Chris Sale, SP, BOS
Chris Sale will miss the start of the 2022 regular season with a stress fracture in his ribcage. Sale initially suffered the injury several weeks ago while throwing warmup pitches during a preseason workout. The typical recovery timeline for this type of injury is around 6-8 weeks, which means Sale could miss all of April and possibly beyond. This is another major setback for Boston's ace, who has not pitched a full season since 2017. Sale's injury history is not surprising, however, given his tall, lanky frame and violent delivery. He also accumulated a hefty number of innings on his left arm during his prime years, so it was only a matter of time before he started breaking down. Heading into his age-33 season, it's fair to wonder if Sale will ever again return to being the workhorse he was earlier in his career, especially given the number of similarly talent pitchers that have fallen apart at his age. Given Sale's monster contract, importance to the team, and recent injury history, the Red Sox will likely be cautious with Sale's rehab and won't rush him back, limiting his overall fantasy impact for 2022. He is the definition of a high-risk, high-reward option at this stage in his career.
Freddie Freeman, 1B, ATL
Freddie Freeman is taking his talents out west after agreeing to a six-year, $162 million contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers. The 2020 NL MVP will join forces with former MVPs Mookie Betts, Cody Bellinger, and Clayton Kershaw in Los Angeles, not to mention Trea Turner, Walker Buehler, and others. Freeman has quietly been one of the best hitters in baseball for over a decade, slashing .295/.384/.509 with 271 home runs during his 12-year MLB career. While moving to the pitcher-friendly Dodger Stadium won't do the 32-year-old any favors in the power or batting average department, his runs and RBIs will benefit from sharing a lineup with so many other potent bats. A terrific all-around hitter who plays solid defense and steals the occasional bag, Freeman appears poised for another MVP-caliber season in 2022 as the latest star to join the Dodgers' dynasty.
Kris Bryant, OF/3B, COL
Kris Bryant will be a Colorado Rockie for the foreseeable future after inking a seven-year, $182 million deal in free agency. While locking up the former NL MVP won't transform the Rockies into contenders overnight, it will add some much-needed thump to their lineup, especially with Trevor Story's impending departure in free agency. The move should help the 30-year-old Bryant remain productive into his 30s, as he'll now benefit from 81 games per year at the most hitting-friendly venue in baseball -- Coors Field. Bryant is coming off a strong 2021 in which he batted .265/.353/.481 with 25 homers and 10 steals, although his numbers dipped a bit following his midseason trade to the San Francisco Giants and their pitcher's paradise. Coors Field should bump his batting average up to the .280-.290 range and could help him clear 30 homers for the first time since 2019. If he can steal double-digit bases again, Bryant will be a true five-category threat in 2022.
Bobby Dalbec, 1B, BOS
Bobby Dalbec smashed his first home run of Spring Training on Thursday, smoking a two-run homer over the left-field wall against the Minnesota Twins. While it's usually unwise to read into preseason performances, it was encouraging to see Dalbec start Spring Training with a bang after going 0-for-12 during Boston's postseason run last year. A streaky hitter, Dalbec has shown impressive power thus far with 33 home runs, 94 RBIs, and a .268 ISO through his first 156 career MLB games. It seems the 26-year-old will be Boston's starting first baseman to open the year, as the team let Kyle Schwarber leave in free agency and will likely have top prospect Triston Casas begin the season in the minors. Dalbec will need to improve his plate discipline in his second full season after posting a 28:156 BB/K ratio last year, however, if he wants to remain an everyday player. The big righty's power stroke is well-suited to Fenway Park, and he's certainly capable of 30+ homers if he plays a full season. He doesn't provide much help in other fantasy categories, however, making him more of a deep-league option at first or corner infield.
Joc Pederson, OF, SFG
Joc Pederson is returning to the NL West after inking a one-year, $6 million deal with the San Francisco Giants. After a brief hiatus with the Chicago Cubs and Atlanta Braves last year, the former Los Angeles Dodger is returning to familiar territory for his age-30 season. Many veteran players enjoyed a resurgence with San Francisco last year, so the hope is that Pederson can do the same after hitting an underwhelming .238/.310/.422 with 18 home runs and 61 RBIs in 137 games last year. The key for Pederson getting back on track will be improving his plate discipline, which has regressed in recent seasons. Since the beginning of 2020, he's struck out more than three times (151) for every walk (50), which is not a recipe for success. San Francisco is a tough place to hit, but Pederson's performance improved following his trade to Atlanta last year, so perhaps playing for a contender will help him remain focused. There's still 20-homer power here if he can find a path to regular playing time on a team crowded with veteran hitters, making him worth a shot in NL-only leagues and 5-outfielder formats.
Zack Greinke, SP, KCR
Zack Greinke is returning to the Kansas City Royals on a one-year deal worth $13 million, with an additional $2 million in innings-based incentives. More than a decade after the Royals traded Greinke to the Milwaukee Brewers following the 2010 season, Greinke is coming back to the team that drafted and developed him. The 2009 AL Cy Young winner with Kansas City, Greinke has since furnished a Cooperstown-worthy career as an elite starter for several franchises. Now 38, Greinke is a diminished if still effective pitcher who managed to go 11-6 with a 4.16 ERA last season despite watching his strikeout rate crater to 6.3 K/9. The lack of whiffs strongly limits his fantasy relevance, but he can still provide some help in ERA and WHIP. He's not the ace he used to be and there's no upside here, but you could do worse than filling out the back of your fantasy rotation with a reliable veteran arm.
Anthony Rizzo, 1B, NYY
Anthony Rizzo has re-upped with the New York Yankees on a two-year, $32 million pact with an opt-out after 2022. The move makes sense for both sides, as Rizzo proved to be a solid fit after arriving via trade last summer. While Rizzo's performance has predictably dropped off a bit since turning 30, he's still a productive hitter heading into his age-32 season with 20-homer power, a solid OBP, and relatively few strikeouts. It will be interesting to see what Rizzo can do with a full season to take aim at Yankee Stadium's short right-field porch, which should help stave off any additional regression for the former All-Star. While Rizzo is no longer a must-own, a .250 average with 20-25 homers is a likely outcome for him this year.
Nathan Eovaldi, SP, BOS
With Chris Sale (rib) unavailable for Opening Day, Nathan Eovaldi is officially Boston's ace to start the season and will likely get the ball on Opening Day for the third straight year. It's a well-deserved honor for Eovaldi, who led the AL in FIP (2.79) last year, struck out 195 batters, and was a first-time All-Star. While his career has been plagued by injuries and inconsistency, Eovaldi has settled into a reliable starter for the Red Sox over the past several years, going 15-11 with a 3.75 ERA, a 1.19 WHIP, and a 9.6 K/9 rate since the beginning of 2020. While not quite fantasy-ace numbers, he projects to be a solid No. 2 or No. 3 starter on most fantasy staffs. With Eovaldi entering the final year of his contract, he'll be extra motivated to put up another big season for the BoSox and will benefit from plenty of run support.
Triston Casas, 1B, BOS
One Red Sox player to watch during camp is Triston Casas. A first-round draft selection in 2018, Casas is one of the crown jewels of Boston's improving farm system and is expected to make his MLB debut at some point in 2022. The 22-year-old corner infielder has shown a mature plate approach thus far, slashing .279/.394/.484 in 86 minor league games last year before ripping up the Arizona Fall League. While Casas will likely open the season in the minors for additional seasoning after playing just nine games at Triple-A last year, he'll likely be up in the majors soon, especially if Bobby Dalbec endures another slow start at first base. Casas could end up winning AL Rookie of the Year honors when it's all said and done, so make sure to stash him on your bench with a late-round draft pick.
Rafael Devers, 3B, BOS
It's hard to believe Rafael Devers is still only 25 years old. He's already accomplished a lot since his impressive debut in 2017, including winning a World Series, making an All-Star team, and nabbing two top-12 finishes in MVP voting. While his career has been a bit uneven to date, he seems to be a budding superstar after putting together two monster offensive campaigns in the past three seasons. Thankfully for fantasy gamers, most of his deficiencies on the field have nothing to do with his fantasy numbers, as they're largely around his baserunning, defense, and overall concentration. It's quite possible we haven't seen Devers put it all together yet, which is tantalizing given his .300-40-100-100-10 potential. Batting in the middle of a strong lineup with a hitter-friendly home park, Devers is an elite fantasy option at a somewhat shallow position, making him a worthy first-round pick in 2022 fantasy drafts.
Eduardo Rodriguez, SP, BOS
After six up-and-down seasons with the Boston Red Sox, Eduardo Rodriguez will try to find more consistency with the Detroit Tigers. Rodriguez is coming off an uneven season with Boston where he posted the highest ERA (4.74) and strikeout rate (10.6 K/9) of his career. The hope is that a change of scenery and a movie away from Fenway Park will do him some good, as Detroit is a much kinder environment to pitcher and less stressful atmosphere overall. Rodriguez is a prime rebound candidate for his age-29 season based on last year's 3.32 FIP, which was the best mark of his career and nearly a run and a half better than his ERA. He was largely victimized by a fluky .363 BABIP and 68.9% strand rate last year, so his ERA should improve considerably if both of those normalize. While his win potential may not be as great as it was in Boston, Rodriguez is still a solid fantasy arm worth targeting in the middle rounds of drafts.
Xander Bogaerts, SS, BOS
Xander Bogaerts is heading into his 10th MLB season -- all with the Boston Red Sox -- which is quite impressive given the level of organizational turnover over the past decade. Not only is he the longest-tenured player on the team, but he's also managed to stabilize the shortstop position, which was in flux for years following the trade of Nomar Garciaparra. While it took a few years longer than expected, Bogaerts has developed into the perennial All-Star and MVP candidate that scouts projected for him during his days as one of the top prospects in baseball. An annual threat to bat .300 with 20-30 homer power and elite counting numbers, Bogaerts is a major fantasy asset as one of the best-hitting shortstops in baseball. With an opt-out looming after this year, the 29-year-old can be counted on for another big year in 2022 before hitting the open market for the first time in his career. Like teammate Rafael Devers, Bogaerts should be near the top of most fantasy players' draft boards.
J.D. Martinez, DH/OF, BOS
J.D. Martinez is heading into the final year of a five-year contract with the Boston Red Sox that has proven incredibly fruitful for both sides. The Red Sox have gotten three All-Star appearances and countless big hits from Martinez, who will have collected over $100 million from Boston when it's all said and done. While Martinez's bat has slowed a bit with age since his monstrous 2018 campaign, he's still one of the game's better hitters at age 34. Despite falling just short of his usual .300-30-100 benchmarks last year, Martinez still led the majors with 42 doubles and remained a big presence in the middle of Boston's batting order alongside Rafael Devers and Xander Bogaerts. Even if his hitting continues its gentle decline, Martinez should still be good for a solid average in the .275 range with around 25 homers and good counting stats, especially given his strong supporting cast and hitting-friendly home park. Draft Martinez with confidence in a walk year.
Kike Hernandez, OF/2B, BOS
Kike Hernandez will retain a key role as an everyday player for the Boston Red Sox in 2022 after an impressive first season with the team last year. Hernandez filled a versatile role for Boston, manning multiple positions and filling several spots in the batting order. It all added up to several career-highs in the regular season followed by a blistering postseason where he was nearly impossible to get out. Now, the 30-year-old will look to build off a strong 2021 in what will likely be a similar role for Red Sox manager Alex Cora. Assuming he continues to hit near the top of the order after thriving there last year, Hernandez should score plenty of runs batting in front of Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, and J.D. Martinez. Throw in 20-homer pop and an okay batting average, and you've got yourself a solid fantasy player.
Alex Verdugo, OF, BOS
Alex Verdugo has had a lot to live up to as Mookie Betts's replacement with the Boston Red Sox, and he's held his own as a young player in a tough environment during his first two seasons in Boston. While his 2021 wasn't as strong as his 2020, he still hit for a strong average while displaying good gap power and scoring lots of runs. Heading into his age-26 season, Red Sox fans would like to see a bit more long-ball power from Verdugo, who's yet to surpass 13 home runs in a season. In that sense, he's a bit more like another departed Boston outfielder -- Andrew Benintendi. Converting a few more of his doubles into homers would go a long way towards boosting Verdugo's fantasy value. It feels like there's 20-homer power lurking in there, so perhaps 2022 is the year we finally see it.
Matt Barnes, RP, BOS
One of the biggest questions facing the Boston Red Sox bullpen in 2022 is can Matt Barnes bounce back? After a stellar first half in which he earned his first All-Star appearance and signed a contract extension with Boston, Barnes hit the wall in the second half and suddenly couldn't get anyone out, causing him to lose his closing job and be left off the team's postseason roster. Ouch. Now, Barnes will have to earn the role back if he wants to continue pitching in high-leverage situations. The Red Sox have not signed a proven closer this offseason, leaving the door open for Barnes to reclaim his title. The hope is that he'll be ready to go after Alex Cora admittedly burned him out during the first half, but the team may still opt to go with a different internal option or pursue a closer-by-committee approach. Treat Barnes as a saves candidate for 2022, but don't overspend on him as Boston's closing situation remains murky.