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30 Teams in 30 Days: 2011 Boston Red Sox Fantasy Baseball Preview

Tue, Mar 8, 2011

Featured, Team Previews

The Boston Red Sox were as busy as any team in baseball this offseason. Although they lost Victor Martinez and Adrian Beltre to free agency, the Red Sox made two shift-of-power acquisitions in Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez.

Perhaps the most fantasy-rich team in baseball with six players in our top 100 (see below), the Red Sox feature an excellent lineup that includes both speed and power.

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Key Additions:

Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, Bobby Jenks, Dan Wheeler, Taylor Buchholz, Alfredo Aceves,  Max Ramirez

Key Losses:

Victor Martinez, Adrian Beltre, Bill Hall

Projected Lineup:

1. CF—Jacoby Ellsbury (L)

2. 2B—Dustin Pedroia (R)

3. LF—Carl Crawford (L)

4. 1B—Adrian Gonzalez (L)

5. 3B—Kevin Youkilis (R)

6. DH—David Ortiz (L)

7. RF—J.D. Drew (L)

8. C—Jarrod Saltalamacchia (S)

9. SS—Marco Scutaro (R)

There’s been much debate over who will hit where, but this order makes the most sense. Pedroia fits nicely in the two hole. Crawford isn’t an ideal No. 3 hitter, but leading off with him would bump Ellsbury to nine, significantly cutting into the at-bats of a career .291 hitter.

Four of the top five hitters in this projected lineup have a career batting average above .290; Gonzalez is the odd man out with a career .284 batting clip. Gonzalez also boasts 40-HR power, and may even push for 50 now that he’s finally free of Petco Park.

Projected Rotation:

1. LHP Jon Lester

2. RHP Clay Buchholz

3. RHP Josh Beckett

4. RHP John Lackey

5. RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka

Jon Lester’s three-year averages (17 wins, 3.29 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 8.72 K/9, 3.08 BB/9 in 207 innings per) make him a legitimate Cy Young contender and a bonafide fantasy ace.

Clay Buchholz is due for a major regression in 2011 after posting the lowest ERA (2.33) for an A.L. East pitcher since Pedro Martinez’s 2.22 mark in 2003. His BABIP (.261), FIP (3.61) and xFIP (4.20) scream fluke. Also, Buchholz’s strikeout (6.22) and walk (3.47) rates were both below the league average in 2010. He’s more realistically a 3.50 pitcher at this point in his career. Without useful strikeout totals, the 26-year-old doesn’t warrant his current 99 ADP on Mock Draft Central.

Josh Beckett was bad in 2011. Real bad. His 5.78 ERA was third-worst among starters with at least 120 innings. His strikeout rate (8.18) declined slightly, while his walk rate (3.17) was by far the highest it’s been since 2006. He spent 65 days on the DL due to a back injury, and was hardly worth a roster spot by September, allowing 19 earned runs in 16 innings during a three-start stretch in August.

Luckily, there is reason for hope. Unfortunately, Beckett’s post season career has painted a false portrait of him. He had one outstanding season in 2007, posting a 3.27 ERA with stellar peripherals. His ERA in 2008 and 2009? 4.06 and 3.86, respectively. His career ERA? 3.96. His 2010 xFIP (4.01) suggests a return to normalcy is likely, while his BABIP (.338) and LOB rate (65.3 percent) suggest luck played a role in his career-worst 2010 season.

John Lackey also suffered arguably the worst season of his career in 2010, though there are signs of revival. While his strikeout and walk rates have steadily deteriorated in recent seasons, his .319 BABIP, 69.3 percent LOB, and 3.85 FIP (compared to his 4.40 ERA) all suggest a shred of poor luck. Although he’s no longer the 3.00-3.50 pitcher he was between ’05 and ’07 with the Angels, he remains capable of a 4.00 ERA with decent win totals as a No. 4 starter on perhaps the best team in baseball.

Dice-K’s strikeout rate (career 8.33) is appealing, but his horrific walk rate (career 4.27) and lack of durability aren’t worth the risk.

Projected Bullpen:

RHP Jonathan Papelbon (closer)

RHP Daniel Bard

RHP Bobby Jenks

RHP Dan Wheeler

RHP Tim Wakefield

LHP Hideki Okajima or LHP Rich Hill or LHP Dennys Reyes

Papelbon’s 2010 ERA (3.90) was double that of his previous career ERA of 1.84. Yet his 2010 strikeout total (76 in in 67 innings) was identical to that of 2009 (76 in 68 innings). Further, he walked just 28 batters last year opposed to 24 in 2009. His BABIP didn’t change much (.278 vs. 287), and his ground-ball rate actually improved (26.7% to 38.3%). The only real difference was in the timeliness of the hits allowed, as his LOB rate fell from 89.3 percent in 2009 to 68.7 percent last year. (Shout out to Rotowire’s Dalton Del Don for digging these stats up.) I’m convinced last year was a fluke.

Just in case Papelbon falters, the Red Sox have Daniel Bard and Bobby Jenks who are both capable of closing games. Bard is thought to be the future closer. Both he and Jenks are likely to accumulate gobs of holds this season.

Sleepers:

On a team as stacked as the Red Sox, it’s difficult to find anyone who qualifies as a sleeper. In fact, every Boston player has a target on his back. If I was forced to choose, I might go out on a limb and say Jarrod Saltalamacchia could finally gain fantasy relevance, tapping into double-digit power with a .250 batting average. He’ll only be worth owning in deep leagues.

Rookies to Watch:

The Red Sox don’t have much room for rookies, so none of their prospects are likely to gain fantasy relevance this year. Southpaw Felix Doubront could win a bullpen spot, but his fantasy value will be limited there. Ryan Kalish would likely fill in should J.D Drew fall to injury, but for now he shouldn’t be on anyone’s radar.

Player Projections:

Be sure to check back tomorrow as we continue our in-depth fantasy preview of all 30 MLB teams!

Image courtesy of: Keith Allison

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