2010 Boston Red Sox Preview

Rotation
Josh Beckett, RHP
John Lester, LHP
John Lackey, RHP
Daisuke Matsuzaka, RHP
Clay Buchholz, RHP

Closers and Setup
Jonathan Papelbon, RHP
Daniel Bard, RHP

Starting Lineup
Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
Victor Martinez, C
Kevin Youkilis, 1B
David Ortiz, DH
JD Drew, RF
Mike Cameron, CF
Adrian Beltre, 3B
Marcos Scutaro, SS

Player in Decline
All of David Ortiz’ numbers, raw and peripheral, have been moving in the wrong direction for the past three years. He is 34 and has a body type that does not age gracefully. Maybe he will rebound a tad in 2010 from his dreadful 2009, but his 40-homer, 130-RBI seasons of 2004 to 2006 are long gone.

Player on the Rise
Clay Buchholz pitched an OK 92 innings for the Sox in 2009. But during his minor-league career, he averaged double-digit strikeout rates and a K/BB ratio over 4.00. He has the potential to be a very good fantasy pitcher.

Top 5 Fantasy Players
Victor Martinez: Elite
Dustin Pedroia: Elite
Jon Lester: Elite
Kevin Youkilis: Average
Jacoby Ellsbury: Average

Top 10 Prospects
1. Casey Kelly, RHP
2. Ryan Westmoreland, OF
3. Junichi Tazawa, RHP
4. Josh Reddick, OF
5. Lars Anderson, 1B
6. Stolmy Pimentel, RHP
7. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
8. Derrik Gibson, SS
9. Ryan Kalish, OF
10. Reymond Fuentes, OF

Overall team outlook: In 2009, the Red Sox made the playoffs for the sixth time in the last seven years but were bounced by the Angels in ALDS, so anything but a playoff appearance, even in a tough AL East, would be a disappointment in 2010. The organization has the resources to do it by virtue of its big budget, dedication to player development, and shrewd player acquisition, highlighted this offseason by a number of free agent signings aimed at shoring up the rotation and defense.

The Starting Rotation: The rotation is headed by three pitchers who posted ERAs and FIPs below 4.00 in 2009, and all three have a solid shot at repeating the feat in 2010. Jon Lester had a breakout 2009, adding an amazing strikeout rate while repeating the excellent walk and ground-ball rates he showed in 2008. Josh Beckett has had a FIP under 4.00 in seven of the last eight seasons. After starting the season on the DL, newcomer John Lackey had a very good 2009. Lester and Beckett are worth a little more in fantasy leagues because they have slightly higher strikeout rates, but all three are great fantasy pitchers.

After that trio, the Red Sox will split the last two spots in the rotation between Daisuke Matsuzaka, Clay Buchholz, and Tim Wakefield, depending on health and effectiveness. Matsuzaka had a year lost to injury in 2009 and his walk rate has been troublingly high in the past two years, but his strikeout rate makes him an intriguing gamble. Buchholz had an okay – though disappointing based on his excellent minor-league numbers – 2009, but is worth a look in 2010 because he is young and those minor league numbers portend a good pitcher.

The Bullpen: Jonathan Papelbon’s peripherals were down in 2009 (lowest K/BB ratio and GB% since taking over as closer), but his performance was still excellent, and poor peripherals for Papelbon are still very good (FIP of 3.05). Even with the dip in peripherals, he enters 2010 with about as solid a hold on the closer’s role as one can have. Fireballer Daniel Bard would most likely take over the role if anything were to happen to Papelbon.

The Starting Lineup: The Boston starting lineup welcomes three new members in 2010: Marco Scutaro, Mike Cameron, and Adrian Beltre. Scutaro played way above the level of play he established in the previous seven years, and big true talent shifts from 33-year-olds are rare, so his numbers should come down a bit. Cameron and Beltre will benefit from hitting in an RHB-friendly park and high-OBP lineup, so both should see slight bumps in their numbers.

Then the Sox club has four elite fantasy hitters in the lineup. Jacoby Ellsbury will shift to left to accommodate Cameron, but that will not affect his stolen-base-driven fantasy value. Victor Martinez, the second best fantasy catcher heading into 2010, will also get games at first base and DH to keep him in the lineup as much as possible. Kevin Youkilis’s power breakout in 2008 carried on into 2009, and he qualifies at both corner infield positions. Dustin Pedrioa should provide value in all five categories while playing one of the scarcest fantasy positions.

The two remaining regulars don’t offer a ton of fantasy value. JD Drew is a great baseball player, but his main skills – great defense, tons of walks, a solid number of doubles – are not valued in most fantasy leagues. He also comes with health concerns. David Ortiz qualifies only at DH and his power numbers have been in decline for the past three years.

The Bench: The Sox will keep Martinez fresh by giving him substantial time at other positions, which will open up playing time for Jason Varitek behind the plate. Newly acquired Bill Hall and Jeremy Hermida should also pick up a good number of plate appearances filling in for the outfield. Hall will man the infield, too. Mike Lowell remains on the roster, but how much and for which team he will ultimately play remains an open question.




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Dave Allen's other baseball work can be found at Baseball Analysts.

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