KEEPERS: The Changing Landscape—AL position players

Teams weren't sitting still as we marched through our Dynasty Reload series this winter. Plenty of off-season transactions, injuries and other news have both elevated and dampened the prospects of players we noted in these columns, as well as a few other consideration-worthy names who may have missed our 27-and-under filter. For keeper league owners already buying, selling and adjusting their rosters for 2013 and beyond, this four-part series is for you. 

The implications of this past week's Miami PED story naming Nelson Cruz has refocused us on the playing time of Rangers rookie Mike Olt (3B/1B, TEX), both in positive and negative ways. Cruz currently represents the only real pop in the Rangers OF, on a team that desperately needs power after the defections of Josh Hamilton and Mike Napoli. Cruz' loss to a possiblenot guaranteedsuspension could mean AB in the OF for Olt and his MLE 166 PX. Olt's real fantasy value is at 3B, but with Adrian Beltre now the heart of the Rangers offense, only a trade or Beltre injury will allow him to stay there over the near-term.

Another winter headline was the 50-game suspension of prospect Jon Singleton (1B, HOU) following a positive test for marijuana. But following the announcement, GM Jeff Lunhow seemed to shrug it off, suggesting that Singleton still has a shot at arriving in HOU this season. We don't know the extent of the 21-year-old Singleton's "issues," aside from some immaturity. And he has far more talent21 HR, 16% bb% at Double-A in 2012that most of the prospects who have similarly transgressed before him. If you can make this an issue with the Singleton owner in your league, consider it a buying opportunity.

AJ Pierzynski's departure has left an open competition for C in Chicago. Twenty-seven-year-old Tyler Flowers' (C, CHW) power, venue and playing time opportunity gives him more upside than we projected here in early November, but his contact issues and struggles vs. RHP say not to rely on him as a #1 backstop unless you can neutralize a poor BA. While Flowers is capable of 25 HR, he'll have to step up the rest of his game on both sides of the ball to stay in the lineup.

DH Kendry Morales' trade to SEA opened up an LAA OF spot again for Peter Bourjos (OF, LAA), whose projected AB looked shaky for a week following the Josh Hamilton signing. Mark Trumbo will shift to DH from the OF to accommodate Bourjos, one of the game's best defensive CFs in 2011and the owner of a .271 BA, 12 HR and 22 SB, supported by a 117 PX and a 185 Spd. Thanks in part to his own selectivity/ct% issues and the Angels' tight-lipped front office, Bourjos doesn't come risk-free, as even SoCal locals are still scratching their heads about a now-absent hip injury that supposedly needed off-season surgery. But if he's healthy through the early spring, Bourjos still owns those 2011 skills.  With the Angels committed to rebuilding his value and his job likely more safe than it was in 2012, he's worth a gamble.

OAK recently announced that 2B is up for grabs this spring, primarily between Jemile Weeks (2B, OAK), Scott Sizemore (3B, OAK), and untested rookie Grant Green who is almost an afterthought with only 20 games of experience at the position. We outlined Weeks' skills and issues here in November, and the offensive upside of Sizemore in our 3B column. While 2B is Sizemore's original position, he was never a terrific defender either, and will likely get a look at both infield positions in the hope that his power-and-patience upside overcome his issues. But the best long-term bet may be the 25-year-old Green, who doesn't have Sizemore's pop, but likely has the best BA and defensive potential of the current candidates. Green may be worth a deep-league flyer at this scarce position, particularly for a fantasy owners with an otherwise bleak 2B outlook and the longer term in mind.

From the out-of-sight/out-of-mind department, Ryan Flaherty (2B, BAL) was omitted from our Dynasty Reload series, likely due to the meager 153 AB he scrounged all over the field as a Rule 5 player. The 26-year-old Flaherty deserves better, particularly given a minor league track record of pop and patience, as well as 5 HR in his final 68 AB with BAL. Flaherty held his own defensively at 2B, where the current uncertainty now may have him in line for a longer look. He could be a good spring and a Brian Roberts injury away from winning some real playing time.

In the same category as Flaherty is David Cooper (1B/DH, TOR) who deserved at least a "just missed" in our 1B column, even though he's currently listed behind Adam Lind on the TOR 1B depth chart. The 26-year-old Cooper put up a .314/.395/.540 line that isn't overly impressive in the offensive-minded PCL environment. But he also recorded a .300/.292 BA/xBA in 140 AB in TOR before spending September on the DL with a back injury. The terrific batting eye—245/289 BB/K—and recent patience that Cooper has shown in the minors has yet to carry over.  But if he can continue hitting LDs with just a touch of power (110 PX), the left-handed hitting Cooper could grab a chunk of TOR's 1B time during the next Adam Lind slump.

Finally, BOS announced that Ryan Kalish (OF, BOS) will miss at least five months after undergoing another shoulder surgery. Having spent the past two seasons being injured and glimpsing his previous skills only in flashes, Kalish114 PX, 10/1 SB/CS over 163 AB in 2010was already approaching fantasy irrelevance. He could be there now.

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  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.