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Get ready for fantasy baseball--18 top sites

You're going to need all the help you can get if you want to beat your buddies in fantasy baseball. Well, luckily for you, we have what you need to get the job done.

Baseball season is almost under way. So it's time we all get online and start forming our fantasy leagues. Perennial favorite sites from ESPN, Yahoo, and will probably top the list for most people when they decide which service to use, but more goes into fantasy baseball than simply signing up for leagues. What about stats? Did you forget about the news? Did you happen to remember scouting tools?

Hear are the rest of the sites you need.

Step 1: Form the league

There are a number of fine league-building services out there, but if you want to have the best experience, stick to these selected few:

CBS Sports Not only is CBS Sports' Fantasy Baseball league free, it provides real-time scoring, live chat so you can talk with buddies during the game, and adequate player news and stats to help you make more informed decisions. I've used it a few times over the past five years and find it to be easy to use and high-powered for a private or public league. Disclosure: CBS Sports and CNET are owned by the same parent company: CBS.

ESPN Fantasy Baseball
ESPN Fantasy Baseball provides an easy-to-use interface. Don Reisinger/CNET

ESPN Fantasy Baseball I've also used ESPN's fantasy sports services for years, and I've been impressed with how much they offer. Leagues are free, player news and stats come straight from ESPN, one of the best sources for sports news, and managing your team couldn't be easier. But ESPN's penchant for charging for extra scouting help and more in-depth player information is annoying. If you want the most basic offering for your fantasy baseball league, you'll probably want to use Major League Baseball's service. It's free and makes it easy to set up a league. But I'm generally unimpressed with its stat tracking, and managing a team isn't nearly as easy as it is in competing services. It's a well-known fantasy site, but it's not the best.

Yahoo Sports Yahoo was one of the first companies to start fantasy leagues. More than a decade later, it's still providing an outstanding experience. All the leagues are free, player information is always up-to-date and reliable, and the service's stat tracking is second to none. Yahoo does charge some hefty fees for access to a draft kit ($9.99) and a scouting report ($14.99), but it's still a great service.

Step 2: Find the right players

Now that you've found the right fantasy baseball service, you need to find the players that will take you to the World Series and help you beat your friends. Usually, the fantasy baseball services have only basic stats. Going outside your league site for full information is worth the effort. expects Ichiro to have another good year. Don Reisinger/CNET

DraftHelp As someone who doesn't spend too much time watching many other teams besides my beloved Yankees, I don't know too many players from other teams. That's why DraftHelp comes in handy each year. I go to the site, find depth charts for teams and get tips on who to pick at each position. But the site's projected stats pages is what I use most often because it tells me, based on past performance, what a player's expected year-end stats will be. They're not always right, but they tend to be close. And having that "cheat sheet" comes in handy when I need to find an advantage over competitors.

ProFantasyBaseball If you want information quickly and you don't want to spend time crunching the numbers yourself, is a great place to start. It provides you with all the best picks for your draft and provides you with information about "sleepers"--players who might have had good years, but aren't so well known--as well as printable rankings so you know which players are the best at every position. And it's free.

RotoAuthority RotoAuthority won't provide you with draft kits and it won't even give you all the stats you need from previous years to help you make more informed decisions. But it does provide you with everything from the top players to pick in this year's draft to player projections, in a blog that's updated daily. It's a nice site to check out after you've performed your research elsewhere.

SportsReference If you want to do the heavy lifting yourself, look no further than Baseball Reference from the SportsReference family of sites. It provides exhaustive research on every known baseball player from the minor leagues to the majors and gives you the result of every game dating back decades. You won't believe how much information this site has. But be aware that you will need to do all the number-crunching yourself.

Step 3: Managing your team

Now that your team is in place, you need to make sure you keep abreast of all the news and events surrounding your players to ensure you're making the best fielding decisions each day. In fantasy baseball, your work is never done.

BaseballNewsCentral BaseballNewsCentral might not be the best-looking site and you won't find much information about transactions or injuries, but it does a fine job of separating news by team. Each time the Associated Press releases a story about something related to baseball, BaseballNewsCentral updates its site immediately. It might not become your daily haunt, but you'll definitely find some use in it.

BenchCoach lets you know how your players are performing. Don Reisinger/CNET

BenchCoach BenchCoach is unique in this roundup because it does something other services won't: it allows you to import your fantasy baseball team and it will then analyze your roster, give you advice on how to improve it, and project your success. Even better, its forums section is a superb resource for getting in touch with folks who are expert fantasy baseball players. It's a must-stop for any fantasy baseball manager.

FantasyBaseballChamp Sometimes, we just don't have time to spend searching through mass quantities of player information. For those moments, FantasyBaseballChamp will come in handy, thanks to its tables showing real-time rankings of players based on their expected fantasy performance and articles on mid-season management and advice. Most of the information is in-depth and all of it is actionable. But if you want more than just one person's advice, you probably won't find too much value in this site.

SandlotShrink If you want the best information available on the Web about sports, go to SandlotShrink, pay the $89 for a one-year subscription to the site, and enjoy the content. The site is written by some of the top journalists in the business, and includes projections, answers to all your questions, and much more. You can spend hours on the site and not get bored. The content is that good.

SportingNews Having information and the news at your fingertips is important when getting ready to manage your team all year. That's why I usually go to SportingNews to find out information about my players quickly. The news is categorized by team, player, or injuries, and, in a matter of seconds, you'll be able to check your team's status. It's a fine destination if you're not too happy with your fantasy league's built-in news updates.

All the rest

If you still aren't satisfied working through the sources I've listed above, I have even more for you. These are general purpose and don't necessarily fit into a category above. But they're still worth trying out.

Baseball America As a manger of a fantasy baseball league, you need to remember that you can't just keep a watchful eye on the MLB. Sometimes, sleeper stars come from the minor leagues. And that's where Baseball America, with its thorough reporting on the world of Minor League Baseball, comes in. It includes stats, news, and star player information. Keep a watchful eye on this site.

Baseball Monster When you're ready to start making changes to your team, or you need to find the single player that will provide the best Earned Run Average for the season, Baseball Monster is a great place to start. The site allows you to filter players by any stat you can think of. Want to know who leads the league in on-base percentage? Baseball Monster will tell you. Want to find out which first basemen has the best average with hitters in scoring position over the past three days for an American League East team? Baseball Monster will deliver that answer too.

FanGraph's graphs are second to none. Don Reisinger/CNET Networks

FanGraphs FanGraphs isn't necessarily designed for fantasy baseball players, since you can access information from most major sports, but it's still a great visual tool that will let you know where players on your team are headed. Once you get to FanGraphs, you can find a player or team and project their future success based on prior performances. The site graphs any information you ask for and helps you see, visually, how your team should perform going forward. I use it when things aren't going so well to see where I can make changes and improve my chances.

RotoTimes If you're looking for basic news and statistical information that's designed specifically for the fantasy baseball player in mind, look no further than RotoTimes. See, most sports sites write their news stories for general readers and fans. RotoTimes publishes news stories that will not only give you the lowdown on what's happening in the league, but also provide you with actionable fantasy league information that you can put to use on your team.

TG Fantasy Baseball If you want more than stats and news, check out TG Fantasy Baseball. The site features player reports and depth charts so you can see how often your players will be in the game, but its best features are its Dollar Values and Projections tools. The Dollar Values tool comes in handy if player salaries and salary caps are implemented in your league, because it tells you how many players at each position you should be fielding. The site's Projections tool gives you information on how well your players should perform over the course of the year. I've found that both tools work quite well and return accurate results.