Dustin Pedroia picked a fight with father time and won the last two seasons. At age 30, Pedroia posted a 98 wRC+ in 2014. Battling injuries, I thought we may never see him reach fantasy relevance again, but he followed that up with a 115 wRC+ campaign in 2015 (albeit injury riddled) followed by a 120 wRC+ over the full course of 2016. Last season, Pedroia basically righted every wrong - career high LD%, lowest K% in 5 years, and he even stole more bases. He'll be leading off for Boston this season, which should be good for 105+ runs for Pedroia. If he can maintain an average over .300, he'll be a big asset in roto leagues. I'm still cautious of a potential injury, and perhaps worse, him playing through that injury at less than 100%. As the new, lone alpha dog of the Red Sox clubhouse, I expect to see that, which you should keep mind during 2017.
The Red Sox asked Craig Kimbrel to focus more on his command this spring, which is unsurprising given his 5.09 BB/9 last year. When you're walking that many guys, your margin for error becomes way too small, which shows us why Kimbrel had a 3.40 ERA last year. Despite the lack of command, he managed to keep home runs to a relative minimum despite a dangerous 48% FB rate at Fenway Park. All that said, Kimbrel scares me a little bit, but his stuff is still that electric that I don't think we'll see a complete implosion here. The velocity is still there and batters aren't making great contact, so he's a top closer on draft day.
Whether it's atop your fantasy baseball team or fantasy bowling team, you can't go wrong with Mookie Betts in 2017. Betts had an absolute breakout campaign last year, mashing 31 HR with 26 SB and a .318 average. It will be interesting to see how Betts responds to those who claim the power isn't real (12 HR came in 5 games, what if that didn't happen?!). To boot, he only hit one HR in the final month of the season. All that said, even if his HR numbers decline to the mid-20s, no one will really mind with the RBI and Run production that's expected out of the Red Sox offense. Betts is the real deal and will produce any which way he can. I wouldn't count on him to be your main source of power, because while he increased his Hard% last season, the 13.2% HR/FB rate was meaningfully above 2014 and 2015 levels. But I don't think you'll be unhappy with Betts either way.
Early signs are encouraging, we're told, on David Price's left forearm. With folks drafting over the next few weeks, Price is the ultimate risk to take. You're likely drafting him a few rounds later than normal, with an expectation that he throws 220+ innings or less than 50. I certainly can't opine on the structural integrity of his arm, but let's consider that Price hasn't thrown less than 185 innings since 2009 - when he was called up to the big leagues. The pessimist will say that he's overused, while the optimist will say that he's consistent. I'm willing to gamble with him as the Red Sox seen okay moving forward despite only being in year two of a long-term deal with Price. Price's numbers were far from impressive last year, but he represents a strong bounce-back candidate given that his SIERA was nearly .4 runs above his actual ERA, and the fact that he gave up HRs at a career high rate. My main concern with Price is how he fits in the Boston media. Living in Boston, it's routine to hear him being ripped on a daily basis, and that has had a material effect on some former free agents in Boston (Carl Crawford, Julio Lugo - all former Rays coincidentally). However, I'll ignore that bias and look to see Price have a top 20 SP season for a contender.
Mitch Moreland was hired by the Red Sox in the offseason to fill some of the biggest shoes in Boston: replacing the production of David Ortiz. It's unclear how much playing time Moreland will get (certainly not much against lefties), but he represents a potential sleeper in deep daily leagues if he can find the strike he carried in 2015. Moreland sported a 134 wRC+ against righties while batting .294 with 18 HR in just 316 AB. Sure, last year was a complete disaster, but there's reason to believe (.266 BABIP) that he has his share of bad luck. If he gets off to a hot start and wins some playing time in Fenway, don't be afraid to grab him and insert into favorable matchups.
Andrew Benintendi looks to become a household name in 2017. He's started the spring on a scorching pace, coming into yesterday batting well in the 400s. At just 22, it will be normal to see some streakiness and downright struggles as he still adjusts to the big league level. But all this kid has done is rake at every level he's played at so far, so pegging where he'll end up is difficult. What we know is that his ceiling is enormous, he's in a great offense, and he has 125+ AB under his belt; these are all the makings of a great success. I always prefer to take guys with a high ceiling consistently on draft day, hoping that at least one or more will strike. For that reason, I'm a bit higher on Benintendi than most.
Kemp, Matt - ATL/OF: Matt Kemp collected his first hit of the spring yesterday, and is now 1-for-15. Kemp allegedly lost 30 lbs in the off-season (best shape of his life!), but there's very little to get excited about. While he played well with the Braves last season, I'm pessimistic that their offense will generate ample RBI and run opportunities for Kemp over the full season. I'm staying away.
Morton, Charlie - HOU/P: Charlie Morton through 3 scoreless with 4 strikeouts yesterday. 2017 is Morton's first foray into the American League, so I'd expect a worse stat line across the board, which was never impressive to begin with. Keep him off your radar for now, but if the Astros start to play amazing defense behind this groundball creator, he could put together a string of successful starts.
Gurriel, Yulieski - HOU/3B: Yulieski Gurriel had a multi-hit game yesterday batting from the #5 spot. Gurriel struggled early last season, and as he approached age 33, I'm not foreseeing explosive production from him. He admitted he was fatigued form playing every day last season, which is concerning given his age and the fact that he still hasn't adjusted to the American game.
Fowler, Dexter - STL/OF: Dexter Fowler collected two hits and two runs yesterday. The Cardinals are thrilled with the very early returns here. Fowler's numbers are somewhat difficult to ascertain because he got hurt last season, but he put together a fantastic year in the time that he played, tallying 84 runs in just 125 games. His 129 wRC+ was a career high, making me suspect if he can repeat that level of production when he's not on the best offense on the planet not in a contract year. I'd anticipate a step back.
Smith, Seth - BAL/OF: 34-year old Seth Smith finds himself amongst a cavalcade of mashers in the Orioles lineup. He connected with his first HR of the Spring yesterday. Smith has historically crushed RHP, but still left more to be desired the last two seasons with the Mariners. This change of scenery in Baltimore could make him an intriguing platoon option for deep daily leagues - only against righties.
Blue Jays - TOR/T: Mat Latos had an outing to forget, throwing 2 innings while walking 3 with 5 ER. We may see him mid-season in some fashion with some team, but if he's on your fantasy draft prep sheet, you're probably looking at the 2011 version.
Correa, Carlos - HOU/SS: Carlos Correa will be playing 3B during the World Baseball Classic. It's unlikely he'll need to be at the corner during the MLB season, but you never know in leagues with easy positional requirements, and that could only add to his 2017 value. Correa got off to a great start last year before cooling, all of which is normal for a 21 year old. Look for Correa to be among the best at his position for the next several years.
Kershaw, Clayton - LAD/P: Clayton Kershaw threw three hitless innings yesterday, making it six scoreless innings this Spring for the best pitcher on the planet. He looks ready to shoulder a full workload again and should hit the ground running on Opening Day.
Keuchel, Dallas - HOU/P: Dallas Keuchel is expected to make his first start of the Spring on Sunday, anticipating to go 2 innings. Regretfully it seems like he may not be ready for Opening Day, but the Astros as smart to get him prepped for the full season instead. The 2015 Cy Young winner looks to have a strong rebound in 2017.
Gregorius, Didi - NYY/SS: Didi Gregorius smacked three doubles yesterday for the Netherlands. Gregorius surprised me last year, going from a sub-par middle infield option to showcasing 20 HR power for the Yankees. While he won't be drawing any comparisons to Troy Tulowitzki soon, we've seen a third straight season of improvement from him, increasing his wRC+ from 75 to 89 to 98. Another small leap forward at the thin SS position puts him on a lot of radars. There's potentially some more upside.