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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
Nolan Arenado down again Wednesday
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12:09 pm ET) Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado is set to sit again Wednesday against the visiting Dodgers with a chest contusion. Rafael Ynoa has been tabbed to man the position.

Arenado was on a 1-for-13 slide before going down.


Hanley Ramirez again a no-go Wednesday
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12:03 pm ET) An elbow strain that prevented oft-injured Dodgers shortstop Hanley Ramirez from playing Tuesday night also has him sidelined Wednesday afternoon in Colorado.

Ramirez, who has missed more than 30 games this season, boasts a stat line of .277/.362/.444. He had nine hits in 17 at-bats before his latest physical setback.


Dee Gordon catching break Wednesday against Rockies
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12:00 pm ET) Red-hot Dodgers second baseman Dee Gordon will cool his heels Wednesday afternoon in Colorado. He is out of the lineup in favor of Darwin Barney, who will also assume his leadoff spot.

Gordon owns a 10-game hitting streak with seven multi-hit games. He is 18 of 41 during that stretch with 14 runs scored and four stolen bases.


Brad Peacock start Friday pushes Dallas Keuchel back a day
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(11:49 am ET) Astros right-hander Brad Peacock, who lost his Monday start to back soreness, has returned to the rotation, thanks to a pain-free bullpen session Tuesday. He is set to start Friday night against Seattle, the Houston Chronicle has reported.

The move pushes ace lefty Dallas Keuchel back to Saturday, giving him an extra day of rest.


Steve Pearce could be in line for occasional break
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(11:39 am ET) The promotion of prospect Christian Walker could mean a bit of rest for blossoming Orioles first baseman Steve Pearce downt the stretch after the team clinched the American League East title Tuesday night, per the Baltimore Sun.

Pearce has received more significant playing time than at any point in his major league career. He has been particularly hot lately with eight hits, including two home runs, in the last 17 at-bats. Despite having made his debut in 2007, his 320 at-bats this year nearly doubles his previous single-season high.


Yonder Alonso seeking return to Padres next year
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(11:32 am ET) Padres shelved first baseman Yonder Alonso is hoping he will be asked back in 2015 after losing the last seven weeks of this season to a wrist injury that required surgery.

"I don't deal with the business side of it, but I think we have really good people here, really good guys that make really good decisions (as far as) the guys that came in," Alonso told the San Diego Union-Tribune. "They know the game, they know baseball and they know what I can bring."

What Alonso brought this year was a stat line of .240/.285/.397 and seven home runs in 267 at-bats. He finished with a flourish with 11 hits in his last 17 at-bats, including two taters.

Alonso could be non-tendered next season in his first year of arbitration eligibility.


Rusney Castillo not much help this year
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(11:31 am ET) Rusney Castillo's debut for the Red Sox Wednesday night in Pittsburgh shouldn't create the mad dash to the waiver we're used to seeing for midseason callups. If you play in a traditional weekly league, you have just one more opportunity to set a lineup, and nothing he does in the next five days would compel you to switch from what you already have (outside of AL-only leagues, of course, where he's probably been owned since the day he signed).

And I suspect it won't be so noteworthy anyway. Other than the 22 at-bats he got during the minor-league playoffs, he hasn't played competitive baseball in over a year. And now, he's competing against the best the world has to offer.

But his arrival is still welcome news in Fantasy. Often, the most difficult players to assess going into a new season are the ones imported from overseas, where the competition is questionable and the available scouting reports are limited. The Red Sox are removing much of the mystery by giving us this sneak peak.

So what would be a successful debut for Castillo? My latest post to the Fantasy Baseball Today blog discusses just that. Be sure to give it a look.


Offseason back surgery an option for Angel Pagan
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(11:22 am ET) The bulging disk that has plagued Giants center fielder Angel Pagan much of the year could require offseason surgery, per the San Francisco Chronicle.

That, however, is one of several options.

Pagan missed his second straight game Tuesday with the back issue. Bruce Bochy is hoping to plug him back in Wednesday as the team continues its fight for a playoff spot. Pagan has been one of the team's most dependable players when healthy. He owns a stat line of .302/.342/.391 with 56 runs scored in 381 at-bats.


Start schedule down stretch undecided for Chris Sale
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(11:09 am ET) Robin Ventura has yet to decide if White Sox super southpaw Chris Sale will make two or three starts before the season ends, per the Chicago Tribune.

Sale is set to pitch Wednesday night in Kansas City. He is also slatedt to start next week in Detroit, but it has yet to be decided if he will pitch again. The White Sox could go with a six-man rotation down the stretch.

The ace lefty is 12-3 with a 1.99 ERA and could use every win possible to give him the best shot to win the American League Cy Young Award.


Blake Treinen in, Gio Gonzalez out as Wednesday starter
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(10:58 am ET) The clinching of a division title Tuesday night could result in sweeping changes in the Nationals lineup Wednesday in Atlanta. Starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez has already been scratched in favor of Blake Treinen.

Treinen started five games in May and June with great success. He yielded just eight runs in 26 2/3 innings and owns a 2.35 ERA on the year despite a 1-3 record.


 
 
 
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