StrategyMarch 11, 2009

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30 Teams in 30 Days: Boston Red Sox

By Nathan Sulham

Hello all and welcome to another installment of “30 Teams in 30 Days,” where we will look at all 30 Major League teams and dissect what to expect from them this season. Today’s team preview features the Boston Red Sox. The Red Sox won the World Series title in 2007 and entered the 2008 season looking to repeat. After a regular season full of injury, turmoil, and departure, the Sox found themselves in familiar territory: the American League Championship Series. They would come up just shy, however, falling to division-mate Tampa Bay in seven games. With an off-season based on adding quality (but risk-laden) players on one-year contracts, Boston’s aim is to once again stand on top of the baseball world.

For a closer look at the Boston Red Sox and the rest of the AL East, be sure to check out the The Can of Corn AL East Preview Podcast.

Offensive Starters

C Jason Varitek.220.313.3593713430423
1B Kevin Youkilis.312.390.56991291153538
2B Dustin Pedroia.326.376.493118178320653
SS Julio Lugo.268.355.3302712212261
3B Mike Lowell.274.338.4615817732419
LF Jason Bay.293.370.527399373184
CF Jacoby Ellsbury.280.336.3949894750554
RF J.D. Drew.280.408.5197919644368
DH David Ortiz.264.369.5077423891416

Unsettled: Shortstop. Since Nomar Garciaparra’s departure, shortstop has seemingly been a black hole of production for Boston. Julio Lugo, who signed a big free agent contract a few seasons ago, hasn’t changed that. When the team soured on Lugo in 2008, that opened the door for Jed Lowrie, who posted a solid offensive line and played better-than-average defense in limited time. The guess here is that the Sox will give Lugo one last chance to justify his contract and give him the starting job with Lowrie waiting in the wings as a nice utility option and a nice sleeper pick in the later rounds.

Target: Jason Bay. When fantasy players combine what Bay did with Pittsburgh in 2008 before the trade that sent him to Boston, and then what he did in short time with the Sox, it’s easy to understand why they start to drool a little bit. Bay went .286/.373./.522 with 111 Rs, 31 HRs, 101 RBIs and 10 SBs in 577 ABs. Seemingly distanced from the knee injury that zapped his 2007 season and playing half his games at hitter-friendly Fenway, Bay will make a nice OF1 or great OF2 for your team.

The Rotation

Josh Beckett (R)12-104.031.1917234174.1 
Jon Lester (L)16-63.211.2715266210 
Daisuke Matsuzaka (R)18-32.901.3215494167.2 
Tim Wakefield (R)10-114.131.1811760181 
Brad Penny (R)6-96.271.63544294.2w/LAN

Unsettled: Brad Penny. Boston’s top four starters in the rotation are set, with the fifth spot being a free-for-all between Penny, Clay Buchholz and Justin Masterson until John Smoltz arrives, likely in June. The guess here is Penny gets the spot to open the season with Buchholz refining his approach in Pawtucket and Masterson in the bullpen. Masterson can just as easily replace Penny if things go downhill, so the Sox have options here. Masterson could be a nice flier late in your drafts as he’s proven he can be a valuable part of the rotation.

Target: Josh Beckett. In fantasy sports we have players who we call “Every Other Year” guys. Guys who follow up tremendous seasons with stinkers–only to follow that up with another great season. The vicious cycle seemingly never ends. That is Beckett. Four years ago, he arrived in Boston and didn’t have such a hot debut season. He followed that up with a near-Cy Young season in which he was just dominant, only to see himself get out of shape and battle oblique problems in a down 2008. This season Beckett has lost some weight, looks to be fit and ready to be dominant again in 2009. Look for him to be a value SP1 available in the early-to-mid rounds.

The 8th and 9th Innings

Jonathan Papelbon (R)412.340.9577869.1
Hideki Okajima (L)12.611.16602362

Chasing Saves: Quite simply, Jonathan Papelbon is one of the top closers in the game today. If you’re one who likes to grab saves early in your draft, you won’t find a much better stud to anchor your staff. Okajima was an All-Star in 2007 but came back down to earth a bit in 2008 as teams adjusted to his awkward delivery. Boston went out and revamped the back-end of the pen in the off-season, bringing in former Dodgers closer Takashi Saito and young Ramon Ramirez from Kansas City. Either of those guys, along with Manny Delcarmen and Justin Masterson, could step up and set the table for Papelbon.

Final Thoughts

Jason Bay and Josh Beckett will both be taken in early rounds and will certainly live up to the hype. Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis will also be taken early in drafts but there is some cause for concern, especially with Youkilis, that 2008 was their career years. Be wary. Also be wary of Matsuzaka, who is likely to be taken among the top 20 SP and simply walks too many hitters to be considered a top-flight fantasy SP. Need a nice sleeper to file away for your later rounds? Give Rocco Baldelli a look. J.D. Drew is perpetually injured and is already complaining of back stiffness. That could mean ample playing time for Baldelli, who’s also had injury issues of his own but looks to be illness-free for ‘09.

Yesterday we previewed the Baltimore Orioles. Good luck in 2009 and check back tomorrow for the New York Yankees in the next installment of “30 Teams in 30 Days”!

Nathan is a long-time member of the Cafe and a former sports reporter who now works in television news.
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