The Best of The Bunch:
Written by Jonathan Leshanski
Published: 23 March 2008
David Ortiz (DH/1B):
Ortiz had an off season last year, only managing to hit .332-35-117 with 116 runs scored. That should keep him ranked among the top 25 hitters in MLB. Batting in the center of the Red Sox lineup should just keep the chances coming - even if Manny Ramirez doesn’t bounce back to form. He is healthy after off-season knee surgery, so those power numbers should climb back up.
Josh Beckett (SP):
The 20 game winner, Beckett is one of the best pitchers in baseball when he can stay healthy. Last year he managed to do that, but he’s had some back spasm issues in Spring Training which could be a cause for concern. Still with the run support he can get from this lineup and the potential to rack up 200 Ks, with a sub 3.5 ERA and 1.22 WHIP he’s one of the top fantasy pitchers out there. Rank him behind Johan Santana and Jake Peavy.
Jonathan Papelbon (CL):
No closer deserves to be a top 25 pick in any league but if there was one who you’d consider it probably would have to be Jonathan Papelbon. Although he expected to be a starter last season he ended up as the team’s closer and he was absolutely dominating: 37 saves, 1.85 ERA, 0.77 WHIP and 84 Ks in 58.1 innings. Expect him to put up the same sort of numbers.
The Second Tier:
Manny Ramirez (OF):
“But…but...but…he’s Manny.” Yes he is, but last season’s numbers .296-20-88 were rather pedestrian compared to a lot of outfielders. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t still have upside at 35 years old, especially after his hardcore workouts at the Athletes Performance Institute in Arizona, and going into a contract year, but don’t overvalue him - he’s a top 40 outfielder, not a top 20 one, don’t overpay for him.
Daisuke Matsuzaka (SP):
His ERA wasn’t stellar at 4.40, and his WHIP at 1.32 might not have blown you away but his 201 strikeouts and 15 wins should jump right out at you. Certainly it wasn’t a bad showing for his rookie campaign. He should be able to build on it and pull those other numbers down to where you’d like to see them.
Mike Lowell (3B):
Lowell is still a very productive player but you’d have to rank him somewhere around the 10th best third baseman available in mixed leagues. That means he’ll be there in the middle rounds if you don’t draft an elite third baseman early. But he is on the wrong side of 30, so some decline is inevitable. After all, last year was a contract year.
The Third Tier:
Dustin Pedroia (2B):
The numbers from last year don’t really tell the tale of how good Pedroia could be one day. However, don’t draft him for that. Draft him because he’ll be hitting at the top of the Sox order and he’ll get lots of runs scored and a solid batting average. If you see a rise in power, consider that a bonus.
Kevin Youkilis (1B):
For a first baseman his power numbers are somewhat lacking but if your league counts OBP or walks he’s someone you’d love to have on your team. He could easily improve his average to .300+ if you need to pump the category.
Jason Varitek (C):
He’s a good catcher but his age and limited number of at bats (he doesn’t catch when Wakefield is on the mound) knock him from the upper tier of catchers. Still he’s a solid option, but one on the decline rather than on the rise like so many others. .250-15-65 sounds about right if he’s healthy.
Julio Lugo (SS):
Lugo could be a sleeper coming into the 2008 season. His value is in his legs which are capable of adding 30-40 steals to your team if you can put up with his average. Expecting that to improve (it fell 41 points last season) is a logical thing to do. The only question is if you’ll get .280 or .240.
Coco Crisp (OF):
The outfielder without a position will certainly raise a lot of interest on the trade market but his fantasy value, until he has a place to play, has taken a big hit. Still with the potential to steal 30 bases, stashing him on a bench until the Sox move him seems a wise move if you can do it.
The Question Marks:
J.D. Drew (OF):
After the worst season of his career last year Drew finally showed a bit of life in the playoffs but it was too little too late for those who clung to him all of last season. That does set him up to be a bit of a sleeper for this year but .275-20-80 would be a great season, and if you doubt he can get there you wouldn’t be the only one. Do you really buy the excuse that Drew’s problems from last season revolved around Ortiz, who hits before Drew, digging too deep of a hole in the batter’s box for Drew?
Curt Schilling (SP):
Will Schilling pitch at all in 2008? That’s probably a safe bet, but how effective he will be is a huge question. There were several opinions on how he should treat his shoulder injury with several opinions recommending surgery, and one saying it could be rehabbed via exercise. Since he would have lost the whole season to surgery the BoSox pushed him to take the latter option. He’ll be back at some point, but probably not before midseason, and even then he’s a risk.
Tim Wakefield (SP):
The only thing harder than catching a knuckleballer is predicting him. At 41, with two injury plagued seasons in his immediate past it’s hard to want to gamble on a guy who could win 15 games or just 7 with as wide a variation on strikeouts. Losing his personal catcher of so many years could make him a lot more vulnerable to bad losses. Draft him late if you need pitching.
Jon Lester (SP):
With only 27 games of Major League experience it seems the Sox are asking a lot from Lester this season, especially since it looks like he’ll be the number three starter. He’s shown flashes of brilliance but his 4.41 ERA and 1.53 WHIP at the Major league level should make you wary of drafting him as anything other than high risk, high reward kind of player.
The Great Debate:
Jacoby Ellsbury (OF):
Forget the hype and his amazing post season performance, Ellsbury is good, but not that good, yet. He has good speed and little power, but he can hit for average and could steal 30+ bases and he’ll score a ton of runs as the Sox leadoff hitter. There is a caveat here - should Ellsbury hit a rough spot, the team might easily move Coco Crisp back into his spot and send Ellsbury back to the minors for more seasoning.
Clay Buchholz (SP):
Buchholz will start the year at Class AAA but he’ll make it up to the big team at some time this season. Everyone is excited by his upside (after all he did pitch a no hitter in his second big league start), and in keeper leagues you need to grab him now (if on the off chance he’s still available). Anywhere else, grab and stash him if you have a deep bench and aren’t happy with your starting pitching.