2021 Boston Red Sox
A team falls quickly out of playoff contention once their starting rotation breaks down. Boston had a 3.71 ERA in 2018 when the Red Sox won the World Series. In 2019, they fell to 19th in ERA (4.70), followed up by failure last season (5.58 ERA – 28th). With Chris Sale out in 2021 with his recovery from TJ surgery, Boston's pitching staff is loaded with questions. The Red Sox want to sign a veteran arm that offers inning eating value at a minimum. Both Nathan Eovaldi and Eduardo Rodriguez have the talent to help Boston win. They signed Matt Andriese to work as a swingman.
Their offense's foundation has a winning core at the top of the batting order led by Rafael Devers, J.D. Martinez, and Xander Bogaerts. Boston added OF Hunter Renfroe, which gives the Red Sox plenty of supporting power in their starting lineup. The rebound of Andrew Benintendi and Alex Verdugo's development will be the keys for Boston being competitive offensively.
Their bullpen lacks a defined closer after Matt Barnes failed to seize the role in 2020. The overall structure from the seventh to the ninth inning remains messy.
The Red Sox need to find one ace at a minimum if they want to push their way back up the AL East standings once Sale returns to the starting rotation in 2022. Boston will score runs, giving them streaky value this season. I don’t see a playoff contender in 2021.
1. OF Andrew Benintendi
Benintendi ended up being a wasted draft pick in 2020 after stumbling out of the gate. His season ended in mid-August with a rib injury. He struggled to make contact (strikeout rate – 32.7) with no value with runners on base (one RBI in 37 chances).
In 2019, Benintendi failed to live up to expectations. His K rate (22.8) was a career-high with regression in his walk rate (9.6). When he put the ball in play, his contact batting average (.359) fell in line with 2018 (.355) while repeating his career resume in his average hit rate (1.618). From June 1st and August 31st, Benintendi hit .302 with 36 runs, six home runs, and 40 RBI over 275 at-bats. His season started with minor leg and foot injuries while picking up multiple other small issues along the way. Benintendi didn’t have an edge in his hard-hit rate (37.7), but he did rank higher in ball hit 95 MPH or more (87th). His fly-ball rate (40.7) is trending upward, but his HR/FB rate (7.9) is well below the game's top power hitters.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: His draft value's luster is long gone based on his early ADP (230) in January. His foundation skill set gives him a chance at 20/20 season while being an asset in batting average. Benintendi could be a big mover in drafts with a successful spring training. Ideally, I would like him to bat leadoff for the Red Sox.
2. SS Xander Bogaerts
Over 56 games in 2020, Bogaerts was on pace matchup his success in 2019 in runs (108) and home runs (33) while trending toward a career year in steals (24). His once shortfall came in his RBI rate (13), which was well below his previous two seasons (20 and 19 percent). He continues to have an above-average approach at the plate.
Bogaerts hit .300 over his previous three seasons with 218 runs, 67 home runs, 248 RBI, and 20 stolen bases over 1,330 at-bats. His bat continues to offer an edge at home (.311 with 317 runs, 64 home runs, 298 RBI, and 28 steals over 1,876 at-bats). He set a career-best in his HR/FB rate (18.6) in 2020, but Bogaerts hit fewer fly balls (36.2 percent – 39.8 in 2019).
After finishing 14th in 2019 in SIscore (6.04), he slipped to 19th (2.16) last year while ranking fifth at the shortstop position. His ADP (36) looks favorable, especially if Bogaerts can have follow-through in his steals.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: Boston has talent in its starting lineup, pointing to strength in his runs and RBI. All the makings for a .300 hitter with 100/30/100/15 skill set.
3. 3B Rafael Devers
After a breakthrough 2019 season, Devers lost some boom in his swing due to a slow start to the year (10-for-60 with two home runs and three RBI). Over the last six weeks, his swing was much improved (.297 with nine home runs and 40 RBI over 172 at-bats).
Devers gave away his growth in his approach in 2019 (strikeout rate – 17.0 and walk rate – 6.8), leading to a much higher strikeout rate (27.0) and regression in his batting average (.263).
In 2019, Devers led the majors in hits of 95 MPH or more (252) with strength in his hard-hit rate (47.7 – 31st). Last season he had 72 hits over 95 MPH (20th) while seeing his hard-hit rate (43.6) regress.
He finished 2020 with a career-high in his HR/FB rate (19.3) with no real change in his swing path. Devers struggled with lefties (.222 with one home run and six RBI over 81 at-bats) after playing better the previous season (.269 with seven home runs and 29 RBI over 208 at-bats).
2021 Fantasy Outlook: Devers has a beast bat with the swing to deliver 40-plus home runs with more than 120 RBI. Probably closer to a .280 hitter unless he stays locked in at the plate all season. His fourth-round ADP (44) creates a buying opportunity. I would consider any steals a bonus.
4. OF J.D. Martinez
After being a great foundation bat in batting average and power for three straight seasons, Martinez finished as a losing investment in 2020. His contact batting average (.296) was well below his previous success in 2016 (.425), 2017 (.431), 2018 (.444), and 2019 (.400). He tried to hit more fly balls (43.5 – 34.8 in 2019) with a sharp decline in his HR/FB rate (10.4 – 20.7 in his career).
His strikeout rate (24.9) was above his first two years (21.8) in Boston, with a slight regression in his walk rate (9.3).
Over his last three seasons, Martinez hit .313 with 124 home runs, 339 RBI, and 12 stolen bases over 1,576 at-bats.
The bet here is on short term failure or his stellar resume in batting average and power from 2014 to 2019. Fantasy owners have him priced as the 62nd hitter with an ADP (97) in early January.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: I see great value here, but the wise guys in the high-stakes market will move him up in the draft rankings in March. Finding high average power is an excellent starting combination for one of my first desired pieces to building a winning offense in fantasy baseball. Take the layup, and don’t try to finesse here. Martinez should have a floor of .300 with 30 home runs and 100-plus RBI.
5. OF Alex Verdugo
Over six seasons in the minors, Verdugo hit .309 with 41 home runs, 271 RBI, and 44 steals over 1,956 at-bats. He played well over two seasons at AAA (.321 with 16 HRs, 106 RBI, and 17 SBs over 776 at-bats).
After a trade to Boston, Verdugo battled a stress injury to his back. The shutdown due to Covid led to him having enough time to get healthy.
He finished with a steady season (.308 with 36 runs, six home runs, 15 RBI, and four steals). His strikeout rate (20.4) came in about the league average, with some work to do with his walk rate (7.7).
Verdugo handled himself well against lefties (.320 over 75 at-bats), but he finished with only one home run and three RBI). His swing path remains ground ball favoring (52.2) with a neutral HR/FB rate (14.0).
2021 Fantasy Outlook: In 2021, he’ll battle Andrew Benintendi for the leadoff job for Boston. His best two assets should be in batting average in runs while trailing in power and speed. Verdugo’s next step should be 80-plus runs with 15 home runs and double-digit steals. His ADP (126) is too high for me at this point in his career.
6. OF Hunter Renfroe
Renfroe was a good source of power (85 HRs) from 2017 to 2019 while never receiving over 450 at-bats. Over the last four years, his strikeout rate (28.3) has been a liability, but his walk rate has improved each season (7.4 in his career – 10.1 in 2020).
His average hit rate has been over 2.000 in each of the past four seasons, giving him 40-plus home run upside if ever given 550 at-bats. Last year his contact batting average (.224) fell by more than 100 percentage points over his previous three years.
With Tampa in 2020, Renfroe failed to hit over .200 in any month while failing to provide an edge against lefties (.146 with five home runs and eight RBI over 41 at-bats). In his career, he hit .258 vs. left-handed pitching with 36 home runs and 74 RBI over 431 at-bats compared to .216 against righties with 61 home runs and 152 RBI over 1,014 at-bats.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: The tight confines of Fenway Park should lead to an uptick in power and possibly improved playing time. Renfroe has a platoon feel which may be tough to time with the Red Sox.
7. 2B Michael Chavis
Over the last two seasons with Boston, Chavis hit .241 with 62 runs, 23 home runs, 77 RBI, and five steals over 493 at-bats. His failure comes from a high strikeout rate (32.8) while offering a below-average walk rate (5.1). Chavis has the most risk against lefties (.222 with 10 home runs and 23 RBI over 158 at-bats).
Over six years in the minors, he hit .257 with 72 home runs, 242 RBI, and 22 stolen bases over 1585 at-bats. Chavis flashed in 2017 between High A and AA (.282 with 31 HRs and 94 RBI over 471 at-bats), but his spike in power may have been tied to PEDs (80 game suspension in 2018). Chavis had a high K rate (25.6) in the minors with just below the league average in his walk rate (7.6).
His average hit rate tends to be in an area where 30-plus would be achievable if given over 550 at-bats.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: Chavis isn’t an ideal option for second base, but Boston does have the best opportunity for him in playing time. Only a late power flier while offering plenty of batting average risk.
8. C Christian Vazquez
Over the last two seasons, Vazquez hit .278 with 30 home runs, 95 RBI, and eight steals over 655 at-bats. In 2020, his play fell in line with his breakthrough season (.276 with 23 home runs and 72 RBI over 482 at-bats) the previous year.
His strikeout rate (22.8) came in at career last season while also taking the most walks (8.5 percent) of his career. Vazquez played better against righties (.305 with three home runs and 118 at-bats).
In 2011 at A ball, Vazquez appeared to be an upside prospect after he hit .283 with 18 HRs and 84 RBI over 392 at-bats. Over the next seven seasons, his bat lacked power and consistency.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: His growth gives him top 10 catcher value with an ADP of 158 early in 2021. Vazquez chips in with some steals with a neutral batting average. A fantasy owner should expect between 15 and 20 home runs while having no real chance of moving to a more favorable part of the batting order.
9. 1B Bobby Dalbec
Over the two previous seasons in the minors, Dalbec gained value as a power hitter (59 home runs over 927 at-bats). His minor league career started with upside in 2016 at low A (.386 with seven HRs and 33 RBI over 132 at-bats). Strikeouts (29.8 percent K rate) have been a problem, but his approach did show improvement in 2019 at AA (strikeout rate – 25.1 and walk rate – 15.5). Over his four seasons in minors, Dalbec hit .261 with 79 home runs, 256 RBI, and 16 steals over 1,370 at-bats.
In his first chance with Boston, he struggled to make contact (42.4 percent strikeout rate) while posting strength in his walk rate (10.9). When making contact, Dalbec hit a blistering .512 with an exceptional average hit rate (2.286).
2021 Fantasy Outlook: His power is real, but his swing and miss approach will lead to slumps and lost playing time. Dalbec has the arm and glove to start at third base if the Red Sox decide to shift Rafael Devers to first base. Streaky player until he figures out how to control the strike zone.
2B Jeter Downs
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. Los Angeles drafted him 32nd overall in the 2017 MLB June Amateur Draft. He hit .267 over 1,087 at-bats in his 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).
2021 Fantasy Outlook: This season he should start the year at AA with a quick AAA trip if his bat hits the ground running.
Kevin Plawecki (C): He hit .341 in his first season in Boston with one home run and 17 RBI over 82 at-bats. He struggled to make solid contact over six seasons in the majors (.229 with 18 home runs and 109 RBI over 943 at-bats). His bat played much better in the minors (.296 with 45 HRs and 268 RBI over 1,567 at-bats). Plawecki has no fantasy value without an injury.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: Possible double-digit power is Chance Sisco fails to secure the starting job.
C.J. Chatham (SS): He may develop into a utility type option for the Red Sox down the road. Over four years in the minors, he hit. 298 with 14 home runs and 124 RBI over 1,024 at-bats with minimal experience at AAA (.302 over 86 at-bats with two HRs and ten RBI). Chatham needs to get stronger to add more pop to his swing.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: Fading off into the sunset due to a tremendous strikeout rate (37.5).
Yairo Munoz (OF): He gave the Red Sox 45 good at-bats off the bench in 2020 (.333 with one home run, four RBI, and two steals). Over his first two years for the Cardinals, he hit .273 with 10 home runs, 55 RBI, and 13 steals over 465 at-bats. He projects a balanced player with experience playing multiple positions in the infield. Munoz may work his way into playing time at second for Boston.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: Fading off into the sunset due to a tremendous strikeout rate (37.5).
1. SP Eduardo Rodriguez
Rodriguez stayed healthy for the whole season for the first time in his career in 2019, helping him to set career highs in wins (19), innings pitched (203.1), and strikeouts (213). Even with success, he still has plenty of work to do to be considered a top arm in the majors. He led the American League in walks (75) with a fantasy killing WHIP (1.328).
Batters hit .253 against him, which was above his previous three seasons (.241, .241, and .238) with Boston. Rodriguez had risk vs. LH hitters (.264 with nine HRs allowed over 163 at-bats). His attraction in 2021 will come from his stats over his final 18 starts (2.92 ERA and 116 Ks over 111 innings). He finished with an AFB (93.3) that ranked below each year with the Red Sox.
Based on overall value in his pitches, Rodriguez was more attractive in 2018 (four-seam – .232, sinker – .239, changeup – .246, slider – .217, and cutter – .216) than 2019 (four-seam – .274, sinker – .205, changeup – .256, slider – .182, and cutter – .287). A big key to his progression came from a higher ground ball rate (48.5 – 38.7 in 2018) and fewer fly balls (32.5 percent – 41.2 in 2018).
Rodriguez missed all of last year due to a battle with a heart condition.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: Based on SIscore, Rodriguez ranked 24th in 2019, with wins being the driver of his value. A possible trap based on his walk rate (3.3), which dictates WHIP failure. Getting closer, but Rodriguez needs to shave off 15 walks while pitching the same number of innings. If he did, he would be tougher to hit, leading to more strikeouts. Next step: Sub 3.50 ERA with 225-plus strikeouts while needing to prove he can maintain a higher workload.
His missed season led to Rodriguez losing draft value in 2021 (ADP of 243 in early January).
2. SP Nathan Eovaldi
Despite a short sample size, Eovaldi did show growth in his arm in 2020. He threw the most first strikes (67 percent) of his career, leading to a spike in his strikeout rate (9.7) and his best walk rate (1.3) in the majors. Even with success, home runs (1.5 per nine) remain a problem while being too easy to hit (.273 BAA).
His AFB (97.8) remains elite in velocity, but batters hit .328 against it. Eovaldi had success with his curveball (.111 BAA), split-finger fastball (.219 BAA), and slider (.182 BAA). His failure came via an underachieving cutter (.378 BAA).
His arsenal played well against lefties (.191 BAA), but right-handed batter hit .355 against him with a high slugging percentage (.581).
Eovaldi went 12-10 over his last three seasons in the majors with 4.44 ERA and 223 strikeouts over 227 at-bats.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: Only a risk-reward pitcher with an SP6 ADP (250) in the 12-team high stakes market. Eovaldi isn’t an arm I will fight for as his overall resume doesn’t support an impact arm with the best command of his career.
3. SP Tanner Houck
Boston drafted Houck in the first round in the 2017 MLB June Amateur Draft with the 24th pick. Over three seasons in the minors, he went 15-20 with a 4.08 ERA and 243 strikeouts over 249 innings. His lack of progression is tied to his high walk rate (4.1).
After a down year at AA in 2019 (8-6 with a 4.25 ERA and 80 strikeouts over 82.2 innings), the Red Sox shifted him to the bullpen at AAA. Houck flashed over a nine-game stretch in August (three runs over 14.1 innings with six walks and 20 Ks). Without growth in his command and a third pitch of value, Houck looked closer to the ninth inning than working in the starting rotation for Boston.
The Red Sox gave him three starts in September, which led to impressive results (3-0 with one run allowed over 17 innings with 21 strikeouts). His first-pitch strike rate (54) and walk rate (4.8) suggest a full season of starts won’t go as smoothly.
His AFB (93.2) was league average while relying on a high volume slider (no hits allowed over 94 pitches) as his out pitch. Houck did mix in a low-volume split-finger fastball.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: My bet remains on him landing in a closer role. Fantasy owners gave him an ADP of 393 in the early draft season.
4. SP Nick Pivetta
Pivetta flashed enough upside in 2017 in the majors (140 Ks over 133 innings) for fantasy owners to believe in him the next season. He finished 2018 with growth in his walk rate (2.8) and his strikeout rate (10.3), but his ERA (4.77) didn’t fall in line due to too many disaster starts.
Over the last two seasons, Pivetta went 6-6 with a 5.60 ERA and 106 strikeouts over 109.1 innings. He served up two home runs per nine innings with continued struggles in his walk rate (3.7).
His AFB (93.2) in 2020 was a career-low while being too easy to hit (.306 BBA). Pivetta offers a plus slider (.212 BAA in his career), and his curveball grades well.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: Without the development of an off-speed pitch, Pivetta brings a wide range of outcomes each start. Boston may turn to him as an inning eater if he pitches well in spring training. A fantasy owner needs to pay close attention to his WHIP risk.
5. SP Darwinzon Hernandez
With Boston struggling to find live arms in their bullpen in 2019, they pushed Hernandez to the majors after no success at AA (5.13 ERA) and AAA (4.76). Over six seasons in the minors, he went 25-23 with a 3.50 ERA with 468 strikeouts over 409.1 innings. Hernandez had a high walk rate (5.5) at every level in the minors while showing K ability (10.3 per nine).
As a reliever with the Red Sox over the last two seasons, he showcased an impactful strikeout rate (16.3) with colossal risk in his command (7.9 walks per nine).
Hernandez dominated lefties (five hits over 52 at-bats – 0.096 BAA) with 36 strikeouts, but he has plenty of work to do vs. RH batters (.281 BAA). His fastball has an upper 90s upside while offering a plus slider.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: It all starts with strike one, which is a significant problem for him earning a starting gig in the majors. For now, his arm has a lefty specialist upside, but he could come quickly with much better command.
SP Thad Ward
Ward came out of Central Florida with only seven career starts in his 61 appearances. He went 10-6 with a 3.41 ERA and 184 strikeouts over 157.1 innings while picking up three saves.
Boston gave him 11 short starts at low A in 2018, which led to mixed results (3.77 ERA) with a high walk rate (3.5) and minimal damage in strikeouts (7.8).
The following season he buzzed through A ball (1.99) and High A (2.33 ERA) with impressive success. He finished a combined 8-5 with a 2.14 ERA and 157 strikeouts over 126.1 innings. His walk rate (4.1) still invited risk, but he pushed his strikeout rate to 11.2 batters per nine.
Ward works off a sinker/slider foundation of pitches. He added a cutter in 2019 while also working on developing a changeup. His body should continue to fill out, which will add more velocity to his pitches. His success and growth in his first full season of the minors were driven by a fastball that rose to the mid-90s.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: With no action in 2020, I can only expect him to get better this season. He needs to throw more strikes, but Ward has the foundation to reach a much higher ceiling than initially expected. At age 24, the Red Sox won’t hold him back from the majors if his arm is ready.
SP Jay Groome
After getting drafted out of high school with the 12th overall pick in the 2016 June Amateur Draft, Groome hasn’t developed as expected. 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 had a full offseason to build up his arm strength, but he didn’t pitch in the minors due to Covid.
The Red Sox expect him to offer a mid-90s fastball with a swing and miss curveball. Groome has been working on a cutter and a changeup.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: With minimal information, his arm will fly under the radar despite having the talent to reach the majors in 2021. The hope of Boston contending once Chris Sale returns in 2022 may lie in the development of Groome’s left arm.
CL Matt Barnes
Most of the time, when a young pitcher gains experience in the majors, his command shows growth once reaching the prime of his career. Barnes went 18-11 with a 3.77 ERA over 195.2 innings with Boston from 2017 to 2019. Over this span, his strikeout rate rose to 15.4 in 2019, giving him 289 strikeouts over 195.2 innings.
Unfortunately, his walk rate regressed in each of the past three seasons (2017 – 3.6, 2018 – 4.5, 2019 – 5.3, and 2020 – 5.5). Over the last two years, Barnes also struggled with home runs (12 over 87.1 innings).
His arm played well at home in 2020 (1-0 with one run allowed over 10 innings with 13 strikeouts and three saves). Barnes has no confidence on the road (0-3 with a 6.92 ERA and 1.769 WHIP over 13 innings with 18 strikeouts). Lefties only hit .167 against him with no extra-base hits in 36 at-bats.
Barnes relies on a plus curveball (.203 BAA in his career) as his out pitch while also featuring a serviceable show me changeup (.224 BAA). Last year his average fastball came in at 96.0 MPH, which was off his peak of 97.6 in 2016.
With four blown saves in 13 chances last year, Barnes doesn’t have a lockdown closer feel. There are flashes of greatness mixed in with excruciating frustration when he isn’t throwing strikes. His high K ability does invite upside if Barnes can find his inner confidence and throw more strikes.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: I view him as more of a flier than a wise investment in the fantasy world. His early ADP is 228 in the 12-team high-stakes market.
RP Ryan Brasier
The unsung hero for Boston in their 2018 World Series has to be Brasier, who pitched the best ball of his career in big moments.
Over ten seasons in the minors, he went 39-38 with a 3.98 ERA and 525 strikeouts over 594.1 innings. His lack of impact value led to a trip to Japan in 2017 (3.00 ERA and 1.333 WHIP). Brasier pitched his way to the major with great success at AAA in 2018 (1.34 ERA over 40.1 innings with 40 Ks and 13 saves).
His pitches held value over 34 games in the regular season for the Red Sox (1.60 ERA and .171 BAA) with follow-through in the postseason (one run and 12 baserunners over 8.2 innings with seven strikeouts).
In 2019 and 2020 with Boston, Brasier wasn’t the same pitcher (4.57 ERA). He battled home runs (nine over 55.2 innings) in 2019, leading to a trip back to the minors. Last year he allowed seven runs and 13 baserunners over his first six innings before giving Boston an impressive run over 15 games (one run over 16 innings with 21 strikeouts).
2021 Fantasy Outlook: His average fastball came in at 96.6 in 2020, but his only pitch of value was his slider (.167 BAA). Brasier can’t close unless he cleans up his fading walk rate (3.4 in 2019 and 4.0 in 2020).
RP Matt Andriese
Over six seasons in the majors, Andriese has yet to find a defined role for his arm. He’s made 50 starts in his 183 career games with minimal success (4.76 ERA). Despite not much improvement as a reliever (4.37 ERA), his strikeout rate (8.9) in the bullpen does flash upside while also offering a lower WHIP (1.241 – 1.364 as a starter).
In 2020, Andriese was the toughest to hit (.184 BAA) of his career while shining on the road (1.47 ERA over 18.1 innings with 18 strikeouts). His poor overall stats came from struggling at home (8.56 ERA).
His AFB (92.2) is below the league average, but Andriese does own an elite changeup (.189 BAA in 2020 – .241 in his career). Last season both his curveball (.091 BAA) and cutter (.000 BAA) gained value.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: Wildcard arm that has a range of a spot starter to a fill-in closer. Even with some early success, his lack of resume would invite disaster as the season moves on.
2021 Boston Red Sox
A team falls quickly out of playoff contention once their starting rotation breaks down. Boston had a 3.71 ERA in 2018 when the Red Sox won the World Series. In 2019, they fell to 19th in ERA (4.70), followed up by failure last season (5.58 ERA – 28th). With Chris Sale out in 2021 with his recovery from TJ surgery, Boston's pitching staff is loaded with questions. The Red Sox want to sign a veteran arm that offers inning eating value at a minimum. Both Nathan Eovaldi and Eduardo Rodriguez have the talent to help Boston win. They signed Matt Andriese to work as a swingman. Subscribe for full article
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