When it comes to fantasy baseball, the fate of your season is pretty much determined before you even enter the draft room.
If you’ve done your research before hand, due diligence will have taught you that there are certain players to avoid, to target and to reach for.
But that’s where it becomes confusing.
Not only does fantasy baseball advice come in bunches, but also from a variety of “expert” sources.
With all the surrounding uncertainties and variables that factor into your draft plans, give yourself a rest and make sure you grab these five players who should make an appearance on everyone’s list of must have’s.
The young Atlanta Braves outfielder is a player that will be fair game to anyone.
Thanks to a shoulder injury that plagued him throughout last season, the former first overall pick will enter the 2012 campaign with a bit of an injury concern that should push him out of the top-100 selections.
Before his sophomore slump, the third-year player broke out onto the fantasy scene and delivered rookie numbers that included 83 runs, 29 doubles, 18 homers and 72 RBIs. Not only did he show promising power, but also added 11 stolen bases while batting .277.
It was these kind of numbers that had him pegged as a future MVP and fantasy mainstay.
The former Nation League Rookie of the Year runner-up has already begun to put his neck and shoulder injury concerns to rest with an impressive spring showing.
If Heyward continues to bat second—in front of power hitters like Brian McCann and Dan Uggla, expect him to garnish more opportunities along the base-paths.
As an eighth-round draft pick who has 30/20 potential, you’d be crazy not to have him on your must-have list.
The second-year third baseman is a hot “hot-corner” commodity.
After being called up from the minor leagues in 2011, Lawrie put on a display of power and speed that isn’t too common from his position.
In his brief stint with the Toronto Blue Jays, Lawrie managed 44 hits, eight doubles, four triples, nine home runs and 25 RBIs, while batting .293.
He excels at making contact and putting the ball in play.
He should finish the entire season in Toronto and become a five-category stud for any owner that’s lucky to grab him.
It seems as if Howie Kendrick gets deemed as a breakout player every year, so this one should be no different.
Last season, he set career highs with 18 homers and 14 stolen bases.
Kendrick is a line-drive hitter who has a knack for getting on base.
The off-season addition of slugger Albert Pujols should not only afford Kendrick better pitches, but also place him in a position to reach triple digits in runs for the first time.
Even with Pujols in the lineup, it’s unlikely that manager Mike Scioscia abandons his philosophy of small-ball.
The value of Kendrick doesn’t lie just in his potential, but rather his first-base, second-base and outfield eligibility in Yahoo! leagues.
As one of the league’s quietest fantasy sheet stat-stuffers, you can realistically project him to finish the year off as a member of the 20/20 club from a variety of positions.
Ever since the Detroit Tigers acquired him in 2010, the 10th year shortstop has been on an absolute tear.
Last year, in his first full season with the club, Peralta batted just below .300 with 21 bombs and 86 RBIs.
This marked the fourth time in his career that he topped the 80-RBI plateau—a feat that shouldn’t be ignored, especially if you miss out on big-name infielders like Troy Tulowitzki, Hanley Ramirez and Starlin Castro.
Similar to Kendrick, Peralta should be the beneficiary of a major offseason acquisition in Prince Fielder.
While the overall affect of Fielder’s presence remains to be seen, you can rest assured that Peralta has the ability and is in a position to improve on last year’s numbers.
If you don’t mind finding steals from another source, Peralta should be the no-brainer pick as your fantasy shortstop.
The one and only thing I love about Michael Cuddyer is everything.
He comes with the same three-position eligibility that Kendrick has, is far from an injury concern and has been consistently consistent throughout his 11-year career with Cleveland.
Add in the fact that he now plays half of his games at the hitter-friendly Coors Field, and you have the makings of one of the biggest draft-day steals.
The Colorado Rockies acquired Cuddyer to play in the outfield and occasionally spell first baseman Todd Helton, while providing another big right-handed bat to solidify the middle of their lineup.
This change of scenery gives Cuddyer a legitimate shot at topping his 2009 campaign—one in which he delivered 34 doubles, 32 home-runs and 94 RBIs.