Boston Red Sox Injuries: Fantasy Implications for ‘09

The Boston Red Sox struggled with injuries to many of their key players during the 2008 season, and it became more evident towards the late months and into the playoffs. Fantasy baseball managers are likely wondering what to expect from the roto stalwarts in Beantown. Here is a rundown:

Mike Lowell, 3B

Lowell was a key reason why the Sox even made it to the postseason. He battled through a treacherous second half of the season on an ailing right hip that was seemingly getting worse as time went on. He recently had a right hip arthroscopy, and the news was mostly good, as the surgeon did not have to do as much work as originally anticipated. Lowell will be back to Spring Training on time, more than likely. See my writeup on Lowell’s hip surgery over at The DL Informer.

AL-only owners can rest assured that he will be a productive third baseman for fantasy purposes, while mixed leaguers probably won’t want to have him as their starting 3B. A solid utility player is the most likely scenario for mixed leagues, with a solid average, a respectable but nowhere near eye-popping power game, and helpful RBI totals.

Josh Beckett, SP

I was at both games in Tampa when Beckett pitched, and he clearly was a mere shell of what he is capable of. He would touch 93 on occasion with his fastball, but he mostly sat in the 89-90 range—clearly not Beckett-esque. The drop in velocity was due to a strained Oblique, but the bigger question remains: How will his elbow hold up in ’09 and beyond?

Remember, this was the mystery injury he dealt with in mid-season where his pitching hand would go numb on the 4th and 5th digits of his hand (pinky and ring finger). Where there is smoke, there is fire. This has all the signs of a brewing elbow pathology at the medial (inner) elbow—particularly to the Ulnar nerve. Buyer beware in 2009. I am cautiously putting his games started total at 24.

David Ortiz, 1B/DH

Anyone who has watched David Ortiz over the past few seasons knows that even after he returned from the DL following lengthy immobilization of his left wrist (due to a tendon sheath tear), he was nowhere near to playing like himself. He undoubtedly was playing hurt all season long, or at the very least, he was guarding the wrist and thinking about it constantly.

This was never more apparent than during the postseason, where he was downright terrible. His swing was slow, awkward, and he never had that killer look in his eye. Yeah, you know the one I’m talking about. Sure, he hit a mammoth, game-changing home run in the comeback of Game 5, but that was about all Papi could muster.

The long off-season is exactly what he needs, and I would expect a much different David Ortiz in 2009—not the Papi of 2004, but 25-30 HR sounds about right with an average in the .280s. Don’t think that this is going to be a Travis Hafner-type falloff, because it won’t be. Papi is that good, and if he is healthy, he will rebound nicely. Mixed leaguers will want to avoid him in the first round, but late 2nd, early 3rd sounds good. Watch the results of some expert drafts or mock drafts to see if he is being taken even later.

Daisuke Matsuzaka, SP

A rotator cuff strain back in late May kept him on the shelf for a few weeks, though he rebounded nicely after some time off and rehabilitation and managed to put together a solid season for the Sox. I would expect him and Jon Lester to anchor the staff next season, and I would not hesitate to have him as my #2 SP in mixed leagues, or a #1 SP in AL-only.

Jed Lowrie, SS

He was apparently playing with a broken left wrist—albeit a non-displaced fracture—since early in the season (May). He slumped horribly down the stretch, and was virtually useless against most left-handers he faced. This is not a situation to worry about for ’09, but please realize that this is a guy who will never hit for power. Think of him as a David Eckstein-like player when you are setting your draft tiers next season.

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