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January 6, 2014

Fantasy Team Preview

Boston Red Sox

by Ben Carsley

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The Boston Red Sox won the World Series last year. They did so thanks in large part to bounce-back campaigns from many of their pitchers, career (or near-career) years from the likes of Shane Victorino, Daniel Nava, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia, full seasons from Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, and David Ortiz, and an out-of-nowhere dominant season from Koji Uehara.

Despite the deep and talented team in Boston, this roster isn’t quite the fantasy goldmine you might expect. There are a ton of fantasy-relevant players here to be sure, but only a handful profiles as top-100 options heading into next season.

That being said, the Red Sox also have some of the game’s most exciting young players, many of whom on the cusp of receiving a ton of playing time. Their mix of skilled veterans, flawed but intriguing pitchers and talented prospects means this team has something for fantasy owners of every format.

Projected Lineup

  1. RF Shane Victorino
  2. LF Daniel Nava
  3. 2B Dustin Pedroia
  4. DH David Oritz
  5. 1B Mike Napoli
  6. SS Xander Bogaerts
  7. C A.J Pierzynski
  8. 3B Will Middlebrooks
  9. CF Jackie Bradley Jr.

This is a lineup with few fantasy superstars but littered with relevant fantasy contributors at every spot. Among known quantities, Pedroia is probably the best fantasy asset as a top-three second baseman, but Ortiz is a consistent top-50 fantasy player, too. Victorino is an underrated five-category contributor, while Pierzynski is a boring but consistent top-15 backstop. Napoli is a nice source of power, but a significant portion of his value is tied up in BABIP and he loses catcher eligibility this season. He’s somewhat overrated in fantasy circles.

Nava and Bradley are similar in that they’re must-owns in OBP leagues, but are fringe options in standard 5x5 formats. The former is absolutely worth a pick late in most drafts, though. Bogaerts is, in my opinion, the best fantasy prospect in the game, and has top-10 shortstop upside already. Middlebrooks comes with the biggest risk of anyone in this lineup, but he could pay huge dividends with a 25-plus homer campaign, too. He’s a divisive player, so it’s tough to peg his probable ADP or auction value.

Projected Bench

There’s not a ton here from a fantasy POV. Should Carp see significant time against RHP he’d be worth a speculative add in AL-only leagues. Gomes really wasn’t very good last season despite becoming the Red Sox mascot. He shouldn’t be picked up even if he starts seeing regular playing time again. Ross is a great backup catcher but of little use unless Pierzynski gets hurt. Herrera is a non-factor despite his ability to hit for non-embarrassing averages.

Projected Rotation

Just like with the lineup, this rotation lacks fantasy star power but contains relevant players all the way through. Lester is the most consistent of the bunch. If you're expecting a return to the dominance of 2009 you're out of luck, but he's still a good no. 4 fantasy pitcher. Buchholz has the highest upside here, but you might only get 100 innings. If he stays healthy, he has top-20 starter upside. Lackey and Peavy are nice options to fill out your rotation: The ERA and WHIP won't kill you, and they'll compile strikeouts and wins. If Doubront can just be a little more consistent, he has the stuff to be a top-60-to-70 starter, but you can’t bank on that right now.

Projected Closer Candidates

There is no controversy here. Uehara just posted one of the best seasons by a reliever in history. The odds of him performing at that level again aren't good, but he's going to have a long leash as Boston's closer, and deservedly so. He might be overvalued this year, though; you should still take Craig Kimbrel and Aroldis Chapman first, and you could argue for Greg Holland and Kenley Jansen as well.

Should Uehara implode or become injured, Mujica would likely be first in line to grab some saves, with Junichi Tazawa and maybe even Craig Breslow in the mix as well. As it stands now, that triumvirate, along with Andrew Miller, figures to rack up some holds.

Positional Battles

Will Middlebrooks vs. Stephen Drew
It’s pretty odd to have a positional battle between a player on the roster and a free agent, but this is really the only uncertainty facing the 2014 Red Sox right now. Boston’s made a point of saying that the Herrera acquisition doesn’t take them out of the hunt for Drew, and if the shortstop’s market continues to collapse it would not be all together surprising to see the Red Sox scoop him up. If that happens, I’d expect Middlebrooks to be dealt in short order, which would almost certainly be a negative for his fantasy value. If you’re a Middlebrooks owner in a dynasty league, you should be rooting for Drew to sign elsewhere.

Player to Target: Xander Bogaerts
This will surprise absolutely no one who's read anything I've written or tweeted in the past year-plus, but Bogaerts is someone you should be gunning for in your fantasy leagues. Consider that last year, J.J. Hardy finished as fantasy’s 11th-best shortstop by hitting .263 with 25 homers and 76 RBI. I think Bogaerts is more than capable of replicating that line in 2014, though perhaps with a slightly higher average and a little less power. Even if you’re leery of rookies, the bar is set pretty low for Bogaerts considering his shortstop eligibility. (Objectively, you should also note that Bogaerts will probably become the best player ever in the history of the world.)

Player to Avoid: Jackie Bradley Jr.
Bradley Jr. is probably going to be an above average MLB player. Unfortunately for fantasy players, his two greatest assets are his defense and his ability to get on base - neither of which directly correlates to any categories in standard 5x5 leagues. Bradley is likely to hit for a non-embarrassing average this season and he could score 80-plus runs in a good Boston lineup, but he'll probably max out at 10-12 homers and 5-8 steals. Bradley is a great pick in OBP leagues, but for most of you, I just don't see the type of counting stats that I want to in someone I'd project as a top-50 outfielder.

Deep Sleeper: Brandon Workman
Workman gets lost in the shuffle behind higher profile prospects like Henry Owens, Matt Barnes, Allen Webster and Anthony Ranaudo, but he’s the most ready to contribute to a MLB roster right now, even if he has the lowest ceiling of anyone in that group. Workman impressed in his three MLB starts last season and pitched fairly well in his 17 relief outings, so I’d expect him to see significant time at some point this year. If the Red Sox decide to trade one of their six veteran starters, Workman would probably become their primary backup starter and he could be worth streaming in favorable starts. It’s not the sexiest of profiles, but an underrated prospect in Boston is a rarity.

Ben Carsley is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Ben's other articles. You can contact Ben by clicking here

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