2016 Fantasy Baseball Preview: Boston Red Sox
I am not sure if the snow is thawed at Fenway Park yet, but the Red Sox are down in Fort Myers getting ready for the 2016 season. It is a good time for us to dive into their fantasy value. After finishing dead last in the AL East last season, Boston’s new acquisitions failed to impress on a fantasy level as well.
An out of shape Pablo Sandoval possessed a career low .292 OBP, and only played 126 plays. Injuries hindered Hanley Ramirez’s 2015 season to a more extreme level, as he hit .249, with 53 RBI. The “I’m the ace” approach to the Sox rotation last season was trouble for any involved.
Boston ranked in the bottom half in wins and 25th in team ERA. After a season of disappointment, Boston offers a little of everything in 2016, but we shall proceed with caution.
- Mookie Betts – RF
- Dustin Pedroia – 2B
- Xander Bogaerts – SS
- David Ortiz – DH
- Hanley Ramirez – 1B
- Pablo Sandoval – 3B
- Rusney Castillo – LF
- Blake Swihart – C
- Jackie Bradley Jr. – CF
At first look, it is an odd lineup to dissect. Betts and Bogaerts are two of the safer fantasy options and are generally the first two Boston players off of the board.
Betts is projected to hit .293, with 42 SB+HR and room for more. Bogaerts is expected to hit third again, and the 81 RBI from 2015 is certainly an obtainable number again.
Bogaerts ADP right now is sitting at 70, which is not all that attractive given players around him. He is a great fantasy add, but I am not jumping off the walls to get him.
It is a farewell season for Ortiz, and the 40-year-old DH has been very consistent in a Sox uniform. His 37 home runs last season were the most since 2006. He has driven in over 100 runs in the last three seasons and has not had an OBP less than .350 since 2009.
Boston possesses three bounce-back candidates for 2016, who were all affected by injuries, and come into 2016 at low-risk draft spots. Pedroia, Ramirez and Sandoval all sit in areas of the draft where you are content with the injury risk.
Fenway Park aids runs and hits, and the AL East is hitter friendly in general. There is a chance for a bounce-back from all three this year, as long as 130+ games are there. Sandoval will likely be the odd man out.
Boston wasted no time in going out and landing an ace. Price signed a $217 million dollar contract, and will come to a familiar place. For what it’s worth, in 11 games, Price has a career 1.95 ERA at Fenway Park.
Price will finish in the top 15, and will fly off the board in the first few rounds. Moving past him is where it gets tricky.
Buchholz has been about a three-month rental for fantasy players but is serviceable in that span.
It was a tale of two halves for Porcello. He posted a 5.90 ERA in the first half, and a 3.53 ERA in the second.
He dropped his FB% by 5% and upped his K% by 5%. Porcello is worth a look in the very deep rounds of a draft, especially in deeper leagues. He could very well be the poster boy for streaming articles this season.
Rodriguez is just 22 years old and has an electric 94 mph fastball and a solid changeup. You could compare him to his teammate Price.
He won 10 games last season and is projected to post a similar year-long line. I am very intrigued at his No. 271 ADP.
Boston also added themselves a top-five closer, and Kimbrel shall find himself with a tick upwards in saves. Kimbrel’s strikeout rate is should continue to drop, but still stay north of 32%, as if that’s anything to complain about.
Stud: Mookie Betts (OF)
It was a tossup between Price and Betts, but I will go with someone on the rise over someone falling in the rankings. Betts is the seventh-ranked outfielder on average and has a 20.3 ADP. He is coming off of a .290 season, where posted 39 HR+SB.
He is projected to surpass that, and if this Sox offense can click, he should score 100+ runs. A 20-20 season is not out of the question, and the shot to average over .300 is doable as well. Betts is just 23 years old, and is about six to eight homers and 20 RBI off from what Andrew McCutchen is projected to post.
Betts is surging up the rankings, and drafters are all aboard the hype train. That is his only downside, the hype.
Early mocks have Betts being drafted a bit higher than he should be going. Betts has something to offer for each fantasy category, making him a Boston stud heading into fantasy draft season.
Bounce Back: Hanley Ramirez (OF)
I was excited to see Ramirez move to Fenway Park and the other AL East stadiums last season. Things did not go as planned, as injuries shortened Ramirez’s season yet again. He played just 105 games and has not played over 130 games since 2012.
Durability has been the biggest issue for Ramirez, other than his horrendous defense. He has taken the move to first base pretty seriously, but we care about the bat for our fantasy teams. Projections are banking on him missing about 50 games again, and who can blame them?
However, a slash line of .284/.345/.475 is the general consensus. It would be a definite improvement from the previous season, and if he could play 130-140 games, it would be a very fantasy friendly season.
Sleeper: Eduardo Rodriguez (SP)
There was a lot of positives in the Red Sox season, and Rodriguez was one of them. He went 10-6 in 21 starts, posting a 3.85 ERA. In 15 of those 21 starts, he allowed no more than two earned runs.
He did have some blowups, allowing at least six earned runs in four starts. Understandable for a 22-year-old pitcher. He has a 94 mph fastball, and an above average changeup.
Reports have come out saying he is improving his slider, and adding a cutter to his arsenal. Adding those tools to his skill set have me very intrigued.
He is a guy to keep an eye on late in drafts, especially given last year’s numbers are a pretty good floor for him. Development of another pitch and fine-tuning what he brought to the table in 2015 would only increase his 2016 production.
Bust: Pablo Sandoval (3B)
He is more likely to bust than to bounce back. Sandoval disappointed in a big weigh (see what I did there). He came into Boston overweight, and his all-around game suffered.
He posted a walk rate two percent below his career norm and hit just .245. After hovering around 15 homers a season with the Giants, and occasionally having the 20 HR outburst, he only hit 10. This was not expected after moving to a more hitter-friendly division.
Sandoval is projected to hit in the upper .260s, with a .722 OPS. Runs and RBI should increase, but don’t expect anything over 120 combined. He has a 243 ADP, which is about right.
If you need a backup or are in a deeper league, Sandoval is in play. I am not expecting much out of him for 2016.
Late-Round Flier: Clay Buchholz (SP)
We might be a little burned out by Buchholz by now, but when healthy he is a very serviceable fantasy pitcher. He was the Red Sox’s best starter when healthy last season, posting an 8.5 K/9 with a 3.26 ERA. His 2.68 FIP/3.30 xFIP did not disagree either.
Buchholz is not going to give you 180+ innings, but I would certainly take 160 out of him if he could last. The ADP is far too low not to take a chance on Buchholz’s health this season.
We know he can pitch, and he is coming off one of his better seasons. A 267 ADP is about right. Take the chance.
Prospects To Watch
Despite having plenty of prospects in the waiting, none of them is expected to make a fantasy impact this season. Yoan Moncada, Rafael Devers and Andrew Benintendi are the three highly-rated prospects that are expected to be above average MLB players. They are all below the age of 22 and have a few players in front of them on the depth charts.
Moncada is a Cuban second baseman, who also has worked in the outfield and comes with very high expectations when his time comes. He stole 49 bags in Low-A ball last season, with a .278/.380/.438 slash line.
Devers is just 19 years old and posted a .288/.329/.443 slashing line in Low-A ball. Benintendi was drafted out of Arkansas in the draft and is a five-tool player.
Even with any injuries to the team, super-utility man Brock Holt would step into the role. These guys still have a ways to go, but for you dynasty players, you likely know about them already.