Here are the top five questions facing the hated (by me) Boston Red Sox. I will merely start with this bomb: Carl Crawford will outperform Jacoby Ellsbury in 2012.
5. Should we be concerned about Jon Lester? On the surface the answer is no, but looking a bit deeper, fantasy players need to be concerned. Lester has seen his K rate erode in the last two seasons, with his K/BB rate sinking to a pedestrian 2.4 in 2011. He had a shoulder issue in July, and his walk rate for the last two years is roughly 3.5.
He is still young, appears to be a lock for 200 IP and is regarded by most fantasy players as close to ace-level. But there are some cracks in the armor and he is not an ace-level pitcher.
4. Is Kevin Youkilis done? Here we have a player on the wrong side of 30, with four straight years of OPS decline and who has failed to reach 500 AB in the last three seasons. Throw in four straight years of HR decline and a FB rate south of 40% and we have a pretty clear picture.
Optimists can point to an unlucky BABIP in 2012, no erosion in his overall batting eye and the lack of credible 3B candidates generally as reason to draft him. But to us he no longer looks like a $20 player, and $15 may be pushing it. Feel free to call me a hater.
3. Can Jacoby Ellsbury repeat? This seems to me to be a litmus test for process over results. If you think there is no reason he cannot repeat, ask yourself if you feel the same way about Asdrubal Cabrera. No fantasy GM worth his salt can consider his power for real, which means he is not a first-rounder.
Of course, we are only talking about power here and not overall performance. And you can count on the speed. But he might very well go from 30 homers to 10 without batting an eye. If anyone has any reason they think his power improvement is legitimate feel free to post as a comment, because we do not see any reason for optimism. Draft him as a first-rounder at your considerable peril.
Gravity and regression to the mean are the most powerful forces in fantasy baseball. Do not ignore their lessons.
2. Andrew Bailey? GM Ben Cherington did his best Ed Wade impersonation in the offseason; virtually every move he made was one that Theo Epstein would not have done, in my opinion at least.
Bailey is not what he seems. In 2009 and 2010 he had ERA’s almost two runs lower than his expected ERA, due to a composite LOB% well north of 80%. Last year was far closer to his real skill level; it wasn’t the elbow it was him. He is a fly ball pitcher moving to a far tougher park, in the crucible of the AL East and everything that brings. It won’t take many high-profile home runs before the calls for Mark Melancon start. Put the chances of an ERA above 4.00 at 50%.
1. What will Carl Crawford do? Finally, some cause for optimism in the fantasy prospects of the Red Sox; strange that it comes in the form of the most disappointing player in baseball.
This is a thin optimism, however. Hot on the heels of his 2011 disaster is a wrist injury that will deflate his fantasy value even more. Hence, we have the seeds of opportunity. 2011 was a repeat of 2008; yet more proof of gravity’s power in this game. He will rebound for sure; the only question is to what level. I’ll be damned if I know, but at least the trend will be up and not down. A few more walks and better BABIP luck will do wonders.