Expectations are always high for the Red Sox, both on the field and in the fantasy stat sheet. After a myriad of injuries hurt many fantasy owners and left the Sox on the outside looking into the playoffs last season, the Red Sox had perhaps the biggest off-season in team history, for both fantasy owners and their fans.
The Red Sox started the offseason by making a long rumored and anticipated trade for slugging first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, and they were able to pull it off without giving up any key parts of the big league club. Then they seemingly came out of nowhere to sign the biggest batting prize on the free agent market in left fielder Carl Crawford. Fantasy studs Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia, who missed a majority of last season, are expected to be healthy, and a deep rotation make the Red Sox the favorites for the World Series and a favorite team for fantasy owners, with up to eight players being among the first 100 off the board.
In “30 Teams in 30 Days,” the Fantasy Baseball Cafe will preview each team in Major League Baseball on a daily basis. In addition to projecting starting lineups, rotations and closing situations, the Cafe will identify potential targets for 2011 fantasy baseball drafts.
|C Jarrod Saltalamacchia||.158||.360||.316||2||0||1||0||19|
|1B Adrian Gonzalez||.298||.393||.511||87||31||101||0||591||w/SD|
|2B Dustin Pedroia||.288||.367||.493||53||12||41||9||302|
|SS Marco Scutaro||.275||.333||.388||92||11||56||5||632|
|3B Kevin Youkilis||.307||.411||.564||77||19||62||4||362|
|LF Carl Crawford||.307||.356||.495||110||19||90||47||600||w/TB|
|CF Jacoby Ellsbury||.192||.241||.244||10||0||5||7||78|
|RF J.D. Drew||.255||.341||.452||69||22||68||3||478|
|DH David Ortiz||.270||.370||.529||86||32||102||0||518|
Unsettled: Catcher. Catcher is always the obvious answer when talking about the Red Sox’s flaw, as whomever wins the job between Salty and Varitek out of spring training is a second catcher in 12-team leagues going into the season at best. ‘Tek showed surprising power last season, clobbering seven HRs in his first 63 ABs before hitting none in his next 59 ABs and essentially losing the last four months of the season to a broken foot.
Saltalamacchia was once an elite prospect formerly involved as the key part in a trade for Mark Teixeira by the Atlanta Braves. Four years later, he’s still trying to live up to the hype. He is still young enough (he’ll be 26 in May) where some improvement wouldn’t come as a complete surprise, and given the amount of talent the Red Sox will be thumping out in 2011, both pressure and expectations will be low on him. The guess here is close to a 50% split; after all, ‘Tek wears the Captain’s “C”, but Salty should play better and be the better end-game gamble in a 12-plus team league with two catchers started. Under other circumstances, neither is draftable.
Target: Adrian Gonzalez. It’s been mentioned thousands of times: Gonzalez would thrive outside of Petco, Gonzalez has the perfect swing for Fenway, San Diego with former Sox adviser Jed Hoyer as GM is the perfect trade partner, blah blah blah. It all finally came to fruition this past December in an off-again, on-again dance that ended with Gonzalez finally in Red Sox red just in time for Christmas. I would predict Gonzalez’s upside to lie north of .300 and 40 HRs, and he is the best pick in the second half of the first round as he could easily finish the season as the No. 2 first baseman.
|Jon Lester (L)||19-9||3.25||1.20||225||83||208|
|Josh Beckett (R)||6-6||5.78||1.54||116||45||127.2|
|Clay Buchholz (R)||17-7||2.33||1.20||120||67||173.2|
|John Lackey (R)||14-11||4.40||1.42||156||72||215|
|Daisuke Matsuzaka (R)||9-6||4.69||1.37||133||74||153.2|
Unsettled: Josh Beckett. Beckett was supposed to be the Red Sox staff anchor for years when they traded away Hanley Ramirez for him, and though he didn’t disappoint in his October debut for Boston, it’s been up and down since then. Last season presented more downs than ups. Beckett missed two months in the middle of the season with a back injury, and he was not effective either before it or after returning from it. His K rate was down, his BB rate was up, and his HR rate was way up. Bid on Beckett with those factors in mind, a return to his 2008 form would do wonders for the Sox, but don’t pay for it.
Target: Jon Lester. Lester has firmly established himself as the ace of the Sox pitching staff and is among the top starting pitchers in the game. He has proven to be a durable workhorse (32-plus starts, 203-plus IP each past three seasons) who can rack up the strikeouts. The improved offense should help his wins, and the improved defense should help his ratios. Lester’s ceiling could see the season end with him as a top-five SP and with a Cy Young on his mantle.
The 8th and 9th Innings
|Jonathan Papelbon (R)||37||3.90||1.27||76||28||67|
|Daniel Bard (R)||3||1.93||1.00||76||30||74.2|
|Bobby Jenks (R)||27||4.44||1.37||61||18||52.2||W/ CWS|
Chasing Saves: Papelbon is one of the safest closers out there, despite not being the best reliever on his team anymore. Manager Terry Francona goes with what works, and that means, to me, having his best reliever, Bard, pitch in higher leverage situations in the seventh and eighth innings and letting Paps grab the meaningless stat saves really is.
The addition of Bobby Jenks also gives the Sox another option with closing experience and should something arise, I think he gets first shot at ninth-inning chores, keeping Bard acclimated to the role he is used to.
The 2010 Red Sox enter the season as the favorites in the loaded AL East, and anything less than a World Series title this season has to be considered a disappointment. From a fantasy perspective, the Sox are also the most top heavy team with six batters, all five starters, and three relievers worthy of a roster spot in a standard 12-team mixed league to start the season.
Ken Kesterson is one of a growing number of fantasy experts who write for the Cafe. You can catch up with Ken in the Cafe's forums where he posts under the name of bigken117.
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