The Boston Red Sox are a team in transition. They feature some established stars who figure to contribute significantly to fantasy squads once again in 2015. They roster plenty of young players and veterans who are inconsistent enough to make fantasy forecasting difficult. And they feature a handful of players who should send fantasy owners running for the hills.
But despite their disappointing 2014 campaign, there's a lot of talent both young and old on this roster. The Red Sox have a ton of talent on offense, some intriguing relief candidates, and there are people who still start, too, but shh, let's not talk about them.
It's a bit early to judge the Red Sox, since they promise to be a very active team this offseason. But there are a lot of shiny new objects here, so let's do it anyway.
A note for our readers. While informative, since we are still months away from pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training, these previews are far from definitive or complete. Free agent signings, trades, and other offseason news will change the landscape for most if not all teams. For any moves that take place after a team preview is written, please look to our Transaction Analysis coverage for instant reactions, and then check back on the Team Previews for more detailed updates (including lineups, rotations, bullpens, etc.) as we get closer to Opening Day.
Another note for our readers. The characterizations below (for example, “stud”) are designed to be taken in context for each team. Not every team has a Mike Trout or Giancarlo Stanton, so the “stud” category represents the best player or players on each team, not necessarily in comparison to the league.
David Ortiz – UT
The normal rules of physics, life and baseball don’t apply to Ortiz. He lost some average last year thanks to a BABIP dip, but his ISO, walk rate, and strikeout rate all remained steady from 2013-2014. He'll be 39 next year and injuries are always a concern, but if he's healthy, expect about 30 homers, a .270-plus average, and 100-plus RBI. There's no use trying to project when Ortiz will finally stop rolling, because he's a unique entity unto himself.
Yoenis Cespedes – OF
Cespedes is really more of a strong complimentary fantasy player than a cornerstone, but it's certainly tempting to see what he can do over a full season in Fenway Park. We've seen Cespedes' walk rates decline ever since he came into the league, and he's not the threat on the bases we had once hoped for. But Cespedes could easily challenge for 30 bombs with a respectable average if he stays in Boston and stays on the field, with gaudy run and RBI totals, and a handful of steals to boot.
Koji Uehara – RP
Yes, Uehara crapped the bed at the end of the 2014 season. But even including his the 10 earned runs he gave up in his final nine appearances, Uehara finished the year with a 2.52 ERA and 10 times as many strikeouts as walks. He'll need to be used judiciously by the Sox moving forward, but if they can keep him to 55-60 innings, another sub-2.50 ERA, and 30-plus saves with an all-world WHIP are in his future.
Dustin Pedroia – 2B
Even with all the different sections we've invented for these team previews, it's hard to know where to place Pedroia. "Stud" is a little generous, but he's somehow at once too consistent for "X-Factor" and just sporadic enough to be a poor fit in "what you see is what you get." It's certainly true that Pedroia is a better MLB player than a fantasy player at this point, but there's more left in the tank than what he showed in 2014. If he can stay healthy—and yes, that's a big if—he's capable of hitting .300 with 90-plus runs, 8-10 homers and 15-plus steals, finishing as a top-five second baseman.
Will Middlebrooks – 3B
Odds are Middlebrooks won't get the chance to be a dud once more, but if he finds himself with regular playing time with the Red Sox or elsewhere next year, stay away. The natural power is attractive, yes, but Middlebrooks truly can't hit off-speed stuff. Let him show an ability to make adjustments before you roster him once more.
Christian Vazquez – C
Vazquez is an exciting young player because of his defense and his potential to not be a total zero at the plate, but he doesn't profile as a fantasy contributor. Even in AL-only or 20-plus-team mixed leagues, Vazquez shouldn't be viewed as more than an emergency option.
Anthony Ranaudo – RHP
The Red Sox are probably going to convert several of their young pitchers to reliever roles, but one or two are going to have to remain starters. Ranaudo seems a decent bet to start the year in Pawtucket as Boston's "next man up" in the rotation, but that doesn't mean you should have interest. Ranaudo may have the build of a starter, but his fastball is too straight, his secondary pitches too inconsistent and his command too fleeting to rely on right now. Stay away.
Allen Craig – OF/1B
It may seem a bit harsh to list Craig in the "duds" section (unless we're talking about Twitter opinions) but I don't subscribe to the optimism some have regarding a bounce back here. Craig's power has declined markedly over the past three seasons as he's hit more balls on the ground and fewer in the air or on a line, and he'll be 31 in 2015. Add in the fact that he's not guaranteed playing time right now and he can't stay on the field, and I'm not investing more than a late-round-flier pick on Craig.
What You See is What You Get
Mike Napoli – 1B
Throwing Napoli under this category might be a bit misleading, as he was actually showing an interesting new two-strike approach in 2014 before injuries derailed his season. But at the end of the day, we saw more of the same form Napoli last year; a poor average, great OBP, and a roughly 20-plus homer pace on a 600-PA basis. He's a good corner infielder in average leagues and a fine first baseman in deep ones.
Clay Buchholz – SP
And by "what you see is what you get," I mean, "who the hell knows?" Could Buchholz throw 180-plus innings of sub-3.50 ERA ball and finish as a top-30 pitcher? Sure. But he's just as if not more likely to implode and lay waste to your rate states. If you like to gamble, you can use him in favorable matchups and during his hot streaks, but disaster lurks around every corner.
Joe Kelly – SP
Kelly has seductive velocity and induces ground balls at a healthy clip, but his command is shoddy and he has a tough time generating swings-and-misses. The raw stuff is there for him to be a mid-rotation fantasy starter, but he's more of a streamer in standard 10- to 12-team leagues right now.
Xander Bogaerts – SS/3B
You already know what I think. He's going to be a star and we saw glimpses of that last year, but he needs a little more time. Let's slate Bogaerts for a top-15 shortstop finish next season, with much greater heights to come in the future. Just make sure you handcuff him with a safer option if you go all-in. But seriously, go all-in.
Mookie Betts – OF/2B
Honestly, it was tempting to put Betts in "studs" already, but I'll show restraint for now. Right now, Betts looks like an all-around fantasy threat. He's likely to hit for a good average, will be great in OBP leagues and should hit more than 10 homers and steal more than 25 bases next year, with more power to come. For fantasy purposes it would be nice if Betts were slated to maintain his second base eligibility long term, but having him play half of his games in Fenway is an attractive fallback option.
Rusney Castillo – OF
Castillo has the chance to be a sneaky fantasy asset next year. While his down the line speed isn't phenomenal, he's a good enough runner to challenge for 25 steals over a full season. He's also got enough power to hit around 12-15 homers a year. The real question will be average; it's tough to tell if Castillo's likely to hit .250 or .280, and anything in between wouldn't be shocking. He'd likely be miscast as a leadoff hitter, but he could still score plenty of runs batting near the bottom of Boston's lineup, so feel free to take a gamble on Castillo as your third or fourth outfielder next year.
Rubby De La Rosa – SP
What happened to the lost city of Atlantis? Who truly assassinated JFK? Is De La Rosa a starter or a reliever? These are the great questions of our time. For a while, De La Rosa looked like he'd be the non-monetary bright spot of the Nick Punto trade and could settle in as an effective no. 3 starter. Then he clearly tired near the end of the season, and questions about his ultimate role are prevalent once more. He certainly has the stuff to be a high-strikeout no. 4 fantasy starter, but it remains to be seen if he's pitched himself out of a starting role.
Shane Victorino – OF
Odds are Victorino is either traded before Opening Day or opens the season as an expensive fourth outfielder. He'd be worth a look if he lands a full time role in Boston or elsewhere, but after missing nearly all of 2014 with leg and back injuries, anything fantasy owners get out of him moving forward is gravy.
Garin Cecchini – 3B/OF
"Sleeper" is a bit generous here since Cecchini's been on fantasy players' radars for a while now, but I think the assumption is that the Red Sox are going to sign a big-time third baseman this offseason. That may be true, but if they don't, I'd look for Cecchini to serve as a solid depth piece in 2015. He's not going to be an All-Star, but I'm a firm believer in Cecchini's hit tool, and I do believe he'll reach double-digit homers if he plays every day. He's more useful in OBP leagues than standard formats, but if Cecchini plays regularly, he'll be worth a monitoring in 14-plus team leagues.
Daniel Nava OF/1B
Brock Holt – Everything
Nava and Holt would be more interesting if they figured to receive an abundance of playing time, but given the current construction of the Red Sox's roster, they're AL-only pieces. Nava is great in OBP leagues and will boost your average, but he doesn't contribute enough in any of the counting stats to be much of a mixed league factor. And Holt is attractive for his versatility, but he was exposed with regular playing time last year. They’re worth modest bids in AL-only formats, but unless more time opens up for one or the other, that's it.
Allen Webster – SP
Jackie Bradley Jr. – OF
Webster and Bradley both failed spectacularly in 2014, but there's too much talent here to completely forget about them in deeper or AL-only leagues. Webster might be out of time when it comes to proving himself as a starter, but he could be a very effective reliever. And Bradley's buried in the depth chart right now, but he still has the tools to start in the outfield. Both are non-factors to start 2015, but stash them in leagues where you have deep benches.
Prospects for 2015
Blake Swihart C
Despite his proximity to the majors, Swihart's probably a better bet to contribute meaningfully for fantasy owners in 2016. But if he hits well in Triple-A, Swihart could be on the Christian Vazquez plan, which would see him in the majors by the middle of the summer. Swihart's more of a solid all-around contributor than a future fantasy star, but the bar is pretty low for fantasy catchers in moderately deep leagues.
Henry Owens – SP
Owens isn't the savior some make him out to be, but he can also be a damn fine pitcher in the major leagues. His fastball is going to get hit more in the majors, so command here is key; if Owens learns to walk fewer batters, he can comfortably live in the middle of a good MLB and fantasy rotation. If not, he's probably more of a no. 4 MLB arm and a back-end fantasy guy. His upside is still up in the air, but he'll be a starter, and soon.
Matt Barnes – P
A risky fantasy proposition, Barnes has the stuff to pitch in the middle of a rotation but tends can get hit hard and give up homers, too. Yet another Boston arm who could eventually end up in the bullpen, the bet here is that the Red Sox give him most of 2015 to try and figure out how to pitch effectively in the rotation.
Brian Johnson – SP
Eduardo Rodriguez SP
Johnson is a low-upside arm who should be ready soon, while Rodriguez has more upside but is farther away. Still, given the glut of other options in Boston's system, both of these pitchers are more likely to be factors in 2016, though Johnson never figures to be much of a fantasy asset.
Bryce Brentz – OF
Travis Shaw – 1B
Deven Marrero – SS
Not much to see here, but all three players could potentially see time in the majors at some point in 2015. Brentz is a fourth or fifth outfielder with mildly intriguing pop, Shaw is probably a second-division platoon first baseman and Marrero is a utility infielder. Shaw's the most interesting of the three, but he's not going to beat out Napoli, Craig, or Nava for playing time.