Boston Red Sox team outlook
There's a new sheriff in town, and Dave Dombrowski wasted no time making big moves. Scott White looks at what the Red Sox have to offer Fantasy owners.
Ben Cherington and Dave Dombrowski have their own ways of doing things.
The new guy isn’t as patient as the old one.
Sure, it’s great that the Red Sox were able to put together a potentially studly — and mostly homegrown — starting lineup, but waiting for the pitching staff to catch up could result in more of what happened in 2015: a last-place finish in the AL East.
And why? The Red Sox have so many resources — both in terms of dollars and prospects — that they can simply pay for an ace like David Price and trade for an ace reliever like Craig Kimbrel. The addition of those two at the top of their respective units, pushing everyone else down a slot, immediately takes the Red Sox pitching staff from suspect to competent.
And the big offseason acquisitions don’t end there. They also traded forCarson Smith, whose numbers make him out to be sort of a Kimbrel in training. Throw in 2015 closer Koji Uehara, and the Red Sox have one of those late-inning three-headed monsters that are all the rage these days, turning one of last year’s greatest weaknesses into one of this year’s greatest strengths.
It’ll help make up for the shortcomings of their starting rotation, which is still without a true No. 2 even if it has a true No. 1. Clay Buchholz and Eduardo Rodriguez have the potential to fill that void, making them sleepers in Fantasy, but the former can’t stay healthy for a full season and the latter is coming off an uneven rookie performance.Rick Porcello is getting some love after his strong finish last year, but he has limits to his upside. Minor-league strikeout artist Henry Owens is ready to step in if any of those three falls short, but he was even shakier last year than Rodriguez was.
The lineup is an interesting mixture of age and youth, of players still trying to find their footing and players struggling to regain what they’ve lost. David Ortiz andDustin Pedroia, though more injury-prone in the past, remain Fantasy mainstays, butMookie Betts is set to become the face of the franchise when Big Papi retires after this season. He and Xander Bogaerts figure to be the first two Red Sox hitters drafted in Fantasy this year.
Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval were big-dollar busts last year and will each try to hold off Travis Shaw, the rookie who surprised with 13 homers in 226 at-bats last year. Between him and the ultra-versatile Brock Holt, the Red Sox lineup should be able to absorb whatever misfortune comes its way, be it an injured Pedroia or an underachieving Jackie Bradley.
2016 projected lineup
1. Mookie Betts, RF
2. Dustin Pedroia, 2B
3. Xander Bogaerts, SS
4. David Ortiz, DH
5. Hanley Ramirez, 1B
6. Pablo Sandoval, 3B
7. Rusney Castillo, LF
8. Blake Swihart, C
9. Jackie Bradley, CF
Bench: Travis Shaw, 1B/3B
Bench: Brock Holt, IF/OF
2016 projected rotation
1. David Price, LHP
2. Clay Buchholz, RHP
3. Rick Porcello, RHP
4. Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP
5. Joe Kelly, RHP
Alt: Roenis Elias, LHP
2016 projected bullpen
1. Craig Kimbrel, RHP
2. Koji Uehara, RHP
3. Carson Smith, RHP
4. Robbie Ross, LHP
5. Junichi Tazawa, RHP
Xander Bogaerts SS / Boston Red Sox
|2015 STATS: .320 BA, 7 HR, 35 2B, 10 SB, .776 OPS|
Just with the improvements Bogaerts made in batting average last year, he ranked first among shortstops in both Rotisserie and Head-to-Head points leagues. Of course, no one regards him as such because his per-game production lagged behindCarlos Correa, Francisco Lindor and Corey Seager. With continued growth this year, he could join them to give the position an elite young foursome. And growth should be the expectation for a player who just turned 23 in the offseason, especially since some oddball ratios contributed to his low home run total last year. In short, his fly-ball and hard-contact rates were way down from 2014, according to FanGraphs.com, and before you credit those changes for the improved batting average, note that his strikeout rate was also way down and his opposite-field hitting way up. If he combines what he did best in 2014 with what he did best last year, he’s the complete package.
Blake Swihart C / Boston Red Sox
|2015 STATS: .274 BA, 5 HR, 17 2B, .712 OPS, 288 AB|
At this time a year ago, Swihart was considered the best catcher prospect in baseball, and if his stock has fallen since then, it’s only because the Red Sox called on him sooner than they should have. He entered their organization with limited catching and switch-hitting experience, and only in 2014 did he begin to see the light. Another year or two of development to solidify those gains would have been in the Red Sox’s best interest, but injuries forced them to move up the timetable a bit. The good news is that for as much as Swihart struggled early, he turned the corner late, batting .330 with four home runs and a .909 OPS over his final 103 at-bats, so it’s possible the growing pains are over. Once the top 11 catchers are off the board, you’ll take anyone with some upside, and Swihart has shown clearer signs of a breakthrough than most.
Post-hype sleeper …
Rusney Castillo OF / Boston Red Sox
|2015 STATS: .253 BA, 5 HR, 4 SB, .647 OPS, 273 AB|
It’s possible Castillo was simply overhyped. Scouting reports for Cuban defectors are limited, and then when you factor in the year of down time before they can actually play in the majors, well, no team knows exactly what it’s getting. But Castillo made everything look so easy during the smidgen of playing time he got both during the minor-league playoffs and, later, the majors late in 2014 (unlike, say, Hector Olivera). Maybe he just wasn’t right last year. He did miss most of spring training with a strained oblique and then jammed his shoulder early in the Triple-A season — an injury that would certainly impact his swing if he didn’t allow it to heal properly. The Red Sox are keeping the faith, all but handing him the starting left field job. Given his potential as a five-category contributor and the fact he’s off everybody’s radar, why not do the same?
The Red Sox never seem to be short on prospects, and though Dombrowski isn’t known for his ability to build and maintain a deep farm system, he hasn’t cashed in his chips just yet.
• Yoan Moncada had a rocky transition from Cuba, but the muscular 20-year-old began to live up to the hype with a .310 batting average and .915 OPS over his final 216 at-bats. And his speed never slumped.
• At 19, Rafael Devers still has a ways to go, but the scouts are completely buying into him as a middle-of-the-order bat. Less so as a third baseman.
• The seventh overall pick in last year’s draft, Andrew Benintendi already has advanced batting skills, having walked more than he struck out last year, and could give the Red Sox kind of a left-handed version of Mookie Betts in a couple years.
• Anderson Espinoza is only 17, but his skills are so evident that he may be able to breeze through (or even skip, like Jose Fernandez) the upper levels. He could be a top-five pitching prospect by this time next year.
Brian Johnson and Sam Travis aren’t as high-end but are significantly closer, with Johnson even making a spot start last year. Johnson’s polish has helped his fringy stuff play up in the minors, but he may not be as much of a bat-misser in the majors. Travis is a quality hitter with a good eye but may lack the power to measure up at first base.