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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
Red Sox's Henry Owens impresses during camp
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1:19 am ET) Red Sox pitcher Henry Owens impressed during batting practice recently, according to the Boston Herald

Owens hadn't faced big league hitters since last spring training, and had something to prove. While Owens didn't have great fastball command during the session, his changeup was spot on. 

"Great deception, hard to pick up," catcher Ryan Hanigan said. "He got me on the changeup today because you can’t see the spin. It looks just like his fastball. That’s a huge advantage."

Pitching coach Juan Nieves agreed, but said he wasn't sure whether Owens was ready for the majors just yet. "Is anybody ready to come to the big leagues?" Nieves said. "I don’t know. We don’t know until they get there and experience the competition."

The 22-year-old Owens enters the year as the team's second-best prospect according to Baseball America. He posted a 2.94 ERA over two minor-league levels last year. 


Brewers GM confident Jean Segura will bounce back
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(2/28/2015) Brewers general manager Doug Melvin expressed confidence Saturday that shortstop Jean Segura will bounce back after a subpar 2014 season, the Journal Sentinel reports.

"I'm pretty confident he's going to bounce back," Melvin said. "He had a very good September. He had a lot of stuff going on last year. But everybody says he's a much happier person and everything. He's a good, athletic player that we need."

After delivering a .294 average, smacking 12 home runs and stealing 44 bases in 2013, Segura hit just .246/.289/.326 with five home runs, 31 RBI and 20 stolen bases in 513 at-bats in 2014.


Brewers' Dontrelle Willis making a good impression in camp
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(2/28/2015) Brewers pitcher Dontrelle Willis has made a favorable impression during camp, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

In particular, Willis has impressed manager Ron Roenicke. "He's got a great attitude," Roenicke said. "The things he said are exactly what you want a player to say. He gets it." Willis has also made a strong impression on his new teammates.

Willis, 33, has not pitched in the majors since 2011. He's attempting to make a come back with the Brewers this spring. 


Blue Jays' Michael Saunders: 'No pain' day after surgery
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(2/28/2015) Blue Jays outfielder Michael Saunders said Saturday that he's feeling no pain one day after undergoing knee surgery, the Toronto Sun reports.

"I feel great," Saunders said. "I couldn’t believe it when I woke up this morning and I was walking around just fine. I walked out of surgery just fine. I actually started doing some exercises today and just got checked out by the doctor and he was pleasantly surprised with what he saw. There’s not as much swelling as he originally thought. Everything is checking out so far and everything is good news. No pain. It feels like I banged my knee on a pole and it’s a tiny bit swollen."

Saunders suffered a torn meniscus while tracking a foul ball Wednesday, tripping over a sprinkler head and hearing a popping sound. After initially being told he could need to have the meniscus repaired, a procedure that carries a recovery time of three-to-five months, Saunders had the torn portion of the meniscus removed, which places him on track to return to action within six weeks. While the outfielder is excited to be back on the field in a much shorter time, he indicated he'll be cautious with his rehab.

"I’m going to miss some spring training but it could be a lot worse," Saunders said. "My ligaments are intact. For me this is the best-case scenario. I’m going to do everything I can to make sure I’m ready to go. I’d love to say that I’ll be ready opening day. That’s my goal. But we’re targeting more mid-April, on the safe side. At the end of the day I have to listen to my knee. It’s a long season. I’m going to get this right the first time and not rush back."


Athletics' Doolittle hoping to throw in a week or two
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(2/28/2015) Athletics reliever Sean Doolittle is hoping to be cleared to throw in a week or two, according to the San Francisco Chronicle

Doolittle was able to participate in strength tests on Saturday, and the results were positive. He has not been cleared to throw just yet, but is hoping that will come shortly. Doolittle has been sidelined by a shoulder injury during the start of camp. 

The 28-year-old posted a 2.73 ERA over 62 2/3 innings last year. 


Rays release OF Josh Sale
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(2/28/2015) The Rays have released outfielder Josh Sale, Baseball America reports.

Sale was suspended for use of performance-enhancing drugs in 2013 as well as for conduct detrimental to the team that same season. He received a 50-game suspension last August for a second positive test for a drug of abuse. Before his most recent suspension, he hit .238/.313/.344 with four home runs and 46 RBI in 323 at-bats with high Class A Charlotte.


Yankees' Cashman downplays Bailey's chances of making team
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(2/28/2015) Yankees general manager Brian Cashman downplayed reliever Andrew Bailey's chances of making the 25-man roster, according to the Journal News.

Bailey, 30, is attempting to come back from a shoulder injury. He has not pitched in the majors since 2013 due to the issue. While Bailey has been able to participate in bullpen sessions this spring, Cashman took a more realistic view of the situation. "It’s one of those things where, non-roster situation, it’s a flyer, and the odds are against it," Cashman said. "And it didn’t work out for us last year. But because of who he is, his makeup, his work ethic, all those things, it made it easier to say, 'All right, let's keep trying,'" he added. 

Cashman stressed that while things look good now, the team wants to see how Bailey will respond in game situations. Bailey, meanwhile, has been optimistic during camp, saying he feels like he's finally over his injury.

Bailey posted a 3.77 ERA over 28 2/3 innings back in 2013. 


Hinch: Astros' Torreyes has 'earned every chance to get a look'
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(2/28/2015) Astros infielder Ronald Torreyes checks in at about 5-foot-6 and 130 pounds, but his success at avoiding strikeouts has manager A.J. Hinch ready to give him a chance at showing what he can do this spring, the Houston Chronicle reports.

"You like to see these guys play," manager A.J. Hinch said. "He can look to our starting lineup at the top or hitting first or second and he’ll see a guy who is pretty successful who is not the biggest guy in the world. I see a unique size for this level, but the way he’s hit and the way he’s performed he’s earned every chance to get a look."

Torreyes was added to the team's 40-man roster in November after hitting .298/.345/.376 with two home runs, 46 RBI and 12 stolen bases in 460 at-bats with Triple-A Oklahoma City in 2014.

"He doesn’t look like a ballplayer because he’s little like me, but he’s a young bull," Astros second baseman Jose Altuve said. "He hits a lot and plays good defense. Last year they put him on the 40-man roster because he has a good chance to help us. There aren’t many players like him so skinny and little in the big leagues, so when you see him for the first time you say, 'You know he has to be good to be here.' Then when you see him hit you realize the organization has a good reason to give him this opportunity."

Torreyes will look for an opportunity to latch on as a utility player this spring. He's capable of seeing work at second base, shortstop and third base as well as in left field and center field.


Yoga has Twins' Trevor May 'much fresher than ever before'
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(2/28/2015) Twins starting pitcher Trevor May has looked to improve flexibility coming into his competition for a rotation spot this spring by turning to yoga to help repeat his delivery, the Star Tribune reports.

"I’ve been doing yoga for 30 or 40 minutes every morning, and I’m much fresher than ever before," May said. "Every scouting report I’ve ever seen on myself says, 'Has trouble repeating his delivery.' Well, yoga is literally repeating moves, keeping your body under your control. I do the warrior pose, which is [the same as] striding and throwing a baseball. It has to help."

May initially struggled in his major-league debut last season, but he hopes the perseverance he showed and his improvements near the end of the season help set him apart in the battle for a rotation spot this spring.

"Obviously I don’t know exactly what the people who are making decisions are thinking, but showing I can be successful after having my face beat up for two months, showing I can work through it, it’s a trait you have to have," May said. "I take pride in the fact that I didn’t give up. I didn’t let it get me down."


Twins 1B Joe Mauer happy with 'normal' offseason
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(2/28/2015) Twins first baseman Joe Mauer was happy to have a "normal" offseason after dealing with concussion-like symptoms the previous year, MLB.com reports.

"I had a very productive offseason," Mauer said Saturday. "The last couple years I had a lot of things to deal with, especially last year with the concussion. I didn't really get a good base heading into the year. I feel great this year and I hope it stays that way."

Mauer believes that his vigorous stretching exercises this offseason will help keep him healthy in 2015.

"You have to pay attention to your body. I'm getting older," Mauer said. "I'm finding out what works and doesn't work. Trying to make adjustments."

Manager Paul Molitor indicated that he's noticed a difference in Mauer this spring.

"I think it means a lot for him," Molitor said. "I think coming back last year after what had happened the previous season, you always have those questions. He's got friends that have gone through it with Corey Koskie and Justin [Morneau]. We all know how validated our concern is over concussion issues. I'm sure there was a little hesitancy there. Like I said when I had a chance to visit with him this winter, he's excited to be back and not have to be concerned about those type of things."

Mauer endured a down offensive performance last season, hitting .277/.361/.371 with just four home runs in 455 at-bats.


 
 
 
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