As we come ever closer to baseball season, there is another season that will get underway as well. That would be fantasy baseball season. Maybe not the juggernaut of a cultural phenomenon that its football counterpart is, fantasy baseball is still a wonderful way to sit in the GM’s chair and stay connected all year long.
Of course, the best part of the fantasy season is the draft. That’s not up for debate, it’s simply a fact. Coming up with a strategy and building your roster is inarguably addictive. It’s the biggest draw of the whole fantasy enterprise.
We are deep into draft season, but there are plenty of you that haven’t yet been put on the clock. So we need to talk about the dangers of drafting as a fan of a team. You’ll tend to know more about players on your favorite team, in this case the Red Sox, and that may push you to have a roster heavier in Boston than a completely objective participant.
“Sure he’s never been a top tier first baseman fantasy wise before, but I think Mitch Moreland was built for Fenway.”
“Andrew Benintendi has all the tools to be a No. 1 outfielder so I’ll just use my first round pick on him.”
You don’t want to be that guy.
So I’m here to give you a handy guide of how you should be treating Red Sox players that are on the board. For this exercise I am going under the assumption that you are in a 10-team, non-keeper league with standard scoring, but you should be able to extrapolate what to do depending on your specific situation. So we’ll just start at the top and work out way down.
Mookie Betts, OF
Average draft position (ADP): 4.2
Where he should be drafted: First round
Analysis: In ESPN standard leagues, Betts actually finished the 2016 season as the No. 1 player. That’s what 31 home runs, 113 RBI, 26 steals, 122 runs and a .318 average will do for you. It was a breakout year for the then 23-year-old, who was already a top tier outfielder on most draft boards heading into last season. His move to the middle of the order means he will once again be in a run-producing spot, but that could hurt his steals a bit. Still, Betts has the ability to help in every statistical category and is well worth a first round pick, especially with how deceptively shallow the outfield options are this year.
Chris Sale, SP
Where he should be drafted: Third round
Analysis: Don’t get me wrong, I think Sale is going to be a stud in Boston. But the memory of David Price still leaves a bit of concern in the back of my mind. With the White Sox, Sale was the No. 9 pitcher in fantasy last season. He should easily make it into the top 10 this season, but I would still take Max Scherzer, Clayton Kershaw, Corey Kluber and Noah Syndergaard before him. That said, he should be one of the top five pitchers off the board, especially considering his track record in Boston as a visitor (2.29 ERA, 39 1⁄3 innings).
Xander Bogaerts, SS
Where he should be drafted: Fifth round
Analysis: Shortstop is much deeper than it’s been in recent years. Bogaerts is one of the best at the position, especially if the power stroke he showed last year is for real. I’m not overly worried about his second half slump in 2016, but I think there is a lot of value that can be found at shortstop. So although I like him a lot, I don’t think you should overreact and take him in the third round. Just wait to see how it plays out and if you miss out on the X-Man, you’ll be just fine with Jean Segura (ADP of 77.2), Addison Russell (ADP of 117.9) or Dansby Swanson (ADP of 178.1), among others.
Hanley Ramirez, 1B
Where he should be drafted: Seventh round
Analysis: If you stashed Hanley last season, you got yourself a fantasy steal. He hit for a decent average (.286), swatted 30 home runs and drove in 111 runs. He even stole nine bases to boot. The power is for real, as he had 19 dingers in 2015 in a year considered to be a failure on his part. He will get plenty of at-bats, whether he is DHing or at first, so I expect 600 plate appearances once again. He is currently being drafted in the same round as one-trick ponies like Chris Davis, Eric Hosmer and Albert Pujols. With a more all-around skill set, Ramirez is a nice first baseman to grab from the third tier, but don’t splurge on him too early.
Rick Porcello, SP
Where he should be drafted: 11th round
Analysis: Even after a Cy Young 2016 campaign, Porcello is not considered a foundational roster piece and he shouldn’t be. Even in his breakout year, Porcello was still ranked 19th among starting pitchers in fantasy. He is a solid No. 2, but you should look to take him as your third or fourth starting pitcher if at all. There is evidence to believe he is for real, but without huge strikeout numbers and the fear that he will regress, I’d rather put my money on Jose Quintana or Cole Hamels, who are both being drafted after the right-hander.
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
Where he should be drafted: 10th round
Analysis: It all comes down to health for Pedroia, who enjoyed a very nice bounce back season in 2016. He’s going to get plenty of at bats hitting near or at the top of a potent lineup and although he’s lost his speed and won’t be stealing 20 bases, and I’m not certain his power will continue, he’s a great second baseman you can get on the cheap.
Jackie Bradley Jr., OF
Where he should be drafted: 12th round
Analysis: Every Red Sox fan wants Bradley’s All Star 2016 campaign to be the norm, but in fantasy, buying high is a dangerous business. Although he has been excellent, especially with power and runs scored, over the last season and a half, he has just one year with 20 plus bombs and his average wasn’t exactly lights out thanks to a slowdown in the second half. He’s certainly a nice grab in the late middle rounds but there are other outfielders with proven track records that might be more valuable.
Craig Kimbrel, RP
Where he should be drafted: 14th round
Analysis: Kimbrel’s ERA, WHIP and FIP all hit career-high marks in his first season in Boston. He also had only 31 saves, the fewest of his career other than 2010 when he threw 20 2⁄3 innings in his first taste of big league ball. He walked more batters and his ground ball rate plummeted, but his K/9 was right in line with his career norms, so if he can keep runners off base at a better rate, he will rack up saves and Ks, which is really all you need from a closer. However, as the saying goes, “Don’t pay for saves.” Until Kimbrel looks more like Zach Britton, Kimbrel should be added when the position player depth starts to look thin.
Andrew Benintendi, OF
Where he should be drafted: 15th round
Analysis: If you are in a Boston-fan heavy league, someone is going to go all-in on Benintendi. It makes some sense. He showed he could handle big league pitching in his short stint with the team and got playoff experience as well. But you don’t want to be the eager person taking him in the fifth round. That’s not anywhere close to where he is going but make sure you remain strong and don’t get enticed by the idea of being first on the Benintendi train.
David Price, SP
Where he should be drafted: 18th round
Analysis: I really have no idea what to do here. Price isn’t 100 percent and isn’t going to start right away. Sure his peripherals showed that he was not as bad as it seemed last year, and if his home run rate comes down, you could be getting an upper round arm for very little. However, a 3.99 ERA last season was not what you want from a fantasy starter, even one who racked up strikeouts like Price did. With the health concerns and worrisome debut, I’d stay away from Price unless you can get him way late.
The guys listed above need to be drafted. After that, you’re looking at fliers or players to void entirely. If you want to take Pablo Sandoval with your last pick, I don’t hate that. Your last few picks usually end up being waiver wire fodder anyway. Do not take Sandy Leon under any circumstance. Fan favoritism will not help when you have a catcher weighing your team down. If you want to take one of Drew Pomeranz and Steven Wright, I’d go with Wright. In the bullpen, nobody is taking Kimbrel’s closer role unless he suffers an injury. So don’t draft another reliever. Lastly, Sam Travis is the late-round flier that dreams are made of, especially in keeper leagues.