2017 Fantasy Baseball: Boston Red Sox Team Preview
The Red Sox unfortunately fell 11 wins shy of sending David Ortiz off into retirement with a World Series ring last season, but Boston’s championship hopes going forward did not leave the clubhouse with Big Papi. The Sox’s young position-player talent has long been the envy of the American League since “the Killer B’s” first started breaking into the big leagues in 2013, and the moves that the club has made this offseason have put the Red Sox in an even better position to win in 2017.
After Ortiz’s retirement was finalized (and the “he can’t possibly retire after a season like that” conversations quieted), the Sox got to work on building a complete, championship roster. The front office started by finally trading righthander Clay Buchholz to the Phillies; a subtraction that Sox fans had been anticipating for some time now. The club also signed free agent Mitch Moreland to a one-year, $5.5 million deal to take over duties at first baseman.
The biggest offseason move for the Red Sox, however, was the acquisition of White Sox ace Chris Sale. Sale was the biggest fish out on the trade market heading into the winter, and after the Washington Nationals failed to strike a deal with Chicago, Boston was able to swoop in and swing a blockbuster. It took a healthy crop of prospect including Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech to land Sale, but the Red Sox showed last year that they’re just about one pitcher away from being a legitimate World Series favorite.
There is no doubt that the Sox will miss Big Papi’s league-leading .620 slugging percentage and 127 RBI in the middle of their lineup, but the ability to slide Hanley Ramirez in at DH and put Moreland’s Gold Glove at first base will definitely improve the defense without sacrificing too much power (Moreland is obviously no Ortiz, but he is just one year removed from a solid .812 OPS). Plus, with another year under the belts of Xander Bogaerts, Mookie Betts, and Jackie Bradley Jr., “the Killer B’s” could very well keep the Boston as the American League’s top offense. To put the Red Sox depth into perspective, they will most likely have baseball’s top-prospect, Andrew Benintendi hitting in their nine-hole.
SS Xander Bogaerts
RF Mookie Betts
DH Hanley Ramirez
1B Mitch Moreland
CF Jackie Bradley Jr.
LF Andrew Benintendi
With Sale taking over as the Red Sox number-one starter, Boston gets to slide a former Cy Young winner in as their two and three starters. David Price won the award with the Rays back in 2012, and Rick Porcello took home American League honors just last year after winning 22 games in his second season in Boston. Both Price and Porcello struggled in their postseason starts last year, but the Sox hope the addition of Sale will take some pressure off the rest of the rotation and lessen the load for Price and Porcello. Drew Pomeranz, who was acquired near the 2016 trade deadline, is also coming off his most consistent season as a professional and should provide some upside as the Boston’s fifth starter.
LHP Chris Sale
RHP Rick Porcello
LHP David Price
LHP Eduardo Perez
LHP Drew Pomeranz
TOP DRAFT PICKS (STUDS)
The power and speed combo for Betts made him an early sleeper for last year’s fantasy baseball season, but this year, Betts is a bonafide first round pick. Mookie lead the league with 359 total bases in 2016 en route to his 2nd place finish in the AL MVP race and first Silver Slugger award. He hit 42 doubles, 31 homers, and stole 26 bases while primarily serving as the Red Sox’s lead-off hitter; but, he still managed to drive in 113 runs despite not moving down into the three-hole until later in the year. In addition to the pop, the only player to hit more than 30 homers with a lower K% than Betts was future Hall of Famer Adrian Beltre.
The next position player off the board for the Red Sox will most likely be Bogaerts. Over the last two years, only Carlos Correa and Francisco Lindor have a better wRC+ than Bogaerts, and all three players finished last season within 1.6 wins of each other according to Fangraphs’ WAR totals. Bogaerts’ breakout year came in 2014 when he hit .320 in his first full-season; but last year, Bogaerts figured out a way to add power to his game without compromising his hit-tool. He still hit .294 on the year while seeing his home run total balloon from seven to 21 just by making a conscious effort to pull the ball more. If Bogaerts can continue making incremental improvements in his offensive output this season, he may very well find himself among the game’s elite middle infielders.
HIGH CEILING (SLEEPERS)
It’s tough to pick out the sleepers for a team with as many high profile players as the Red Sox, but Boston may try to hide baseball’s top-prospect at the bottom of their batting order this coming season. Benintendi won the NCAA Golden Spikes award in 2015, and in 2016, the 22 year-old outfielder was already patrolling left field for the Sox in the playoffs. Benintendi did not appear overmatched in the slightest in his 118 major league plate appearances last year as he hit .295 with a .476 slugging percentage and a .359 OBP.
Benintendi’s speed and advanced approach at the plate could make him useful to manager John Farrell as a two-hitter, and if he gets off to a hot start, Benintendi could get a lot more opportunities to make an impact.
LOW FLOOR (BUSTS)
Some writers have put Pablo Sandoval in the sleepers category above considering his past success; however, Sandoval’s decline prior to missing almost all of 2016 is why he’s slotted in here. Baseball’s Kung Fu Panda is now five years removed from being the All-Star third baseman the Red Sox paid nearly $100 million for, and his slugging percentage has steadily declined every year since 2011. Sandoval posted a abismal .658 OPS his first year in Boston, and also showed a general disinterest in cutting weight the way the team wanted him to. Now, Sandoval has been working out with his fellow countryman Miguel Cabrera this offseason and will get a shot to win his job back with Travis Shaw in Milwaukee, but I wouldn’t consider Sandoval a viable option until he shows he’s regained what he’s lost.
The closer situation in Boston is fairly simple because it’s still Craig Kimbrel’s job to lose. Kimbrel has been in decline the last couple years since his trade from Atlanta. His ERA has climbed from a 1.43 with the Braves to 2.58 with the Padres in 2015, all the way up to a 3.40 last season. Kimbrel still managed to save 31 games and post a 14.09 K/9 for the Sox, but his command was noticeably off as his BB/9 rose up to 5.09. Despite an un-Kimbrel like past two seasons in which he was traded twice, Kimbrel still has 255 saves since winning the NL ROY in 2011 which is 70 more than 2nd place Kenley Jansen. Kimbrel has the top WAR for any reliever since his debut as well.
IMPACT MINOR LEAGUERS
The Red Sox farm system isn’t as highly touted as it was just three years ago, but that’s for good reason. Boston’s coveted prospects of the last few years have either been moved for big league assets, or are already contributing in the show. Moncada and Kopech were moved to Chicago in the Sale deal, and Benintendi has already reached the majors to impressive results. With youth all over the diamond for the Red Sox, it’s hard to foresee any of their minor leaguers coming up to make an impact in 2017, but there are a couple players at the Triple-A level that have a decent shot.
Sam Travis, Boston’s number four prospect, hit .272 in Pawtucket last year and could serve as a bat off the bench for the major league club if he shows improvement. The Sox number five prospect, Brian Johnson also played with the Pawsox last season, and could end up being a solid lefty out of the pen if he can shave down his 4+ ERA.