KFFL answers important fantasy baseball questions about each Major League Baseball team as spring training approaches. What must fantasy baseball players know about the Boston Red Sox?
How is this roster of misfits any different from the last one?
Ells Bells once again?
Obviously, one big departure from 2012 is Bobby Valentine's exit, which cleared the way for the club's former pitching coach, John Farrell. The change in atmosphere alone will result in a more positive outlook. It couldn't have been much worse. Believe it or not, the attitudes of players matter. Last year, the capricious state of the Red Sox was at least good enough to serve as a tiebreaker between players from Boston and many other franchises when you were drafting. This year, valuations rest almost entirely on the players, and there's even a bit of reason for optimism.
Incumbents Jacoby Ellsbury (subluxation in right shoulder), David Ortiz (strained Achilles' tendon) and Will Middlebrooks (fractured wrist) missed significant time. Ellsbury's medical chart at this point has to be taken seriously, but his abilities to hit 15 or 20 homers and swipe 50 bases mean that he probably won't come cheaply. Big Papi's remade hitting skills are totally reliable (and don't let anyone convince you otherwise), but the combo of his age (37) and the fear that his tendon will rupture again make him a perilous proposition. Middlebrooks supplied power immediately upon his call-up last season, but his awful control of the strike zone and the questionable strength of his wrist put a damper on his outlook. Still, the risk of all three is worth leveraging at some point, because the payoff could be sweet.
Newbies Shane Victorino and Stephen Drew are in good positions to make up for recent, sub-par outcomes and earn their owners a little money. The switch-hitting right fielder's game didn't agree with Chavez Ravine, but Fenway Park could be well-suited to his plus speed (even at age 32). This is assuming that he doesn't become an increasing liability from the left side of the dish. Drew, 30, is simply healthy after a long, winding road to recovery from a July 2010 fractured ankle. On the cheap, how can you pass him up? New left fielder Jonny Gomes ... well, perhaps he'll rap a bunch of baseballs off the Green Monster, but his platoon-only skill set opens the door for left-handed hitters to rob him of playing time.
Fantasy owners who invest in Jon Lester will place a certain amount of faith in the lefty's ability to recover from a precipitous skills decline and Farrell's influence. There are no overt statistical signs that a complete turnaround is imminent, but some metrics certainly indicate that Lester's bottom line paid a hefty price for his mistakes in 2012. Clay Buchholz could follow a similar path. A healthy John Lackey may warrant a spot in very deep leagues. And Ryan Dempster ... can't be as bad as he was with the Texas Rangers, but he won't be as good as his first half with the Chicago Cubs. The right-hander became reacquainted with his propensity to walk the opposition once he moved to the AL, and AL East teams cause pitchers to pay for their missteps just a bit more often than those from the NL Central.
What does this hip problem do to Mike Napoli's forecast?
About Nicholas Minnix
Minnix is baseball editor and a fantasy football analyst at KFFL. He plays in LABR and Tout Wars and won the FSWA Baseball Industry Insiders League in 2010.
The University of Delaware alum is a regular guest on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio and Baltimore's WNST AM 1570.
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