StrategyFebruary 23, 2012

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30 Teams in 30 Days: Boston Red Sox

By Ken Kesterson

To say that the 2011 Boston Red Sox season was a roller coaster that ended with a thud for their fans would be an understatement. In between the disasters know as April and September, the Sox actually played pretty good baseball. They looked like one of the strongest teams in the league, as they were predicted to be when the season began.

For whatever ill tidings the regular season had in store for the Red Sox, that’s not what we (well, most of you) care about. What we want to know is how they did as fantasy individuals. The good (Ellsbury, Gonzalez) were good and the bad (Lackey, Dice-K) were awful. Fortunately for both fantasy and real life Sox fans, Ellsbury, Gonzalez and the offense are back, while Lackey and Dice-K are gone.

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 2012 fantasy baseball drafts.

Offensive Starters

C Jarrod Saltalamacchia.235.288.4505216561358 
1B Adrian Gonzalez.338.410.548108281171630 
2B Dustin Pedroia.307.387.484102219126635 
3B Kevin Youkilis.258.373.4596817803431 
SS Mike Aviles.255.289.4093173914286w/2T
LF Carl Crawford.255.289.45565115618506 
CF Jacoby Ellsbury.321.376.5521193210539660 
RF Cody Ross.240.325.4055414525405w/SF
DH David Ortiz.309.398.5548429961525 

Unsettled: The Red Sox are employing the always-popular-with-pitchers “Veteran Utilityman” strategy at shortstop, with Mike Aviles and Nick Punto both in camp. Neither one can do anything special. Keep an eye out for Jose Iglesias; if the Sox are convinced he can hit .240, he will become the starter. He is someone you want to avoid in fantasy as the bat is light, but the defense is special. In right field, the Sox go into camp with several contenders for the job; along with Ross, they have the newly acquired Ryan Sweeney and Darnell McDonald, a fixture on the bus ride between Boston and Pawtucket. The guy you need to be ready for though is Ryan Kalish, who had laburm surgery and has not yet begun swinging a bat but is expected back in June. With no long term options around, keeper league owners should take notice.

Target: Dustin Pedroia. Gonzalez is awesome, but 1B is deep. Ellsbury should have been MVP, but I would realistically expect some regression. At a thin 2B position however, Pedroia continues to be a model of consistency with career highs in HRs, RBIs, and SBs, along with more than 100 runs and another batting average over .300. There is a drop-off after the top three fantasy second basemen; if you believe in position scarcity, you shouldn’t wait any longer than the third round to call Pedroia’s name (or spend an extra $1, depending on your format).

The Rotation

Jon Lester15-93.471.2618275191.2 
Josh Beckett13-72.891.0317552193.0 
Clay Buchholz6-33.481.29603182.2 
Daniel Bard2-93.330.96742473.0RP
Alfredo Aceves10-22.611.118042114.0RP

Unsettled: The final two spots. Daniel Bard is making the transition from dominant set-up man to starting pitcher. I understand the need for starting pitching depth, but the reason Bard was moved to the bullpen was because the last time he was a starter, it was what could politely be called a disaster. In 2007 in the minor leagues, he let loose 27 wild pitches over 75 innings and had more walks than strikeouts. He is dominating as a reliever, so why mess with something that isn’t broken?

The Red Sox have a lot of (and I use the term loosely here) competition for the fifth starter job. Vicente Padilla. Aaron Cook. Andrew Miller. There should never be a need to own any of them.

Target: Josh Beckett. Yeah, that’s right. For all the Popeye’s and Bud Light, Beckett actually had a pretty good season with high Ks, low BBs, and a sub-3.00 ERA backed up by keeping his HRs down. I don’t expect Beckett to be an ace again like it’s 2007, but if he maintains that skill set, he should provide a better return on investment than teammate Jon Lester, who will have better fantasy numbers but will cost more to acquire.

The Bullpen

Andrew Bailey243.241.10411241.2w/OAK
Mark Melancon202.781.22662674.1w/HOU

Chasing Saves: The Red Sox made a couple of trades to help shore up their bullpen with the loss of former closer and Red Sox hater agitator Jonathan Papelbon to Philadelphia. They jumped in on the fire sale in Oakland to acquire their closer, Andrew Bailey. Health is a legitimate concern, as he hasn’t topped 50 innings in either of the past two seasons. Prior to that deal, they dealt away a real shortstop in Jed Lowrie to acquire former Astro closer Mark Melancon. He doesn’t miss as many bats and can walk more guys than you’d like your relievers to, but he is a strong ground ball pitcher, so if the Sox do him some favors for 60 to 70 innings, he should be serviceable.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, the way the Red Sox finished 2011 and the tumultuous offseason that followed has left the players eager for redemption, and in turn, we as fantasy players can reap the consequences. Their offense has fantasy gold waiting to be mined, and you never know, you could find a gem in the bottom third of that rotation.

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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