2011 Draft Prep: 5x5 category snapshots for hitters

Since last fall, things have changed on the Fantasy landscape; players have new teams, new roles and new expectations. Much like the contents of an airplane's overhead baggage compartment, things have shifted, and we're here to give you a heads-up so there are no unwelcome surprises when you land on Draft Day.

We present the 5x5 Category Snapshot Tool, which shows how players' projected 2011 stats stack up against each other in the five standard Rotisserie categories. For example, the catchers' tab in the tool below shows how Joe Mauer, Victor Martinez and Buster Posey all project to have similar value overall in 5x5, but they don't all provide value in the same way. Mauer is ahead of Martinez and Posey -- and the pack -- in batting average and runs, but Martinez and Posey project to have a substantial edge in home runs. If you anticipate getting homers from other players, Mauer just might be a player for you to target early, but if power is what you need, the tool shows you that you have better options.

Here's how the tool works. You select a tab to see the projected regulars (and a few key reserves) at a given position. Each player has a color-coded mark representing their projected level of production for each of the five Rotisserie scoring categories as well as for their overall 5x5 value. This is much like the plus-minus ratings system that we have used in the past, but the color-coding shows you not only whether a player is above-average, average or below-average, but how far from the norm he is. So, for example, while both Posey and Miguel Montero are expected to be above-average producers in overall 5x5 value, Posey should be well above average, while we think Montero will only be slightly better than the typical starting catcher. The more red a player's mark is, the farther above average that player is expected to be, while the bluer the mark, the farther below average that player is likely to be.

Players are listed according to their primary positions and are sortable by scoring category. While the default setting ranks players by their projected overall 5x5 value, you can view them in the order of their projected totals in any of the individual 5x5 categories. You can re-sort the players by selecting a category at the bottom of the tool and then clicking on the sorting icon, which is the second icon from the left on the shelf just underneath the tool.

While you can use the Snapshot Tool to get a sense of the trade-offs involved when choosing between two or more players to draft or bid on, you can also use it to shape your overall draft or auction strategy. Each tab shows the depth of talent at each of the positions, except for pitcher. (There is a separate tool for pitchers and their 5x5 categories.) A quick scan across the six tabs shows that shortstop has the greatest scarcity of elite and near-elite level talent, but the dropoffs from the top levels at catcher and third base are fairly steep as well. The studs at these positions have especially high value this year, while second base has gotten a bit deeper, with several players aiming at comebacks (e.g., Chase Utley, Dustin Pedroia, Ian Kinsler, Brian Roberts and others emerging into the upper ranks (e.g., Kelly Johnson, Gordon Beckham).

The batter and pitcher Snapshot Tools are just the first of several visualizations we will be rolling out to aid you in your draft preparation. Tools dealing with a broader array of scoring categories and statistics are on their way, so check back to see all the ways you can prepare yourself for Fantasy's new landscape.

Have a question or a comment about the Category Snapshot Tool? Send them to DMFantasyBaseball@cbs.com . Be sure to put Snapshot Tool in the subject field.