Fangraphs has released its projections for the 2016 season, and they look good for the Red Sox. With a projected record of 92-70, the Sox are expected to lead not only their division, but the whole of the American League, trailing only the Cubs in all of baseball.
As you'd expect given their source, these aren't just the best guesses that you might see from ESPN before long. The projections include all the details on how the Sox are supposed to get there as well, with each player's expected performances. This can provide an idea of just how much has to go right for the Sox to live up to expectations and, as a result, just how realistic said expectations are.
And in this case, I have to say, it's pretty encouraging. There's not a lot in here that's truly outlandish. Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez aren't expected to be All-Stars, only to avoid their 2015 roles as complete disasters. Hanley Ramirez getting credit for a positive glove at first base (likely based on his time at the much more demanding shortstop position) is maybe a bit much, but neither is expected to match their career averages at the plate, or to be worth more than about four fWAR combined.
In the rotation, only David Price is expected to really stand out. Rick Porcello is pegged to bounce back, but only to a solid 3.81 ERA. Clay Buchholz is slotted in for 167 innings, which might be optimistic, but there's only 139 reserved for Eduardo Rodriguez even now that he's getting a full season's worth of starts, so that balances out some. Interestingly, Fangraphs has Roenis Elias as the pretty clear fifth starter, with Joe Kelly only picking up 38 innings as a starter (and 45 as a reliever). If it doesn't turn out that way, though, it will likely be the result of Kelly finding success as a starter. Not exactly a scenario to complain about.
Really, the only standouts in terms of overall value are the guys you'd expect: Price, Betts, Bogaerts, and Pedroia. David Ortiz is expected to fall off quite a bit, which is pretty much always the case with these projection systems and players his age. Jackie Bradley Jr. is being given the benefit of the doubt in terms of being a viable outfielder, but not for his August MVP-caliber play. Blake Swihart doesn't break out, Rusney Castillo plods along as usual. But between a few strong talents, a lack of real disasters, and a strong bullpen, the Sox are expected to do enough in enough places to top the league.
Of course, at the end of the day, it's just a projection. Winning on paper--particularly just one website's digital paper--doesn't mean anything. But if you were optimistic headed into the season, it's nice to have your optimism backed up by some pretty well-informed projections. And if you're not, maybe this will help push you towards a happier place.