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Thursday, March 3, 2016

2016 FANTASY BASEBALL AROUND THE CAMPS: BOSTON RED SOX

By Michael Wong

Fort Myers, Fla.--The Boston Red Sox were the talk of the 2014 Hot Stove Season as they looked to rebuild on the fly off a terrible team performance the previous year.  Part that plan was giving monster free agent dealts to third baseman Pablo Sandoval and outfielder/shortstop Hanley Ramirez, while also restructuring the rotation with affordable but somewhat underwhelming arms.  Unfortunately all that work went for naught as the Red Sox crashed and burned to a last place finish in 2015 as both Sandoval and Ramirez flopped and the rotation was arguably one of the most putrid units in all of baseball.  With yet another offseason rebuilding plan needed, the Red Sox finally put money back into the rotation by inking David Price to a blockbuster free agent contract while also pulling off a trade for top closer Craig Kimbrel.  On paper the Red Sox look imposing as they usher in some potential young gems in their outfield but as always let's take a look at some of the themes emanating from camp.

1.  Is Mookie Betts already the best player on the team?  It certainly didn't take Betts long to cement his status as one of the vest best young players in fantasy baseball as he comes off a terrific full season debut in 2015 that saw him bat .291 with 18 home runs and 21 stolen bases.  Betts is well beyond his young age of 23 in terms of possessing an advanced hitting approach as evidenced by his tiny 12.5 perent K rate and solid walk rate.  With burgeoning power that could result in a future 25 home run season, Betts could be primed for a 25/25/.315 season that would place him as a top five outfielder in all fantasy baseball formats already.  There is nothing but good things to say here as Betts is as can't miss as a young hitter can get and he truly is a sky is the limit player.

2.  The Red Sox are now moving Hanley Ramirez to first base?  While it was a nice "coming home" story for the former top Red Sox prospect, the signing of Ramirez is also a big problem for the team as he simply has nowhere to play.  Ramirez has already been shifted from shortstop to the outfield and now to first base for 2016 as he awaits the DH spot with the imminent retirement of David Ortiz.  There was a decent amount of hype regarding Ramirez taking his bat to Fenway Park and he delivered with a monster April before the wheels came off over the summer due to yet more injuries.  With his speed looking almost completely shot and a batting average that continues to drop, Ramirez is aging right before our eyes.  His power remains very good however but that seems to be the only bankable stat here as Ramirez's bodt is starting to give out.  No longer eligible at shortstop, Ramirez has shaky value both in the outfield and at first base given the decline in statistics and the drop in numbers.

3.  Can Jackie Bradley Jr. and Rusney Castillo join Betts in forming a dominant young Red Sox outfield?  Betts deserves most of the attention right now but Bradley Jr. comes off his own semi-breakout during the second half of 2015, while Castillo still is struggling to make his way as a productive Major Leaguer.  Bradley Jr. showed off a nice power stroke last summer but his overall hitting skills are a bit shaky due to a high K rate.  Castillo meanwhile has battled injuries which have taken some bite out of his supreme athleticism and kept him from gaining some needed seasoning.  We are much more bullish on Castillo then Bradley Jr. due to the fact the Cuban has more of a higher ceiling and the post-hype sleeper tag fits here.  Meanwhile Bradley can help but more as a fourth outfielder in fantasy baseball terms. 

4.  Can David Ortiz goes off into the sunset with another impressive power season?  By now we have learned to never doubt Ortiz as he continues to churn out big time power season after seasons despite reaching the age of 40.  2015 was no different as Ortiz cracked 37 home runs and drove in 108 batters.  The average could slip again but Ortiz no doubt can supply at least another 25 home runs and 90 RBI in his last run through the major leagues.

5.  David Price really must like pitching in the AL East?  Apparently as Price has now pitched with the Tampa Bay Rays, Toronto Blue Jays, and Boston Red Sox.  While Price's most optimum fantasy baseball value would have been seen in any other division, he has more than proved himself as a top 5-7 fantasy baseball ace no matter where he throws.  As safe an SP 1 as you can get this season. 


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