As the calendar turns to March on Friday, baseball season is that much closer to starting.
For most fans, the upcoming season is always something to look forward to and to mark down on the calendar.
And for a lot of other fans, it means their fantasy baseball season is just around the corner.
Unlike the leagues in fantasy football where owners usually just pay attention for one or two days during the week, fantasy baseball has to be watched on a daily basis.
This is especially true for owners who are competing in big-money leagues. The team you draft and select in late March or early April likely won't be the same one you have at the end of September.
Leading up to everyone's draft, owners will break out the guide books, draft boards and every other source of material on how to build their team.
For every owner, it all starts with their first pick, setting the tone of your team.
Do you go with an ace pitcher? A lead-off hitter who steals a ton of bases? Or the power slugger that gets 40/100?
Lets look at the best options for who you could use with your first pick in your upcoming fantasy drafts.
Remember a few years ago when people debated who you took first between Albert Pujols and Alex Rodriguez?
A couple of years ago, I had the No. 2 overall pick in my draft, so I knew I was getting either or, depending on who the other person took.
That person shocked everyone by taking Barry Bonds, so then I had a decision to make.
I decided to go with my head over my heart that year, going with Pujols over A-Rod, who wasn't suspected of being a juicer at the time.
After getting off to a slow start in 2012, Pujols finished for the 12th straight season with 30 or more home runs, finishing with exactly 30 with his new team.
It was also the 11th time in 12 seasons when Pujols had over 100 RBI, netting 105 for the Angels.
The one thing you have to notice is Pujols' average and numbers have dropped off since 2010, as he's neither hit 40 home runs nor hit .300 since then.
At 33 years old, is Pujols wearing now?
Maybe enough to pass up as the No. 1 overall pick, but still good enough to be other owners first pick of their team.
I really think the 27-year old is entering the prime stages of his career and is a sleeper for teams to take the first pick.
The Colorado Rockies outfielder has consistently put up over 20 home runs and 85 RBI in his first three seasons as a full-time starter with the team.
His best season was by far in 2010, when he hit 34 home runs and drove in 117 RBI while hitting .336 and stole 26 bases.
His numbers in 2012 went down from those totals, hitting 22 home runs, 85 RBI, hit .303 and stole 20 bases—but those are still good numbers.
And for leagues who count stats like batting average, stolen bases and runs scored, CarGo is a great guy to have.
If his numbers were consistently like they were in 2010, I might even use a first overall pick on him.
But if you have the No. 6, 7 or 8 overall pick, I could certainly see using it on Gonzalez.
Prince Fielder will be one of three Tigers listed in this slideshow.
In his first season with the Tigers, Fielder was a big part of the reason why they made the 2012 World Series.
And Fielder should have an even better 2013 campaign, especially with the return of Victor Martinez to the lineup and the addition of Torii Hunter to the lineup.
Those guys will give Fielder even more protection in a very deep lineup that should see a ton of home runs and a lot of runs scored.
In 2012, Fielder had 30 home runs and 108 RBI while hitting .313.
The one thing I liked from Fielder is that he cut down on strikeouts, only striking out 85 times.
If you're in a league that deducts points for strikeouts, Fielder is a good slugger to have, because he doesn't swing and miss as much as other power hitters.
He also sports a nice on-base percentage—it's been over .400 for four consecutive years—so Fielder is a great player because whether it's a walk, double or a home run, Fielder's usually productive in the lineup.
Andrew McCutchen's stock as an overall player has certainly risen over the last two years.
When he first came into the league in 2009, he was a guy who could steal a lot of bases and be a great everyday outfielder.
Four years later, McCutchen has transformed into an all-around great player that can help your team in several fantasy categories.
He'll hit over 30 home runs now and can get to 100 RBI; he came close in 2012 by hitting 96, but I think that number will go up in 2013.
He has stolen at least 20 bases every season he's been in the majors, he hit .327 with a .400 on-base percentage and he also scores a lot of runs (107 a year ago.)
Just like Carlos Gonzalez, McCutchen does everything well and for fantasy owners looking for the overall kind of player to help their team, he is definitely worth a first round selection.
In fact, I wouldn't be shocked if he ended up in the top five of some draft boards.
If your a fantasy owner that likes to build your team with pitching, then Justin Verlander is a great pick to have.
Since 2007, he has pitched over 201 innings in each season and had six complete games in 2012.
Since 2009, he's averaged at least 219 strikeouts and lead the league in K's in three of those four seasons.
And since 2006 when he won the Rookie of the Year Award and helped Detroit get to the World Series, he's had at least 17 wins in six of those seven seasons.
Verlander is everything you want an ace pitcher to be and is a great guy to have as your No. 1 pick on your fantasy roster.
As someone looking to be baseball's first $200 million pitcher, expect another Cy Young worthy season from the Detroit ace.
Up until recently, Joe Mauer was the best catcher in the sport.
Now, I think you have to regard Buster Posey with that spot, and his 2012 season definitely helped that argument.
In 2012, Posey hit .336, which won him the National League batting title, with 24 home runs, 103 RBI and had a .408 on-base percentage,
Posey also won the 2012 National League MVP Award and helped guide the Giants to their second World Series crown in a span of three seasons.
What's even better about Posey is that he's just 25-years-old and is entering the prime stages of his career and should be able to put up those kinds of numbers consistently.
He'll score a decent amount of runs but won't steal bases, so for owners looking for the overall kind of player at No. 1, Posey might not be the guy teams choose over more obvious selections.
But later on in the first round, Posey can't be passed up on.
There's no better left-handed starter in the game better than Clayton Kershaw right now.
The 24-year-old finished second in the Cy Young voting with a 14-9 record, a 2.53 ERA with 229 strikeouts in 227.2 innings.
If not for R.A. Dickey and his amazing 2012 year, Kershaw would be the two-time N.L. Cy Young winner right now.
Over the last three seasons, Kershaw has averaged over 204 innings and has struck out at least 212 batters.
In his last four seasons, his ERA has been no lower than 2.91, which is phenomenal. The only reason why his win totals aren't higher is because, at times, the Dodgers haven't given him the run support needed.
Barring any injuries, Kershaw will be in the running again for the Cy Young and will consistently put up solid numbers for the Dodgers and for any owner who takes him with the first pick.
Injuries derailed Joey Votto's 2012 season, otherwise, he might be a little higher on the list.
In just 111 games played, Votto hit .337 with 14 home runs and 56 RBI. He did, however, sport a league-leading .474 on-base percentage.
For four years straight, Votto has had an on-base percentage of at least .414, part of that is because he walks a lot and has lead the National League over the last two years in that category.
When healthy, Votto will average around 25-35 home runs and 110 RBI while batting .320.
If you gets points for extra-base hits like doubles and triples, then Votto is a great option to have, as he's gained at least 40 doubles in the last two seasons and had at least 32 doubles since his first full season back in 2008.
The former 2010 N.L. MVP should be primed for another MVP-like season and help the Reds win their second straight National League Central title.
Votto is probably the best first basemen you can draft, even over Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder and is certainly worthy of any first round pick.
I would be a little cautious of drafting Ryan Braun, just in case the whole Miami-based PED clinic thing ends up being true.
But as long as he doesn't serve a 50-game suspension, Braun is as much of a sure thing as you can get in baseball.
He's hit at least 25 home runs in every single season he's been a professional and hit no less than 97 RBI.
In his six seasons, he's had a .300 average in five of them with his lowest being .285 back in 2008.
Braun won the 2011 National League MVP Award and finished second for the 2012 National League MVP Award.
He also steals a lot of bases as well, swiping at least 30 bags in the last two seasons for the Brewers.
As an overall player, Braun is the perfect player to have on your fantasy team and worth a No. 1 selection.
But again, just watch out in case the PED case ends up being true, because that would not shock me in the least bit.
There's no more dangerous kind of player than the one in a contract season.
Robinson Cano will be a free agent after the 2013 season and is looking for similar paydays Joey Votto and Prince Fielder got.
The best hitter for the New York Yankees has been an MVP candidate in the last three seasons, hitting at least 28 home runs and 94 RBI while hitting at least .302.
His on-base percentage rose 30 points from a year ago to .379 and part of that was because he walked a lot more in 2012.
Cano is known as a free swinger who can pulverize a baseball at any time who is learning to be more of a patient hitter.
Last season, Cano had a career high with 33 home runs and I think that total could go up and may even get around the 40's.
Expect the kind of season from Cano that may force the Yankees to break the bank to keep around their top hitter, and one that would be worthy of using a No. 1 pick on.
Just like Joey Votto, Matt Kemp is due for a bounce back season.
Of the next three players I will talk about, any one of them is worthy of being the first overall selection in your league's entire draft.
Kemp does everything so well.
He hits for a high average, hits for power, scores a lot of runs and steals a ton of bases.
Even in a season where he played in just 106 games, Kemp still hit .303 with 23 home runs, 69 RBI with nine steals.
The nine steals was way down from the 40 he had in 2011, but if he's healthy, Kemp should be terrorizing the base paths again.
And, if the Dodgers can get the full potentials out of the acquired players such as Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Hanley Ramirez, they will provide excellent protection in the lineup for Kemp, which should boost his numbers even more.
Mike Trout was like a human highlight reel every time he played a game in 2012.
All it took was cutting Bobby Abreu early in the season for Trout to get his shot, but once he did, he never looked back.
Trout hit .326 with 30 home runs and 83 RBI with 49 stolen bases, scored 129 runs and had a .399 on-base percentage in 139 games for the Angels.
Trout was a contender all season long for the A.L. MVP Award and finished second in the voting to Miguel Cabrera.
Now in his second full season, Trout should have another fine season with even more added protection in the lineup, especially with the addition of Josh Hamilton.
Fantasy owners who possess the very first pick will likely have to debate who they want to take between Cabrera and Trout.
You really can't go wrong with either guy, and Trout certainly won't disappoint in 2013.
To me, Miguel Cabrera is the one guy you can not pass up on in fantasy if you have the chance to draft him.
The 2012 American League MVP had by far his best season as a professional, hitting .330 and won the A.L. batting title.
He also hit 44 home runs and 139 RBI, all league-leading, which won him the Triple Crown Award, something that is very hard to do in the sport.
He won't steal bases like Trout will, but every time Cabrera grabs a bat, he's an extra-base hit waiting to happen and in my mind, the games best pure hitter.
His on-base percentage dipped off to .393 from his career high of .448, but I think that number will go back up in 2013.
What also impresses me about Cabrera is that he's cut down on his strikeout totals as he's gotten older. The more Cabrera walks, the higher his on-base percentage will be.
In fantasy baseball, Miguel Cabrera is the ultimate No. 1 pick for any league.