The MLB regular season starts in exactly one week, meaning there is just one week left to get your ducks in a row for fantasy baseball season. There is a deluge of content examining the best strategies and providing the rankings to help you succeed, but what if you wanted guidance from just a Red Sox perspective? Well, you’ve come to the right place. Below you will find advice on which Red Sox players you should consider drafting and when you should consider drafting them.
A few notes before we get started. Unless otherwise noted, all projections are based on ZiPS DC. Average draft position is based on Fantasy Pros’ aggregate rankings, which may change by the time you are reading this. You can find the most up-to-date rankings here . Lastly, I am projecting when you should draft players for a standard 12-team, non-keeper league format that utilizes traditional head-to-head category scoring. However, most of the analysis can be extrapolated for leagues of other sizes and formats except where otherwise noted. Now let’s get to it.
Rafael Devers, 3B
Average draft position (ADP): 23
Where he should be drafted: Late Second Round/Early Third Round
Analysis: The $313.5 million man is easily the best player on the Red Sox’s roster, both for actual baseball and its fantasy equivalent. With his combination of power and contact skills, he will be a cornerstone for any fantasy roster, supplying heaping helpings of home runs, runs scored and RBI to go with a high batting average. If your league dabbles in less traditional fare in terms of scoring, Devers is still a worthwhile pick in the early rounds, especially considering how much he cut down on his strikeout rate last year. The only reason to hold off on getting Devers near the top of the draft would be because of the depth at third base this year.
Masataka Yoshida, OF
Average draft position (ADP): 173
Players Drafted in Similar Spots: Vaughn Grissom (2B, Atlanta Braves), Josh Bell (1B, Cleveland Guardians), Pete Fairbanks (RP, Tampa Bay Rays), Alec Bohm (3B, Philadelphia Phillies)
Where he should be drafted: Ninth Round
Analysis: You can call me a sucker, but after watching Yoshida absolutely mash in the World Baseball Classic, I am much higher on him than the consensus rankings. It’s not just short-sighted optimism, however. While projection systems are not in lock-step on Yoshida, just about every one has Yoshida pegged to bat somewhere between .280 and .300, hit 15-20 home runs and to strike out once every other month. OK, so I’m embellishing on that last point, but the point is: his bat is expected to play. Even if he doesn’t hit dramatic home runs every game, Yoshida looks poised to be a hit machine and while the rest of the your league is taking their first closer or third or fourth starting pitcher, you should scoop up Yoshida early and not feel bad about it at all.
Garrett Whitlock, SP
Average draft position (ADP): 276
Where he should be drafted: 10th Round
Analysis: While many pundits are shook by Whitlock’s recovery from hip surgery, you shouldn’t be. The Rule 5 Draft superstar is only going to be sidelined for a couple starts, at worst, based on most recent reports, which means he will more or less have a shot at making a full season’s worth of appearances. Sure, he may need a little time to find his groove and having surgery so recently isn’t ideal, especially since this will be his first season as a full-time starter. Still, projections are rosy (ZiPS DC has him at a 3.44 ERA, 25.1 percent strikeout rate, 5.6 percent walk rate and 1.14 WHIP) and with time to focus on a single role, I like him to be a solid No. 3 starter on any fantasy roster.
Triston Casas, 1B
Average draft position (ADP): 206
Where he should be drafted: 12th Round
Analysis: First base isn’t as deep as usual this year, so Casas may end up going earlier than where I have him, but if you can be patient, you could get a real steal in the late middle rounds. I actually like the idea of passing on top tier first basemen like Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Freddie Freeman early on and going with someone like Christian Walker and Casas in back-to-back rounds near the middle of the draft, particularly if you have a general infielder spot or something like that. Casas looked pretty solid in 95 plate appearances in his first taste of MLB action last season, especially in terms of power and the ability to draw walks. Drafting prospects is always a dangerous game, but I think Casas is legit enough to be at least a useful player. Just don’t jump the gun and take him too early.
Chris Sale, SP
Average draft position (ADP): 146
Where he should be drafted: 13th Round
Analysis: Having Sale this low might make you think I’m not optimistic about his 2023. That’s not the case at all. The unfortunate reality is although Sale could very well still be a frontline fantasy starter, until he stays on the mound consistently, it’s tough to use an early round pick on him. However, if you are lucky enough to snag him as the draft enters the back end, you could very well end up with an ace without giving up valuable real estate in the early rounds. Sale is projected to be a top 15 pitcher in strikeout rate this season, according to ZiPS DC, and with enough innings, that would translate to a lot of strikeouts from a volume perspective and, likely, a relatively strong ERA. If Sale can stay healthy, he could be a league winner.
Justin Turner, DH/1B/3B
Average draft position (ADP): 238
Players Drafted in Similar Spots: Michael Conforto (OF, San Francisco Giants), Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (OF, Arizona Diamondbacks), Adalberto Mondesí (SS, Red Sox), Jórge Lopez (RP, Minnesota Twins)
Where he should be drafted: 14th Round
Analysis: We’re now entering the part of the draft where you should be trying to fill holes and shore up weaknesses. While I recommend Turner in the 14th round or so, that isn’t a hard rule for every team, as your roster construction may require a different type of player. For example, if you spent the first 13 rounds on infield sluggers and starting pitchers, you may need to look toward adding some speed in the outfield. Turner won’t be the guy for you in that case. However, if you get to this point in the draft and you could use a corner infielder with a solid track record of hitting for a relatively solid average, driving in runs and leaving the yard at a decent clip, Turner would be a great pick.
Sure, Turner won’t be the kind of selection that makes anyone shower you with compliments or scream “I was just about to pick him!” but he has hit at least .275 every year since 2013 and produced double-digit home run totals every full season since 2015 (except for 2020, of course). His eye has somehow gotten better during his career, as he walks a ton and doesn’t strike out much, meaning much of his on-base skills should remain intact in Boston. As for concerns about his recovery from being hit in the face by a pitch earlier this spring, Turner has gotten back to work this week and even if he isn’t a full go on Opening Day, he shouldn’t miss too much time.
Alex Verdugo, OF
Average draft position (ADP): 187
Where he should be drafted: 14th Round
Analysis: Did you know Alex Verdugo was in the 92nd percentile in strikeout rate, whiff rate and expected batting average last season? Unfortunately, despite being skilled at getting the bat on the ball, his less exceptional .309 batting average on balls in play held him back from competing for a batting title, instead limiting him to a … .280 batting average. Hey, that’s not bad but, well, take it away, Pedro Pascal.
The good news is Verdugo started to get the ball in the air a bit more last season, posting a career-high in flyball rate and his best line drive rate since his 15-game MLB debut in 2017, at least according to Baseball Savant. Maybe that doesn’t mean he’ll start launching bombs all the time, but it at least means he was driving the ball into the ground less often. If he keeps on the trajectory, maybe that batting average will start creeping into a more elite category. Some projection systems seem to think it will, as ZiPs DC has Verdugo producing the fourth-highest batting average in baseball. (Yoshida is projected to finish second while we’re on the subject). Getting a player with at least one elite skill in the 14th round would be pretty great, especially if Verdugo actually lives up to the expectations I’m putting out there. Now, if your league doesn’t use batting average, this might seem irrelevant, but a high batting average can lead to useful contributions in other areas as well, so don’t knock it too much.
Kenley Jansen, RP
Average draft position (ADP): 95
Players Drafted in Similar Spots: Joe Musgrove (SP, San Diego Padres), Rhys Hoskins (1B, Philadelphia Phillies), Logan Webb (SP, San Francisco Giants), Nathaniel Lowe (1B, Texas Rangers)
Where he should be drafted: 15th Round
Analysis: I have Turner, Verdugo and Jansen all ranked close to one another, but I have long lived the don’t-pay-for-saves life and I’m not changing my tune now. Jansen is far from the most exciting reliever you could select, assuming your league uses saves, but if you’re getting late in the draft and haven’t picked up a closer, Jansen is a solid option with a relatively stable hold on the ninth inning. Of course, based on ADP, he’s likely going to be off the board way before then. Just remember to hold the line and keep drafting starting pitching and position player depth until late in the draft.
Even if the Red Sox employ a more fluid bullpen strategy, the expectations are that Jansen will get the majority of the closing work. ZiPS DC projects him to accumulate 30 saves, a number he’s reached every year since 2014 (except for the shortened 2020 campaign). He’s also usually good for at least a 30 percent strikeout rate and even though he had an ERA of 3.38 last season, his expected mark was a full run lower. Unfortunately, most projection systems aren’t buying a return to peak Jansen, instead pegging him as a 30-save guy with an ERA in the high threes and declining strikeout numbers. So, with Jansen, you are very much drafting him with the expectation that he’ll rack up saves for you, if less efficiently than some of the closers taken earlier. With that in mind, if your league doesn’t use saves, you can ignore this entire paragraph.
If someone isn’t on the list above, I wouldn’t recommend drafting them, although if you want to take a flyer in the last couple rounds, it won’t make or break your season. I struggled with what to do with Trevor Story, but ultimately felt that without knowing exactly when he’d be back, it’s not worth stashing him right now. Adam Duvall is a perfect player to take with your last pick or two, as he might be able to pop more than 25 home runs at Fenway Park. That’s pretty good production for an outfielder on your bench. Enrique Hernández and Christian Arroyo both have a ton of positional flexibility, but I don’t like either of their bats enough to draft outside of leagues with a lot of extra roster spots.
On the pitching side, I think Brayan Bello is going to be awesome eventually, but that forearm tightness is still worrying me. If he had been healthy all spring, I probably would have had him as a late round flyer. I’m not entirely out on that play, but it’s not one I’m recommending fully just yet. As for the rest of the rotation, Corey Kluber and Nick Pivetta will eat innings, so keep an eye on them as starters to stream when you’re in a jam.