KFFL answers some important fantasy baseball questions for each Major League Baseball team as spring training approaches. What must fantasy baseball players know about the Boston Red Sox?
Should we be concerned about Boston's stars on the mend?
It's a wicked long list. Dustin Pedroia's offseason foot surgery alleviated the pain and put him on track for spring training. Maybe he swipes fewer bases, but this top keystone option still warrants your confidence. Kevin Youkilis' torn thumb muscle cost him the final two months of 2010 but won't keep him from suiting up opening day. Your concerns are alleviated if you draft him with his eventual third base eligibility in mind.
Beckett still has the goods
New arrival Adrian Gonzalez played down his offseason shoulder knife work. He won't be able to take cuts until March, increasing the chance he stalls out of the gate. Sometimes fly-ball lift is compromised post-op, also. Hard to say many will be worried about his inactivity, though, because of his new lineup and home park. There won't be a discount unless his prognosis worsens.
The speed-centric Jacoby Ellsbury was experiencing some back pain during his rehab from broken ribs; it's a standard side effect of the healing process, but since his torso and lower body define his fantasy value, don't put all your steals eggs in his basket.
How safe of a fantasy closer is Jonathan Papelbon?
The presence of Daniel Bard and new arrival Bobby Jenks makes Paps' place among the top closers riskier. Boston is opening the season with Paps as its stopper; that's all we know. His control has collapsed in the past two years and looked especially ugly in the last few months last season. His salary reeks of a Theo Epstein sell-high special, and the Sawx have the insurance to make the move.
Sometimes, however, rumors can lead to bargains (see: Heath Bell, 2010). The rate at which closers are falling in price and ADP might make it worth drafting Papelbon anyway while backing him up later on with Jenks, whose experience probably gives him the speculative edge for 2011. Heck, that isn't even set in stone.
Gauge the risk factor when bidding or selecting based on how the position is being plucked. You'll have to handcuff Paps, because others will pounce on his potential successors.
Can Josh Beckett be a frontline fantasy baseball option again?
On the surface, it's not a winning bet. Beckett's average fastball velocity was at its lowest ever in his Boston tenure last year. A heavier reliance on a cutter didn't help. He was scared to stay in the strike zone. His injury-prone profile resurfaced, and it's hard to think his back issues didn't dictate many of his failures.
Ah, the value game - Beckett's draft price whispers sweet 2007-2009 nothings. His K/9 remained consistent despite his collapse almost everywhere else, and that .343 BAABIP, though a result of being more hittable, could be corrected with health and rejuvenated heat. Enough that if he's, say, your No. 4 mixed starter, that's a chance worth taking.
About Tim Heaney
Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous outlets, and recognized as a finalist in the Fantasy Sports Writers Association awards. The Boston University alum competes in Tout Wars and LABR and has won several industry leagues in both baseball and football.
During baseball and football season, hear him every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore. On Thursdays, he visits 106.1 FM WMTI in New Orleans and Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio, where he often crashes other shows, as well.
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