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2017 Boston Red Sox Team Outlook

Senior Fantasy Baseball Expert Shawn Childs takes an in-depth look at the Boston Red Sox heading into the 2017 MLB season!

Boston Red Sox

Boston had great improvement in their offense in 2016. They led the American League in runs scored (878), which was 101 runs higher than the second-place team (Cleveland – 777) and 130 more runs than 2015 (748). The Red Sox were league average in home runs (7th – 208). They dominated in batting average (.282 – second place team hit .267).

In the offseason, David Ortiz retired. They lost three arms from their bullpen – Koji Uehara, Junichi Tazawa, and Brad Ziegler. 1B Mitch Moreland signed to compete for at bats at 1B and DH.

The impact move this fall was the acquisition of SP Chris Sale from the White Sox for top prospect IF Yoan Moncada, OF Luis Alexander Basabe, SP Michael Kopech, and RP Victor Diaz. Boston gets a second ace while giving up a potential superstar in Moncada plus Kopech has top of the rotation ability. Boston looks poised to be in the hunt to win the World Series over the next five years, so this deal should go down as a win/win for both ball clubs.

Boston gave Travis Shaw plenty of at bats in 2016 to see if he could unseat Pablo Sandoval. His bat proved to be streaky, so they moved him to the Brewers to help shore up the backend of their bullpen by adding RP Tyler Thornburg. The Red Sox threw in SP Josh Pennington as well.

The final trade in December involved sending SP Clay Buchholz to the Phillies for 2B Josh Tobias.

With SP David Price underachieving in 2016, Boston finished 4th in the American League in ERA (4.00) while their bullpen ended up in 9th (3.56 ERA with 25 wins, 27 losses, and 43 saves).

Overall, the Red Sox have solid depth in their hitting lineup. They need to replace the lost stats from David Ortiz while taking into consideration that multiple players had career years in 2016. The only real question mark in 2017 is the catching position.

The starting rotation should have two elite arms with high K ability plus a possible third ace if Rick Porcello can repeat his success from last season. Boston would be much improved if Eduardo Rodriguez can turn in a healthy season. The seventh, eighth, and ninth innings will be covered by three arms with elite fastballs – CL Craig Kimbrel (98.1), RP Tyler Thornburg (95.2), and RB Joe Kelly (97.3).

1. 2B Dustin Pedroia

Pedroia had a nice bounce back season in 2016, which fell in line with his previous resume except for SBs (7). Dustin had over 200 hits for the second time in his career while scoring over 100 runs for the fourth time. He had his highest contact batting average (CTBA - .359) over the last five seasons while regressing on the length of his hits (1.413). Pedroia remains one of the toughest players to strikeout in baseball (K rate – 10.5). His walk rate (8.7) has been under his career average (9.1) in four of the last five seasons. Dustin handled himself well vs. lefties (.305) and righties (.320) while hitting over .290 in each month in 2016 highlight by .406 in August. Over the last three months, he hit .330 with eight HRs, 44 RBI, and two SBs. After the season, Pedroia had minor surgery on his left knee. He’s expected to be ready for spring training. His lack of edge in speed or power puts Dustin more into a complementary role on a Fantasy roster. His floor should be about .290 with 90+ runs, mid-teens in HRs, and a chance at double digit steals if his knee issue was the reason for the shortfall in this area in 2016.

2. OF Andrew Benintendi

It appears Boston placed their bet on Benintendi over Yoan Moncada in the offseason. Andrew pushed his way to the majors in just two seasons after getting drafted 7th overall in the 2015 MLB June Amateur Draft. Over 570 at bats in the minors, he hit .312 with 20 HRs, 107 RBI, and 26 SBs. His walk rate (11.3) gives him top of the order ability while doing a nice job minimizing the damage in Ks (63 – 9.3 percent K rate). Benintendi handled himself well in the majors (.295 with two HRs, 14 RBI, and one SB in 105 at bats). His K rate (21.2) did spike, which was expected until he gets more experience. Andrew doesn’t have an at bat at AAA in his career so his 2017 ride might not go as smoothly as Fantasy owners expect. His speed and ability to take a walk should give him a chance to hit near the top of the Red Sox batting order this season. His skill set projects to be a 20/20 hitter while offering an edge in batting average. In the high-stakes market in baseball, he's getting plenty of respect in the early draft season (40th OF draft with an ADP of 142 in 15 team leagues). Let's set the bar at .280 with 15 HRs and 15 SBs and hope for upside.

3. OF Mookie Betts

Betts was a beast in 2016. He set career highs in runs (122), hits (214), HRs (31), RBI (113), and SBs (26) while leading the AL in at bats (672). Mookie is tough to strikeout (11.0 K rate) with some works to do in his walk rate (6.7). Last year he spent most of the season batting leadoff (.314 with 23 HRs, 74 RBI, and 18 SBs in 478 at bats) before shifting to the middle of the batting order late in the season. While batting cleanup, Betts hit .338 with five HRs, 27 RBI, and eight SBs over 142 at bats. His RBI rate has been elite in 2015 (20 percent) and 2016 (21 percent), which puts him in an area with Miguel Cabrera. Mookie crushed RH pitching (.331 with 23 HRs and 92 RBI in 543 at bats) while needing growth against lefties (.264 with eight HRs and 21 RBI in 129 at bats - .311 with five HRs and 20 RBI in 148 at bats in 2015). Over the last three months of 2016, he hit .352 with 15 HRs, 59 RBI, and 14 SBs in 327 at bats. His swing path is balanced with his surge in power tied to a spike in his HR/FB rate (13.2 – 8.2 in 2014 and 2015). His improving AVH (1.678 in 2016) is intriguing. Betts is a do it all type of player playing in a high scoring offense. He's Boston best bat so he should hit 3rd in 2017. I expect more RBI chances this year due to the change in the batting order with a slight downtick in runs. His HRs and SBs looks to have a floor of 25 going forward. Only Dustin Pedroia & Betts had minor surgery on his right knee in the offseason. Mookie will be drafted in the top three in almost every draft in 2017.

4. SS Xander Bogaerts

Bogaerts did a lot of things well in 2017, but his skill set is well below Mookie Betts at this point of his career. His growth in power came from a better swing path, which led to lower GB rate (45.5 – 52.9 in 2015) and a high FB rate (34.9 – 25.8 in 2015). Xander saw his HR/FB rate (11.4) more than double from his 2015 season (5.3) leading to growth in his AVH (1.516). He had a nice step forward in his walk rate (8.1) to bring it to league average with a slight step back in his K rate (17.1). His success in RBI (89) was due to more chances (461) while regressing in his RBI rate (15). Bogaerts played great for four months (.329 with 14 HRs, 67 RBI, and 13 SBs over 426 at bats). His bat lost value over the last two months of the season (.230 with seven HRs and 22 RBI in 226 at bats) with a spike in his K rate (20.7). Xander had success against both RH (.292 with 15 HRs and 69 RBI over 527 at bats) and LH (.304 with six HRs and 20 RBI in 125 at bats) pitching. His underlying skill set points to more upside. Last season he had more of his at bats in the 3rd slot in the batting order (.315 with 15 HRs, 68 RBI, and 13 SBs over 441 at bats). If he does indeed hit behind Betts, he’ll have plenty of RBI chances. Solid .300 hitter with more growth expected in power. Next step: 25+ HRs with 15+ SBs.

Nick Turchiaro / USA TODAY Sports

5. 1B Hanley Ramirez

With David Ortiz retiring, Hanley will have a chance to become the next DH in Boston. Ramirez was more steady than explosive over the first three months of 2016 (.273 with eight HRs, 45 RBI, and five SBs). He found his rhythm over the last half of year (.300 with 22 HRs, 66 RBI, and four SBs over 263 at bats). This led to a career high in RBI (111) and his second season with 30 or more home runs. His walk rate (9.7) came in just above his career average (9.3) with regression in his K rate (19.4). Hanley crushed lefties (.346 with 11 HRs and 30 RBI in 127 at bats) while being about league average against righties (.268 with 19 HRs and 81 RBI over 422 at bats). His FB rate (32.9) has been short in six of his last seven years while his HR/FB rate (21.1) matched his career high in 2013. His RBI rate (19) has been strong in three of his last four-year, which means he may end up beating out Bogaerts for the cleanup slot in the batting order. Hanley had fun last year, and he was one of the Red Sox best players down the stretch. By playing DH, he should stay healthy allowing for a bump in at bats. His AVH (1.764) is strong enough to deliver another 30 HRs season while chipping in with some steals. Ramirez has a .300 skill set with a 100 RBI opportunity.

6. 3B Pablo Sandoval

Sandoval missed almost all of the 2016 season with a left shoulder injury that required surgery. Let's review his resume. In 2009, Sandoval hit .330 with 25 HRs and 90 RBI with low K rate (13.1). Over his next six seasons, Pablo only has one season with more than 20 HRs (23) and fewer than 80 RBI in each season. His swing path was brutal in 2015 (48.9 percent ground ball rate - career high and a weak HR/FB rate (7.8). His walk rate (5.0) was a career worst with a decline in three straight years. His K rate (14.5) was the highest of his career, but it was only about one percentage point higher than his career average (13.3). His swing had no value vs. LH pitching (.197 with a .231 slugging percentage), which makes two straight weak years (.199 in 2014). There is only one thing worse than an overweight, out of shape guy; a rich lazy, overweight, out of shape guy. He made $35.2 million in 2015 and 2016. The left shoulder issue had to be a big part of his failure, but he can't play at a high level without a better commitment to the game. The offseason reports have been favorable above his weight, so he possibly has two positive signs entering 2017. With Travis Shaw shipped to Milwaukee, Pablo will have the full show at 3B this year. My Sandoval dream starts at .280 with 15 HRs and 75 RBI.

7. 1B Mitch Moreland

Boston needed another left-handed bat with David Ortiz retiring. Moreland offers 20+ HR power with a plus glove. He's expected to play more games at 1B when Boston faces right-hand pitching. Mitch had a low contact batting average (.313) for the second time in five years while struggling with runners on base (12 percent RBI rate). In 2015, Moreland offered much more upside in both areas (CTBA - .365 and RBI Rate – 18). His K rate (23.5) and walk rate (7.0) were slightly behind his career averages last year. Surprisingly, Mitch had more success vs. lefties (.277 with five HRs and 18 RBI in 94 at bats) than righties (.221 with 17 HRs and 42 RBI in 366 at bats) in 2016. His HR/FB rate (17.2) has been in a favorable area in the last two seasons (18.3 in 2015). Moreland has never lived up to his minor-league resume (.311 with 49 HRs and 268 RBI in 1440 at bats). Platoon type bat with 20+ HR power. He’s expected to play every day against righties with Chris Young pushing him to the bench against LH pitching.

8. OF Jackie Bradley Jr.

Based on his draft slot, Fantasy owners were happy with the production from Bradley in 2016. He improved his K rate (22.5) while staying above the league average with his walk rate (9.9). His bat continues to be streaky. Jackie crushed the ball in May (.381 with eight HRs and 24 RBI over 97 at bats) while losing his rhythm in June (.218 with four HRs and 13 RBI in 87 at bats) and August (.198 with five HRs and 13 RBI in 106 at bats). He did strikeout 39 times in August (33.3 percent K rate). Bradley enjoyed most of his success against RH pitching (.277 with 23 HRs and 70 RBI over 394 at bats) with much weaker success against lefties (.239 with three HRs and 17 RBI in 163 at bats). Also, Jackie played his best ball at home (.299 with 14 HRs, 55 RBI, and seven SBs over 301 at bats). His HR/FB rate (18.1) was a career-high in 2016. I would say 2016 was well above expected value for Bradley. His minor-league resume painted him as a 10/30 hitter with the best command of the strike zone. I'm torn here as I know his success last year will inflate his draft value. Based on the last year and a half, 20 HRs should seem attainable with a chance at more speed. His strike zone discipline is improving, but it remains below a top of the order opportunity. Possible .270 with 80 runs, 20 HRs, 75 RBI, and 10 SBs.

9. C Blake Swihart

The Red Sox lost faith in Swihart's glove behind the plate in 2016, which led to him being converted to the outfield. Blake was shipped to AAA in mid-April where he hit .243 with one HR, eight RBI, and two SBs over 103 at bats. Boston called him back up to majors in late May. Over 44 at bats with Boston in May and June, Swihart hit .250 with minimal production (four RBI). His season ended in June with a bad ankle injury that required surgery in August. Boston stated in the offseason that Blake would return to the catcher position in 2017. Over six seasons in the minors, he hit .283 with 23 HRs, 178 RBI, and 24 SBs over 1326 at bats. Upside talent, but he's far from a lock to win the starting catching job in the majors. Player to follow for sure as the catching pool tends to weak in almost every season.

BN OF Chris Young

Young struggled to get at bats in April (.185 with no HRs and one RBI in 27 at bats). His swing started to come around in May leading solid success off the bench over 103 at bats in May and June (.301 with six HRs and 14 RBI). A hamstring injury led to an eight-week DL stint when he had a chance at everyday at bats. Chris bounced back for a decent September (.296 with three HRs and six RBI) in limited at bats (54). His swing continues to offer an edge against lefties (.329 with three HRs and nine RBI in 73 at bats). Young is a high-volume FB hitter (49.7 percent in 2016 and 48.5 in his career). His HR/FB rate (11.8) was just above his career average. Platoon player with double digit power and batting average risk with 300+ at bats.

BN C Sandy Leon

I don't know how, but Leon found a way to play his best ball by a wide margin for the Red Sox in 2016. His success over 500 at bats would be about 14 HRs and 70 RBI. Over ten seasons in the minors, Sandy hit .238 with 24 HRs, 228 RBI, and eight SBs in 2016 at bats. After last year, he's a .254 hitter in the majors with eight HRs and 43 RBI in 461 at bats. Injuries and lack of performance led to his opportunity in 2016. I can't see him repeating his results and his resume points to a low-value backup role.

Bench Options

C Christian Vazquez – Boston wanted Vazquez to win the starting job in 2016 due to his glove and possible upside with his bat. He only hit .227 over 172 at bats with a HR and 12 RBI leading to a trip back to AAA. In the minors in 2016, Christian hit .270 with two HRs and 16 RBI in 152 at bats. His bat flashed the most upside in rookie ball in 2011 (.283 with 18 HRs and 84 RBI over 444 at bats). Based on the path of all three catching options for Boston in 2017, Vazquez should be the starter on opening day. Possible double digit power with 450+ at bats.

IF Josh Rutledge – Over the last two years, Josh hit .276 in Boston over 123 at bats with one HR, 13 RBI, and two SBs. He is a career .262 hitter in the majors with 20 HRs, 102 RBI, and 23 SBs over 994 at bats. Early in his minor-league career, Rutledge was considered an upside prospect. Over seven seasons in the minors, he hit .318 with 33 HRs, 173 RBI, and 39 SBs in 1393 at bats. The Rockies signed him to a minor-league deal in November only to see Boston snatch him back in the December Rule 5 Draft.

OF Brock Holt – Over the last three years, Brock has been Boston’s top utility man. He hit .271 in his career with the Red Sox with 13 HRs, 119 RBI, and 25 SBs in 1252 at bats. Last season Holt played at 2B (8), SS (7), 3B (17), and OF (68). His bat tends to get exposed with too much playing time. Brock's role will be similar in 2017 while his opportunity won't offer any value in the Fantasy market other than a short-term fill-in.

1. SP Chris Sale

Sale failed to step up into the Kershaw zone in 2016 after progressing in that direction in 2015. His arm looked electric over his first nine starts (1.58 ERA with 62 Ks in 68.1 innings). Over his next nine starts, Chris allowed four runs or more in five games pushing his ERA to 3.17. He had another disaster start on July 8th (eight runs and 12 base runners over five innings), which came just before the "Jersey Incident." Over a nine-start stretch in August and early September, Sale had four double-digit K games. He dominated lefties (.197) with strength against RH batters (.232). In two of his down months, Chris struggled with HRs (June – 7 in 34.1 innings and September – 8 in 41.0 innings). His first pitch rate (62) was the lowest in three seasons. Just like David Price, Sale had a step back in his velocity on his fastball (93.6 – 2013 > 94.4, 2014 > 94.9, and 2015 > 95.6). His slider (.221 BAA) remains his out pitch with success with his four-seam fastball (.221). Chris’s changeup (.270 BAA) had less value than 2015 (.239). Sale has elite command (1.8 walk rate in back-to-back years) with fade in his K rate (9.3) in 2016 after establishing a career high in 2015 (11.8). Special player with 20-win upside and outside chance at 300+ Ks with more life on his fastball and a rebound in his changeup. His resume points to a sub 3.00 ERA. Chris welcome to the BIG CITY while Boston fans hope for a Pedro Martinez type memories.

2. SP David Price

Price had a lot more disaster than Red Sox fans and Fantasy owners expected in 2016. He had a brutal run over six starts in April and early May when he allowed 29 runs and 48 base runners over 35.1 innings (7.39 ERA and 1.358 WHIP). David regained his form over his next eight starts (2.16 ERA), but he kicked Fantasy owners in the Jimmies again on June 24th when the Rangers beat him for six runs and 12 base runners in 2.1 innings. He pitched well in July and August (5-3 with a 2.87 ERA) before fading in September (4-1 with a 4.08 ERA). Price struggled with lefties (.275) while failing to dominate RH batters (.253). In his career, he had much better success in both areas (RH batter - .240 and LH batters - .228). David made too many mistakes in the strike zone leading to a career high HR/FB rate (13.5 – 7.8 in 2015). His AFB (93.8) was a career low with batters hitting .274 against it. In addition, his cutter (.319 BAA) and curveball (.283 BAA) lost value. His walk rate (2.0) remains in a strong area with a step back in his K rate (8.9) from 2015 (10.5) while finishing above his career average (8.6). Price has a solid arm with a winning resume (121-65 with a 3.21 ERA), but there is no doubt his stuff lost value in 2016. I have to believe he bounces back as part of failure could have been mechanical and mental or many be too much money in his pocket. Fantasy owners respect him enough to draft him as the 12th starter in the early draft season. He looks more like an SP2 with value in wins and Ks than an anchor ace offering an edge in ERA and WHIP. 15 wins with a 3.50 ERA and 225 Ks with the downside being a season-ending injury.

3. SP Rick Porcello

Porcello repaid Boston fans in a big way in 2016 after looking like a donation in 2015 (9-15 with a 4.92 ERA). At age 28, Rich has 107 major league wins. It's conceivable that he could win close to 300 games if he maintains a high level of success. Over 1468.1 innings in the majors, he has a poor ERA (4.20) with two seasons with an edge in ERA (2014 – 3.43 and 2016 – 3.15). Last season Porcello had the best command of his career (1.3 walk rate) leading to a career high in Ks (189). His K rate (7.6) has been at the top of his resume in both seasons with the Red Sox (7.8 in 2015). Rick was very good against both RH (.235) and LH (.225) batters while being electric at home (13-1 with a 2.97 ERA and 89 Ks in 106 innings). Over the last three months of 2016, Porcello went 13-2 with a 2.63 ERA and 100 Ks in 123 innings. He allowed three runs or fewer in 27 of his 33 starts. His AFB (92.4) fell into his career resume. Batters struggled to hit his four-seam fastball (.197 BAA), changeup (.177 BAA), curve (.203 BAA), and cutter (.148 BAA). His next step in his improvement is improved location with his sinker. Rick won't blow Fantasy owners away, but his arm is improving with excellent strike-throwing ability. 15 wins with an ERA around 3.50 should be the standard for the next couple of seasons.

© Joe Nicholson / USA Today Sports

4. SP Eduardo Rodriguez

Rodriguez struggled with a knee issue in 2016, which led to him starting the year on the DL and a down season. Eduardo struggled over five starts with Boston in June (0-3 with 10.03 ERA) leading to a trip back to AAA. He threw the ball better in the minors (3.08 ERA with 24 Ks in 38.0 innings). Over his last 14 starts in the majors, he had a 3.24 ERA with 79 Ks in 77.2 innings. An interesting tidbit: Eduardo allowed the same number of runs and walks in each of the last three months (July – 6, August – 10, and September – 12). His arm had success against righties (.235), but he allowed 15 of his 16 HRs to them. His AFB (94.1) remains in an elite area with some regression in his walk rate (3.4 – 4.6 in his poor June). His best success came with his four-seam fastball (.220 BAA) and changeup (.238 BAA). Rodriguez suffered a minor knee injury in Winter ball thus shutting him down until spring training. Over seven years in the minors, Eduardo had a 3.22 ERA with 486 Ks in 572.2 innings. Rising arm with more underlying success than meets the eye if you just look at his final stats in 2016. Enough talent to offer a sub 3.75 ERA with 150+ Ks with respectable wins.

5. SP Drew Pomeranz

Drew had his best opportunity of his career to start in 2016. He pitched his best ball with the Padres (2.47 ERA with 115 Ks in 102 innings). Pomeranz struggled in two or his first three starts with Boston (12 runs and 24 base runners over 14.1 innings). Over his next seven starts, he allowed three runs or fewer (2.34 ERA with 44 Ks in 42.1 innings). He struggled with a forearm issue late in the year, which may have been the reason for two disaster outings in mid-September (nine runs and 15 baserunners allowed in 5.2 innings). His K rate (9.8) points to upside, but he needs to throw more strikes (3.4 walk rate – 3.1 with Boston). Drew did a nice job against righties (.209) while offering an edge against LH batters (.240) as well. He allowed 20 of his 22 HRs to RH batters. Pomeranz held batters to a low LD rate (16.6) while doing a better job keeping the ball on the ground (46.2 percent). His HR/FB rate (13.6) remains a liability. His AFB (91.9) had less velocity over the long haul as a starter while batters only hit .211 vs. his four-seam fastball. In essence, Drew is a two-pitch pitcher with his curveball being his number two pitch (.226 BAA). When he mixed in a cutter (.212 BAA) and changeup (.171 BAA), batters struggled to make hard contact. Pomeranz did throw 84.2 innings more than 2015 with a forearm issue late in the year, which may be the signal of a future TJ surgery. His stuff grades as above average, but Drew needs to throw more strikes especially early in the count. Player of interest at the right price as long there isn’t any negative news with his health headed into spring training.

6. SP Henry Owens

The inability to throw strikes has led to Owens stalling at AAA. Over the last three years, Henry had 51 starts with Pawtucket with reasonable success in ERA (3.44) plus batters only have 223 hits in 298 innings. Unfortunately, he's issued 149 walks with more regression in 2016 (5.3 walks per 9 – 4.3 in his minor-league career). Despite his shortcomings in the minors, Owens has a 3.35 ERA with a 53-31 record and 707 Ks in 655.2 innings. Boston gave him five starts in the majors in 2016 (0-2 with a 6.95 ERA) while walking 20 batters in 22 innings. His arm looked much closer after the 2015 season in the majors (4.57 ERA with 3.4 walks per 9). His AFB (89.8) in the big leagues in 2016 was unimpressive. Possible upside down the road when he figures out how to throw strikes. I can trust his walk rate, which invites too much disaster risk.

7. SP Steven Wright

Seasons like 2016 for Steven Wright are one of my pet peeves in Fantasy baseball. Nine times out of ten I shy away from the arm with minimal upside and disaster risk. The risk averse owners that took Wright for a ride were rewarded with a great 14-start run (8-4 with a 2.01 ERA and 80 Ks in 98.1 innings). Over his next ten starts, Steven had a 5.55 ERA. His season ended in late August was a bum right shoulder that didn't require surgery. The Red Sox believe he'll be ready for the start of spring training. His final stats (3.33 ERA with 127 Ks over 156.2 innings) may look inviting, but his resume is way too short for me. Over nine seasons in the minors, Wright went 55-51 with a 3.79 ERA and 788 Ks in 987 innings. Batters only hit .238 against his knuckleball. Tim Wakefield did a nice job for Boston in his 30s so Steven may surprise again if his early signs are positive. Only a flier if you're throwing darts at the back end of the pitching pool.

CL Craig Kimbrel

Kimbrel has seen his ERA (3.40) and K total (83) regress in four straight years. His first pitch strike rate (68.2) moved into an elite area, but he ended up with the highest walk rate (5.1) over his six full seasons pitched. Craig dominate lefties (.145) and righties (.158). His season was full of peaks and valleys. Kimbrel struggled in April (4.09) despite allowing only five hits in 11 innings (two HRs allowed). He regained his form in May (0.87 ERA with 16 Ks in 10.1 innings). After two bad outings in July (four runs and eight baserunners over two innings), Craig landed on the DL with a minor knee injury that required surgery. He threw the ball well in August (0.82 ERA with 19 Ks in 11 innings) before losing his command of the strike zone in September (nine walks in nine innings). This led to a poor end to the season (0-3 with a 6.00 ERA). On the year, Kimbrel converted 31 of his 33 saves. His AFB (98.1) remains in an elite area. Batters struggled to hit both of his pitches (FB - .184 BAA and curve - .095). The bottom line here is his ability to eliminate walks. His stuff is tough to hit, so an elite season is still a possibility. Boston did score a ton of runs in 2016, so saves chances were less than expected. Solid foundation closer with high K upside if he lowers his walk rate.

RP Tyler Thornburg

The Red Sox placed a bet on Thornburg to be an elite setup man in 2017 based on one season of success. Tyler was one of the best relievers in baseball after the All-Star break (3-0 with a 1.69 ERA, 11 saves, and 42 Ks in 32 innings). Over 22 innings from late July until mid-September, he didn’t allow a run. Over 219.2 innings in the majors, Thornburg has a 2.87 ERA with 220 Ks. Last year his K rate (12.1) jumped by more than three strikeouts per nine innings, but his walk rate (3.4) still needs plenty of work. His AFB (95.2) was career best. He dominated hitters with all three pitches (FB – 1.82 BA, changeup - .121, and curveball - .177). Tyler was a FB pitcher (44.8 percent) in 2016 so could have disaster in his game with less life on his pitches. Nice arm for Boston, but he had a lot to prove in the big moments.

RP Joe Kelly

The starting experiment appears to be over for Kelly. Last year he allowed 21 runs and 50 base runners in 22.1 innings over six starts with Boston. His arm was much more productive out the bullpen (1.02 ERA with 21 Ks in 17.2 innings). Joe has a big fastball (97.3) with more life over short innings (July – 99.3, August – 98.8, and September – 98.4). He had the best K rate (10.8) of his career in 2016 while also walking the most batters (5.4). Over five years in the majors, Kelly has a 35-22 record with a 3.93 ERA and 378 Ks in 501.2 innings. I expected him to narrow down his pitch selection as reliever. Live arm with upside when he figures out how to throw more strikes.

References (n.d.). Retrieved from

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