Among a number of Red Sox players, Xander Bogaerts hopes to redeem himself in 2018. Bogaerts followed up his impressive 2016 campaign with a complete dud last year, posting a wRC+ of just 96 while hitting only 10 home runs, a far cry from his 115 wRC+ and 21 HR the year before. It seemed like Bogaerts got to a slow start last year, but his first half was actually far better than the second as he managed just a 77 wRC+ after the All-Star Break. All this said, he makes for an excellent buy low candidate. The SS position is completely stacked, so you may be able to land Xander late in drafts and be surprised by the production. Let's remember he'll only be 25 this season and is far from his peak. He has a breakout season coming at some point.
Mookie Betts was drafted among the top three players in 2016 drafts, yet hardly lived up to those expectations. The biggest difference between '16 and '17 was the lack of David Ortiz in the lineup providing some protection to Betts (which could make a JD Martinez signing particularly fruitful for Betts). Either way, I expect a strong bounceback from Mookie - he was a bit unfortunate with BABIP last year and probably tried to a do a little too much in the middle of the lineup. His Hard% actually improved last year, so I think there's value in having Mookie on your squad.
Former Cy Young Rick Porcello couldn't replicate his 2016 last year (you can see this becoming a theme for Red Sox players!), mostly due to allowing a career high 1.68 HR per 9 innings (vs. 0.93 a year prior). It's difficult to get to the bottom of it, but my best guess is that Porcello struggled with command last year. In addition to the HR issues, he walked more than 2 batters per 9. Fortunately, his velocity was unchanged and he managed more swing and misses than any year in his career. All that said, he should have a solid rebound season, posting a high 3.00s ERA that should get him 15 wins or so. A solid mid-rotation option.
Dustin Pedroia will be 34 this season. Following an injury riddled 2017, I'm bearish on Pedroia being a relevant fantasy asset this year given his age and injury history. However if he can stay healthy, Pedroia will be a very cheap source of runs at 2B. I would imagine Pedroia will still be slotted near the top of the Boston offense, where he scored 105 runs in 154 games in 2016. His skill set has clearly deteriorated, but we're about finding value; there could be some at the end of drafts pending his health.
David Price is ready to forget about 2017, which he actually ended on a high note out of the bullpen for the Red Sox. But expectations are high once again for Price to be a starter. I'm certainly willing to take a flier on Price this year; his 2016 season was solid from a peripheral standpoint, and he'll be lower on peoples' draft boards this year. All that said, there is some real pessimism that Price cannot handle the Boston media. I know it seems like playing in Boston can be overblown, but some guys can handle it and others can't. 2018 will tell us for certain if Price can or can't.
The Padres are optimistic in their chances to land Eric Hosmer, which would be a blow to his fantasy value. Hosmer has long kept fantasy owners wanting just a bit more, before breaking out last year with a 135 wRC+, 25 HR and .318 batting average. Hosmer did it all last year, which is ideal in roto leagues. That said, a move to San Diego would likely put a damper on his power, RBI, and Runs.
The JD Martinez saga continues, as he has remained extremely patient all off-season by what he believes are low ball offers. The frontrunners to sign Martinez seem to be the Red Sox and Diamondbacks (who left his locker open this spring), but would be great locations for the slugger. From a fantasy standpoint, I think Arizona is the better place to be - he has some familiarity and the ballpark is even friendlier than Fenway. The largest wild card in Boston is how Martinez will be treated by the media. It's been quite some time since Boston has signed a big time free agent that has gone well in Boston. When you sign a large contract there, expectations of production are immediate. Martinez has the skill set to deliver, but some former stars like Carl Crawford and Pablo Sandoval were basically ruined by the culture in Boston. It's not a sabermetric calculation, but that's a big difference for Martinez in his choice between Arizona and Boston.
Manny Machado is a player I'm targeting this year, not only because I think he's a fantastic player, but he could conceivably end up in a very favorable lineup before the trade deadline. Rumors are swirling that the Orioles want some compensation for Machado if they can't sign him to a long-term deal, meaning Machado is likely to be dealt. The Yankees are on the list of teams that could acquire him; Machado, Judge, and Stanton is scary to think about.
Justin Verlander claimed that the American League will run through Houston this year, and I'm inclined to say that he's right. Verlander will be 35 next month, but found the fountain of youth last year in Houston. I'm bearish that he can keep up a sub 3.50 ERA for 162 games, but he's proved me wrong before. Certainly don't buy high based on his playoff performance last year - 36.2 innings with a 2.21 ERA. His SIERA during that was 3.44 with an xFIP of 4.33. The sample is small, but in general, it's never a good idea to go after a guy because of a monster post-season.
Shohei Ohtani hit his first home run of the spring yesterday. Sure, it was batting practice, but it's better than a grounder! That's sarcasm of course. Of note however, Ohtani talked yesterday about how MLB spring training is a significantly different style than what he's been accustomed to. Batting practice is shorter, pitchers throw from in front of the mound, etc. It's small, but it's important to remember that there are hundreds of subtle differences that Ohtani will have to adjust to. I'm not saying he can't, but keep that in mind if he gets off to a slow start. He'll throw a bullpen session tomorrow.
Another non-roster invitee to monitor is Brendan Rodgers of the Colorado Rockies. As if shortstop wasn't deep enough right now, add Rodgers to your list. He was the #3 overall pick in 2015, behind Alex Bregman. He raked in A-Ball last year and held his own in AA. It will be difficult for him to crack the roster out of Spring given that he's blocked by Trevor Story, but anytime you have a power-hitting SS that could be playing in Colorado, you know there's a high ceiling.
In the Braves camp, the one name to watch is one you may not have heard of: Ronald Acuna. Some would rank Acuna as the best prospect in all of baseball, and this spring will tell us if he's truly major league ready. By the way, he's barely 20. The 6'0" OF displayed solid power and speed from Rookie ball all the way to AAA the last two seasons. He should be drafted in all formats, in my opinion, regardless of his spring results. His talent seems that darn good. Ideally your league-mates won't have him on their radars and you can nab him late in drafts.
Jake Arrieta remains unsigned and as a Scott Boras agent, will not attend the Free Agent Only Spring Training taking place in Florida. Arrieta's fantasy value will change dramatically depending on where he ends up next season. For example, if he finds himself in the National League in a pitcher friendly park, I will be all over him. On the other hand, the American League in a hitter's haven is far less of an attraction. Arrieta's skills have deteriorated for two straights season - though in fairness his 2015 campaign was absolutely lights out. Monitor where he ends up closely the next few weeks, and manage expectations that he's no longer a top 10 pitcher.
Pablo Sandoval arrived at camp yesterday a few days earlier than required. Sandoval reportedly brought a catcher's mitt, first baseman's mitt, and OF glove to camp, hoping to make the roster any way he can. Barring an early injury to Evan Longoria, it will be a challenge for Sandoval to make the team - I'm surprised he even showed up at camp. Sandoval went thru a wretched 0-for-39 stretch last year, so expecting any fantasy relevance this season is likely a bit too much to ask for, but who knows.