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2014 Fantasy Outlooks: Boston Red Sox

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Looking to clean the slate after their previous misadventures in free agency brought them to ruin, the Red Sox jettisoned much of their high-dollar superstar talent at the end of the 2012 season. They turned back to free agency to patch up the resulting holes prior to 2013, but this time, they focused on second-tier players willing to sign shorter, smaller deals. The result was 97 wins and a third World Series title in the last 10 years.

2014 Fantasy Outlooks
A.L. East N.L. East
Orioles Braves
Red Sox Marlins
Yankees Mets
Rays Phillies
Blue Jays Nationals
A.L. Central N.L. Central
White Sox Cubs
Indians Reds
Tigers Brewers
Royals Pirates
Twins Cardinals
A.L. West N.L. West
Astros Diamondbacks
Angels Rockies
Athletics Dodgers
Mariners Padres
Rangers Giants

Though the overhaul helped get the Red Sox over the hump, with players like Shane Victorino and Mike Napoli reinstating themselves as legitimate assets, the holdovers had the greatest impact in Fantasy. Jacoby Ellsbury bounced back from an injury-plagued 2012 with an MLB-leading 52 steals. Jon Lester reunited with former pitching coach John Farrell, now his manager, to recapture top-of-the-rotation form. Koji Uehara got a chance to close full time (but only after Joel Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey went down to season-ending injuries) and became a force of Craig Kimbrel-like proportions, his 0.57 WHIP rating the best ever for a qualifying reliever. Even John Lackey, a non-factor since signing prior to the 2010 season, returned from Tommy John surgery with the kind of numbers that put him in the Cy Young discussion during his time with the Angels.

And the best part is the team remains mostly intact. Ellsbury's move to the Yankees creates a void at the top of the lineup, and Stephen Drew provided no worse than adequate production at shortstop, but most of the players who have given Fantasy owners reason to wonder in the past have an opportunity to continue with the same environment that brought out their best last year. Of course, it won't stop the passage of time, which is particularly noteworthy with heart and soul David Ortiz having turned 38 this offseason. For most of last year's Red Sox, that's the biggest impediment to a repeat performance.

They aim to get younger, though, having ready-made replacements for Ellsbury and Drew in Jackie Bradley and Xander Bogaerts. Though Bradley's upside is in question after his lackluster showing at Triple-A last year, with estimates ranging anywhere from Jon Jay to Shin-Soo Choo, Bogaerts is a superstar waiting to happen, an eventual first-rounder in Fantasy who seemingly can't grow up fast enough at age 21. The Red Sox will also get younger in the starting rotation if they pull the plug on Ryan Dempster, their lone misfire in free agency last year. Either of Felix Doubront and Brandon Workman would be of greater interest to Fantasy owners, with Workman potentially having some mixed-league appeal thanks to his eligibility at relief pitcher.

Impact prospect ... Xander Bogaerts, third base

2014 projected lineup
Player Name Position
1. Shane Victorino RF
2. Daniel Nava LF
3. Dustin Pedroia 2B
4. David Ortiz DH
5. Mike Napoli 1B
6. Xander Bogaerts SS
7. A.J. Pierzynski C
8. Will Middlebrooks 3B
9. Jackie Bradley CF
Bench Grady Sizemore OF
Bench Jonny Gomes OF
Proximity ensures Bogaerts will be one of the first rookies drafted in Fantasy. Unlike George Springer, Archie Bradley and so many of the other big-name prospects expected to contribute this year, his time has already come. But what really sets him apart is the position he plays ... or is going to play, rather. After taking the path of least resistance to the majors last year by spelling the perpetually underwhelming Will Middlebrooks at third base, Bogaerts is in line to become the Red Sox's everyday shortstop, a position where Fantasy owners have too often reduced themselves to Erick Aybar types. Granted, no one knows exactly how Bogaerts will perform at age 21, but if scouting reports count for anything, he profiles as a Troy Tulowitzki type. Of course, first round-type potential sometimes gets off to a Jurickson Profar-like start, but given the alternatives at shortstop at that stage of the draft, it's an appropriate gamble in the middle rounds. Just keep in mind you'll need a fill-in shortstop for that one week when Bogaerts is ineligible at the position.

Bust ... Jake Peavy, starting pitcher

At a time when starting pitching is back on the rise, you have to wonder if Peavy still even measures up. He certainly has the name value and showed as recently as 2012 that he's capable of being a Fantasy asset, but is the reward enough to justify the risk? That 2012 season was an outlier not only it terms of health -- it was his first with at least 180 innings, much less 200, since 2007 -- but also production. And it's not like it earned him a bunch of Cy Young votes. Even counting that season, the last time Peavy averaged a strikeout per inning was 2009. His 7.8 strikeouts per nine innings in four years since would have ranked 33rd among qualifying pitchers last year, and his 1.17 WHIP during that same stretch would have ranked 28th. So realistically, he has the upside of about a top-20 starting pitcher, but with less chance of reaching it than others you could draft in the same range, such as Kris Medlen, Zack Wheeler or even John Lackey.

Buyer beware ... A.J. Pierzynski, catcher

2014 rotation/bullpen
Player Name Throws
1. Jon Lester LHP
2. John Lackey RHP
3. Clay Buchholz RHP
4. Jake Peavy RHP
5. Felix Doubront LHP
ALT Ryan Dempster RHP
Bullpen Breakdown
1. Koji Uehara RHP
2. Edward Mujica RHP
3. Brandon Workman RHP
4. Junichi Tazawa RHP
5. Andrew Miller LHP
Fenway Park: It's a great place for home runs if you bat right-handed, but otherwise, not so much. In fact, the last time Pierzynski played his home games in a venue that didn't enhance his power, Alex Rodriguez had yet to suit up for the Yankees. So while his performance for the Giants in 2003, when he hit .272 with 11 homers and a .729 OPS, was respectable enough, keep in mind 37 is a long way from 27. It may not seem like it with Pierzynski coming off two of his better seasons, but U.S. Cellular Field, where he hit 18 of his 27 home runs in 2012, and Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, where he hit 10 of his 17 last year, have a way of masking wrinkles. Pierzynski is still capable of a respectable batting average and will have a strong supporting cast in Boston, so you shouldn't expect him to fall off a cliff. But losing a few home runs could make all the difference to his mixed-league value, which was only borderline to begin with.

Prospects Report

Even apart from Bogaerts, Bradley and Workman, who should all win roles with the big-league club this spring, the Red Sox have several prospects on the verge of making an impact in the majors. Garin Cecchini, an on-base machine with some yet-to-develop power potential, could step in at third base if Will Middlebrooks' inconsistencies continue. Blake Swihart gives the Red Sox a long-term option at catcher, though like Cecchini, his power is more theoretical than practical at this stage of his development. Second baseman Mookie Betts had a Jackie Bradley-like breakthrough in the lower levels of the minors, flashing power and speed to go along with a tremendous batting eye, but he won't crack the Red Sox lineup unless he finds a new position. Of the three, Cecchini is the only one with any real hope for 2014. As far as starting pitchers go, Allen Webster, Matt Barnes and Henry Owens could all step in this year if the Red Sox burn through the depth they already have in the majors. Owens is the most intriguing of the group, profiling as a future ace.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Scott White at @CBSScottWhite .

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Player News
Brewers' Khris Davis to work on being a patient hitter in 2015
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(2/27/2015) Brewers outfielder Khris Davis realizes he didn't show patience at the plate last year in his first full major-league season, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.

"I built a reputation in the organization of being a patient hitter," Davis said. "I felt like I wasn't a patient hitter at all last year. I was a little eager, wanting to please too much, too early. I found out I'm human."

Davis drew just 32 walks in 549 plate appearances while posting a .299 OBP in 2014, a number far away from his career .392 OBP in the minors.

"He was different last year," manager Ron Roenicke said. "Everybody goes through different phases. Guys change. (His walk total) was too low. He's a guy I think should be fairly patient. He sees pitches well. When he starts getting anxious, he becomes more aggressive and chases more. He realizes it, which is the first step. If you don't realize it and don't listen to other people when they tell you that, then you have issues. You have to have good self-awareness to be a good player. Sometimes these players don't have good self-awareness. But if they had better self-awareness they'd be a better player."

Davis is determined to fulfill the potential that caused the organization to move Ryan Braun to right field before the 2014 season and plug Davis into the regular left-field role.

"I can't thank them enough for having patience with me," Davis said. "I'm going to work it out. When you get here, you want to stay. That's the toughest part at first. I don't think this league has seen the best of me yet. I'm ready to pull that out and prove it day by day. I learned so many lessons there are too many to name."

Davis hit .244/.299/.457 with 22 home runs and 69 RBI in 501 at-bats.


Indians' Francona keeping a close eye on Giovanny Urshela
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(2/27/2015) Indians manager Terry Francona has been keeping a close eye on third-base prospect Giovanny Urshela, who was only recently cleared for a full range of activities after tweaking his knee during winter ball, MLB.com reports.

"He has a tremendous reputation of being a really good defender," Francona said. "I think I've been more wanting to watch his gait, just to make sure he's not favoring that leg. He promised us that, if he was, he'd let us know, but I also know he's a young kid in his first major-league camp."

Urshela suffered the injury on Nov. 15 and has rehabbed the injured knee at the team's spring-training facility in Goodyear, Ariz.

"He's worked really hard to get himself to where he can go through a normal spring," said Indians' director of player development Carter Hawkins. "We're very excited about the spot he's in right now, given the possible outcomes of the injury."

Urshela saw his first action at the Triple-A level in 2014, hitting .276/.331/.473 with 13 home runs and 65 RBI in 395 at-bats with Columbus.


Reds' Brennan Boesch to see time at first base this spring
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(2/27/2015) Reds manager Bryan Price indicated Friday that outfielder Brennan Boesch would see time at all three outfield spots as well as at first base as he competes for a roster spot this spring, MLB.com reports.

"We already know he's a terrific player," Price said of Boesch, who has never played first base professionally. "He kind of got banged up and lost his way a little bit, but I think he feels -- and we feel -- that he's back on top of his game, and maybe his best days are ahead of him."

Boesch said he doesn't see the battle for a reserve outfield role as a "competition."

"I only care about the competition against the pitcher, and that's really as basic as I keep it," Boesch said. "You aren't competing against other players. We're all on the same side here. We're all wearing Red jerseys. Let the chips fall where they may."

Boesch struggled in limited time with the Angels in 2014 but hit .332/.381/.636 with 25 home runs, 85 RBI and 10 stolen bases in 374 at-bats with Triple-A Salt Lake.


Dodgers' Mattingly: Turner has 'put a lot of time in and it shows'
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(2/27/2015) Dodgers infielder Justin Turner earned a nonroster invitation to the team's camp last year and ended up leading the team in batting average, and he's been working on his body like a fiend over the winter, MLB.com reports.

"Going into last year, we felt if he played every day, he'd get in trouble, and we found that out, but this year maybe he can handle more," manager Don Mattingly said Friday. "He's really been diligent about his work, been at Dodger Stadium almost daily. He's put a lot of time in and it shows."

Turner credited strength-and-conditioning coach Brandon McDaniel for his workout success.

"Brandon did everything. He's been a one-man wrecking crew," said Turner. "He and his family deserve the credit. I've been able to establish a routine and train consistently. Before I signed a year ago, I was on my own, going to 24 Hour Fitness, had to coordinate everything myself."

Turner added that he lost 18 pounds this winter through a healthier diet. Mattingly said that he intends to use the infielder at the corner-infield positions and also potentially up the middle.


Nationals' Matt Skole: 'I'm eating healthy and working hard'
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(2/27/2015) Nationals first baseman Matt Skole missed most of 2013 after undergoing Tommy John surgery and struggled at the plate in 2014 but showed up to camp in better shape and will look to rebound in 2015, MLB.com reports.

"This offseason, I had a little more time to work on my body," Skole said. "I really got after it in the weight room. I ate right. I ate healthy. I think that was probably the biggest difference for me. I'm about the same weight as I was. I just leaned out a little bit. I'm eating healthy and working hard."

Skole worked with hitting coordinator Troy Gingrich for a month after the season and learned to keep his hands up in order to hit the ball consistently after having his hands too low during his down 2014 season.

"After taking a year off, it was more difficult than I thought it would be," the left-handed-swinging Skole said. "But coming back, I turned some corners, made some strides as far as getting to know myself as a player and know the things I need to fix. I think everything I did last year was a stepping stone for this year."

Skole hit .241/.352/.399 with 14 home runs and 68 RBI in 461 at-bats with Double-A Harrisburg last season.


Report: Dodgers sign center fielder Travis Witherspoon
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(2/27/2015) The Dodgers signed center fielder Travis Witherspoon to their organization, according to a report from Baseball America

Witherspoon has previously been in the Angels and Mariners organizations. In six years of minor-league ball, Witherspoon has posted a career batting average of .252 with 68 home runs. He hit a minor-league single-season best 15 home runs in 2014 with the Mariners' Single-A affiliate High Desert Mavericks. 


Phillies' Buchanan 'working on being a complete pitcher'
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(2/27/2015) Phillies pitcher David Buchanan is "working on being a complete pitcher," manager Ryan Sandberg said, per the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The team's coaches spoke with Buchanan in the fall about command and pitch sequencing, executing bunts and thwarting would-be base-stealers, and Sandberg noted while examining the players that arrived early that the pitcher had taken the advice to heart.

"My biggest goal [this spring] is to show our front office and our coaches that I can throw the ball over the plate," Buchanan said. "That's one thing I had success with last year. I wasn't walking guys. I was throwing strikes, and that's what I'm known for. That's why I succeeded in the minor leagues; I was throwing strikes. So that's what I want to do this spring training, is continue to do that, pound the zone, force early contact and keep the ball on the ground."

Buchanan is scheduled to pitch the team's Grapefruit League opener Tuesday against the Yankees.


Giants' Bochy: Hunter Strickland 'needs to get a little smarter'
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(2/27/2015) Giants pitcher Hunter Strickland is ready to learn from his mistakes from the tail end of his 2014 season.

Starting strong once he was called up from Double-A Richmond, Strickland gave up six home runs in the postseason. Giants manager Bruce Bochy said the remedy to put Strickland back on track is simple. 

"He needs to get a little smarter," Bochy said, per MLB.com.  

Strickland will be competing for a spot in the bullpen during spring training. His fastball is a strength, though it's a matter of his command improving on the mound. 

"The failures are what make guys better, I feel like," Strickland said. "I feel like they made me better. Just being in tune with yourself and knowing who you are and what you've got to do. In this game, you're not going to make it too far if you don't have confidence. If you don't believe in yourself, who else is going to believe in you?"


Mets' Nieuwenhuis, den Dekker competing for roster spot
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(2/27/2015) Mets left-handed hitters Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Matt den Dekker will be battling for one roster spot this spring, MLB.com reports.

While Nieuwenhuis is out of options, manager Terry Collins indicated that den Dekker has responded to the team's request that he reduce his strikeouts when sent to Triple-A last season.

"We'll just see how it translates this spring into what kind of an offensive player he can be," Collins said of den Dekker. "We know he's got the defensive skills."

Collins said that whichever outfielder shows the most promise will make the initial 25-man roster.

"He plays the game right. He's fearless," Collins said of Nieuwenhuis. "But right now, we've got to get some offense from one of those two guys. Which one of those two guys is going to be able to come off the bench as a pinch-hitter? The best closers in our division are all right-handed, so the left-handed hitter off that bench is going to be a big piece."


Stephen Strasburg wants to stay with Nationals
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(2/27/2015) Though Stephen Strasburg's agent Scott Boras denied a report that he wanted to be traded in January, the right-handed pitcher said himself that he wants to remain with the Nationals and has no issues with the organization. 

"I haven't said anything like that," Strasburg said in an interview with MLB.com. "I don't feel like that. You have to accept it because that's how the system works. It's like they pick up on any little thing and they twist it. Some people want to turn it to see how many clicks they can get on the webpage."

Strasburg is set to be the ace of a deep rotation that looks to be on of the best in baseball this coming season. With the Nationals winning their second divisional title in the past three seasons, Strasburg said he's happy with the organization. 

"It's the team that drafted me. I love the players here, I love D.C. Winning cures everything, that's for sure," Strasburg said. "I'm excited to be part of the resurgence so far. It's great to see the type of players we bring in here every year. The expectations keep going up and up. Hopefully, we can do big things this year."


 
 
 
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