The Boston Red Sox were shocked in 2008 when the Tampa Bay Rays earned a trip to the World Series when many picked them to be the favorites. The team decided to shore up their pitching rotation while solidifying the few question spots in their lineup. As a result, Red Sox fans will see some interesting position battles in the 2009 spring training while having an affect on your fantasy baseball draft. Here is a look at the top five positions where the Red Sox will be watching the players very closely.
# 1 Boston Red Sox Position Battle: Catcher
The biggest concern for Red Sox fans going into spring training will be the catcher position. Currently, Jason Varitek, who has been the face of the franchise for almost the past decade still remains a free agent. Despite his lackluster 2008 statistics where he had a .220 batting average with 37 runs, 13 homeruns, and 43 RBI’s, Varitek is the leader of the team and has kept the pitching staff running smoothly. Even if they do sign him, the Red Sox brought in Josh Bard, from the Padres, to compete for the starting position. In 2008, Bard had a .202 batting average with 11 runs 1 home run, and 16 RBI’s in only 178 at bats. You should expect the Red Sox to sign Varitek and have him practicing with the team. Bout you are not going to see big numbers from Varitek in 2009 and should only be taken in your fantasy baseball draft if you are in an AL only league and need a backup catcher.
# 2 Boston Red Sox Position Battle: Shortstop
In 2008, Julio Lugo started the season at the shortstop position for the Red Sox, but had to call it quits half way through the season after straining his left quadriceps. Up until the injury he was batting .268 with 27 runs, 1 homerun and 22 RBI’s in 261 at bats. His replacement, Jed Lowrie, was brought up and did an admirable job in the starting role. Over 260 at bats, Lowrie maintained a .258 batting average with 34 runs, 2 homeruns, and 46 RBI’s. Lugo has had the chance to heal and will face stiff competition with Lowrie when spring training starts. When you are looking for a backup shortstop in your fantasy baseball draft, keep an eye on Lowrie, who should win the spot outright.
# 3 Boston Red Sox Position Battle: Third Starter
The Red Sox brought in Brad Penny, who played for the Dodgers in 2008, to step up the level of competition on the pitching staff. Penny suffered a down year in 08 when he played through injury, finishing with a 6-9 record for 94.2 innings works with a 6.27 ERA and 51 strikeouts. The third year pitcher, John Lester, will be Penny’s competition in 2009 for the valuable third starter position. In 2008, Lester showed the world he survived cancer by compiling a 16-6 record in 210.1 innings with a 3.21 ERA and 152 strikeouts. It will be interesting to see how the 200 plus innings affected Lester and how he is able to bounce back in 2009. If Penny is able to return to his former self from 2007, Penny will secure the third spot on the staff, letting the Red Sox move Lester to the fourth position. Keep an eye on Penny’s progress through spring training. He could be a steal in your fantasy baseball draft if other owners are frightened off by his injury riddled season.
# 4 Boston Red Sox Position Battle: Fourth Outfielder
During the off season, the Red Sox scored big when they were able to bring over Rocco Baldelli from their rival the Tampa Bay Rays. The five year veteran had a shortened 2008 season due to an injury, hit .263 in 137 at bat with 12runs, 4 homeruns, and 13 RBI’s. His competition for the fourth outfielder position is Mark Kotsay, who came over to the Red Sox in 2008. During the season he hit .276 with 45 runs, 6 homeruns, and 49 RBI’s in 402 at bats. Look for the younger Baldelli to earn the spot during the spring training. If he can stay healthy for the entire season, Baldelli should put up decent statistics and be a worthwhile late round pick in your AL only fantasy baseball draft.
# 5 Boston Red Sox Position Battle: Fifth Starter
The two pitchers competing for the last spot in the starting rotation have a combined 36 years of experience in the major leagues. Incumbent Tim Wakefield continues to do wonders with his knuckleball and helps the Red Sox when the other pitchers falter. In 2008 he had a 10-11 record for the 181 innings he pitched, while producing a 4.13 ERA and 117 strikeouts. The Red Sox brought in Atlanta Braves icon, John Smoltz, who had season ending reconstructive shoulder surgery in 2008. Before he went on the disabled list, Smoltz had a 3-2 record in 28 innings with a 2.57 ERA and 36 strikeouts. Despite his age, Smoltz has stood up to the test of time. Smoltz has reported that he is healthy and if he can show a live arm in spring training, he should knock Wakefield out of the starting lineup. With the explosive offensive of the Red Sox behind him, Smoltz could be a late round steal in your fantasy baseball draft.
The Boston Red Sox will have some key position battles during their spring training that will help set the tone for the 2009 season. It will be important to see who ends up being the starting catcher along with who fills out the remainder of the rotation because they will help determine how the final rounds of your fantasy baseball draft play out.