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2021 Fantasy Baseball: Boston Red Sox Team Outlook - Guiding a Ship With No Chris Sale

Get the inside scoop! 2021 fantasy baseball player profiles, team analysis and stat projections for Boston Red Sox hitters and pitchers
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2021 Boston Red Sox

A major league baseball team falls quickly out of playoff contention once their starting rotation breakdowns. 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 SP Chris Sale out in 2021 with his recovery from TJ surgery, Boston is loaded with questions with their pitching staff. The Red Sox added SP Garrett Richard in early February to offer inning eating value at a minimum. Both SP Nathan Eovaldi and SP Eduardo Rodriguez have the talent to help Boston win. They signed RP Matt Andriese to work as a swingman and brought back SP Martin Perez.

The Red Sox picked RP Adam Ottavino in a deal with the Yankees. They also took a swing on RP Hirokazu Sawamura to add depth to their bullpen.

Their offensive foundation has a winning core at the top of the batting order led by 3B Rafael Devers, OF J.D. Martinez, and SS Xander Bogaerts. Boston added OF Hunter Renfroe, 2B Enrique Hernandez, and OF Marwin Gonzalez, which gives the Red Sox plenty of supporting power in the starting lineup and off the bench.

Boston decided to gift wrap OF Andrew Benintendi to the Royals for OF Franchy Cordero and SP Josh Winckowski in a three-way deal with the Mets.

Their bullpen lacks a defined closer after Matt Barnes failed to seize the role in 2020. The overall structure of the bullpen from the seventh to the ninth inning did improve since the beginning of January with their offseason moves, giving the Red Sox more outs to save games.

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 while adding more power, giving them streaky value this season. I don’t see a playoff contender in 2021.

Starting Lineup

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1. 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 home runs, 106 RBI, and 17 steals 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 before the start of the year.

He finished with a steady season for Boston (.308 with 36 runs, six home runs, 15 RBI, and four steals). His strikeout rate (20.4) came in at 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).

After the trade of Andrew Benintendi, Verdugo looks poised to bat leadoff for Boston.

2021 Fantasy Outlook: His best two assets should be batting average and runs while trailing in power and speed. Verdugo’s next step should be 90-plus runs with 15 home runs and double-digit steals. His ADP (130) looks more attractive if he does indeed seize the leadoff job.

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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 one 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 (34) looks favorable, especially if Bogaerts can have follow-through in his steals.

2021 Fantasy Outlook: Boston has talent at the top of their starting lineup, pointing to strength in his runs and RBI. All the makings for a .300 hitter with 100/30/100/15 skill set.

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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 (43) creates a buying opportunity. I would consider any steals a bonus.

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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.

2021 Fantasy Outlook: 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 (93) in mid-February.

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.

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5. OF Franchy Cordero

Early in his minor league career, Cordero had the appearance of being a free-swinging light-hitting batter. Over eight seasons in the minors, he hit .279 with 50 home runs, 263 RBI, and 104 steals over 2,208 at-bats.

His strikeout rate (26.6) in the minors invites job loss risk while taking a below-par number of walks (6.9 percent).

Cordero played well over his limited at-bats in four years at AAA (.305 with 21 home runs, 73 RBI, and 18 steals over 476 at-bats), but he did strike out at a higher level (29.2).

Over his first 284 at-bats in the majors, Cordero hit .236 with 12 home runs, 36 RBI, and eight steals plus 110 strikeouts (34.9 percent).

His season ended in June of 2018 due to a right elbow injury that required surgery. He started 2019 on the injured list with a bum right elbow, then saw his season end with minimal at-bats due to a left quad issue in June. In 2020, Cordero missed 45 days with a broken right hamate bone that required surgery in mid-August.

2021 Fantasy Outlook: He has a swing and miss type bat that does make hard contact when putting the ball in play. Cordero will draw more excitement, hitting for the Red Sox in Fenway Park.

He is well-liked by some sharp fantasy owners in the high-stakes market, but injuries have killed his value over the past three seasons. His ADP (398) still puts him in the free-agent pool in most leagues. A viable late outfielder in deep leagues with an exciting combination of power and speed if given a full-time starting job.

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6. OF Hunter Renfroe

Renfroe was a good source of power (85 home runs) 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 from 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, who may be tough to time with the Red Sox.

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7. 2B Enrique Hernandez

Over six seasons with Los Angeles, Hernandez hit .240 with 252 runs, 71 home runs, 227 RBI, and 12 steals over 1,670 at-bats.

In 2018 and 2019, he had the best opportunity of his career (.246 with 38 home runs and 116 RBI over 816 at-bats). Last year Hernandez lost his rhythm at the plate (.230 with five home runs and 20 RBI over 139 at-bats).

His walk rate (4.1) fell below his success from 2016 to 2018 (11.5, 12.0, and 10.8) while having a league-average strikeout rate (21.0).

Hernandez tends to play better vs. lefties (.263 with 37 home runs and 100 RBI over 784 at-bats) in his career with some risk against right-handed pitching (.222 with 34 home runs and 127 RBI over 1,007 at-bats).

2021 Fantasy Outlook: Hernandez isn’t a lock to play 150 games, but he should see his best opportunity of his career. His swing creates an edge against top left-handed pitchers, and the smaller confines in Boston and the left-field wall may lead to a surprising season. Let’s shoot for .250 with 60 runs, 20 home runs, and 60 RBI with an ADP of 429 in mid-February. 

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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.

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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 home runs and 33 RBI over 132 at-bats).

Strikeouts (29.8 percent) 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. The late signings by the Red Sox hurt Dalbec’s ability to earn starting at-bats in 2021. Ride him while he is hot type player until he figures out how to control the strike zone. His ADP (305) is too high in mid-February.

Bench Options

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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 home runs 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 strikeout 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 to play at second base, which is why the Red Sox signed Enrique Hernandez. Only a late power flier while offering plenty of batting average risk. 

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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.

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OF Marwin Gonzalez

In his two seasons with the Twins, Gonzalez saw further erosion in his average hit rate (1.514) while his approach (strikeout rate – 20.6 and walk rate – 8.5) came in better than the league average.

In 2019, after a slow April (.167 with two home runs and seven RBI over 78 at-bats), Gonzalez played much better over the next four months (.286 with 13 home runs and 41 RBI over 322 at-bats) while working as a rotational player with starting at-bats when an injury opened up playing time.

His season ended with minimal at-bats in September due to an oblique issue. Gonzalez also had right knee surgery after the 2019 season.

Last year, he finished with his lowest output (five home runs and 22 RBI) and opportunity (175 at-bats) of his career.

Gonzalez hit .270 with 64 home runs, 243 RBI, and 26 stolen bases over 1,772 at-bats in his best four seasons with the Astros.

2021 Fantasy Outlook: His versatility gives Gonzalez a chance to fill in at all positions except catcher. He has a more stable bat as far as making contact than Boston’s options at first base, which may lead to more at-bats than expected. 

Kevin Plawecki (C): Plawecki 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.

Yairo Munoz (OF): Munoz 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 in the majors 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 will have a much tougher time making the major league roster after their signings this winter.

Boston Red Sox Eduardo Rodriguez

Pitching Staff

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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).

Based on SIscore (3.02), Rodriguez ranked 24th in 2019, with wins being the driver of his value.

2021 Fantasy Outlook: 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 223 in mid-February). 

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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 (243) 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.

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3. SP Garrett Richards

From 2016 to 2019, Richards only made 31 starts (3.36 ERA with 159 strikeouts over 147.1 innings).

In 2018, he finally had TJ surgery on his right elbow, which was a problem since 2016. In essence, Richards probably gave away two years of earning power by waiting to have the issue corrected.

Last year, three disaster starts (14 runs, 23 baserunners, and four home runs over 11.1 innings) led to him losing his starting job in September. Over his final seven appearances, Richards had a 2.25 ERA, .181 BAA, and 21 strikeouts over 20 innings.

His AFB (95.2) remains strong, while his slider (.163 BAA) was tough to hit in his limited innings over the last two seasons.

Over his best two seasons with the Angels in 2014 and 2015, Richards went 28-16 with a 3.18 ERA and 340 strikeouts over 376 innings.

2021 Fantasy Outlook: This draft season, he has an ADP of 449. Player to follow this spring as his arm wasn’t that far off last year. Richards has talent and upside when healthy, and I expect him to be viable as a bench option in 15-team leagues.

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4. 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 432 in the early draft season.

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5. SP Martin Perez

Perez came into the majors with an arm that appeared to have upside, but the Rangers struggled to find the keys to unlock his potential.

His final stats in Minnesota in 2019 (10-7 with a 5.12 ERA and 1.518 WHIP) won’t draw much attention by fantasy owners, but the Twins did get his engine started early in the year.

Perez pitched the best ball of his career over his first 11 games (2.95 ERA over 58 innings with 56 strikeouts), but he did walk too many batters (26 – 4.0 per nine).

About the time when fantasy owners were pumping their chest on their find on the waiver wire, Perez reverted to his previous resume. Over his final 21 starts, he allowed two runs or fewer in seven games while posting plenty of negative stats (6.29 ERA and 1.62 WHIP over 107.1 innings with 41 walk and 79 strikeouts).

Perez was a disaster in his first season in Boston (4.50 ERA and 1.339 WHIP). He allowed two runs or fewer in seven of his 12 starts, which works for a backend inning eater.

His strikeout rate (6.7) was the second-highest of career-high, but he still doesn’t throw enough strikes (4.1 walks per nine).

Perez lost 1.8 MPH off his fastball (92.7). Batters hit .179 vs. his four-seamer and .289 against his sinker. His only pitch of value was his cutter (.172 BAA).

2021 Fantasy Outlook: Only an inning eater with tons of downside until he learns these three words – location, location, and location. At best, a one-week double starter if he’s pitching two games vs. the lightest hitting offenses in the majors.

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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 developing 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

2021 Fantasy Outlook: 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 strikeout ability does invite upside if Barnes can find his inner confidence and throw more strikes.

I view him as more of a flier than a wise investment in the fantasy world. His early ADP is 223 in the 12-team high-stakes market.

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RP Adam Ottavino

Over his last three seasons, Ottavino made strides as a late-inning arm. He had a strikeout rate over 10.5 over the past five years in the majors, but his walk rate (5.4 in 2019, 4.2 in 2018, 6.6 in 2017) invites enough trouble to keep him away from the 9th inning long term.

Last season he had the lowest ERA (1.90) of his career, but his WHIP (1.312) was way out of line.

Ottavino pitches well vs. righties (.177 BAA), with work to do vs. LH batters (.241 BAA with 15 walks and 21 strikeouts over 97 plate appearances).

His AFB (94.3) is trending backward with four straight years of regression. He throws a slider (.169 BAA) as his best pitch while losing the feel for his cutter (.381 BAA).

Ottavino pitched the best ball of his career over the past two seasons with plenty of appearances in games (75 and 73).

2021 Fantasy Outlook: This year, he’ll have to face a minimum of three batters per appearance, helping his inning total. Not closer worthy, but Boston may give him a chance if Barnes trips up. Ottavino should offer an edge in strikeouts at the very least. 

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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).

His average fastball came in at 96.6 in 2020, but his only pitch of value was his slider (.167 BAA).

2021 Fantasy Outlook: Brasier can’t close unless he cleans up his fading walk rate (3.4 in 2019 and 4.0 in 2020).

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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 Fantasy Baseball Team Outlooks

American League

East: BAL / BOS / NYY / TAM / TOR
Central: CWS / CLE / DET / KC / MIN
West: HOU / LAA / OAK / SEA / TEX

National League

East: ATL / MIA / NYM / PHI / WAS
Central: CHC / CIN / MIL / PIT / STL
West: ARI / COL / LAD / SD / SF