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Fantasy Impact of the Newest Red Sox

Boston has had a very busy offseason already. They have added two premier hitters and three starters. How good will they all be with their new team in 2015? What kind of fantasy impact will they have?

Wade Miley is now pitching for Boston. What is his 2015 outlook?
Wade Miley is now pitching for Boston. What is his 2015 outlook?
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

If you have been following the winter meetings and basically the entire offseason so far, you know that the Boston Red Sox (disclaimer: I am a lifelong fan) have been busy. Very busy. First, they picked up two of the best free agent hitters available, in Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval. Then, last week they made two trades that netted them Wade Miley from Arizona and Rick Porcello from Detroit and then picked up free agent Justin Masterson. Ok, did you get all that? Good. I'm here to break down the fantasy impact of all of these moves for these five enterprising young men.

Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez

First, I'm going to check Pablo off the list of guys to write about here because I already detailed his outlook in Boston here. Spoiler alert: I think he's going to be noticeably better in almost every category. Next up is Hanley. Now, 2015 is probably the last year he will have SS eligibility since Boston will be using him in left almost exclusively. So, enjoy that last year of sweet, sweet shortstop time, because he will become much less exciting as an outfielder, as far as fantasy goes. When healthy, Hanley can compete for the number one or two shortstop in fantasy with his rare combination of high average, good power, prime lineup spot (usually hitting 2nd or 3rd), and even a few steals.

But, as you know, health is an issue for him just like his fellow top shortstop, Troy Tulowitzki. Hanley has played in 92, 157, 86, and 128 games the last four seasons. I don't expect him to suddenly be healthier in Boston, although maybe playing outfield will keep him healthier, but I wouldn't count on it.

As far as his stats are concerned, Hanley should see a boost similar to Panda's, if not even greater. Why? Well, as a right-handed hitter, Hanley will be able to slam doubles off the Green Monster with great regularity. There was no monster in LA. Sandoval is a switch-hitter, so he will have fewer opportunities to use the monster from the right side of the plate. I expect to see Hanley's doubles to increase from 35 last year to 45 or more this year. His career high is 48 from 2007 with the Marlins. I also expect a modest increase in homers because his HR/FB ratio was at a career low last year, despite still have a good average fly ball distance.  Fenway is actually worse for homers than Dodger Stadium, so the park is actually a detriment here. In fact, only four parks were better for homers in 2014 than Dodger Stadium and two of them are in the AL East, so away from home, HanRam should see some good homer parks. Put all of this together and here's my projected line for Hanley in 2015:

0.295 0.375 0.490 23 90 95 11

Masterson, Miley, and Porcello

Ok, now on to the pitchers. All three of these guys come with inconsistent performances from year to year and were not dominant in 2014. All of them love to let hitters knock worm-burners back at them, with great groundball rates. Check out the table below, which shows each of these guys' stats in 2014 compared to league average for a carefully selected group of stats.

Justin Masterson Wade Miley Rick Porcello League Avg
GB% 58.20% 51.10% 49% 44.80%
xFIP 4.08 3.50 3.68 3.74
SwStr% 9.10% 9.70% 7.40% 9.40%
SPAM Score 5 7 6 4.66
K%-BB% 7.90% 12.50% 10.50% 12.70%

I picked these five stats because they give a good snapshot of a pitcher's true skills. A high groundball percentage is a good way to keep baserunners and pitch counts down. xFIP attempts to take luck out of the equation and normalize BABIP and HR/FB%, which vary significantly from year to year. Masterson was unlucky in some ways last year, since his ERA was 5.5, but a 4.08 xFIP is still not good. Miley and Porcello both had better than average xFIPs, indicating that they were both above average pitchers last year.

Swinging strike percentage indicates how good a pitcher is at getting swings and misses, which is always the most reliable way to get hitters out. K%-BB% is one of the best predictors of pitching performance because Ks are easy outs that don't rely on defense and walks are extra baserunners and run up pitch counts. None of these three did well in K%-BB% last year, so they will all have to improve to do well again.

Wait, what about that SPAM Score? What is that? Well, I'm glad you asked. I don't have room here to get into it, but you can read my post here to find out. Basically, it takes groundball rates and swinging strike rates by pitch type for each pitcher and compares them to league averages. The higher the score, the better.

I believe Miley has the most upside of this group and is the best fantasy investment for 2015. He has the best pitch mix and the best strikeout stuff, with above average swinging strikes on three pitches (thus the higher SPAM score). Porcello should be solid and predictable, but his lack of Ks limits his upside and he probably finishes the season giving you about what you expected, which is mediocre.

Masterson is the wild card. Masterson's 2013 breakout (3.33 xFIP, 195 Ks, 14.9% K%-BB%) gives him the chance to have a huge year, but last year his walk rate got worse, he wasn't healthy, he didn't get strikeouts as often, and lefties really hit him hard. He has always had trouble with southpaws since he mainly throws a sinker/slider mix and doesn't have a good pitch to get lefties with. He is definitely the risk/reward pick of this bunch, since he will be very cheap on draft day (last round, undrafted?) with that tantalizing 2013 season as his upside. Below are my projections for these three hurlers.

Justin Masterson Wade Miley Rick Porcello
ERA 3.8 3.6 3.75
WHIP 1.33 1.36 1.29
Strikeouts 160 170 140
Wins 12 15 15

None of these guys will cost much on draft day and none are going to be aces, but they could definitely provide some surplus value (except Porcello). As a Sox fan, I am hoping for the upside on all three, but they are all probably #3 starters at best. As always, Tschus!