Pressing Fantasy Baseball Questions: The 2018 Boston Red Sox

For a bunch of teams, a 10th-place finish in runs scored is something to boast of. For the 2017 Red Sox, it was a step backwards. Boston was the top scoring team in 2016, and fourth the previous year.

Help is on the way. J.D. Martinez was signed to fortify the middle of the lineup, and a few young players are likely to rebound from subpar seasons. And Fenway Park remains a cushy yard for production — Fenway has floated runs by 14 percent over the last three years, and batting average by 10 percent. Offense is alive and well by Kenmore Square.

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The Vegas sharps expect Boston to be around 91 or 92 wins, one of the “haves” in baseball. There’s some fun stuff for drafters here.

Q: So where are these rebound players?

A: Start with Mookie Betts, who showed us last year that his bad season is still pretty good. Betts dealt with a nagging thumb injury, lost a chunk of batting points, and dropped seven homers and 75 slugging points (in a year where many gained in those areas; 2017 was a Home Run Derby season). And yet at the end of the year, he was still the No. 7 outfielder in Yahoo 5×5 value.

If you’re willing to give Betts an injury pass for 2017 — and credit him for playing through, despite being less than 100 percent — you’ll probably still slot him in the first round. A healthy Betts is unlucky to bat .268 again (or have a BABIP that’s 35 points lower than career norms). He’s entering his age-25 season. A deep lineup is around him, an unfair home park to take advantage of. Betts makes sense to me with a pick as high as fourth-to-sixth overall.

Q: Why do you keep landing Xander Bogaerts in your industry leagues?

A: I give Bogaerts a hall pass for last year’s rotten season — he took a pitch off the hand in early July and was never the same. Jake Faria’s fastball is no joke. Bogaerts was sitting on a .308/.363/.455 slash at the time of the plunk — he crashed to a .232/.321/.340 finish. I don’t see the point of doing a deep dive into the secondary stats when Bogaerts wasn’t right; he was also dealing with a hamstring injury in the second half.

[2018 Fantasy Baseball rankings: Overall | H | P | C | 1B | 2B | 3B |SS | OF | SP | RP]

Bogaerts has an ADP around 65-70 in Yahoo leagues, but it drops to 82 for the NFBC crowd. I jumped aggressively at Pick 57 in the Friends & Family League, dreaming of the player Bogaerts was in 2016 (.294-114-21-89-13). Like Betts, he’s entering an age-25 season.

Positional fits shouldn’t matter too much in the first handful of rounds, you just want to grab the best stats you can. I still see Bogaerts as a potential four or five-category contributor, a solid comeback candidate. But I don’t blame someone who wants a bigger discount than what I’ve accepted.

Q: What is the long-term viability for Eduardo Nunez?

A: A collapse was commonly predicted for Nunez after his 2016 breakout, but he took a step forward. He improved in all three slash categories, in part because of his .321/.353/.539 line over 38 late-season games in Boston. He chipped in 12 homers and 24 steals overall, handy category juice over a 114-game season. The Red Sox signed Nunez to a one-year deal, plus an option, in mid-February.

Nunez is a tricky player to evaluate in the middle rounds. He’s collected 28 home runs and 64 steals over the last two seasons, along with a plus average — these are lovely things. But the Red Sox are babying him this spring after a PCL sprain in the playoffs last year, and Nunez is merely renting the starting gig at second base — Dustin Pedroia, even in the slippage years of his career, figures to be handed the post as soon as he’s healthy again.

Nunez can play all over the field, a boost to Yahoo owners — he’ll qualify at second, short, third, and the outfield. This also means that a major injury to almost anyone in the Boston lineup could ensure Nunez has a job to call his own. And maybe Nunez could see enough time in a super-utility role to maintain his fantasy keep, no matter if others are healthy. Nunez is more interesting to me in a daily-transaction format, where I can get the benefit of perfect lineup knowledge. He could be a pain in the neck in weekly formats, where you have to fly semi-blind, seven days at a time.

Nunez might not get the full benefit of the Fenway float, as he’s expected to bat in the bottom third of the order. But new manager Alex Cora is still an unknown for our purposes — maybe he’ll be more hot-handed in his approach to construction, or tinker with lineups based on the matchups of the day.

The NFBC crowd is paying Pick 132 for Nunez, on average, while he goes about 40 selections later in Yahoo leagues. I always like to have one or two Swiss Army Knives on my roster, but this is one stock where I’d prefer the price come to me. I’ll draft Nunez reactively, not proactively, for the rest of the month.

Q: Nothing on J.D. Martinez?

A: What is there to say? Anywhere in the second round looks good for Martinez. He’ll miss the pre-humidor Arizona park, but Fenway is a giveaway too, though it did not help right-handed homers last year. Over the last three seasons, Fenway has boosted scoring by 14 percent, RHB average by nine percent, and RHB homers by five percent, per the Bill James Handbook ballpark indices.

Of course, when Martinez is right, the ballpark hardly matters. The division is also filled with fun road trips; the taters tend to fly in New York and Baltimore, and they’re neutral in Toronto (only Tampa Bay offers a homer-taxing environment).

Red Sox Projected Lineup

RF Mookie Betts

LF Andrew Benintendi

1B Hanley Ramirez

DH J.D. Martinez

3B Rafael Devers

SS Xander Bogaerts

CF Jackie Bradley

C Christian Vazquez

2B Eduardo Nunez

2B/DL *Dustin Pedroia

Red Sox Projected Pitching Staff

SP Chris Sale

SP David Price

SP Rick Porcello

SP *Drew Pomeranz

SP *Eduardo Rodriguez

CL Craig Kimbrel

RP Matt Barnes

RP Tyler Thornberg

RP Carson Smith

RP Joe Kelly

* Check Status