They won't win the World Series. But the Boston Red Sox can't help but be better in 2013 than they were in 2012. If you own some BoSox, the subtraction of Bobby Valentine alone is worth a dozen points in your rotisserie league's standings, right?
Jon Lester's tumultuous 2012 campaign wasn't all that surprising, considering the evolution of his repertoire and the deterioration of his plate discipline numbers against. If the southpaw is committed to an improving sinker, though, he'll have no trouble bettering his 1.10 HR/9, which came in conjunction with an alarming 13.9 percent HR/FB. He'll generate less than 30 percent fly balls for a second straight season, and he'll again coax more than 50 percent grounders. Although he won't recover much in the way of his the rate of strikeouts, his results should be better, even if they aren't 2010 better.
Middlebrooks: productive, not pivotal
I'm not a fan of Clay Buchholz, but this past season was likely a difficult one to begin because of the stress fracture in his back that eliminated more than half of his 2011 campaign. His indicators and outcomes improved as this past season wore on, albeit inconsistently. A full offseason dedicated to strengthening his back and arm should aid some recovery of his fastball and his willingness to utilize his very good changeup more often again. Minus April, Buchholz's 2012 HR/9 is 1.01, not 1.19.
It remains to be seen whether Ryan Dempster is a suitable replacement for Josh Beckett. Then again, Beckett wasn't always a great stand-in for Beckett.
Imagine this: competence from John Lackey! Don't rule it out. He's more than a year removed from Tommy John surgery and has been throwing since the tail end of this past season.
In theory, the return of John Farrell will do a lot for the hurlers who worked with him when he was Boston's pitching coach from 2007 through 2010.
If the Red Sox ever complete the signing of Mike Napoli, they'll have added a power bat they sorely needed. Although the former Angel and Ranger has a wide range of possible batting averages, given his poor contact rate especially, this past season has to have represented a low point for him. If he does indeed man first base regularly, Napoli will avoid many of the day-to-day rigors of catching that negatively affected his health.
Despite plenty of injury problems of his own, Dustin Pedroia has been a remarkably consistent performer. That shouldn't change.
What are the expectations of Will Middlebrooks, I wonder? They'll likely be too high if he's not hitting seventh or lower. His plate discipline is still quite the work-in-progress. If he's free to hack away toward the bottom of the order, he should be fairly productive, though.
A big wild card: Stephen Drew. I expect the shortstop to have a bounce-back season and be a prime fantasy bargain in 2013. Nice gamble for Boston.
Jacoby Ellsbury just has to play in 140 games. Easier said than done.
I don't condone the addition of Jonny Gomes, ever. The good news is that the avenues to playing time for short-term roto hero Daniel Nava and, more importantly, a completely healthy Ryan Kalish have already shown up on your fantasy GPS. Besides, I'm sure Gomes will log some plate appearances at DH once the heart and soul of this lineup, David Ortiz, feels his Achilles' tendon fray completely this time around.
Shane Victorino's arrival should fortify the Red Sox's outfield defense. The Flyin' Hawaiian was grounded once the Philadelphia Phillies dealt him to the Los Angeles Dodgers this past season, but the move back to the East Coast - particularly, into Fenway Park - should agree with him. I'm cautiously optimistic, as is Fangraphs' Michael Barr, that Victorino will rebound in Beantown.
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.
Don't miss these great reports....