2017 Fantasy Baseball Team Preview: Boston Red Sox
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Boston Red Sox
2016 Record: 93-69 (1st AL East)
While former GM, Theo Epstein was securing the first World Series title for the Chicago Cubs in over 100 years, the Dave Dombrowski operated Red Sox were trying to make their own return trip to championship glory. The Sox won the AL East, but were eliminated in the Divisional Round of the playoffs by the Cleveland Indians. There is reason for optimism in Bean town this year and they could very easily take that next step forward this season. The Sox have several young hitters who are developing into future superstars and they added ace, Chris Sale to give them one of the best rotations in baseball. The future is looking bright for Boston and they should have plenty of fantasy treats to offer you this season.
Projected Batting Order
- Dustin Pedroia - 2B
- Xander Bogaerts - SS
- Mookie Betts - OF
- Hanley Ramirez - DH
- Pablo Sandoval - 3B
- Mitch Moreland - 1B
- Andrew Benintendi - OF
- Jackie Bradley Jr. - OF
- Sandy Leon - C
When you're looking for a fantasy first baseman, one thing that you would like is for your first baseman to help fill your power categories. The last three full seasons, Mitch Moreland has hit 23, 23 and 22 home runs, and last year there were 68 major leaguers who hit more dingers than Moreland. Considering he will likely hit for a .240-.250 batting average, he's nothing better than a desperation corner infielder at best.
Dustin Pedroia enters his 11th season with the Red Sox and at 33 years old, he's still fantasy relevant. Last season he hit .318 (the second best average of his career) and also chipped in 105 runs. He had a career high BABIP (.339), so without getting into my nerd talk, that would indicate a regression may be coming in his batting average for 2017. I still expect him to hit .290-.300 and if you pair that with 90 runs, 65-70 RBIs and five to ten stolen bases, he's a lower end starting second baseman.
At shortstop, the Sox enjoyed a breakout season from Xander Bogaerts. Bogaerts hit .294, had 21 home runs and led all shortstops with 115 runs. Hitting in front of David Ortiz definitely helped his run totals, but he should still see great success, even with Big Papi enjoying his retirement, giving tennis lessons. He can also get you ten or more stolen bases, which is a nice bonus. He's currently being drafted as the fourth shortstop off the board in NFBC drafts in the third round, and he should be drafted anywhere from the third to sixth shortstop of the boards in drafts.
Third base will be manned by the Panda, Pablo Sandoval. He came into camp in laughable shape last year and missed virtually all of the season with a shoulder injury. Supposedly he's in great shape this year, but he's still not worth your time on draft day.
Sandy Leon will likely spend a majority of time behind the plate this season, but is barely worth rostering in two catcher leagues. Recently GM, Dave Dombrowski was on Sirius XM fantasy radio recently and he as well as some in the Boston organization, view catcher Blake Swihart as a future all-star. He's someone to put on your watch list, in the event Leon gets hurt or struggles to start the season.
Is there a better name in MLB than Mookie Betts? I'm sure there probably is, but since I'm writing about the Red Sox here, my vote goes to the Mook-ster. It's rare to find a five category producer,and Betts is one of the few who fit the mold. He can hit over .300, blast 30 home runs, give you 100+ RBIs and runs, and steal over 20 bags. He should be a top five pick in drafts this year and I would feel very comfortable taking him second overall behind Mike Trout.
Handling center field duties will be last year's breakout player, Jackie Bradley Jr. JBJ came out of nowhere last year to hit 26 home runs and take over center field. After starting the season strong, he did slow down in the second half, which does give me some concern. He hit .296 over the first half of the year, including .381 in May, but slowed down in the second half and only hit .233. Did pitchers figure him out or did he just hit a wall? He is an interesting player to watch this year to see if he can build on his terrific start to 2016. He's being drafted as the 33rd outfielder off the board with an ADP of 144 in NFBC drafts, and I really like the value and upside he offers. If you can get JBJ as your third outfielder, I think you will be in good shape.
Being selected around the same spot in drafts is mega-prospect, Andrew Benintendi. Please say his name with an over-annunciated, Italian accent like I do when you say it. It's much more fun that way. Benintendi was selected seventh overall in the 2015 draft and has moved up to the majors faster than The Flash on the WB. He skipped AAA ball altogether and moved right from AA (not the fun, alcoholically one), to the big leagues last season. Eventually he could be a .300 hitter that can bang 20 or more home runs. Most projections see him hitting 10-13 home runs this year, but one guy I respect almost more than anyone in the industry is former GM, Jim Bowden and he thinks he could reach that 20 mark as soon as this year. Good enough for me! He's being drafted around the same time as Jackie Bradley Jr., and I think Benintendi is actually a safer pick than JBJ.
There wasn't a bigger move this offseason than the trade that sent top prospect, Yoan Moncada from Boston to the Chicago White Sox in return for ace, Chris Sale. The Red Sox are going all-in for a championship this year, and 28 year old, Chris Sale is a key cog in that World Series wheel. However, there are a few warning signs from last season that give me a little concern. First, Sale still struck over a batter per inning (9.25 batters per nine innings), but that was down from 11.82 in 2015 and 10.76 in 2014. In fact, it was his lowest total since 2012. He also gave up 27 home runs, which was a career high. I don't want to get too "geeky", but 31.7% of the balls hit off him were hit hard last year as well, and that was also a career high. David Price also found out that Fenway Park isn't necessarily the easiest park to pitch in as he struggled in the first half of last year, so overall, I do have some concerns for Sale. That being said, even his "down" numbers last year still put Chris Sale in the top ten of fantasy starting pitchers. I don't think I would feel as good putting him in my top five, but he's definitely worthy of going off the board shortly after those guys.
Most clubs would love to have someone like David Price as their number two starter. He did struggle at times last season, but hey, he was pitching in a new ball park that isn't exactly pitcher friendly, so I'm going to cut him some slack. Even with his struggles last year, Price is about as consistent as they come. He's going to give you over 200 innings, will strikeout about a batter per inning, and he won't hurt you in your ERA or WHIP categories. If you want to load up on hitters in your first two rounds, Price is a nice guy that you could draft in roughly the fourth round, that can be a safe number one starter for your fantasy team.
How many teams can boast that they have the reigning CY Young winning pitcher on their staff and he's their third best pitcher? The answer to that is one, and that team is the Boston Red Sox. Rick Porcello had a fantastic season last year and looks to keep it going in 2017. I really wanted to dig into the stats and see why he was so successful, and I found a few things. First of all, Porcello had the best run support in MLB last season and that led him to a fantastic 22-4 record. The Red Sox have one of the best lineups in baseball, so while I expect some regression, he should still get a generous amount of wins this year. Porcello doesn't strike out a ton of batters (although he did strikeout a career high 21.2% of batters last year), but he really improved his walk rate. When batters don't get on base, it's hard for them to score. That also helped lead to a fantastic 3.15 ERA and a 1.01 WHIP. So the question becomes, where should you draft Rick Porcello? The NFBC currently has him as the 24th starter off the board with an average draft position of 107. Thats roughly in the eighth or ninth round. I have to be honest...I think that's too high. With career highs in strikeout and walk percentage, I see that coming back to reality again in 2017. It's also unrealistic to expect him to lead the league in run support two years in a row. I think he will still be good, but I have a feeling he will be drafted higher than he should based on him being the CY Young winner, rather than what his production will likely be this year.
Rounding out the rotation will be Drew Pomeranz and Eduardo Rodriguez. Pomeranz had a nice season himself last year. He struck out almost ten batters per nine innings, had a 3.32 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP. It could have been even better, but he was having some elbow discomfort late in the season and he even had a stem cell shot in it after the season. Personally, with a current ADP of 204, I think I like the value of Pomeranz better than Porcello, who is going about a hundred spots earlier. Finally, Eduardo Rodriguez is a great flier to round out your draft. He's one of the fastest throwing lefties in baseball and that immediately raises an eyebrow. Yes, just like the Rock. That's how I raised my eyebrow.
Boston reliever, Craig Kimbrel may not be what he once was, but he's still a pretty darn good reliever. Over the past five years, he's behind only Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen in strikeouts and should get plenty of save opportunities on a powerhouse team like Boston. Last season he had a career high ERA (3.40) and walked over five batters per nine innings, which is a little bit alarming. He's not a top five closer for me anymore, but he is still firmly in the top ten, and if you like the flashy strikeouts, Kimbrel is a great target if you miss out on the top fantasy closers.
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