If you drafted a player from the Boston Red Sox for your fantasy team last year, he probably underperformed. Nevertheless, I’m expecting many of those disappointments to rebound in 2013 and provide solid production for their fantasy owners. Here’s the projected starting nine and my predictions for them:
C Jarrod Saltalamacchia — Salty emerged into one of best power-hitting backstops in baseball by slugging 25 home runs last year and posting a .232 ISO. His inability to hit lefties prompted GM Ben Cherington to bring in David Ross, who figures to suit up whenever the Red Sox face a southpaw. Nevertheless, another 20-homer season could be in the cards for Salty, and his batting average will improve from last season’s dreadful .222 mark.
59 R, 21 HR, 63 RBI, 0 SB, .238 AVG
1B Mike Napoli — Hip issues aside, the most difficult component of Napoli’s statline to forecast is his batting average. He sandwiched his .320 fluke in 2011 around a pair of sub-.240 seasons. Fenway is a great park for batting average, so I’d expect his average to climb back up to his career .259 mark, if not higher.
66 R, 27 HR, 82 RBI, 2 SB, .260 AVG
2B Dustin Pedroia — Pedroia was on pace for another terrific season last spring before a thumb injury triggered a June swoon and DL stint in July. After returning to action on July 19, the Laser Show lived up to his name by batting .318/.372/.508 the rest of the way. Nobody’s more pissed off about Boston’s embarrassing season than Pedroia, leading me to believe the pint-sized second baseman will come back with a vengeance in 2013.
100 R, 18 HR, 74 RBI, 21 SB, .303 AVG
3B Will Middlebrooks — The combination of a lost Boston Red Sox season (93 losses) and the overwhelming star power of the 2012 rookie class (Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Yoenis Cespedes, Yu Darvish), people forget how well he was playing before an errant pitch broke his hand in mid-August (bringing back painful memories of Jim Rice and Nomar Garciaparra). Before going down, he compiled some impressive numbers, raking at a full-season clip of 32 home runs, 117 RBI, and a batting average close to .300. He’s a hacker (70/13 K/BB ratio) but hits the ball with authority, which should translate to lots of RBI batting out of the five-hole. At 24, he still has room to grow, so these projections may underestimate his potential.
88 R, 25 HR, 94 RBI, 10 SB, .282 AVG
SS Stephen Drew — J.D. Drew‘s kid brother is perhaps the toughest Boston Red Sox player to predict, since he hasn’t played a season uninterrupted by injury since 2010. It doesn’t help that he turns 30 in a couple weeks, either, but shortstop is a thin position in fantasy. If he stays on the field, he could make a run at the top-10.
64 R, 13 HR, 55 RBI, 7 SB, .269 AVG
LF Jonny Gomes — Cherington failed to find an everyday left-fielder to replace Carl Crawford, meaning Gomes will get the lion’s share of at-bats from this position. Expect a Cody Ross-kind of year from the lefty-masher — batting average in the .260s with around 20 bombs, 70 to 80 RBI and a similar number of runs scored.
70 R, 19 HR, 72 RBI, 2 SB, .265 AVG
CF Jacoby Ellsbury — It’s his contract year, Scott Boras is his agent and Ellsbury needs to remind the baseball world of how special he can be when healthy.
102 R, 16 HR, 61 RBI, 42 SB, .301 AVG
RF Shane Victorino — The Flyin’ Hawaiian is coming off a down year, and at 32, his best days are probably behind him. Even so, he’s still a solid fantasy player who can provide plenty of steals and runs along with double-digit homers.
96 R 14 HR 58 RBI, 31 SB, .277 AVG
DH David Ortiz — Even at the ripe old age of 37, Big Papi is one of the most dangerous hitters around. His OPS has increased every year since 2009, jumping from .794 all the way up to 1.026 last year. After openly complaining about his contract status and tumultuous state of the Boston Red Sox last year, he’s a happy camper with his new multi-year contract extension. Ortiz always seems to be at his best when he’s enjoying himself.
85 R, 28 HR, 93 RBI, 0 SB, .294 AVG