With the fantasy baseball season fast approaching, the players drafted in the later rounds need to be guys who are dependable and can still produce over the course of the 162-game schedule.
One division that contains these types of players who could make or break the 2013 season for your team is the AL Central. Players like Adam Dunn, Justin Morneau and even Eric Hosmer could all be impact players. But there are some helpful players on each team who should still be available in the later rounds.
Chicago White Sox: Alex Rios, Outfielder
Every season with Rios opens with his fans asking, "Is this the year he stays consistent?"
The 2013 campaign is really no different.
Over the past eight years, he has failed to put together a stretch of seasons where his numbers went up consistently. In 2012, he finally was able to breakout and make a name for himself with the White Sox.
The 31-year-old's average jumped from .227 in 2011 to .304 in 2012. He also homered 25 times, a huge leap from 13 in 2011. His doubles, triples, RBI and slugging percentage all were career highs and, with the young, powerful lineup around him, he should only get better.
The Chicago lineup might rely on Adam Dunn for most of its pop, but toward the end of the 2012 season, Rios carried the offensive load. In 29 games between September and October, the Alabama native hit .324/.351/.537 with five home runs and 16 RBIs. Let us not forget that Rios also strikes out at much smaller clip than Dunn.
Cleveland Indians: Michael Brantley, Outfielder
A young stud that can field the ball and can also get some hits to drive in runners from second base, Michael Brantley could make this year's Cleveland squad special.
He played his first full season in the big leagues with 149 games and 552 at-bats in 2012. In 2011, he only played in 114 games. Last year was the year he sort of broke out with six home runs and 60 RBI. He limited his strikeouts to 56 and walked a career-high 53 times. He also added 13 stolen bases.
This young outfielder may be a hot commodity, but try to wait to snag him in the late rounds. He can steal bases and provide a little thump on the days that your real lineup players have the day off.
His talent level has yet to even close to peak and the 2013 season could be a great year for the 25-year-old to become a household name for fantasy players everywhere.
Detroit Tigers: Jhonny Peralta, Shortstop
The 30-year-old shortstop struggled in 2012 with a .239 average and only 13 homers in 531 at-bats. This was after a successful 2011 season with 21 home runs in 525 at-bats while driving in 86 runs. His on-base percentage also plummeted from .345 in 2011 to a meager .305 last year.
It's no secret that the Tigers lineup is one of the most prolific offenses in baseball. With Peralta hitting toward the bottom of the lineup last year, behind guys such as Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera, it was difficult for the veteran shortstop to get many RBI opportunities.
In 2013, Peralta will likely get the chance to bat fifth or sixth and we should see him hit closer to his career average of .269. He will be one of the American League shortstops who other managers glance over, so make sure to grab him before someone else does!
Kansas City Royals: Jeff Francoeur, Outfielder
Francoeur is one of those key outfield options who can reclaim his spot on a team every season; no matter what happened the year before.
The 29-year-old had some trouble hitting the ball in 2012 with a .235 average and just 49 RBIs. He still hit the ball out of the park 16 times, but struck out 119 times and only stole four bases. As we've learned over the years, Frenchy is one of the streakiest hitters in baseball. When he's hot, you can ride him like a thoroughbred - .321/.368/.566 with five homers and 12 RBIs in May last year.
The outfielder played great on a young Royals team in 2011. He hit .285 with 20 home runs, 87 RBIs and 22 stolen bases. His OBP (.329) was the highest it had been since his 2007 season. I expect his numbers to be similar this year.
After coming off a down year, many fantasy players will back away from him, so feel free to go for that draft button in late rounds.
Minnesota Twins: Trevor Plouffe, Third Baseman
Without a complete season under his belt due to injury, the two-year veteran is ready to turn the page and take his pay to the next level.
During some stretches in 2012, Plouffe was able to slug the ball with the best of them – in June, he was simply ridiculous. Over a 26-game stretch, Plouffe hit 11 home runs and drove in 21 runs while hitting .327/.391/.735. He finished the season with a .255 average and a career-high 24 home runs in just 119 games. Plouffe also slugged .455 and has the potential to help the Twins become a threat in the AL Central again.
Plus, he can play shortstop and the outfield with ease, so he can qualify for numerous positions that can be filled when your studs either get hurt or aren't playing well.
This 26-year-old should be on everyone's radar heading into the 2013 seasons and you need to make sure to grab him as soon as the other solid bench players are off the table.