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Boston Red Sox 2022/Dynasty Notes & Top Prospects

Entering the 2021 season, the Boston Red Sox were projected to win around 82 games or so and miss the postseason. Well, projections be damned. Boston won 92 games, beat the Yankees in the wild card game, took down Tampa Bay in the ALDS in four games, and they were up 2-1 on Houston in the ALCS before forgetting how to hit for the last three games of that series. For a team projected to be around .500, getting two wins from the World Series is certainly a great season. Boston also has a farm system on the rise with a plethora of offensive talent nearly ready to compete at the Major League level.

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Boston Red Sox 2022/Dynasty Notes & Top Prospects

Chris Sale’s 2022 ADP is Too High

This pains me to say, but I just can’t get on board with Chris Sale’s 2022 ADP. Sale is one of the most talented pitchers in the game, but I’d feel much better with him as my #2 than as my ace. While he pitched fairly well after coming back from Tommy John surgery this past season, there were some red flags in the profile too. Sale’s changeup was a well-below-average offering for him, registering a .444 BAA, .667 SLG, and nearly as many home runs allowed (2) as strikeouts (3). This was the case for him in 2019 as well. Sale hasn’t had a good changeup since 2018 and he’s now become a two-pitch pitcher against left-handed batters because of it.

Sale’s whiff rates have also been trending the wrong way. The whiff rates on all three of his pitches dipped again in 2019 with his overall whiff rate dropping from 31.8% to 27.7%. That’s still an above-average mark, but the downward trend is a tad concerning. As a Red Sox fan, Sale hasn’t been quite the since the 2018 World Series run. Has he still been good? Absolutely. But as a guy that watches every single Chris Sale start, this doesn’t look like a fantasy ace to me anymore. Especially considering some of the names being taken around him in drafts.

As of now, Sale has an ADP of 40.8 as the 14th SP off the board. I’d much rather have Sandy Alcantara or Freddy Peralta who are being selected directly after Sale on average. I’d even consider Lance Lynn over Sale as well. If I can get him as my #2, which I’ve already done, I’ll be happy. But I’m not going to have Chris Sale as my ace on any team this year. Love the arm, but he’s not 2018 Sale anymore.

Nathan Eovaldi is Criminally Underrated

I’ll admit, I was guilty of underrating Nathan Eovaldi too. That needs to come to an end right now. Eovaldi is a very good pitcher that doesn’t get the love he deserves in fantasy circles. For a guy that was criticized for both inconsistent performance and durability in the past, Eovaldi shattered both of those notions in 2021. Eovaldi was one of just 20 pitchers last season to make 32 starts and he finished 12th in innings pitched at 182.1. He also pitched better than his surface stats would indicate too.

Eovaldi finished 2021 with a respectable 3.75 ERA and 1.19 WHIP, but all ERA indicators had him well below that mark. His xERA and xFIP sat at 3.37 and 3.48 respectively and only Corbin Burnes and Zack Wheeler had a lower FIP than Eovaldi’s 2.79 mark among qualified pitchers. On top of that, Eovaldi had the lowest walk rate and 12th best K-BB% among qualified starters last season.

While he doesn’t post elite strikeout or whiff rates, Eovaldi was above league average in both metrics while also having the 14th best SwStr%, right between names like Brandon Woodruff, Aaron Nola, Joe Musgrove, Zack Wheeler, and Charlie Morton. He’s also recorded a whiff rate above 32% on his splitter and curveball in two straight seasons while adding a slider in 2021 that had a 35.1% whiff rate.

Boston Red Sox

That gave Eovaldi three offerings (combined 45.2% usage) with a whiff rate above 30%. Eovaldi also showed he could put hitters away with all five of his offerings having a putaway rate of 18.7% or higher this past season.

Heading into 2022, Eovaldi is going to be a huge target of mine. He’s currently being taken in the ADP 125-150 range which is solid value. He’s a great SP3 that you might be able to get as your SP4. Eovaldi should be good for a mid-3 ERA, solid WHIP below 1.20, and above-average strikeouts. The floor has also risen here thanks to his consistency and durability in 2021 and his plus control.

Alex Verdugo is Overrated for Fantasy

As the main return piece in the Mookie Betts deal, expectations were unfairly high for Alex Verdugo. He’s been far from a disappointment and has been a solid player for Boston, but in the fantasy baseball world, I’m placing him in the dreaded “better in real life than fantasy” bucket. I know what you’re thinking right now…

Was I right? I know this tag isn’t what anyone ever wants to hear, especially if you roster Verdugo in dynasty leagues, but it’s the truth. Verdugo is a good source of AVG, OBP, and runs. He’s a career .290 hitter with a .348 OBP and scored 88 runs in 2021. However, his struggles against left-handers (.228/.268/.286 in 2021) forced Alex Cora to bat Verdugo in the bottom-third of the order when Boston was facing a southpaw. This really took effect in the 2nd half of the season when Verdugo’s RS/G dipped from 0.66 to 0.52.

For Verdugo to return anywhere close to top-150 value, he’s going to need to score plenty of runs as he’s not making much of an impact in the power and speed departments. In 2021, Verdugo has a 52nd percentile sprint speed with six steals on eight attempts. Those six steals were a career-best mark for Verdugo and serve as the high-end for his expected stolen base production. As for his power, Verdugo posted an above-average exit velocity, hard-hit rate, and xSLG in 2021, but he’s always had a lower flyball rate, never exceeding 30% in any season. Verdugo’s power is more suited for line drives into the gap than home runs, and as I’ve mentioned before (and will mention again below), Fenway Park is tough on left-handed power unless you have elite power like Rafael Devers or Kyle Schwarber.

I’m expecting Verdugo to remain a solid fantasy asset moving forward, but .280/80/15/60/5 just doesn’t move the needle for me inside the top-150. If someone in your dynasty still believes there’s another level for Verdugo to unlock offensively. I wouldn’t hesitate to move him.

Bobby Dalbec’s Late-Season Improvements

In the first half of the season, Bobby Dalbec was unrosterable in fantasy leagues. In each of the first four months of the season, Dalbec hit .237 or lower with an OBP below .300 and a strikeout rate between 33-39%. But after the Red Sox acquired Kyle Schwarber at the trade deadline, Dalbec took off offensively. Yes, Schwarber’s presence along with the return of Travis Shaw allowed Boston to sit Dalbec against tougher right-handers which helped, but Dalbec still improved drastically against right-handed starters in August and September, thanks in large part to Schwarber’s help and guidance.

SplitSlash LineBB%K%ISOwOBA
Pre 8/1 (177 PA).182/.237/.3275.1%38.4%.145.246
Post 8/1 (86 PA).276/.360/7249.3%26.7%.447.443

Schwarber got together with Dalbec shortly after landing in Boston and the two worked together frequently over the remainder of the season. Schwaber helping Dalbec at the plate and vice versa with Dalbec helping Scwarber get acclimated to first base. Schwarber’s presence was huge on Dalbec and that cannot be understated. For more on this, check out Jen McCaffrey’s article on The Athletic or Khari Thompson’s on Overall, Dalbec’s quality of contact metrics ranked among the best in the league as well. He finished in the top-9% of baseball in Avg EV, Max EV, and barrel rate with an 85th percentile hard-hit rate and 87th percentile xSLG.

Dalbec’s splits were holding him back from being relied upon as an everyday starter at the Major League level, so these improvements against RHP are huge. As long as Boston doesn’t bring in a big-name first baseman, Dalbec should be the starter there in 2021. And as of now, outside of a possible Schwarber reunion, it appears Boston is more focused on the middle infield and pitching front in free agency this offseason. A full season of Dalbec could yield a .250+ average and 30+ home runs which would make him a borderline starting option in 15-team leagues. He’s currently going off the board as the 27th first baseman on average with an ADP of 264.1. That’s what I call a potential steal later on in drafts.

Target Tanner Houck & Garrett Whitlock in 2022

I’m not going to go in-depth here as I already wrote a whole article on these two. Both Tanner Houck and Garrett Whitlock are great targets in 2022 drafts with their roles possibly expanding in 2022. For my thoughts on both of these talented young arms, check out my article.

Sell-High on Jarren Duran

On one hand, Jarren Duran adding power following a mechanical adjustment was a welcomed addition to his profile. On the other hand, it seemed to come at the expense of his contact skills and strikeout rate. Did he fully sell out for power? Maybe not fully, but one could make that argument. Duran has been a much different hitter since making the swing change during the 2020 pandemic.

  • Pre Swing Change: .322 AVG, 12.3 AB/XBH, 100.3 AB/HR, 20.0 K%
  • Post Swing Change: .245 AVG, 9.8 AB/XBH, 19.5 AB/HR, 26.8 K%

Maintaining that .322 AVG was never really expected, but to see this once above-average contact hitter sitting at a .245 average with a 6.8% higher strikeout rate after the swing change is concerning. Yes, you can contribute some of that to his immense struggles in the Major Leagues, but I’m not sure this is a change that will pay dividends in the long run. If Duran was a right-handed batter, I’d be buying in more. But Fenway Park has always been tough on left-handed power, especially if the main focus is on home runs. Unless you wrap it around Pesky’s Pole, you really have to muscle it out to the bullpens which are 380 feet from home plate. Duran needs to find a happy medium here.

In dynasty leagues, I’d be looking to sell high on Duran if at all possible. As mentioned, I’m not encouraged by his changes and his playing time situation for 2022 is far from clear.

Buy-Low on Jeter Downs

On the flip side, now is a great time to buy low on middle infield prospect, Jeter Downs. It’s pretty hard to sugarcoat a season where Downs slashed a pitiful .190/.272/.333 in an offensive-friendly Triple-A environment, but I’ll do my best. Even through his struggles in 2021, Downs still displayed a quality power/speed blend with 14 home runs and 18 steals in 99 games. He also maintained his usual solid walk rate at 9.3%. But as I’ve mentioned previously in articles and on podcasts, Downs has really struggled with his pitch recognition lately. He’ll ambush and punish fastballs, as shown below, but has been mostly lost against anything offspeed.

All of this carried over into the Arizona Fall League as well. Downs has five home runs, four steals, and walked 14 times in 16 games (walks were way up in the AFL in general), but only hit .228 overall. But on the plus side, he did cut his strikeout rate from 32.3% in Triple-A down to a much more manageable 25% in the AFL. The issues against non-fastballs are concerning and need to be improved upon. However, there are still some positives in Downs’ profile, enough to make me want to target him right now in dynasty leagues while his value has dipped to the point where he’s no longer considered a universal top-100 prospect.

Top-15 Dynasty Prospects

1Marcelo MayerSS18.9RK2024
2Triston Casas1B21.8AAA2022
3Nick Yorke2B19.6Hi-A2023
4Jarren DuranOF25.2MLBDebuted
5Blaze Jordan1B/3B18.9Lo-A2024
6Jeter Downs2B/SS23.3AAA2022
7Gilberto JimenezOF21.3Lo-A2023
8Jay GroomeLHP23.2AA2023
9Miguel BleisOF17.7RK2025
10Brayan BelloRHP22.5AA2022
11Brainer BonaciSS19.3Lo-A2023
12Niko Kavadas1B23.1Lo-A2024
13Wilkelman GonzalezRHP19.7Lo-A2024
14Noah SongRHP24.5Lo-A2024
15Eddinson Paulino2B/3B19.3RK2025

Five Prospects To Target In Dynasty

Wilkelman Gonzalez, RHP

Wilkelman Gonzalez stepped up as one of the top pitching prospects in the organization in 2021. The 19-year-old Venezuelan right-hander posted a 2.91 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, and a 30.6 K%. He showed the ability to miss bats at a high clip with his fastball-slider-changeup combination, all of which flash 55+, and Gonzalez limited walks well with a 7.4 BB%. This is an arm on the rise that could really break out in 2022 as he pitches the entire season in full-season affiliated ball.

Connor Seabold, RHP

While less exciting than Gonzalez, Connor Seabold quickly established himself as one of the top arms in the organization after coming from Philadelphia in the Brandon Workman trade. Seabold received one start with Boston late in the season and was a consistent arm for Triple-A Worcester all summer. The 6’2 right-hander recorded a 3.47 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 8.7 BB%, and 25.3 K% across 13 Triple-A starts. The four-pitch mix is headlined by a plus changeup and above-average to plus command. That command has really helped the entire arsenal play up, especially his average fastball. The upside is only a back-end starter in my eyes, but Seabold should be one of the first arms called upon if Boston needs a starter in 2022 due to injury or poor performance in the rotation.

Eddinson Paulino, 2B/3B

One of the more impressive hitters in the Florida Complex League this summer was infielder Eddinson Paulino. Despite not hitting a home run, Paulino excelled with a .336/.436/.549 slash line, 20 extra-base hits, and five steals in 36 games. He also finished with an impressive 11.3% walk rate and 15.8% strikeout rate. Paulino will need to add some bulk and power to really make a fantasy impact, but he’s already shown a solid hit tool with at least average speed and his power did tick up in 2021, even without a home run to his name. Paulino’s tools don’t stand out, but he could be 55-hit, 50-power, 50-speed down the road if everything clicks.

Niko Kavadas, 1B

Niko Kavadas has what I like to call “big boy power”. The hulking first baseman cranked 22 home runs in 47 games at Notre Dame last spring with nearly as many walks (50) as strikeouts (55). While the overall profile is uninspiring outside of his power, Kavadas could wind up around a 50-grade hit tool in the long run and one that can post a strong OBP as well. He’s going to need to hit though as this is a 1B/DH profile with no speed and minimal defensive value. But man, that power sure is intriguing.  Kavadas is a great later-round FYPD target.

Miguel Bleis, OF

Last but certainly not least, we have the intriguing Miguel Bleis. While he only hit .252 in the DSL this past season, there was a lot to like about Bleis’ performance. In just 136 plate appearances, the 6’3 outfielder racked up four home runs and seven steals with an 8.8% walk rate and 18.4% strikeout rate. Showing a solid approach at this age is encouraging. Bleis has also flashed average to above-average raw power as well to go along with plus speed. There’s still some projection on his frame for more bulk as well, so a 55-power, 55-speed outfielder is a possibility longterm. This is definitely a name to get in on now on the ground floor before the price tag rises.

Noah Song, RHP

Yes, I know this is six and not five, but I had to mention Noah Song. Song was the Red Sox 4th round pick in 2019 but has spent the last two seasons in the US Navy. It’s hard to say how he’ll look when he gets back on the mound in 2022 but Song was my favorite arm in this entire organization before leaving for the Navy. Yes, even over Jay Groome. Due to the time off, you can likely get Song for pennies in your dynasty leagues right now. Perhaps he’s even sitting on the waiver wire. Whichever it is, his upside is worth giving him a look in leagues where 400+ prospects are rostered.

For more of these team by team reports, click here.

Media Credit: Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire, Fox Sports: MLB, Joe Drake (@JDrake349), Boston Red Sox, Danny Vietti

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