Boston Red Sox 2017 Team Preview

2016 Recap: 93-69, 1st in the AL East. Lost in ALDS 3-0 to Cleveland. It was an exciting 2016 regular season for the Boston Red Sox with the highly successful Big Papi farewell tour mixed in. When the calendar changed to October, the party was over as the Sox were swept by the eventual AL champs, losing two of the three games by one run. This offseason saw the Red Sox add their second premier left hand starter in as many winters when they traded two of their top prospects for Chris Sale and added underrated relief arm Tyler Thornburg. Despite losing their most dangerous hitter and Boston sports hero David Ortiz, the Sox are ready to make another postseason run.

Offseason Moves:

Significant Additions: LHP Chris Sale, RHP Tyler Thornburg, 1B Mitch Moreland

Significant Subtractions: DH David Ortiz, RHP Junichi Tazawa, RHP Brad Ziegler, 1B/3B Travis Shaw, INF Yoan Moncada

Projected Lineup and Breakdown:

  1. 2B Dustin Pedroia
  2. LF Andrew Benintendi
  3. RF Mookie Betts
  4. DH Hanley Ramirez
  5. 1B Mitch Moreland
  6. SS Xander Bogaerts
  7. CF Jackie Bradley Jr.
  8. 3B Pablo Sandoval
  9. C Sandy Leon

Last season, this lineup scored 5.42 runs per game which was more than .5 runs more than the next highest club. Boston was also the only team to finish the season with an OPS over .800. There’s no Big Papi, but that won’t keep this team from scoring runs. Top hitting prospect Andrew Benintendi, free agent acquisition Mitch Moreland, and a potentially slimer Pablo Sandoval are all reasons to believe the Sox will still be the best lineup in the AL again this season. The Red Sox version of the Killer B’s (Betts, Bogaerts, Bradley) are all coming off career seasons and are all young enough to make this Orioles fan dread having to face them 19 times a year for the next decade.  

Projected Rotation, Bullpen, and Breakdown:

Rotation –

  • LHP Chris Sale
  • RHP Rick Porcello
  • RHP Steven Wright
  • LHP Drew Pomeranz
  • LHP Eduardo Rodriguez

Bullpen –

  • RHP Craig Kimbrel – Closer
  • RHP Joe Kelly
  • RHP Matt Barnes
  • LHP Robbie Ross Jr.
  • LHP Fernando Abad

It’s hard to look at a rotation with Chris Sale and last year’s AL Cy Young winner (Porcello) and say it’s missing something, but that is the case here. David Price will miss at least the first month of the season with an elbow injury that may or may not be serious depending on which report you read. Price’s elbow was recently described as “unique” which doesn’t really sound good to me. The Red Sox appeared to have pretty good starting pitching depth a month ago, but with Price’s injury on top of Drew Pomeranz bicep injury that could cause him to miss the start of the season, Boston is already looking thin in the rotation. For the last seven years, I have been driving the “Rick Porcello is trash” train and until last season I was right more often than I was wrong. In 2016, Porcello had everything come together keeping the ball in the yard with a career low home run to fly ball rate that led him to a 22 win season. Porcello may not be “trash” anymore, but you can believe even the Sox aren’t betting on a Porcello repeat or they wouldn’t have gone as hard after Sale as they did. Eduardo Rodriguez has battled with knee injuries so far in his career and when his knee isn’t right the numbers show it. E-Rod had an ERA over 8.50 in the first half of last season after a DL stint and a brief demotion the young lefty came back with a vengeance in the second half, posting a 3.24 ERA in 77 innings, helping Boston secure the division as he held opposing hitters to a .186 batting average in the month of September. If second half E-Rod is real and his knee injuries are behind him, the Sox might not miss Price as much as you think. Boston’s bullpen was shaky for most of last season and there could be reason to worry about closer Craig Kimbrel, who walked everyone last year (5.09/9 innings a career high by 1.04) on his way to a career high 3.40 ERA. Now that’s not bad by most standards, but Kimbrel’s ERA was never above 2.58 in any season before 2016. The addition of Tyler Thornburg should help take some of the load of Kimbrel, but he is currently scheduled to start the season on the DL. If Thornburg can make it back, Boston could have an elite 1-2 punch in the back end of their pen.

Fantasy Analysis:

Stud: OF Mookie Betts/SP Chris Sale. I couldn’t pick one here so I’ll cop out and touch on both Betts and Sale. Betts is a clear top 5 pick in drafts this season helping fantasy owners in every category. If Betts hits third most of this season he may run a little bit less, but expect his power numbers to stay the same and possibly even improve. Chris Sale was already one of the better pitchers in the game before he made a conscious decision to try and be as pitch efficient as possible. Sale traded a few of his strikeouts (down nearly 6% from 2015) in exchange for a career high in innings (226.2) and the second lowest WHIP of his career at 1.04. I have Sale as the fifth best pitcher for fantasy heading into 2017 and you should feel comfortable taking Sale to anchor your staff again this year.

Sleeper: 3B Pablo Sandoval. If you’re a former Pablo Sandoval fantasy owner that is still suffering from PTSD due to your encounters with him on your team, I sincerely apologize, but it’s time believe in the Panda again! Sandoval is slim again and slim Panda has shown in his career that he can flat out rake. Grab him with one of your last picks with the chance he could compete for a batting title (assuming he stays slim).

Bust: OF Andrew Benintendi. Benintendi is the top hitting prospect on a lot of lists heading into this season and appears to have a spot near the top of Boston’s order locked up. As fantasy owners do with the shiny new toy, Benintendi’s draft price is through the roof. Currently going as the 29th outfielder off the board and even going as a top 100 pick in some leagues the hype train is rolling. Benintendi is going to have some growing pains and if he struggles Boston won’t waste time hitting him high in the order or even playing him at all if he doesn’t produce. The risk is too high and I’m not sure the potential reward is all that special either. Let someone else take the dive.

2017 Record Prediction: The Red Sox will continue to be one of the best teams in all of baseball and still have the resources in their farm system to go make a trade if they need to. The AL East is probably the best division baseball top to bottom, but Boston is still a cut ahead of the rest. 95-67. First in the AL East.

-Randy Haines

Check out our other 2017 team previews here.

Photo Credit: Streetwise

Statistics are courtesy of Baseball reference and Fangraphs

Projected rosters are courtesy of rosterresource.com and accurate as of 3/28

Fantasy ADP data courtesy of STATS.com and The NFBC

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