As the 2018 fantasy baseball season approaches, we take a look at the biggest news and story lines from each club. We’ll feature one team each weekday … and we’ll finish up on Feb. 16, the first day all teams will have their pitchers and catchers on the field for workouts.
Series index: Schedule for all 2018 team previews
The Red Sox won their division, but still fired manager John Farrell after they were eliminated in the playoffs. New skipper Alex Cora will have a strong roster for his rookie season in the dugout.
The offense was solid in 2017, but the Red Sox uncharacteristically finished last in the American League in home runs (168) — and third in steals (106). Unless they go out and sign a big-time free agent (they’ve been linked to J.D. Martinez), it would take a pretty radical change in strategy by Cora to alter those numbers significantly.
2017 at a glance
Record: 93-69 (1st in AL East)
Hitting: 10th (4.85 R/G)
Pitching: 4th (3.70 ERA)
Park Factor, scoring: 11th (1.026)
Park factor, HR: 26th (0.824)
1B Mitch Moreland
Technically, Moreland just re-signed with Boston after briefly testing the free-agent waters. He hit 22 homers last season — the fourth time in five years he’s finished with 22 or 23 — but he’s no difference-maker at age 32.
Players to watch
OF Mookie Betts
OF Andrew Benintendi
SP Chris Sale
Betts was a top-3 overall pick in drafts last season, but has seen his stock drop after his batting average fell from .318 to .264. But except for a similar decline in his batting average on balls in play, Betts’ other metrics hardly wavered. And 24 home runs, 26 steals, plus over 100 runs and RBI … that’s nothing to take lightly. He’s still elite and worthy of a first-round pick.
Benintendi delivered on the hype that surrounded his first full MLB season, hitting .271/.253/.424 with 20 homers and 20 steals. Now what can he do for an encore? Hit lefties a little better, perhaps.
Sale led the majors with 214 1/3 innings — and an astounding 308 strikeouts. With starting pitchers rarely going past the sixth inning anymore, Sale gives his fantasy owners a huge advantage.
SP David Price
3B Rafael Devers
The biggest unknown for the Red Sox this season is Price’s health. He battled elbow issues all last season and ended up pitching out of the bullpen. It was a major change to see such a workhorse throw only 74 2/3 innings. An offseason’s worth of rest should help, but at 32, Price’s best days are probably behind him. However, those questions could also make him a major bargain in the middle rounds as an SP3.
Devers, 21, had an amazing start to his MLB career, hitting .364 with eight homers and 16 RBI in his first 20 games. He cooled off considerably over the final 40, but his rapid rise through the minors is a testament to his ability to adapt.
Closer: Craig Kimbrel
Next: Carson Smith
Kimbrel is one of only a handful of dominant closers, posting a 1.43 ERA to go with 35 saves (his seventh consecutive season with 30 or more). He led all relief pitchers with 126 strikeouts. Even more impressive, he overcame whatever control issues were plaguing him in 2016 by cutting his walk rate from 5.1 to 1.8 BB/9.
Smith, 28, returned to the mound in September after losing almost all of 2016 and 2017 to elbow surgery. In his last full season, he was almost Kimbrel-esque with a 2.31 ERA and 92 striekouts in 70 innings with Seattle.
If the Red Sox do end up signing Martinez to essentially take over as the designated hitter, Moreland would likely platoon with incumbent DH Hanley Ramirez.
Four-time All-Star second baseman Dustin Pedroia will miss roughly the first two months of the regular season as he recovers from October knee surgery. There’s no clear-cut replacement on the roster, so a free-agent signing (perhaps the return of Eduardo Nunez) might be possible.
With both Steven Wright and Eduardo Rodriguez recovering from injuries and questionable for opening day, the fifth starter spot is wide open.
3B Michael Chavis
SP Jay Groome
Boston’s first-round pick in the 2014 draft, Chavis hit .282/.347/.563 with a combined 31 homers and 94 RBI at Class A and AA last season. At age 21, he held his own in the prospect-laden Arizona Fall League while also learning to play first base. If he can continue to rake at Class AAA Pawtucket, he could see the majors at some point this season.
The 12th overall pick in the 2016 draft, Groome is a name to file away in long-term dynasty leagues. The 19-year-old lefty reached low-A Greenville (S.C.) last season and struck out 58 batters in 44 1/3 innings.
Projected batting order
1. RF Mookie Betts
2. LF Andrew Benintendi
3. SS Xander Bogaerts
4. 1B Mitch Moreland
5. DH Hanley Ramirez
6. 3B Rafael Devers
7. CF Jackie Bradley Jr.
8. C Christian Vazquez/Sandy Leon
9. 2B Marco Hernandez
1. LHP Chris Sale
2. LHP David Price
3. RHP Rick Porcello
4. LHP Drew Pomeranz
5. RHP Steven Wright