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2016 Team Previews: Boston Red Sox

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Throughout the long, cold offseason, I am doing team by team previews to get you ready for the 2016 fantasy baseball season. Today it's my beloved BoSox.

The 2015 Red Sox were disappointing, but these four guys and others still have tons of fantasy value
The 2015 Red Sox were disappointing, but these four guys and others still have tons of fantasy value
Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to my 2016 fantasy team previews. I will be breaking down 2016 prospects for the relevant fantasy players on all 30 teams, one team at a time. Check back throughout the offseason for new team previews. You can catch up on old ones in my archive (here) or in the section (here). Because there are 30 teams to cover in limited time, I have to get started now, even though there will certainly be some trades that move players around and open up larger roles for existing players. Also, free agents and guys that moved midseason will be analyzed with one of the teams they played for, even though they likely (or definitely) won't be on that team in 2016 so they don't get missed. Hopefully you can bear with me on those issues and remember that these were written before those trades occurred.

I am starting at the bottom of the standings and working my way up. In each team preview, I will attempt to follow the same layout. First, there will be two tables of stats for hitters (showing stats acquired while playing for this team; traded players will be missing some stats) followed by quick analysis of the most fantasy relevant of those hitters (relevance at my discretion). After that, two tables for the pitching stats and some pitcher analysis. I will then present one breakout player (aka sleeper) and one breakdown player (or bust, if you prefer) for the team. Got it? Ok, let's get started.

Boston Red Sox

Hitters

Name Position PA HR R RBI SB CS BB% K% AVG OBP SLG
Mike Napoli 1B 378 13 37 40 3 1 11.90% 26.20% 0.207 0.307 0.386
Travis Shaw 1B, 3B* 248 13 31 36 0 1 7.30% 23.00% 0.274 0.331 0.491
Dustin Pedroia 2B 425 12 46 42 2 2 8.90% 12.00% 0.291 0.356 0.441
Brock Holt 2B, 3B, OF, SS* 509 2 56 45 8 1 9.00% 19.10% 0.28 0.349 0.379
Pablo Sandoval 3B 505 10 43 47 0 0 5.00% 14.50% 0.245 0.292 0.366
Blake Swihart C 309 5 47 31 4 2 5.80% 24.90% 0.274 0.319 0.392
Ryan Hanigan C 201 2 28 16 0 0 10.00% 19.40% 0.247 0.337 0.328
Sandy Leon C 128 0 8 3 0 1 5.50% 21.90% 0.184 0.238 0.202
David Ortiz DH 614 37 73 108 0 1 12.50% 15.50% 0.273 0.36 0.553
Jackie Bradley Jr. OF 255 10 43 43 3 0 10.60% 27.10% 0.249 0.335 0.498
Alejandro De Aza OF 178 4 23 25 3 1 6.70% 20.20% 0.292 0.347 0.484
Mookie Betts OF 654 18 92 77 21 6 7.00% 12.50% 0.291 0.341 0.479
Shane Victorino OF 106 1 10 4 5 0 8.50% 13.20% 0.245 0.324 0.298
Rusney Castillo OF 289 5 35 29 4 5 4.50% 18.70% 0.253 0.288 0.359
Hanley Ramirez OF, SS* 430 19 59 53 6 3 4.90% 16.50% 0.249 0.291 0.426
Xander Bogaerts SS, 3B* 654 7 84 81 10 2 4.90% 15.40% 0.32 0.355 0.421

Name BABIP LD% GB% FB% HR/FB SwStr% Soft% Med% Hard% ESPN Player Rater
Mike Napoli 0.252 16.50% 44.60% 39.00% 14.40% 10.30% 22.50% 48.50% 29.00% 0.56
Travis Shaw 0.31 19.90% 37.40% 42.70% 17.80% 9.00% 20.50% 50.30% 29.20% 0.44
Dustin Pedroia 0.308 17.70% 50.50% 31.80% 11.30% 5.10% 18.00% 56.30% 25.80% 2.24
Brock Holt 0.35 23.80% 52.70% 23.50% 2.40% 5.50% 18.00% 55.80% 26.20% 2.12
Pablo Sandoval 0.27 18.80% 48.90% 32.30% 7.80% 10.20% 21.50% 54.00% 24.50% -0.13
Blake Swihart 0.359 26.70% 45.70% 27.60% 8.60% 9.70% 20.70% 52.60% 26.80% 0.60
Ryan Hanigan 0.306 24.30% 52.20% 23.50% 6.30% 6.00% 16.10% 59.90% 24.10% -2.15
Sandy Leon 0.244 18.80% 44.70% 36.50% 0.00% 6.80% 29.40% 56.50% 14.10% #N/A
David Ortiz 0.264 22.40% 36.70% 41.00% 20.40% 9.80% 11.80% 46.60% 41.60% 7.32
Jackie Bradley Jr. 0.31 15.60% 48.10% 36.40% 17.90% 12.50% 16.70% 51.30% 32.10% 0.57
Alejandro De Aza 0.352 22.30% 41.30% 36.40% 9.10% 10.00% 10.20% 57.80% 32.00% 1.14
Mookie Betts 0.31 19.50% 38.20% 42.40% 8.20% 5.40% 16.10% 52.80% 31.20% 8.95
Shane Victorino 0.278 23.80% 35.00% 41.30% 3.00% 6.40% 30.90% 54.30% 14.80% -2.23
Rusney Castillo 0.298 13.20% 63.50% 23.30% 9.80% 11.70% 22.60% 54.30% 23.10% -0.53
Hanley Ramirez 0.257 20.40% 50.00% 29.60% 19.20% 9.10% 24.30% 44.60% 31.10% 2.72
Xander Bogaerts 0.372 21.50% 52.70% 25.80% 5.30% 9.10% 21.00% 51.70% 27.20% 7.78

*Will lose this eligibility in 2016

**The ESPN player rater is based on a player's standard 5 x 5 category performance relative to average. A score of 0 is replacement level and negative values mean the player is actually hurting your team. Values in the 1-2 range generally are for your worst starting player, unless you are unlucky. There are no positional adjustments, though, so shortstops and catchers will often have very low scores relative to everyone else. It is normalized so that guys with little playing time can be compared to guys that played all year.

Analysis

Well, we've reached my own favorite franchise. It took longer than you might've thought to get to them. They were awful in the first half, but actually improved in the second half and finished in the middle of the pack when you look at the whole league. There are clearly signs of hope here with a young core.

I'll try to keep these analyses short, since I could write about this team for...um...a long time? Anyway, first up is the now-departed Napoli. I'm not quite sure what Texas is doing with Moreland and Prince already there, but initial reports show Moreland leaving via trade and Napoli sticking around. Regardless, Napoli had an awful season last year. Some could have been due to injury, but he just didn't look like himself. His low BABIP hurt him, but he also didn't have a good hard hit%. I'm not interested in betting on a rebound at the very deep 1B position.

So, Travis Shaw would be an average replacement for Napoli if Hanley Ramirez wasn't around. He destroyed expectations last year by demonstrating power unlike anything he had shown before. Scouts gave him a 50 power grade (average), so a 30+ HR pace is probably not sustainable for him. His HR/FB% was well above average and his hard hit% wasn't that great. All that combined with his minor league track record tells me he is more likely a 20-HR hitter with average stats across the board. Steamer projects him for a wRC+ of 101, or just barely above league average. I think that is what he is. Also, he will be a backup to Hanley most likely.

Dustin Pedroia, when he was healthy, put up pretty good numbers. He was hurt, again, but showed signs that his power has at least come back to his career average and his batting average and OBP are still assets. Hitting second or third in that lineup is a good position for a second baseman. He will likely be overlooked in most drafts, but I still like him because he doesn't really hurt you in any category (unless he himself gets hurt). There aren't many second basemen with average power, great walk rates, and great batting averages. His speed is probably gone (likely only 6 steals or so from now on), so he can't compete with Dee Gordon or Jose Altuve and his power isn't enough to keep up with Cano. He is basically in the same category as Ian Kinsler, just below Brian Dozier in that 5-7 range among second basemen.

Brock Holt! (\o/) did basically what Pedroia did at multiple positions and with less power. Holt has very little power and relied on a 0.350 BABIP to keep up with Pedroia's average. All this gives me little optimism for Holt in 2016. He has no starting job right now, has downside in his average, little power upside, and really only offers positional flexibility and a good OBP. Oh, and he loses SS eligibility in most leagues.

So, I kind of recommend Pablo Sandoval as a sleeper coming into 2015. Oops. My bad. See, I thought Fenway would play into his strengths, boost his doubles and RBIs, while maintaining his average. Basically, none of that happened and he was a disaster. He was so bad that even though he has to be better in 2016, I just can't recommend him. I have no idea what to expect from him and am staying away. For the team's sake, I hope he is at least average.

As for the catchers, there really isn't much to say from a fantasy perspective. Swihart has the most upside, but he didn't really show me enough outside of two-catcher leagues to say he will be worth a roster spot in 2016. He should hit for average, but the power is still questionable. Further, Christian Vazquez will be back and they will probably split time behind the plate. That limits them both, even though Swihart is the only one we care about in fantasy. Long term, I could see Swihart turning into A.J. Pierzynski: an average power, high batting average catcher. This year, keep your expectations low. Remember it took a 0.359 BABIP to keep him afloat in 2015.

David Ortiz refuses to age. 2016 is the end of the road for him, but I see no reason to expect anything different than 2014 or 2015. Despite the DH-only status, he is very valuable in fantasy, and often overlooked.

As a Sox fan, I really want to believe that Jackie Bradley Jr. has figured out hitting. But I still see a hitter with little discipline (team-high 12.5% SwStr% and 27% K%) and a guy that struggled mightily in 2013 and 2014. I'm still burned by how awful he looked those years and he did look good in AAA and MLB in 2015, so maybe I'm just pessimistic. He does walk a lot and seems to have at least average power (maybe better). I'm really torn on this guy. I don't see anything in his stats that's enough to swing me one way or another, but the strikeouts do worry me. Steamer basically just takes his awful years and his good year and ends up in between at a wRC+ of 97, with 12 homers and 9 steals, with a 0.257/0.327/0.406 slash line. That seems reasonable, I guess, but I don't know what to think.

This season will tell us a lot about what to expect in the future. This is the riskiest hitter on this team. He could be an asset to your team or a waste of resources. I'm leaning towards staying away for now because I need to see more. I wouldn't blame you for betting on upside and hoping for the best, though. Also, with Chris Young now in Boston, Bradley will likely platoon with the righty Young. This will cut down on his at-bats. Finally, the bulk of JBJ's production came during one insane hot streak, followed by a cold streak.

Alejandro de Aza had a great small sample in Boston in 2015, but he remains a 4th outfielder on the strong side of a platoon, wherever he signs and is basically a league average hitter.

I've written too much already, so I won't linger here. Mookie Betts is awesome, my favorite player in MLB, and a top 15 fantasy OF. He's one of the safest hitting options around: 20 HR, 25 SB, good average and OBP, 100 runs scored, are all easily attainable.

I think it is safe to ignore Shane Victorino at this point in his career. I don't even know what team he is on. {checks fangraphs} Apparently he is a free agent after being with the Angels. Huh.

Rusney Castillo still has some upside as he learns the U.S. game after only one year away from Cuba, but he didn't look good. He showed a little of his power/speed combo, but holy groundballs, Batman! 63% grounders? That's awful. He had a terrible hard hit% also. Drafting him is a bet on his upside, but there are no guarantees. He supposedly could do 15 homers, 25 steals, but I need to see more before I believe it. He's 28, so there isn't much time for a breakout.

Oh Hanley. Your defense was a source for endless laughter this year, in between fits of crying. Only you could make Raul Ibanez and Manny Ramirez look like Gold Glove outfielders. Other than an all-star April, your hitting was also terrible. Maybe the move to first will help his offense. He's still very capable of 25 HR in a full season and he was hurt by a career-low BABIP. I fully expect the average and walk rates to bounce back to his career norms. Steamer says 19 homers and 8 steals, which seem very reasonable, but I might go with 23 homers. He will be 1B and OF eligible most of next season, so he will be ownable, but not the fantasy star he was at short.

Speaking of shortstops, Xander had a big year. His power is still strangely missing and his walk rate is still curiously low. His 0.372 BABIP propelled his 0.320 average. I think he's young and quick enough that his BABIP could be 0.320 or so, but 0.372 isn't sustainable. That puts his average down to 0.270-0.280. He's going to need to develop some power to stay valuable. If he starts hitting more fly balls and gets luckier with his HR/FB ratio, I think he could hit 15 homers. That would certainly offset a drop in average. Fun fact: he finished as the #1 shortstop on ESPN. That surprised me. He blew away Correa and Elvis Andrus??? and Yunel Escobar???? What a weird list. Anyway, despite some regression in average, I can see another top-5 SS finish for Xander.

The very deep Sox farm system has little to offer in 2016-ready hitters. 2017 looks like a great class with Benintendi, Moncada, Devers, Sam Travis and others. If Benintendi or Moncada are called up this year, they are must-own. Both look like fantasy goldmines. Follow the talk to see if a spot on the MLB roster might open up for these guys and stash them. Sean Coyle could be up in 2016, but with no position open and limited upside, I don't think he's going to do much.

Pitchers

Name Position IP ERA FIP xFIP WHIP BABIP LOB% GB% SwStr%
Koji Uehara RP 40.1 2.23 2.44 3.52 0.92 0.248 70.10% 27.00% 18.60%
Heath Hembree RP 25.1 3.55 5.58 5.29 1.34 0.26 88.90% 27.20% 8.90%
Tom Layne RP 47.2 3.97 3.89 4 1.43 0.292 73.00% 54.70% 8.50%
Alexi Ogando RP 65.1 3.99 5.32 4.54 1.33 0.26 83.30% 42.10% 11.20%
Junichi Tazawa RP 58.2 4.14 3.05 3.73 1.33 0.349 70.80% 40.30% 11.60%
Craig Breslow RP 65 4.15 5.27 5.07 1.42 0.289 79.00% 35.10% 10.10%
Jean Machi RP 23 5.09 5.26 3.98 1.26 0.246 68.20% 47.10% 10.70%
Matt Barnes RP 43 5.44 5.23 4.39 1.65 0.351 74.50% 38.80% 9.50%
Robbie Ross RP, SP* 60.2 3.86 4.02 3.64 1.3 0.295 74.80% 49.70% 9.20%
Clay Buchholz SP 113.1 3.26 2.68 3.3 1.21 0.329 70.40% 48.30% 10.60%
Eduardo Rodriguez SP 121.2 3.85 3.92 4.05 1.29 0.289 74.20% 43.00% 7.80%
Wade Miley SP 193.2 4.46 3.81 4.08 1.37 0.307 69.70% 48.80% 8.30%
Henry Owens SP 63 4.57 4.28 5.01 1.37 0.293 68.20% 34.70% 12.20%
Joe Kelly SP 134.1 4.82 4.18 4.08 1.44 0.32 69.30% 45.60% 7.50%
Rick Porcello SP 172 4.92 4.13 3.72 1.36 0.332 67.50% 45.70% 8.50%
Justin Masterson SP, RP 59.1 5.61 4.89 4.72 1.6 0.339 70.40% 51.90% 7.00%
Rich Hill SP, RP* 29 1.55 2.27 2.5 0.66 0.197 87.90% 48.40% 11.30%
Steven Wright SP, RP* 72.2 4.09 5.01 4.85 1.29 0.252 72.90% 43.20% 9.30%

Name SV HLD K% BB% Soft% Med% Hard% ESPN Player Rater
Koji Uehara 25 0 29.40% 5.60% 24.00% 52.90% 23.10% 4.32
Heath Hembree 0 1 14.20% 8.50% 19.50% 56.10% 24.40% -1.11
Tom Layne 1 9 21.70% 13.00% 22.60% 49.60% 27.80% #N/A
Alexi Ogando 0 12 19.10% 10.10% 17.10% 51.80% 31.10% -0.50
Junichi Tazawa 3 16 22.70% 5.30% 21.50% 50.90% 27.70% -0.36
Craig Breslow 1 1 16.40% 8.20% 19.10% 50.20% 30.60% -1.58
Jean Machi 4 2 20.40% 8.20% 20.00% 45.70% 34.30% -1.35
Matt Barnes 0 3 19.60% 7.50% 15.40% 50.40% 34.30% -2.29
Robbie Ross 6 12 20.50% 7.70% 22.40% 50.30% 27.30% #N/A
Clay Buchholz 0 0 22.80% 4.90% 19.20% 57.20% 23.70% 2.77
Eduardo Rodriguez 0 0 18.80% 7.10% 19.40% 49.20% 31.40% 2.06
Wade Miley 0 0 17.70% 7.70% 18.20% 57.60% 24.20% 1.34
Henry Owens 0 0 18.40% 8.80% 20.50% 52.30% 27.20% -0.87
Joe Kelly 0 0 18.80% 8.40% 19.00% 45.50% 35.60% -0.14
Rick Porcello 0 0 20.20% 5.20% 17.80% 49.40% 32.80% 0.42
Justin Masterson 0 2 18.00% 9.90% 19.30% 55.60% 25.10% -2.43
Rich Hill 0 0 34.00% 4.70% 28.60% 49.20% 22.20% 1.28
Steven Wright 0 0 16.80% 8.70% 21.30% 44.80% 33.90% -0.01

*If they were outside the top 550 pitchers on the player rater, they will show up as #N/A

Analysis

The starting rotation adds a guy you might know named David Price. See the Tigers preview to read more about him, since he was on the Tigers the longest in 2015.

Clay Buchholz looked great once again. And, once again, he got hurt. If only he could stay healthy for a full season, he would be a great #2 pitcher. If you can get him cheap due to the injuries (he had elbow problems that aren't requiring TJ surgery right now), I think he's a good option for filling out your rotation. When he was healthy he looked very strong across the board. He did well in all the stats I usually look at.

I wish Eduardo Rodriguez had given us more to be excited about. He is still very young, but the ERA, xFIP, SwStr%, K%, WHIP, and GB% were all below average. That is not exciting at all. Drafting him is betting on the scouting, which loved him and not on his 2015 line. Right now, he's got a good changeup and a mid-90s fastball. That's it.

I'm avoiding Wade Miley. He also didn't show me anything last year and doesn't have the youth of Rodriguez. Perhaps that's too harsh. He did get 48% ground balls and was hurt by a 69% strand rate. Still, for fantasy purposes, there isn't enough to overcome the risk.

Henry Owens is the type of pitcher I love. Good command, a killer change-up, and deception on his fastball making it feel faster than it is. He also got a 12.2% whiff rate, which is reliever-like. Here's the problem: he was bad at everything else. He was hurt by strand rate just like Miley (and Kelly and Porcello, wow how unlucky was this rotation?). I see improvement for both Rodriguez and Owens in 2016, but neither is really draftable. Also, Owens is no guarantee for a rotation spot with Price in town.

Joe Kelly needs to be in the bullpen. Rick Porcello needs more luck and more ground balls and he can easily return to his 2014 production (3.43 ERA, 3.67 FIP, 3.68 xFIP). His strikeouts were up at a career high, as was his K%-BB%. His SIERA of 3.73 is at least average. Even though I expect a return to better times for him in 2016, he is still just a streamer in most fantasy leagues. He just doesn't have much upside.

Rich Hill is now in Oakland and might just be a rare case of a 35-year-old pitcher breaking out. It's a very small sample, but everything looks legit. The strikeouts and whiffs are there. The only red flags are the strand rate at 88% and the 0.197!! BABIP. Those will regress quite a bit. That should bring his ERA to a much more reasonable 3.5 range or so. With strikeouts, in a pitcher's park, a 3.50 ERA is useful in fantasy. He could be an interesting late draft pickup.

The fantasy relevance in the bullpen is basically the newly-acquired Kimbrel (detailed with the Padres team preview) and the rapidly aging, but still production Koji Uehara. Koji still gets whiffs at an elite level and should serve as a very good setup man to Kimbrel. He could rack up a lot of holds if he stays healthy.

Like with the hitters, the best prospects are in the lower minors. Brian Johnson is the only one close to the majors. He made one forgettable start last year for Boston. He has the upside of a #3 starter, but will probably start in AAA. He should be monitored, but there are much better pitching prospects on other teams to focus on for fantasy.

Breakout

Henry Owens

Look, I know what I said above. I still think he isn't draftable because he won't have a rotation spot, but someone will get hurt, that is a guarantee. Once he's up, I think he stays and uses his great repertoire to fool hitters and improve significantly on 2015. His swinging strike rates on all four pitches are above average. That is hard to do and a good sign. There are a number of Sox that could be here including JBJ and E-Rod, but Owens is my pick to surprise.

Breakdown

Rusney Castillo

I think there is still too much hype surrounding him and despite a mediocre debut, people have Starling Marte-like visions for him. I don't see him getting to that production, at least not in 2016. The price is probably too high for this guy. He said with a sigh. That's no lie. It's time for this bit to die.

Check back soon for the next team preview as we keep moving up the standings. Tschus!