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2011 Fantasy outlooks: Boston Red Sox

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The Red Sox finished behind both the Yankees and the Rays for the first time last season, missing out on the playoffs for only the second time in eight seasons.

Injuries made all the difference. Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury and Josh Beckett each missed significant time, forcing relative unknowns like Ryan Kalish, Darnell McDonald, Eric Patterson and Daniel Nava into the lineup for weeks at a time. Considering the level of talent they lost and the amount of time they lost it, the Red Sox seemed a sure bet to improve even if they stood pat.

But they didn't stand pat. As if preparing for the next onslaught of injuries, the Red Sox made arguably the two biggest acquisitions of the offseason in Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez, who should both benefit from the move to a hitter's park. Of course, their contract situations left the Red Sox with no money to re-sign Adrian Beltre or Victor Martinez, but they had replacements ready for both. Kevin Youkilis will move back to third base, where his offense will have more value than at first base, and ex-prospect Jarrod Saltalamacchia will take over at catcher, where he shouldn't have much trouble replacing Martinez's defense even if he continues to disappoint offensively.

The one area the Red Sox didn't address in the offseason was the area that hurt them most last year: their pitching. Of course, with all the big names already in the rotation, they didn't have a clear way of upgrading. More than anything, they need Josh Beckett and John Lackey to return to form. Both had their usual stuff last year and showed improvement down the stretch, so you can expect them to rebound based solely on the law of averages.

But you could say that for the whole team. After a year in which everything that could go wrong did, the Red Sox have nowhere to go but up, and they have enough shiny new pieces to give them a roster overflowing with Fantasy talent.

Bounce-back player ... Josh Beckett, SP

The widespread skepticism over Beckett is baffling considering how easily and predictably he has rebounded from poor performances in the past. When he posted a 5.01 ERA for Boston in 2006, he rebounded with his one and only 20-win season. When he struggled with a 4.03 ERA during an injury-plagued 2008, he rebounded with career highs in innings and strikeouts. His career-worst numbers last year have a perfectly reasonable explanation: He had a strained back most of the year, missing two full months with it. He wasn't beginning any sort of decline at age 30. His velocity was normal; his strikeout rate was normal. He had the same ace stuff as always, which means, barring injury, he should return to the same ace numbers as always, as he has so many times before. Ignore the skeptics. Draft Beckett as your No. 4 starting pitcher and watch him perform like a No. 1.

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Bust ... David Ortiz, DH

Ortiz did a disservice to Fantasy owners by batting .363 with 10 home runs last May. Sure, he won some games for them, reestablishing himself as a Fantasy mainstay after looking like a lost cause in April. But the resurgence could lead Fantasy owners to believe the end is further away than it actually is. It could come any day still. Ortiz is only two years removed from a season in which he hit .238 with the OPS (.794) of a middle infielder, and at age 35, he's old even by DH standards. His increasing strikeout rate indicates his bat is slowing down, and when it reaches its breaking point, his lack of athleticism will leave him nothing to fall back on. Even if he declines by just a little this year, he's not much better than Luke Scott or Hideki Matsui, especially now that his struggles against left-handers could force him into a platoon role. Don't bother with Ortiz unless he falls to you late.

Sleeper ... Jed Lowrie, SS

All of the Red Sox's retooling this offseason left Lowrie without a place to play, which is both bad news and good news in Fantasy. The bad news is Lowrie won't get consistent at-bats coming off a breakout season in which he ranked second in OPS among shortstop-eligible players, behind Troy Tulowitzki and ahead of Hanley Ramirez. The good news is he's still plenty affordable on Draft Day because, hey, nobody wants a backup. The Red Sox infield isn't a model of health, with Adrian Gonzalez, Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis each coming off surgery, and even if they each play 162 games, the Red Sox could ultimately decide Lowrie's bat is too valuable to leave on the bench and make Marco Scutaro their utility infielder instead. Lowrie was a top prospect. Now that he's finally healthy and living up to his potential, he won't go to waste. His opportunity will come, and when it does, you'll be glad you invested a late-round pick in him.

Boston Red Sox Fantasy Outlook
Projected Lineup Pos. Projected Rotation
1 Jacoby Ellsbury CF 1 Jon Lester LH
2 Carl Crawford LF 2 Josh Beckett RH
3 Dustin Pedroia 2B 3 Clay Buchholz RH
4 Adrian Gonzalez 1B 4 John Lackey RH
5 Kevin Youkilis 3B 5 Daisuke Matsuzaka RH
6 David Ortiz DH Alt Tim Wakefield RH
7 J.D. Drew RF
Bullpen Breakdown
8 Jarrod Saltalamacchia C CL Jonathan Papelbon RH
9 Marco Scutaro SS SU Daniel Bard RH
Top bench options RP Dan Wheeler RH
R Jed Lowrie INF RP Bobby Jenks RH
R Mike Cameron OF RP Hideki Okajima LH
Rookies/Prospects Age Pos. 2010 high Destination
1 Jose Iglesias 21 SS Double-A Triple-A
Top prospect by default after Gonzalez trade. Defense should make him a regular, but bat may limit him.
2 Lars Anderson 23 1B Majors Triple-A
Former elite prospect has struggled the last two years but still has time to get career back on track.
3 Anthony Ranaudo 21 SP DNP -- unsigned Class A
Injury allowed top pitching prospect to fall to Boston in draft. Untested in minors but has ace upside.
4 Josh Reddick 24 OF Majors Triple-A
Couldn't find footing in majors last year but could still start someday if he improves plate discipline.
5 Felix Doubront 23 SP Majors Triple-A
Steadily developing lefty could wind up in bullpen for Boston. Other teams would take him as a starter.
Best of the rest: Drake Britton, SP; Stolmy Pimentel, SP; Garin Cecchini, 3B; Junichi Tazawa, SP; Michael Bowden, RP; Yamaico Navarro, SS; Robert Coello, RP; Ryan Westmoreland, OF; Oscar Tejeda, SS; Derrik Gibson, 2B; Che-Hsuan Lin, OF; Michael Almanzar, 3B; Luis Exposito, C; Peter Hissey, OF; Jeremy Hazelbaker, OF; Kolbrin Vitek, OF; and Kyle Weiland, SP.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter . You can e-mail us your Fantasy Baseball questions to DMFantasyBaseball@cbs.com . Be sure to put Team outlooks in the subject field. Please include your full name, hometown and state.

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Player News
Orioles' Manny Machado expects to be ready for spring training
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(4:18 pm ET) Orioles third baseman Manny Machado is progressing through his rehab and says he's "ready to roll" for the upcoming season.

"I have a lot of time to get ready. That is the key: having a regular offseason," Machado said Saturday. "Was doing my rehab in Sarasota and then went to Miami to do my regular weightlifting and get ready for the season. Been exciting. Looking forward to spring training."

Machado has taken part in baseball activities for the past few weeks since having surgery on Aug. 27 after tearing a ligament in his knee.

"It will be awesome," he said of the prospect of having a normal spring. "I'm dying to get back on the field. Spring training is key for a lot of players to get your at-bats and your reps. I think some take it for granted but it's a very big key for success for the year."

Machado hit .278 in 2014 with 12 home runs and 32 RBI for Baltimore.


Bud Norris remains without update for contract extension
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(12:24 pm ET) Orioles pitcher Bud Norris said Saturday nothing has changed between he and the organization for a new contract.

"I haven't heard anything of that," Norris said. "I don't see a reason why I'd want to leave, but that's out of my control."

Norris and the Orioles are preparing for arbitration, when Norris filed for $10.25 million and Baltimore offered $7.5 million. He went 15-8 with a 3.65 ERA and 139:52 K:BB ratio in 165 1/3 innings over 28 starts in 2014.


Orioles' Chris Davis calls using Adderall in 2013 'a moment of weakness'
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(11:56 am ET) Orioles first baseman Chris Davis told reporters Saturday he was denied an exemption for Adderall in 2013 but he took it anyway.

"It was a moment of weakness," Davis said. He was diagnosed with ADD in 2008 and it isn't a performance enhancer for someone who needs it for medical reasons, according to Davis.

"For me, it was off the field, just an everyday life thing," he said. "I was a little overwhelmed, just kind of with everything that was going on with the (oblique) injury. There were a lot of different things that were taking my focus away from baseball. It was a mistake that I wish I could undo, but I can't, so I've just got to move forward."

Davis has one game remaining on his 25-game suspension for amphetamines, which he test posted for in September last year. He finished with a .196 batting average with 26 home runs and 72 RBI.


Report: David Aardsma to throw bullpen next week for teams
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(10:07 am ET) Free-agent pitcher David Aardsma will throw a bullpen session for interested teams next week, according to his agent, Jamie Murphy.

"(Aardsma) is looking to showcase added velocity after a change in mechanics and an extremely intense offseason workout regimen," Murphy told FoxSports.com senior baseball writer Ken Rosenthal.

Aardsma missed the entire 2014 season after suffering a torn adductor muscle. He was last with the Mets in 2013 when he posted a 2-2 record with a 4.31 ERA and 36 strikeouts.


Orioles' Jonathan Schoop trying to cut weight for upcoming season
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(9:37 am ET) Orioles second baseman Jonathan Schoop wants to raise the level of his game for the 2015 season. The 22-year-old is hoping to be more mentally and physically prepared for the grind of the 162-game season.

"My weight is lower than last year. I want to have more range and be faster. Trying to steal some more bases and be faster for the team on the bases to help put more pressure on the defense." Schoop said. "I learned a lot from my teammates. They helped me a lot. One year of experience. I'm better than last year. Mentally and physically, everything. My ups and downs helped me a lot to know myself better too."

Schoop, who hit .209 with 16 home runs and 45 RBI in 2014, is also taking more advice from his teammates about his approach at the plate.

"Be patient. Don't chase too many pitches. Let them throw strikes and swing at strikes. Just have to work on getting better pitches to hit. See how they pitch you. If I can do that, I'll be better," he said. "I worked on everything (this winter). I want to get faster. You have to work on all of it, speed, defense. I want to be a better player than last year."


Twins' Byron Buxton named No. 1 prospect by MLB.com
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:00 am ET) Twins outfielder Byron Buxton was named the top prospect in baseball by MLB.com Friday.

Buxton played just 31 games in 2014 due to wrist and concussion issues and finished with a .240/.313/.405 line along with four home runs, 16 RBI and six stolen bases in 121 at-bats with high Class A Fort Myers. He also went 0 for 3 at the Double-A level. Buxton is making his second straight appearance atop MLB.com's top prospect list.

The rest of MLB.com's top-five prospects (in order) are Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant, Astros shotstop Carlos Correa, Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor and Cubs shortstop Addison Russell. None of the quartet appeared in the top five of last year's MLB.com prospect list, though all four cracked the top 12.


Red Sox designate Drake Britton for assignment
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1/30/2015) The Red Sox designated pitcher Drake Britton for assignment Friday, clearing a roster spot for pitcher Alexi Ogando.

Britton appeared in seven games with the Red Sox in 2014, tossing 6 2/3 scoreless innings while striking out four batters and walking two. He posted a 5.86 ERA and 37:38 K:BB ratio in 58 1/3 innings with Triple-A Pawtucket.


Peter Moylan 'doing fantastic' in return from Tommy John
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1/30/2015) Free-agent pitcher Peter Moylan indicated Friday that he's "doing fantastic" in his return from his second Tommy John surgery, the Houston Chronicle reports.

"I’m doing fantastic, mate. Dropped 35 pounds," Moylan said. “My goal is to be 100 percent by end of spring. Ball is coming out great, though. Probably have to throw for some teams right around the start of spring to gauge interest, but there have already been some nibbles, which is encouraging."

Moylan underwent the procedure last March after receiving a non-roster invitation from the Astros. He's throwing from about 70 percent strength off a mound and in the process of deciding whether to sign a a deal in the near future or after the season begins. He hopes to resume pitching in the big leagues by midseason at the earliest.

Moylan has made 309 appearances since debuting in 2006, compiling a 21-9 record, 2.80 ERA and 213:121 K:BB ratio in 276 innings.


Braves' Shelby Miller: Sinker is 'going to take me to the next level'
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(1/30/2015) Braves starting pitcher Shelby Miller had an up-and-down season with the Cardinals in 2014. He began the season by going 6-2 with a 2.79 ERA before going 2-7 with a 5.11 ERA over his next 16 appearances (15 starts).

Miller, however, was able to finish the season on a high note, going 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA and .190 opponents' batting average over his final seven starts. Miller attributes his success down the stretch to incorporating a sinker into his repertoire, per FOX Sports South.

"I said I'm going to throw some of these, and we'll see where it's at," Miller said of a conversation he had with catcher A.J. Pierzynski before an Aug. 23 start against the Phillies. "It felt good so we just went with it. I started throwing it literally within three days. It's a good pitch that I picked up quick.

"I still need a lot of work with it. I need a lot of work with all my pitches. There's all sorts of ways to get better. But I think that's definitely a pitch that will help me be more efficient and take me deeper into games. That's [the sinker] going to be a huge pitch for me this year that's ultimately going to take me to the next level. Not only that but kind of mixing it all together, becoming more of a complete pitcher more than a thrower."

Miller added he will also begin to work more on his changeup, which he threw just 2.2 percent of the time in 2014, per FanGraphs.com.

"I know [Braves pitching coach] Roger [McDowell] has been known for changeups," Miller said. "A lot of great pitchers have come through this organization, [and] that's a pitch I would love to pick up. I want to be able to throw it more consistently, [and] have a little bit more confidence in it."


Scott Baker agrees to minor-league deal with Yankees
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(1/30/2015) The Yankees agreed to a minor-league deal with pitcher Scott Baker, according to CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman. If Baker makes the major-league roster, he will be paid $1.5 million.

Baker made 25 appearances (eight starts) for the Rangers in 2014, going 3-4 with a 5.47 ERA. He had 55 strikeouts in 80 2/3 innings.


 
 
 
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