Red Sox: 2017 Fantasy Baseball Preview

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AL East: NYY

The Red Sox were definitely buyers during the offseason. Will the players they acquired continue their fantasy success for falter with the change?

Unlike their division rivals, the Boston Red Sox were big buyers during the offseason. Even with winning the division, the front office is still not happy without a World Series trophy. It was a good year for the Red Sox offense, but will be without a major bat in the lineup next season and beyond.

The team traded for two important pieces to the pitching staff, one starting pitcher and one relief pitcher. Boston also traded away Clay Buchholz to the Philadelphia Phillies. There is still some question marks in the rotation, though. They also signed a replacement designated hitter.

They also signed a replacement designated hitter. The loss of David Ortiz in the lineup will be an interesting story to watch. He provided a lot of protection to the other batters in the lineup that the new DH won’t.

The Red Sox didn’t sign a third baseman, which means Pablo Sandoval will be the starter entering 2017. After the performance he gave last season, Red Sox fans and fantasy owners are hoping for a huge bounce back season.

The downside to the Red Sox roster is their lack of a bench. If any of their starters need a day off, the replacements don’t get you excited. Sure, Josh Rutledge and Brock Holt were starters at one point, but won’t give consistent performances when called upon.

Even the prospect pool doesn’t look that good. According to Roster Resource, first baseman Sam Travis will be the first to make his MLB debut, and that won’t be until late this season because he is recovering from a torn ACL last May.

The front office made solid improvements to the pitching staff and the offense is relatively young. This team will provide fantasy owners a lot of value in its players.

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There’s no point in beating around the bush. Chris Sale is now the best pitcher in the American League East. Considering what the Chicago White Sox got in return for Adam Eaton, the Red Sox didn’t give up too much for Sale.

I wrote about the Red Sox’ acquisition of Sale when it happened. I don’t want to repeat myself, but Sale pitched well previously against the AL East. He pitched in 39 games, 25 of them were starts. He has a combined 14-9 record with 2.60 ERA, 1.06 WHIP and 214:58 K:BB ratio.

I expect a rise in some of the ratio stats as he will pitch against those teams more often, but not by much.

The rest of the rotation is David Price, Rick Porcello, Eduardo Rodriguez and Drew Pomeranz. Price was solid last season but disappoints during the playoffs. Luckily, fantasy baseball doesn’t play into the MLB playoffs.

Porcello was the best American League pitcher last season. He went 22-4 with a 3.15 ERA and 1.009 WHIP and won the AL Cy Young award.

Sale, Price and Porcello make a dangerous trio atop the Red Sox rotation. Sale is in my top-five, Price in my top-10 and Porcello in my top-30. All great options.

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The Red Sox’ 2016 success began when the team traded for Craig Kimbrel last offseason. However, his first season is Boston was not that great. He had a 3.40 ERA, 1.094 WHIP, 31 saves and 83 strikeouts. Those were all career worsts since his rookie season.

The Red Sox lost three key pieces to their bullpen in Brad Ziegler, Koji Uehara and Junichi Tazawa this offseason. As a result, the front office traded with the Milwaukee Brewers for closer Tyler Thornburg.

In 67 games, he had a 2.15 ERA and 0.940 WHIP. He also recorded 13 saves with 90 strikeouts and 25 walks in 67.0 innings. In a time where “super bullpens” are forming, the Red Sox adding an important piece to that puzzle.

Many may have forgotten about him, but Carson Smith is also in this bullpen. He is currently recovering from Tommy John surgery last May. He has begun throwing and is eyeing a June return date. However, I don’t expect major work until July or August.

Kimbrel ranks inside my top-five among closers. Thornburg is a deep option in AL-only or holds leagues.

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The Red Sox infield depth chart is Sandy Leon behind the plate, Hanley Ramirez at first base, Dustin Pedroia at second, Xander Bogaerts at shortstop and the aforementioned Sandoval at third. That is a solid group of players, if they all hold up their ends of the bargain.

Ramirez had a great bounce back season in 2016. He hit .249/.291./426 in 105 games in 2015. He exploded with 30 home runs, 111 RBI and a .286/.361/.505 line last season.

Pedroia had another good season and is one of the constants in baseball. He hit .318 in 154 games, the first time he hit over .300 since 2013. His 15 home runs were the most since 2012.

The 23-year-old shortstop continues to improve. Bogaerts had his best season in his short career. While his average dropped 26 points from 2015 to 2016, he tripled his home run total (seven to 21), scored 31 more runs and drove in eight more batters.

I already wrote about Sandoval and a potential return to form. If the reports are true that he lost weight, then things could be looking up. He’s a bench option in standard leagues.

Leon doesn’t make my top-20 catchers. If you play in a one-catcher league, and most owners do, there’s no need to talk about him. He is barely valuable in two-catcher leagues.

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The Red Sox outfield may be one of the youngest in the league. Their average age is 24.5 years old. The outfield is defended by Mookie Betts in right, Jackie Bradley Jr in center, and Andrew Benintendi in left.

Betts made a case for AL MVP after his 2016 season, finishing second in voting. He played in 158 games and hit 31 home runs, 113 RBI and .318/.363/.534. I think Betts will be one of the first five players drafted overall. His power, contact, and speed (26 steals) are what you look for in the fantasy elite.

Bradley’s 2016 season, on the other hand, may be a fluke. He hit a career-high 10 homers in 2015, but more than doubled it last season. Granted, he only played in 74 games that year, but he hasn’t shown to be a power hitter throughout his career. He hit a combined 30 homers 303 minor-league games.

Benintendi looked good in the short amount of time last year. He hit .295 with 14 RBI and 16 runs scored in 34 games. If his minor league performance is any indicator, then he is a hitting machine on the rise.

To replace the retiring Ortiz, the Red Sox signed Mitch Moreland as their DH. He hit well while with the Texas Rangers and could succeed in the AL East. I don’t think he’ll hit 38 homers like Ortiz did, but 23 to 25 is solid.

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With the additions of Sale and Moreland, the Red Sox fill in some much-needed holes. They have one of the best rotations in the division, and possibly the league. The offense has great power and speed options to contribute all stats.

The offense has great power and speed options to contribute all stats. Ramirez, Pedroia, Bogaerts and Betts all rank inside my top 15 in their respective positions. Leon and Sandoval are wait-and-see.

The only negative on this team is the bullpen. Kimbrel is still a dominant closer, but don’t expect a sub-2.00 ERA anymore. Thornburg is a sneaky option and Smith will be a late-season add.