With many leagues having keepers due today, I'll be around to offer any commentary on keepers. One last-minute tip is to not forget about defense. Be sure to check out these resources:
A quick reminder, spurred by a contribution on the Scoresheet forums this past week is how to calculate the value of defense to a pitching staff:
From Dick Craswell's regressions of many leagues, and backed by my own observations, I would expect a +.30 defense to improve a team ERA [or RA/9 the same] by 0.25 runs per game, over a .00 defense. Committing 20 fewer errors should also save about 10 (unearned) runs.
This value (about five-sixths of a run, or .833, per defensive play made) confirms the realism of the Scoresheet Baseball product, as turning a single into an out–in a generic MLB context–is worth (from The Book: Playing the Percentages in Baseball) about 0.77 runs. A double is worth approximately 1.08 runs, and a triple 1.37. Using a mostly-singles distribution for blown defensive plays, it's easy to arrive at .833 runs per defensive play made. And errors can result in all sorts of things, from a player reaching base, to an advancement base to a dropped foul ball, so .50 runs per error is plausible (and 10 runs/season is .06 runs/game for the purposes of calculating ERA impact).
Of course the rule of thumb of 5.5 OPS points per .01 defensive points (e.g. .02 better defense is approximately the same as .011 better OPS in a position player) still applies, but the above calculations can give a better sense of how well a pitching staff will perform with a given defensive unit.
Draft preparation is a complicated arena, with all these various league combinations existing only among public leagues, and many private leagues introducing more complications:
New single-season mixed (BL) league (non-recurring).
New single-season AL only league (non-recurring).
New single-season NL only league (non-recurring).
New recurring mixed (BL) league (non-recurring).
New recurring AL only league (non-recurring).
New recurring NL only league (non-recurring).
Existing recurring mixed (BL) league (non-recurring).
Existing recurring AL only league (non-recurring).
Existing recurring NL only league (non-recurring).
Since trying to address everything will help nobody, the actual mock draft results (352 players taken) broken out by league and by position will be shown and some brief commentary added. Considering the placement here and on the Burke rankings page shouldn't take the place of actual analysis, but should give a good idea of how others will view various players, critical information in terms of making keeper and draft decisions.
– AL Catcher: With two designated hitters on the catcher list, it should be easy to get a full-time catcher in a 10-team AL league, so waiting if you miss the top guys is viable. Not-so-bad options like J.P. Arencibia and Alex Avila weren't taken.
– AL First Base: Derrek Lee may not have a lot of shelf life remaining, but should be a nice contributor if he's overlooked in your league. Daric Barton isn't the prototypical first baseman, but the on-base and defense are nice, and he could yet find some power.
– AL Second Base: Mark Ellis has always been overlooked–the defense is great, and the playing time he invariably misses hurts a lot less in Scoresheet than most fantasy formats. Of course, the missed playing time is what keeps Kinsler out of the top 50–if he stays in the lineup, he can be every bit as good as Pedroia.
– AL Third Base: For contending teams in 2011, getting one of the top five veterans is almost imperative, though Mark Reynolds, Wilson Betemit or someone else may surprise. Don't bank on Dayan Viciedo ever playing third base again.
– AL Shortstop: As a personal fan of Asdrubal Cabrera since his days as a prospect in the Mariners system, I still think that his #1 ranking on this list is exceedingly optimistic. With Scoresheet giving him a 4.70 range (4.75 average), he's going to have to hit to the maximum of his capability in 2011 to be a top shortstop contender. Alexei Ramirez and Yunel Escobar got 4.81 and 4.83 range ratings, respectively, and might even surpass Elvis Andrus for best 2011 shortstop. Don't let Alcides Escobar's reputation for stellar defense, or Cliff Pennington's great defensive metrics (such as nFRAA) make you miss the fact that they received average (4.75 and 4.77, respectively) range ratings.
– AL Outfield: In many ways, the mock draft selections were very confusing. Since Scoresheet does not downward adjust for ballpark factors, there's a big edge to playing in hitters' parks. Hence, Nelson Cruz, Texas Ranger and Yankees Nick Swisher and Curtis Granderson should be great for several years, as in-their-prime bashers playing in good homer parks (Granderson has a lifetime slugging percentage of .527 against right-handed pitching and a nice 2.18 range factor in Scoresheet). Note that while William (Wil) Myers should rake, his selection at #141 was precipitated somewhat by his status as a catcher at the time of the mock draft. Speed has been shown to have less value in Scoresheet than in real life, so fantasy mainstays like Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury lose some value, and both were further devalued by getting 2.13 range factors, making them inferior to most center fielders defensively (at least for 2011). There's been some spirited discussion about J.D. Drew lately on the Scoresheet forum, and it does seem pretty clear that unless aliens take over his body, he remains a very nice platoon outfielder–against the important side, righties–and should be better than several of the players taken before him in the mock draft.
– AL Starting Pitcher: Predicting pitchers is difficult. The mock drafters draft order seems defensible, though yours truly is more worried about Peavy's 2011 outlook than any other source, and wouldn't take that risk at all. Neftali Feliz could become a huge underdraft if he becomes a starting pitcher. Chris Sale seems less likely to hold his velocity if he goes into the rotation, but still might be very good. Rick Porcello had a very nice second half to the 2010 season, yet remains enigmatic due to his startlingly low strikeout percentages.
– AL Relief Pitcher: Remember that saves don't matter. Having lefties in the pen is nice, as most strong teams are going to focus on beating up the the more-prevalent right-handed starting pitchers. As noted last week, you can almost never have too much pitching in Scoresheet, but keeping relievers isn't usually the way to get there.
– NL Catcher: Even with speed being devalued in Scoresheet, Yadier Molina's cannon arm is helpful. Chris Iannetta would still be exciting, if there was any reason to believe he would get 550 plate appearances, but the Rockies keep finding ways to prevent that from happening. Ryan Hanigan never showed the pedigree to suggest the .405 on-base percentage from 2010, and PECOTA projects .270/.357/.369; it doesn't help that Ramon Hernandez is listed as the starter, either. Grabbing all three Reds catchers (the two veterans and prospect Devin Mesoraco) if possible seems like the safest play.
– NL First Base: Despite grabbing Brandon Belt in both leagues, it's hard to see how he could be rated this highly, as he's not supposed to have huge power, and will play in a tough park for hitting. Oh, and he seems unlikely to play at the start of 2011. This may seem contradictory to the advice that first basemen are almost ubiquitous (last week), but with Logan Morrison and Yonder Alonso and Aubrey Huff possibly ending up in the outfield, this position thins out pretty fast after the heavyweights. If you don't get a top-4 guy and are trying to contend in 2011, there's not much difference in the other guys, and it may even be easier to find an outfielder to play out of position, at least for part of a platoon (Carlos Pena, for example, is a prime platoon candidate).
NL Second Base: With his bad health record and shaky health every year other than 2010, color this author skeptical about Rickie Weeks. It's difficult to see Jose Lopez getting much playing time, as was noted in a previous fantasy article, but at least in Scoresheet, he could be spot-started in weeks with long homestands and be a surprisingly useful extra guy.
NL Third Base: Scott Rolen may be getting written off a bit early by the mock drafters, but this is a pretty solid position, with even Chris Johnson having the potential of being an okay bat. Of course, it's very top-heavy, so that distribution of talent indicates waiting if you don't get Ryan Zimmerman or David Wright, though Pedro Alvarez and Pablo Sandoval are nice in that they hit right-handed pitching harder.
NL Shortstop: With the caveat that someone here is one of the world's biggest Starlin Castro fan… Somehow, Scoresheet gave Castro a below-average range rating (most advanced metrics showed that he had very good range), and the errors will magnify his defensive issues. Still, it's hard to believe that there's a much better combination of present-future value outside of the acknowledged megastars in the game (like Troy Tulowitzki and Hanley Ramirez on this same list). Drafting (or keeping) Stephen Drew involves drafting (or keeping) his home ballpark, which makes him quite a valuable Scoresheet shortstop–more so than in real life. Avoiding the Juan Uribe section (as in him and the guys below him) of the shortstop store is a good idea, if you can get your shopping done elsewhere first.
– NL Outfield: Much less surprising picks took place with the NL outfielders than in the AL. There's probably a bit too much confidence that Carlos Beltran and Carlos Lee will rebound strong, but they've been good for so long, it's understandable. Neither the mock drafters nor PECOTA agree with the stance that Jose Tabata will hit like Lonnie Smith, with PECOTA projecting .276/.325/.377 in 2011. Getting just a 2.11 range rating, he'd be essentially worthless at that level, but consider him an "author's pick", compared to the lack of respect he's receiving from all other sources. Don't go overboard, of course. Marlon Byrd fell curiously far in the mock draft, as he gets the CF bonus to his range, and could be a nice defender at a side at 2.15. He's hit .294/.350/.456 over the past four seasons. PECOTA is "expecting" a line of .284/.341/.429.
– NL Starting Pitcher: What an astonishing wealth of talent. Johan Santana was taken 35th among all NL starting pitchers! Carlos Zambrano is 47th, and has never posted an ERA of 4.00 or higher (aside from 7.2 innings at age 20). Ian Kennedy is 48th and had a 3.80 ERA and a 1.20 WHIP at age 25. With "fourth starters" of this quality available, teams with a good offense and one of the elite starters are much more likely to be able to draft their way into a good season than some years.
– NL Relief Pitcher: Keeping any NL reliever is a hard sell this year, though Hong-Chih Kuo allowed just a 15 OPS+ against him in 2010 (Mariano Rivera checked in at 37, for contrast). If only he could stay healthy. The only knock on Heath Bell would be that the Padres may trade him away from magical Petco Park during the season.