually approached double-digit steals in every year beforehand, Eckstein stole just two bags last year in limited time. His .265 2008 clip was a far cry from his .290-plus performances in the previous three years.
Fantasy tip: Versatility as a bench fill-in for NL-only leagues is Eckstein's greatest draw. Otherwise, ignore him.
Pros: Belliard raked in August (.391, two taters, 14 RBIs), and his isolated power jumped 49 points from 2007. He has clubbed at least 11 homers in each of the last five seasons and has slightly above-average contact rates.He'll probably begin 2009 as the starter at second base; expected inhabitant Anderson Hernandez (hamstring) was placed on the 15-day DL.
Cons: An apparent outlying percentage of his flyballs (13.4) left the yard last year. Though he can carry you on hot streaks, you'll need a quick trigger if he goes into a slump to remove him from your lineup.
Fantasy tip: Belliard shouldn't be selected outside of deep NL-only setups, where his multipositional eligibility is worth more. He's ranked this high because he has more proven skills than other options. Hernandez will by no means be the guaranteed starter when he returns, so keep an eye out for Belliard as an in-season rental.
About Tim Heaney
Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous outlets, and recognized as a finalist in the Fantasy Sports Writers Association awards. The Boston University alum, who competes in the prestigious LABR and Tout Wars, has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.
He appears frequently, including every Sunday, on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio, as well as every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore.
Don't miss these great reports....
Recent KFFL releases
Fantasy Football Rankings: Standard Scoring
Fantasy Football Rankings: PPR Scoring
Fantasy Baseball Closer Depth Charts: White Sox chaos coming?
Fantasy Football Rankings: Scoring only