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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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