After missing the postseason in 2019 and 2020, the Red Sox exceeded expectations last year, leading to a loss in the league championship series to Tampa Bay. They piecemealed their pitching staff, which finished 15th in baseball in ERA (4.26). Boston limited the damage in home runs allowed (176 – 6th). Their bullpen ranked 13th in ERA (3.99), with 42 wins, 23 losses, and 49 saves. Offensively, the Red Sox had the third-highest batting average (.261) and most doubles (330) in the majors. They ended the year with 219 home runs (10th) and 40 stolen bases (29th).
Boston traded OF Hunter Renfroe to the Brewers for OF Jackie Bradley, 3B Alex Binelas, and SS David Hamilton in a surprise move. In addition, they signed SP James Paxton, SP Michael Wacha, and SP Rich Hill to one-year contracts. Paxton had TJ surgery last April, and he will miss most of 2022. The Red Sox also has the option to extend his contract in 2023 and 2024.
Their most significant loss in the off-season was SP Eduardo Rodriguez, who signed a new deal with the Mariners. OF Kyle Schwarber remains a free agent, but he could resign after the lockout. The other minor losses were SS Jose Iglesias, SP Garrett Richards, SP Martin Perez, RP Adam Ottavino, RP Hansel Robles, and OF Danny Santana.
The top of Boston's starting lineup remains competitive while still offering upside with further growth by OF Bobby Dalbec and 1B Alex Verdugo. However, top prospect OF Jarren Duran looked overmatched at the plate with the Red Sox in his limited at-bats (107 – 40 strikeouts).
The return of SP Chris Sale gives Boston a front-line starter if he regains his previous form before TJ surgery. SP Tanner Houck has the tools to push to be their second-best arm, while SP Nathan Eovaldi and SP Nick Pivetta should keep the Red Sox in many games.
RP Garrett Whitlock delivered an excellent year after Boston swiped him from the Yankees in the 2020 Rule 5 Draft. He looks poised to secure the closing job this season.
The AL East has two elite teams (Blue Jay and Rays), and the Yankees will be a factor again this season. The Red Sox quest to win a 10th World Series title hinges on the success of Chris Sale and the development of the back end of their pitching staff and batting order.
OF Alex Verdugo
In his first season with Boston, the Red Sox didn't lose much by trading Mookie Betts to the Dodgers. As a result, Verdugo finished 73rd by SIscore (0.22), compared to 65th by Betts (0.78). Verdugo helped fantasy teams in runs (88) and batting average (.289), but he failed to make an impact in home runs (13), RBI (63), and stolen bases (6). His approach (walk rate – 8.4 and strikeout rate – 15.9) graded well, but his average hit rate (1.478) continues to signal only mid-teen home runs. Verdugo needs more loft with his swing path (flyball rate – 28.6 and 27.7 in his career).
He showed risk against lefties (.228 with two home runs and 12 RBI over 189 at-bats) while playing better in Fenway Park as far as batting average (.312). Verdugo played well over his first 67 games (.289/44/9/32/4 over 256 at-bats). He hit .319 over his final 210 at-bats, but Verdugo had a regression in his production (31 runs, four home runs, 27 RBI, and one steal).
In mid-January, he has an ADP of 155 as the 40th outfielder and 92nd hitter drafted in the NFBC. Verdugo saw most of his at-bats (358) at the second slot in the batting order in 2021. His next step should be elevating the baseball and improving his barrel percentage (7.3 – 179th for players with 250 plate appearances). Let's shoot for .280 with 100+ runs, 18 home runs, 75 RBI, and 10 stolen bases.
SS Xander Bogaerts
Bogaerts almost posted identical average hit rates (1.672 and 1.673) and contact batting average rates (.377 and .375) over the past two seasons, but he came up short in home runs (23) and RBI (79). In addition, the lack of Mookie Betts hitting in front of him led to fewer RBI chances (395 – 443 in 2019 and 406 in 2018 over 136 games). His strikeout rate (18.7) was his highest since 2014 while remaining in a favorable area. Bogaerts posted a 10.2 percent walk rate over the past four years. Over the last two seasons, his RBI rate (14.5) came in below his career average (16.2).
After posting an excellent first half (.321/57/15/51/5 over 321 at-bats), he lost his way in July (.234 with three home runs and seven RBI over 77 at-bats). Bogaerts limped home after the All-Star break with a .255 batting average with 33 runs, eight home runs, and 28 RBI over 208 at-bats while missing some time in early September with Covid-19. He did develop a sore left wrist in mid-July.
The question fantasy managers need to answer on draft day is whether Bogaerts is a true fantasy stud or a second-tier option at shortstop. He finished 33rd (3.19), 14th (6.04), 19th (2.16), and 43rd (2.32) in SIscore rankings over the previous four seasons. Additionally, his speed looks to be diminishing while setting into only a mid 20s home run hitter. Bogaerts has the talent to deliver an elite year, but I would try not to overpay for him on draft day. He ranks seventh at shortstop in the early draft season with an ADP of 44. I expect him to help in batting average, runs, home runs, and RBI while chipping in with a few steals.
3B Rafael Devers
Devers didn't quite reach the four-category beast level in 2021, but he is getting closer. His contact batting average has been in a tight range over the past three years (.381, .370, and .368), leaving his success in batting average reliant on his fluctuating approach. Devers cleaned up his strikeout rate (21.5) after regressing in 2020 (27.0). His walk rate (9.3) was a career-best. His bump in RBIs (113) came from an elite opportunity (483 runners on base). But, even with success, he did lose some momentum in his RBI rate (16 – 21 in 2019 and 20 in 2020).
Late in the year, Devers battled a right arm issue that may have led to a slight dropoff in his batting average (.267) and production (33 runs, 11 home runs, and 31 RBI) over the final two months. He hit 32 of his 38 home runs off right-handed pitching (.280 over 364 at-bats with 73 runs and 85 RBI). In addition, Devers was easier to strike out on the road (29.5 percent – 17.6 in Fenway Park). His home runs rose from a few more fly balls (38.3 percent – 34.4 from 2019 to 2020) and a third straight year of improvement in his HR/FB rate (22.1).
Devers hits the ball hard over 50 percent of the time, leading to the 28th barrel rate (15.0 – players with 250 plate appearances). With his 2019 approach and 2021 average hit rate, he would hit well over .320 with over 110 runs, 40+ home runs, and 120 RBI. He comes off the board as the second third baseman in the early draft season in the NFBC with an ADP of 18. Devers is the type of player a fantasy manager should target in drafts. He ranked 17th in SIscore (5.66) last year and 5th in 2019 (7.78).
OF J.D. Martinez
A friend of mine at East Coast Sports Investor and I debated the value of Martinez returning for another year in Boston over the winter. My stance is that he is a proven middle-of-the-order bat with a history of an elite RBI rate (17.8 in 2021 – 17.9 over his last five seasons). In addition, Martinez continues to deliver a high contact batting average (.388 – .407 since 2015). His average hit rate (1.810) remained in line with 2019 (1.829) and 2020 (1.822) but below his breakout power success in 2017 (2.275). He did show regression in his walk rate (8.7 – 10.6 from 2017 to 2020) while having a slightly above the league average strikeout rate (23.2) in his time with Boston.
Martinez hit .335 over his first 170 at-bats with 38 runs, 12 home runs, and 37 RBI. He finished with four home runs in the next four months while hitting .265 with 16 home runs and 60 RBI over 378 at-bats. His HR/FB rate (15.7) was well below his best seasons from 2017 to 2019 (33.8, 29.5, and 23.4). Martinez tried to deliver more fly balls over the last two years (43.5 and 41.9 – 37.7 in his career).
There are signs of decline in his power and batting average, but Boston does have talent around Martinez in the starting lineup. His ADP (89) makes him easier to roster, plus he did lose the DH-only qualification in 2022. I'm torn on his value this season, so I'll think of him as a .280/25/90 hitter and hope for more upside.
2B Kiki Hernandez
Hernandez won the hearts of Boston fans last October when he hit .408 in the postseason over 49 at-bats with nine runs, five home runs, and nine RBI. The Red Sox gave him the best opportunity of his career, leading to career-highs in runs (84), hits (127), and doubles (35). In addition, his ability to take a walk (10.4 percent) created a leadoff job for 460 of his at-bats. Hernandez also showed growth in his strikeout rate (18.8 – 20.3 in his career).
Over 192 at-bats from June 27th to August 26th, he hit .297 with 37 runs, 11 home runs, and 31 RBI. Hernandez then missed 11 games with a Covid-19 issue, leading to a fade in September (.213/13/3/9 over 89 at-bats). His average hit rate (1.795) has been in an area to deliver 25+ home runs over the past five seasons. Unfortunately, Hernandez can't offer much help in batting average based on his contact batting average (.319 – highest in five seasons). His swing path produced a 46.2 percent flyball rate in Boston, but he finished with his lowest HR/FB rate (10.7) since 2014.
Hernandez has the approach and loft between his stat lines to make a run at 30 home runs and potentially keep his leadoff job. His career on-base percentage (.318) supports a bottom-third opportunity in the batting order. Based on three facets about his game (low batting average, minimal steals, and questionable upside in RBIs), I would look for a more complete skill set at second base. I'm from the Boston area, and I'd love to see a career year, but his ADP (227) in the NFBC doesn't fit my team builds.
1B Bobby Dalbec
Over his first 497 at-bats in the majors, Dalbec hit .243 with 63 runs, 33 home runs, 94 RBI, and two steals. His strikeout rate (34.4) remains an issue, but it did improve in 2021. He has a tremendous average hit rate (2.060), giving him well over 40 home run upside if Dalbec doesn't whiff his way out of the lineup. When at his best in the minors, he showed a much higher walk rate (11.7 – 6.2 last year) and contact batting average (.402 – .337 in 2021).
Dalbec played well vs. lefties (.278 with 11 home runs and 39 RBI over 176 at-bats) while finishing the year on a high note in August (.339/12/7/21) and September (.246/11/7/17). He had 358 of his 453 at-bats in the bottom three slots in the batting order. His flyball rate (43.1) and HR/FB rate (22.1) support his ability to drive the ball.
For someone looking for low average power, Dalbec would be a good fit. His ADP (232) puts him in an area of the draft where fantasy managers are going in many directions. I can't trust his value in runs until Boston gives him a starting job for the entire season. With 480 at-bats, I could see 70 runs, 30 home runs, and 85 RBI. Dalbec needs Boston not to sign a left-handed first base option.
C Christian Vazquez
After his breakout year in 2019 (.276/66/23/72/4), Vazquez hit .265 with 73 runs, 13 home runs, 72 RBI, and 12 stolen bases over 631 at-bats. Unfortunately, his average hit rate (1.364) slipped back into his 2017 (1.394) and 2018 (1.365) realm, leading to weakness in home runs (6). He also had a step back in his contact batting average (.316 – .377 in 2020) despite a lower strikeout rate (16.9 – 22.8 the previous year).
Vazquez struggled against lefties (.219 with two home runs and 12 RBI over 151 at-bats). Over the final five months of 2021, he never had more than one home run in a month. In addition, his HR/FB rate (4.2) was well below his previous two years (16.0 and 14.0). Vazquez barreled the ball on 2.7 percent of the time.
I have to respect his ability to chip in steals, and Vazquez won't kill a fantasy team in batting average. Next year, he'll be a free agent, so there may be more JUICE in his swing in 2022. As the 12th catcher off the board in the National Fantasy Baseball Championship in mid-January, I don't see a reason to fight for him. He has an ADP of 211. With a .270/55/15/55/5 year, Vazquez would deliver C2 value in deep formats.
OF Jackie Bradley
Boston appeared to get off of Bradley's bat just in time, based on his struggles in 2021. He completely lost his approach (strikeout rate – 30.8 and walk rate – 6.5). Both stats were the worst of his career. In addition, his contact batting average dropped to .247 (.334 in his career). Bradley hit under .225 every month, with no pulse against righties (.161 BAA) or lefties (.169 BAA).
When at his best for the Red Sox from 2016 to 2020, he hit .247 over 2,199 at-bats with 329 runs, 84 home runs, 293 RBI, and 47 stolen bases. Bradley helped Boston win the World Series in 2018 when he won a Gold Glove for his defense.
His bat has more risk than reward, but Bradley can get locked in for short stretches. In his career, he hit about the same vs. right-handed (.229) and left-handed (.231) pitching. The Red Sox will pay $9.5 million this season with an $8 million buy-out for 2023. Bradley has a waiver wire ADP (651). I only see injury replacement value if he plays well with a starting job in deep formats.
OF Jarren Duran
Over his first two seasons in the minors, Duran hit .322 with 142 runs, eight home runs, 73 RBI, and 70 stolen bases over 802 at-bats while seeing action at four lower levels. After minor league baseball was canceled in 2020, he revived his career at AAA, where Duran unlocked the keys to his power (.258 with 46 runs, 16 home runs, 36 RBI, and 16 steals over 244 at-bats). His strikeout rate (20.8) and walk rate (7.9) came in at about the league average in his minor league career.
Boston gave him 107 at-bats last year, but the baseball looked the size of a BB based on his massive strikeout rate (35.7) while only taking four walks.
At age 25, Duran can't be considered an elite prospect. He brings speed to the Red Sox outfield, but his defense still needs works, and his arm will never be an edge. However, his offensive game looks to be in transition as Duran tries to balance his former punch and Judy approach with his newfound power. He needs time at AAA as major league arms eat up his lack of confidence at the plate. For now, Boston has him in the mix to make the major league roster, but that will change quickly when they add one more bat via free agency. Duran is an interesting follow due to his high ceiling in speed, but his success starts with an improved approach.
2B Jeter Downs
Los Angeles drafted Downs 32nd overall in the 2017 MLB June Amateur Draft. He hit .267 over 1,087 at-bats in his first three seasons in minors with 186 runs, 43 home runs, 162 RBI, and 69 stolen bases. His walk rate (11.0) gives him top-of-the-order ability while offering better than a league-average strikeout rate (19.1).
After an early February trade with the Dodgers, Downs didn't see the field in 2020 due to no minor league games, thanks to the Covid concerns. In his first year in the Boston system, he struggled with his strikeout rate (32.3) for the first time in his career. Nevertheless, Downs flashed power (14 home runs) and speed (14 steals) over 357 at-bats.
With a rebound in his game, Boston has the flexibility to get Downs at-bats at the major league level. His combination of home runs and stolen bases may come fast if he gets off to a hot start at spring training and AAA. For now, he is a player to follow in March to see if Downs can help fantasy teams in 2022.
1B Triston Casas
Over his first 708 at-bats in the minors, Casas hit .266 with 123 runs, 33 home runs, 133 RBI, and nine steals. His walk rate (12.9) graded well while keeping his strikeout rate (21.9) near the league average. Boston gave him a half of a season at AA in 2021 (.284/57/13/52/6) before Casas was promoted to AAA for nine games (8-for-33 with one home run and seven RBI). He looks at least a half-season away from the majors, but his approach could lead to a call if Bobby Dalbec struggles early in the season.
2B Nick Yorke
Boston snatched up Yorke with the 17th pick in the 2020 MLB June Amateur Draft. He quickly rewarded the Red Sox with success at A Ball (.323/59/10/47/11 over 294 at-bats) and High A (.333/17/4/15/2 over 84 at-bats) last season. Yorke projects as a high average bat with developing power. Boston should start him at AA, and success should lead to a call-up to AAA by the summer. He will steal some bases, but Yorke doesn't have elite speed. I expect him to be in the major league conversation in 2023. He is must follow for me over the next year.
SP Chris Sale
After having TJ surgery in late March 2020, Sale returned to the majors on August 14th last season. Before his return, he looked electric over 20 innings in the minors (1.35 ERA, five walks, and 35 strikeouts). In nine starts with Boston, Sale allowed three runs or fewer, leading to a 5-1 record with a 3.16 ERA and 52 strikeouts over 42.2 innings. Unfortunately, he failed to help the Red Sox in the postseason (eight runs, 16 baserunners, and two home runs over nine innings with 11 strikeouts).
His average fastball (94.1) fell below his peak season but higher than in 2019 (93.5). Sale showcased an electric slider (.186 BAA), but his four-seam fastball (.277 BAA) and changeup (.410 BAA) came in well below his last productive season in 2018 (four-seam – .180 BAA and changeup – .221 BAA).
Over his 11 years, he went 114-74 with a 3.03 ERA and 2,059 strikeouts over 1,672.1 innings. Sale hasn't pitched over 160 innings since 2017 (214.1 innings).
He has an ADP of 51 as the 15th starting pitcher off the table in the early draft season. Sale has a long history of elite command, leading to an edge in ERA, WHIP, and strikeouts. I expect him to be a value based on his price point. With success in spring training, Sale should push up draft boards. At a minimum, a 3.25 with 200+ strikeouts if he makes 30 starts.
SP Nathan Eovaldi
Eovaldi couldn't match the top arms in baseball in wins or ERA last season, but he pitched like an ace in the most critical games for the Red Sox late in the year. Over four starts in the postseason, Eovaldi went 2-1 with a 3.15 ERA and 23 strikeouts over 20 innings. Unfortunately, Boston tried to squeeze a relief outing of him at home, which ended in a disaster game (four runs and four baserunners over two-thirds of an inning).
Over the past two years, Eovaldi posted a 3.75 ERA and 247 strikeouts over 230.2 innings. In addition, he led the American League in walk rate (1.7) in 2021 (1.3 in 2020) while striking out 9.6 batters per nine over this span. Eovaldi allowed three runs or fewer in 23 of his 32 starts, but his down day led to eight poor showings (30 runs and 60 baserunners over 28 innings).
His average fastball (97.1) has been elite over the previous eight seasons. Eovaldi offers an exceptional split-finger fastball (.179 BAA) and curveball (.183 BAA). He can get in trouble with his four-seam fastball (.306 BAA).
Only twice over his 10-year career has Eovaldi made an entire season of starts. He has never dominated batters in batting average against while having a career 4.19 ERA over 1,148.1 innings. However, his ADP (131) puts him in an area with some high ceiling arms. Tempting for sure, but Eovaldi looks overpriced.
SP Tanner Houck
Houck has 21 games of major league experience over the past two seasons, leading to a 2.93 ERA and 108 strikeouts over 86 innings. Boston gave him a start on April 1st (two runs over five innings with eight strikeouts), but he was back in the minors four days later. After one start in the minors, Houck landed on the injured list with a right elbow issue.
After missing five weeks, he struggled over six games at AAA (5.14 ERA over 21 innings with 26 strikeouts). After the All-Star break, the Red Sox gave him 11 starts and four relief appearances. Houck pitched well (3.38 ERA with 75 strikeouts over 58.2 innings), but he only pitched into the fifth inning in four games.
He has a mid-90s fastball while relying on a plus slider (.155 BAA) and developing a split-finger fastball (.056 BAA). Houck doesn't have a winning resume in the minors (15-22 with 4.17 ERA and 269 strikeouts over 270 innings),
In a way, Houck has a closer skillset with a history of battling his command. His growth with Boston points to a higher than expected ceiling as a starter, but he needs to prove he can handle the third time through the batting order. Houck has an ADP of 198, but he hasn't pitched over 120 innings in his career. I only see 130 innings with a 3.50 ERA and 140+ strikeouts, but I like his direction.
SP Nick Pivetta
Over his last two seasons with 30 starts, Pivetta struck out 363 batters over 319 innings, but he posted a 4.66 ERA while serving up 48 home runs (1.35 per nine). Pivetta allowed three runs or fewer in 19 of his 30 starts with Boston. From June 12th through August 30th, he had a 5.48 ERA and 1.387 WHIP over 70.2 innings with 77 strikeouts. Surprisingly, Pivetta held his own on the road (3.75 ERA).
His average fastball (95.0) ranked near his career top in 2018 (95.2). Pivetta has dominating curveball (.173 BAA), and batters struggled to hit his four-seam fastball (.245 BAA) and slider (.247 BAA) while working on a show-me changeup (.235 BAA).
The bottom line with Pivetta is that he needs to throw more strikes while commanding his fastball better in the strike zone. He has plenty of strikeout ability, which would be even higher with a lower walk rate (3.8). At the same time, high pitch counts restrict his ability to pitch deep in games. Pivetta is a risk/reward arm for a fantasy manager who likes to gamble. He can be had with the 363rd pick in the early draft season in the NFBC.
SP Rich Hill
Since the Red Sox gave Hill his second chance in baseball in 2015 at age 35, he went 48-29 with a 3.22 ERA and 698 strikeouts over 634.2 innings. Over this span, he picked over $61 million. Hill made about $5.5 million from 2002 to 2015, with his best payday in 2013 (one million).
Walks have crept back into his stat line over the past two seasons (3.3 per nine), leading to a weaker strikeout rate (8.3). Over his last 123 games, Hill averaged fewer than 5.1 innings per appearance. In 2021, his stuff graded well against lefties (.187 over 139 at-bats with two home runs) while fading against right-handed batters (.251 with 19 home runs over 443 at-bats). He pitched well in May (3-1 with three runs allowed over 34.2 innings) and September (2.84 ERA over 31.2 innings), but hitters banged him around over his other 20 games (5.36 ERA over 92.1 innings with 79 strikeouts).
The velocity on his four-seam fastball has slipped under 88.5 MPH, but batters only hit .264 against the pitch. Hill relies heavily on his elite curveball (.208 BAA) while barely using a sinker, changeup, and cutter.
Boston hopes to get five good innings out of him each start, which will limit his ability to win games. A move to Fenway Park points to more fade in his ERA and WHIP. Fantasy managers can find Hill in the free-agent pool in most formats based on his early ADP (432) in the NFBC. Only a ride him while he is a hot player with potential double start value in weekly leagues.
SP Michael Wacha
The lack of success by Wacha continues to baffle me. He came to pro ball with pedigree (first-round draft pick in 2012) with a quick trip to the majors after pitching well in the minors (2.59 ERA and 122 strikeouts over 114.2 innings).
From age 21 to 23, Wacha went 26-14 with a 3.21 ERA and 312 strikeouts over 353 innings for the Cardinals. Since then, his walk rate (3.2) has regressed every year (2.9, 3.0, 3.8, and 3.9) until 2020 (2.2 over his last 158.2 innings), leading to a 4.62 ERA and 1.406 WHIP over his previous 673.2 innings.
Over the past two seasons, he also saw an uptick in his strikeout rate (9.0 – 8.0 in his career), but home runs became a problem (1.8 per nine), and he was much easier to hit (.280 BAA).
His AFB (94.0) fell in line with his career path. Wacha continues to have a plus changeup (.216 BAA), but he did allow seven home runs off of it over 176 at-bats. He had more success with his four-seam fastball (.249 BAA), but his cutter (.356 BAA) and low volume curveball (.455 BAA) need to be scrapped. The last time those pitches had success was in 2018.
Unless Wacha finds another swing and miss pitch, he'll continue to have many peaks and valleys over a long season. Boston will use him as a spot starter, while a switch to the bullpen may lead to an uptick in his stats. Unfortunately, he is undraftable while owning one asset (changeup). In 1985, Mike Scott entered the season with a 4.45 ERA and only 307 strikeouts over 663.2 innings. However, the addition of a split-finger fastball led to an impressive ride over the next five years (86-49 with a 2.93 ERA and 1,038 strikeouts over 1,192.1 innings). The point here is Wacha could take a step forward if he develops a breaking pitch of value.
SP Jay Groome
After getting drafted out of high school, Groome hasn't developed as expected (12th overall pick in the 2016 MLB June Amateur Draft). He struggled at two levels in 2017 (5.69 ERA) while dealing with a left elbow injury that required TJ surgery in 2018.
Groome returned to the mound late in 2019, leading three successful appearances (one run over four innings with six strikeouts). Last year he struggled at High A (5.29 ERA over 81.2 innings with 108 strikeouts) while looking elite over three starts (2-0 over 15.2 innings with four walks and 26 strikeouts) at AA.
The velocity on his fastball sat in the low-90s while flashing more heat at times. Both his changeup and curveball can create swings and misses. Groome has been developing a slider since returning from his left elbow injury.
Groome is a big man who has the look of a workhorse arm once he gets his innings up to a competitive major league level. In 2021, he must prove that he can handle AA and AAA before getting his chance in the majors. For now, Groome is an in-season follow, with a keen eye on his fastball velocity.
RP Garrett Whitlock
In 2018, Whitlock broke through with an exceptional season at three minor league levels (8-5 with a 1.86 ERA and 122 strikeouts over 120.2 innings). Unfortunately, he blew out his right elbow midway through 2019, leading to TJ surgery. Nevertheless, the Rex Sox saw enough in his arm to select him in the 2020 Rule 5 Draft in December of 2020.
With no experience at AAA, Whitlock proved to be a steal after dominating in Boston's bullpen over 46 games (8-4 with a 1.96 ERA, 81 strikeouts, and two saves over 73.1 innings). Right-handed batters struggled to make hard contact (.199 with two home runs over 176 at-bats), but his arsenal did come up short vs. lefties (.293 BAA).
Whitlock featured an elite fastball (96.8) while relying on two plus pitches (changeup – .161 BAA and slider – .200 BAA). Both his sinker (.365 BAA) and slider (.667 BAA) didn't match up well with left-handed hitters.
His plus command and the ability to produce ground balls (49.7 percent) give Whitlock the inside track for the Red Sox closing job in 2022 despite only having two career saves. However, his struggles with lefties do invite a split role until he proves he can get them out with the game on the line. Whitlock has an ADP of 260 in the early draft season in the NFBC. I'm a fan of his arm while also understanding I have to proceed with caution as far as expectations in saves.
RP Matt Barnes
I remember a quote by Vlad Sedler last spring about Barnes. He said, "friends, don't let friends draft Matt Barnes." For the first 109 games by the Red Sox, his insight looked to be way off (2.25 ERA over 44.0 innings with 11 walks, 68 strikeouts, and 24 saves in 28 chances). Batters only hit .161 against him.
The real McCoy emerged over his next 16 games (12 runs, 26 baserunners, and four home runs over 10.2 innings), leading to Barnes pitching himself out of the ninth inning and Boston only using him once in the postseason. He landed on the Covid-19 list twice over the final two months.
His average fastball (96.1) remains an asset (.236 BAA with seven home runs allowed over 106 at-bats). Barnes threw his elite curveball (.172 BAA) 48 percent of the time. His pitches had the most success against left-handed batters (.156 BAA).
For almost four months, Barnes flashed elite closing stats. I'm not sure if he lost confidence or Barnes had an underlying issue. Based on his failure late in the season and some advice from a friend, I'd temper my outlook for saves. His ADP (263) is a range where fantasy managers are coin-flipping the closing job in Boston. Barnes looks to be more of a flier than a target in 2022.
RP Darwinzon Hernandez
Boston struggled to find live arms in their bullpen in 2019, and they pushed Hernandez to the majors after no success at AA (5.13 ERA) and AAA (4.76). Over seven seasons in the minors, he went 25-23 with a 3.49 ERA with 469 strikeouts over 410.1 innings. Hernandez had a high walk rate (5.5) at every level in the minors while showing strikeout ability (10.3 per nine).
As a reliever with the Red Sox over the last three seasons, he showcased an impactful strikeout rate (14.2) with colossal risk in his command (7.4 walks per nine) while posting a 3.66 ERA.
Hernandez had success against righties (.202 BAA) and lefties (.204 BAA) in 2021. His average fastball came in at 95.0 MPH. He continues to struggle with the command of his four-seam fastball (33 walks over 151 plate appearances), but Hernandez held hitters to a .186 batting average. His slider (.276 BAA) and curveball (.250 BAA) aren't assets at this point in his career.
With only one pitch of value with no command, Hernandez remains in a developmental mode for the Red Sox. He needs more strikes thrown, and growth in his secondary pitches is a must.
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