2019 Boston Red Sox Season Preview: Can a weaker team repeat as champions?

Editor’s note: Baseball is back and Yahoo Sports is previewing all 30 teams over the next month. This year’s previews will focus on fantasy and reality, as our MLB news staff and our fantasy baseball crew come together to assess each team before opening day. Next up, the Boston Red Sox.

It’s been 19 years since a team won consecutive World Series. Back then, it was the New York Yankees who actually won three in a row from 1998-2000.

Supposed dynasties have come and gone and no one has been able to repeat. It goes to show how hard it is — and how difficult of a road the Boston Red Sox have in front of them as the reigning World Series champs.

[Batter up: Join or create a 2019 Yahoo Fantasy Baseball league for free today]

The Red Sox dominated both the regular season and the postseason, but it’s looking like 2019 won’t be that easy. The Yankees are better this year. The Astros figure to be very tough again. The Indians’ pitching is great. The National League has at least six teams that could potentially win the World Series.

History isn’t on Boston’s side and it’s fair to wonder whether its bullpen is either. The Red Sox have made it clear they wouldn’t spend money to re-sign closer Craig Kimbrel (who is still available), and instead are heading into the season with a combination of Matt Barnes and Ryan Brasier, along with Health Hembree, Brandon Workman and Tyler Thornburg. The Yankees’ bullpen this is not.

Good thing Boston’s lineup is so good. Mookie Betts figures not to slow down after his MVP campaign. Same goes for J.D. Martinez and Andrew Benintendi. Then there’s ace Chris Sale, who is still as good as anyone in baseball when he’s healthy.

They’re all elite players — whether you’re chasing another World Series ring or a fantasy title. Either way, though, they must make sure that bullpen is in order when it counts. - Mike Oz

Boston’s Offseason grade

Well, there was a parade. Extra points for that. Boston’s offseason took somewhat of a dive afterward. Their first priority was re-signing Nathan Eovaldi, who they rode hard throughout the postseason. He got $67.5 million over four years, which ended up being a lot given the way free agency turned out, but he solidifies their rotation.

The Red Sox also brought back World Series MVP Steve Pearce, but let Joe Kelly, Ian Kinsler and Drew Pomeranz flee for new teams. Probably their biggest move came just last week, when they extended Chris Sale’s contract, making sure he doesn’t hit free agency after this season and gets $145 million in the future.

Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Chris Sale (41) works against the Atlanta Braves in the first inning of a spring training baseball game Saturday, March 16, 2019, in Fort Myers, Fla. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
The Red Sox were able to lock up one of the most dominant pitchers in the game. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Our grade: B- - It set them nicely for the years ahead, but didn’t quite do everything they need to repeat in 2019. - Mike Oz

Red Sox Projected lineup and pitching staff

The Boston Red Sox projected lineup for 2019. (Yahoo Sports)
The Boston Red Sox projected lineup for 2019. (Yahoo Sports)

Who is Boston's biggest fantasy value?

Rick Porcello has reached the boring veteran stage of his career, and that's a good thing for Fantasy owners. While he isn't a major strikeout source on a per-inning basis, his projectable volume of innings means he should finish in a good strikeout area. The backdrop of the Red Sox will keep the wins buoyant, and while Porcello doesn't generally dominate in ERA, he's usually strong in the WHIP column. Porcello can never be at the front of a fantasy staff, but he's a steal as your third or fourth fantasy starter this season. - Scott Pianowski

What is Boston's biggest fantasy question?

It's unusual for a big market team to be this unsettled with its closer situation; Brasier, Barnes, Thornburg — there are plenty of darts to throw. But the club isn't married to any of these guys, and if the spot isn't solidified by the middle of the year, Boston can always throw resources at the problem. My gut says the team's 2019 saves leader isn't on the current roster. - Scott Pianowski

Red Sox Prospect to watch

There’s not a lot to be excited about this season, as many of the team’s impact prospects are buried in the lower levels of the minors. Infielder Michael Chavis is the closest player to the majors. He’s put up excellent numbers since 2017, but a PED suspension in 2018 has caused some to question whether that production was legitimate. Chavis has been working out at second base, which could help him make the majors sooner. Dustin Pedroia hasn’t been the epitome of good health lately. - Chris Cwik

Things that MUST go right for the Red Sox

1. Secure the late innings: Craig Kimbrel and Joe Kelly aren't coming back, which means the Red Sox have to fill in two key late-inning pitching roles. Replacing Kimbrel, a truly elite closer, will not be easy and may not even be possible with the Red Sox current options. Matt Barnes, the presumed favorite to close, has had some rough moments during the spring and has never been a true lockdown reliever. The other options include Tyler Thornburg, Brian Johnson, Hector Velazquez, Brandon Workman and Jenrry Mejia, who's been out of MLB since 2015 due to a PED ban. Not finding an answer here could be costly for Boston.

2. David Price rides the wave: The veteran left-hander put his Red Sox problems and postseason struggles behind him in a big way last season. When it mattered most, Price was the guy manager Alex Cora leaned on to get critical outs. That's the David Price the Red Sox were looking for when they signed him, and that's the David Price they'll need again to navigate a tough American League landscape.

3. Don't let up: The Red Sox were on a mission last season. From opening day through the World Series, they sustained a level of focus and dominance that was incredible to watch. It was also necessary given the teams they had to contend with. The Yankees and Astros didn't go away easily and they won't again this season, meaning Boston will need more of the same to repeat as champions. It will be only natural for Boston to lose some of that edge, but with such little room separating the elite, they can't really afford it. - Mark Townsend

If this team had a walk-up song, what would it be?

No doubt Red Sox fans are tired of hearing about the bullpen by now — it was something people doubted last year too, when Craig Kimbrel looked shaky going into the postseason. So let’s end this one on a good note. Their 2019 walk-up song is “Big Rings” by Drake and Future, for what should be obvious reasons. - Mike Oz

More 2019 MLB Previews From Yahoo Sports

Baltimore | Miami | Kansas City | Detroit | Texas | Toronto | San Diego

Chicago (AL) | Minnesota | San Francisco | Pittsburgh | Arizona | Seattle

Cincinnati | Los Angeles (AL) | Oakland | Tampa Bay | Colorado | Cleveland

New York (NL) | St. Louis | Atlanta | Philadelphia | Milwaukee | Chicago

Washington | Los Angeles (NL) | Houston | New York (AL) | Boston