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Fantasy focus: Red Sox hitters worth drafting

David Ortiz - BOS - DH Bats: L   Age: 31       4x4: $32 5x5: $32
2005: 1B: 10 DH: 148 Role: Starting DH
Ortiz has had the best season of his career four years running, leading the majors in RBIs during a spectacular 2005 campaign. Not only was he brilliant in big situations, but he homered 11 times each in August and September to help the Red Sox make it back to the postseason. Thanks to his performance in the clutch, he didn't fall far short of topping Alex Rodriguez for MVP honors, getting 11 first-place votes despite contributing nothing with the glove and failing to match Rodriguez's OPS while playing in the better environment for hitters. Even with Manny Ramirez back with the team, Ortiz probably can't do any better than he did last year. Other superstars will be better investments.
Manny Ramirez - BOS - OF Bats: R   Age: 34       4x4: $32 5x5: $32
2005: OF: 149 DH: 2 Role: Starting Left Fielder
Although Manny said he wanted out of the stifling atmosphere in Boston, the Red Sox are bringing him back for 2006. Fenway Park isn’t the best possible place for Ramirez, not when he goes to the opposite field so often, but he isn’t driving in 130-140 runs for many other teams. Ramirez will show up ready to hit even if he isn’t happy about his situation, but the possibility that his frustrations will affect him at the plate do serve to drop his price tag by a couple of dollars. He is 33 now, so a mild decline should be anticipated. While he has at least a couple of years left as one of the game’s top hitters, he’s unlikely to perform at an MVP-type level.
Coco Crisp - BOS - OF Bats: S   Age: 27       4x4: $22 5x5: $24
2005: OF: 145 Role: Starting Center Fielder
Crisp held on to all of his gains from 2004 and even showed a little additional power, although it came in the form of doubles rather than home runs. His run and RBI numbers were somewhat disappointing, especially since he spent most of the season batting second. The Red Sox will likely move him into the leadoff spot as the replacement for Johnny Damon after acquiring him for top prospect Andy Marte in January. It’s a switch that adds to his fantasy value, even though he’s probably better suited for batting fifth or sixth for the team. The move to Fenway makes it a lot more likely that he’ll hit .300 again, and he’ll probably score 110-120 runs. He may do less running, but he’s now a $24 player.
Mark Loretta - BOS - 2B Bats: R   Age: 35       4x4: $18 5x5: $20
2005: 2B: 105 3B: 1 Role: Starting Second Baseman
It was a safe guess that 2004 was going to go down as Loretta's career year, but that was quite the drop-off he experienced. Even before he tore a ligament in his left thumb on a dive into first base on May 18, he wasn't showing for any power at all, hitting .300/.388/.344 in 160 AB. After returning two months later, he batted .266/.342/.348 in 244 AB. A member of the Red Sox after being traded for Doug Mirabelli, Loretta is expected to move into the No. 2 spot in the order in which Edgar Renteria managed 100 runs scored and 70 RBI despite a lousy season. Loretta just needs to stay healthy and he’ll probably do better, even with Johnny Damon gone. Though he won’t be of much help in homers or steals, he’s one of the better value picks at second base this year.
Jason Varitek - BOS - C Bats: S   Age: 34       4x4: $16 5x5: $15
2005: C: 130 Role: Starting Catcher
Despite a weak September in which he hit just .173 with one homer and seven RBIs, Varitek was again a top-ranked catcher. He had a better OPS and more homers than anyone else who played the position. He was also third among catchers in RBIs and tied for third in runs scored. With pitchers starting to keep more of an eye on him at first base, one thing he didn't do was set another career high in stolen bases. Varitek turns 34 in April, so he's definitely getting up there in catcher years. A modest decline should be expected, probably moreso in average and homers than in RBIs. He'll likely go off at too high of a price in most leagues.
Mike Lowell - BOS - 3B Bats: R   Age: 31       4x4: $13 5x5: $13
2005: 2B: 9 3B: 135 Role: Starting Third Baseman
If Lowell, a right-handed pull hitter, has something left, Fenway Park would seem to be just the thing to bring it out of him. If he has something left. Lowell has spent the past year and a half in a slump, so the Marlins had to attach him to Josh Beckett to get rid of the $18 million he's owed over the next two years. The Red Sox apparently will keep him as their primary third baseman rather than pay another team to take a chance on him, but may not have a lot of patience (Lowell has struggled this spring). More disturbing than Lowell's decline in average last season was his drop from 27 to eight homers. He did have 36 doubles and he played a little better in the second half (692 OPS vs. 632 first-half OPS). The Marlins didn't have a lot of faith that he'd rebound, as evidenced by their attempts to dump him long before the offseason fire sale was planned. In the Red Sox lineup, Lowell won't need to be that good to drive in 90-100 runs. .270 with 20 HR would probably be sufficient. Don't pay for anything more than that.
Trot Nixon - BOS - OF Bats: L   Age: 32       4x4: $11 5x5: $11
2005: OF: 118 DH: 2 Role: Starting Right Fielder
An unfortunate byproduct of the decision to move David Ortiz ahead of Manny Ramirez in the lineup early last season was that Nixon could no longer bat second against right-handers, something that would have given the Red Sox three straight lefties at the top of the order. Nixon hit .315/.423/.539 in his 25 games as a No. 2 hitter, and his replacement, Edgar Renteria, was awful against righties all season long. Nixon probably wouldn't have kept hitting like that anyway. An early May knee injury that required offseason surgery slowed him down, and he missed almost a month after suffering a strained oblique on July 26. If he's able to play at closer to 100 percent this year, Nixon could put up some of the league's best rate stats against right-handers. Still, he needs to sit against lefties (and will with Mily Mo Pena aboard) and he'll likely be good for a DL stint at some point. AL-only leaguers should only go to $11-$12 to get him.
Alex Gonzalez - BOS - SS Bats: R   Age: 28       4x4: $10 5x5: $9
2005: SS: 124 Role: Starting Shortstop
Gonzalez’s hopes of landing a big three- or four-year deal as a free agent were dashed by the elbow injury that cost him the final month of 2005 and limited him well before he was forced out of the lineup. With his home run and RBI totals reduced so severely, his terrible OBP was a lot more noticeable. He’ll likely only get worse in that department in the AL. Of his 91 walks the last three years, 32 have been intentional, the result of him batting immediately in front of the pitcher. Gonzalez is a great defensive shortstop, and he could be a threat to finish with 20 homers and 65 RBIs as a member of the Red Sox. He’s worth up to $8-$9.
Kevin Youkilis - BOS - 3B Bats: R   Age: 27       4x4: $8 5x5: $9
2005: 1B: 9 2B: 2 3B: 24 Role: Starting First Baseman
With Bill Mueller leaving as a free agent, this was supposed to be the year that Youkilis took over as Boston’s third baseman. Instead, he will be a starter at first base rather than third. His bat won’t play quite as well at the position, but his OBP could still make him average to above average. The Coco Crisp addition ruled out the leadoff spot for Youkilis, even though he could still be the team's best choice. He'll have respectable numbers in 450-500 at-bats, but if he's batting seventh or eighth, he doesn't have much more than $12 upside.
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