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March 25, 2009
Team Health Reports
Boston Red Sox
Head Trainer: Paul Lessard
Trend: Positive. Take out Curt Schilling and the Sox go from mid-pack to near the top of the charts, where you'd expect one of the more advanced medical teams to be. Lessard and Mike Reinold are widely considered to be the most research-oriented trainers, no surprise given Reinold's time spent at Kevin Wilk's and Jim Andrews' facilities. Their work on pitchers' shoulders has kept Jonathon Papelbon and Daisuke Matsuzaka on the mound and effective despite some concerns. Add in their work at transitioning young pitchers into the rotation, and you might wonder why they're not rated higher; if there was an adjustment for accepted risk, they might be. The Sox front office is willing to take on players like Brad Penny, John Smoltz, and J.D. Drew because they know they've got an ace in the hole down in the training room. That kind of accepted risk is more likely to get them a World Series ring than a Dick Martin Award, but I think they're OK with that.
The Shape of the Season:
The Big Question: Peter Gammons of ESPN asks: "The biggest question for the Red Sox may be the health of David Ortiz. Is he the uber-force he was from 2005-2007? He has had knee, wrist, and shoulder problems the last two years, and while he has worked hard on his conditioning, the difference between a 30-homer and 50-homer hitter is significant. As for who hits behind him-in September 2006 and 2007 combined, he had the best OPS in baseball, and Manny Ramirez batted behind him [only a handful] of times. If Big Papi isn't the Big Papi of old, they may have to go acquire another bat."
The danger of asking some of the best writers in the business for a health question is that they often ask it in such a way that I'm left with almost nothing to add as an answer, but Ortiz is definitely a concern for precisely the reasons that Gammons states here. Wrist and hand injuries do sap power as players recover, but let's go back to what was actually wrong with Ortiz. He had a torn tendon sheath, which sounds better than a torn tendon, but remember that the other player to have this last year was Nick Johnson. Ortiz was affected by this in two ways-physically, he had a 'click' whenever he moved his wrist, and mentally, he had to be aware about the types of movements that would make the problem worse. Yogi Berra once said that you can't think and hit at the same time, which is what Ortiz was trying to do. With wrist and hand injuries, we first look for the return of bat control, and then a return of power. Signs are positive so far in spring training, but they bear further watching.
Fantasy Tip: Fantasy owners everywhere wish they were Theo Epstein, so why not just follow his strategy? The Sox media footprint makes almost all Sox players overpriced, especially the valuable ones like Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis. It's hard to find fair value, let alone any bargains, and while everyone says they want to be Theo, few are willing to take the kinds of risks that he does. The options at the back end of the rotation-Brad Penny, John Smoltz, and to some extent Clay Buchholz-come with uncertainty, but could easily be parlayed into a cheap winner, especially if you stash them on the DL or reserve. Injuries could push Mike Lowell and J.D. Drew down into profitable spots, but again, few people show the risk acceptance that Epstein's Sox do. It's a lesson worth noting.
SS Jed Lowrie: Lowrie's failings down the stretch don't match Julio Lugo's (red), but there's debate over whether it was caused by the hand, the fatigue of the long season, or both. If it was the hand, look for a quick uptick in his contact rate and in his value.
3B Mike Lowell: No one seems to have as much confidence in Lowell's ability to come back from hip surgery as they do in Chase Utley or Alex Rodriguez. He's a few years older, sure, and has a thicker file in the doctor's office, but neither of those two have come back from the kinds of injuries that Lowell has. I think people are underestimating him. Remember, an older player who can hit but not run often begins hitting more homers.
C Jason Varitek: Even his supporters stopped mentioning "intangibles" after they saw that his bat speed was gone in the playoffs. It's only gotten worse this spring; he's hitting under .100 and looks bad doing it. Barry Larkin might call it a "quality .091," but Varitek just looks done. The interesting thing here is that I'm not really sure this rating is warranted. The attrition that pushes him over to red is likely just the end of his career.
RF J.D. Drew: If I were the sentimental type, Drew would be inducted into the UTK Hall of Fame. He's actually more durable than most people think, and the pairing of Drew and Rocco Baldelli (red) is inspired health-platooning. He'll miss some time, but he'll also play solid ball for 120-130 games.
DH David Ortiz: See today's Big Question.
SP Josh Beckett: Oblique and back problems left him hittable last season, but he's been anything but hittable this spring. Beckett's looking good, and if I said that he's heading into a stretch where he'll be the Chipper Jones of pitching, is that a compliment?
SP Tim Wakefield: Even cowgirls get the blues, and even knucklers get sore.
SP Clay Buchholz: Buchholz is here because Brad Penny (red) and John Smoltz (red) are known quantities from a health standpoint. Buchholz is the more interesting proposition given his age and upside. Many blame his poor performance on a lack of confidence, while others point to a shift in his arm angle pushed by the Red Sox. This spring he's had good command, but workload expectations make him red. The Sox have plenty of options, so expect to see him get nowhere close to the danger zone.
2B Dustin Pedroia: Remember when scouts said that Pedroia wasn't big enough to play the game? That's all in the past now, but everyone agrees that Pedroia isn't the most physically gifted guy out there; he's hardly a David Eckstein-type hustle player, but he's closer than a lot of people realize. One look at his body will remind you that conditioning could become an issue. He's precisely the kind of player who could be made very ordinary, very quickly, by any kind of injury.
LF Jason Bay: Bay's knees get him to yellow, though he's been fine since coming back, and better than fine since coming to Boston.
CF Jacoby Ellsbury: Front office contacts that I spoke with think that not having Coco Crisp around will increase Ellsbury's confidence. Hardly anyone knew about his tailbone injury last year, and that altered gait might explain his late-season quad strain.
SP Jon Lester: Ignore this. Just ignore it. Yes, he had a big innings increase, but the fact that he was coming back from cancer in 2007 changes everything. He looks like a 200-inning monster who could be the Sox ace as soon as this year.
CL Jonathan Papelbon: The Sox do a great job of keeping him healthy, but that shoulder issue is still there. The Sox staff stays ahead of it, but it only takes one wrong move.
1B Kevin Youkilis
SP Daisuke Matsuzaka: Anyone thinking that the Sox overpaid now? He's only getting better.