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Fantasy focus: Red Sox pitchers worth drafting

Keith Foulke - BOS - R Throws: R   Age: 34       4x4: $27 5x5: $24
2005: Started:0 Relieved:43 Role: Closer
Foulke blew it by deciding against knee surgery following the 2004 season, though perhaps all should be forgiven considering just what he did during Boston’s World Series run. After struggling throughout the first half, Foulke was forced to have cartilage repaired in left knee on July 7. He returned in September, but his right knee was still a problem and his velocity remained down, so he didn’t make it until the end of the season. Surgery on the right knee was performed on Oct. 6. Foulke is back this spring, and Terry Francona has named him his closer. He was one of the game’s best relievers six years running before 2005, so don’t underestimate him. Even if it doesn’t happen right away, he should reemerge as a quality fantasy closer. Considering that he’ll come at quite a discount, mixed leaguers especially should take a chance on him.
Curt Schilling - BOS - S Throws: R   Age: 40       4x4: $18 5x5: $18
2005: Started:11 Relieved:21 Role: #1 Starter
The noticeably slimmer Curt Schilling said his ankle is back to normal in a January interview on WEEI radio. ''About 14-17 days ago, I woke up and my foot was normal,'' he said. ''Going through workouts and doing the stuff I'm doing here [at his Arizona home] . . . I don't know what the combination was, but it feels right again. It feels normal. It [feels] normal for the first time in a long, long time.'' Schilling didn't say how much weight he lost, but because he's been able to do more running, he's definitely in better shape than he was last year. Now 39, there's a good chance he's finished as an elite starter. Still, it would be a mistake to truly count him out. His arm seems to be in fine shape, so expect him to throw 200 innings this year. He'll probably be of plenty of help in WHIP and strikeouts even if he can't maintain a sub-4.00 ERA.
Josh Beckett - BOS - S Throws: R   Age: 26       4x4: $17 5x5: $17
2005: Started:29 Relieved:0 Role: #2 Starter
In order to get rid of Mike Lowell’s salary, the Marlins moved Beckett to the Red Sox in November, picking Boston’s offer over one from Texas. Even with the two DL stints mixed in, Beckett’s 2005 season gets labeled a positive. He made a career-high 29 starts and blew away his previous best of nine victories. The return of his blister problems shelved him for two starts in June, but his fingers were fine for the rest of the year. His second assignment to the DL was the result of a strained oblique. A sore shoulder troubled him in September and caused him to sit out the final week after the Marlins were eliminated from contention, but he was given a clean bill of health by Dr. James Andrews after a pair of MRIs in October. The Red Sox still have concerns, but they’ll live with some missed time in the regular season in order to have him healthy down the stretch. Maybe Beckett will throw 220 innings one of these seasons, but he’s more likely to finish at about 180. This isn’t the year to target him.
Matt Clement - BOS - S Throws: R   Age: 32       4x4: $11 5x5: $12
2005: Started:32 Relieved:0 Role: #4 Starter
In the first season of his three-year, $25.5 million contract with Boston, Clement made his first All-Star team, getting a chance to go to Detroit as a result of Roy Halladay’s injury. His season started to fall apart right around then, though, and he was actually pitching quite poorly before he was hit in the head by a line drive off the bat of Carl Crawford on July 26. He went 3-4 with a 5.72 ERA after the All-Star break and was torched for eight runs by the White Sox in Game 1 of the ALDS, leading him to be offered in trade talks over the winter. However, better numbers should be on the way. He’s probably not the pitcher who started 10-2 last year, but he is durable and effective more often than not. If his price falls below $12, he’d be an astute pick.
David Wells - BOS - S Throws: L   Age: 43       4x4: $12 5x5: $8
2005: Started:30 Relieved:0 Starter
Wells gave the Red Sox about what they were seeking in the first year of a two-year contract that could earn him as much as $18 million, but he decided he wanted to return to the West Coast for what could be the final year of his career and requested a trade over the winter. However, now it seems he will at least begin the season with the Red Sox. No matter where he pitches, he’ll likely make about 30 starts despite aches and pains and be worth $8-$10. He’s started 30 games in nine of the last 10 seasons.
Tim Wakefield - BOS - S Throws: R   Age: 40       4x4: $6 5x5: $6
2005: Started:33 Relieved:0 Starter
Wakefield never missed a turn all year, but there's little doubt an injury prevented the knuckleballer from surpassing his career high of 17 wins. He went 0-4 with an 8.86 ERA in the four starts when his personal catcher, Doug Mirabelli, was out with a sprained wrist. Excluding that stretch, he was 16-8 with a 3.66 ERA. Now that Mirabelli is gone, Wakefield looks like a riskier pick this year. While Wakefield turns 40 in August, there's little reason to believe he's close to being done, and the Red Sox will control him for as long as they wish under the terms of the contract he agreed to last April. His body no longer permits him to pitch in relief between starts, but he's still about as likely to throw around 200 innings as any AL starter. Though he'll probably be a little less effective, he should be worth at least $5-$6.
Jon Papelbon - BOS - R Throws: R   Age: 26       4x4: $5 5x5: $5
2005: Started:3 Relieved:14 Role: Relief
Papelbon, a closer in college, appears well on his way to becoming a major league starter. First, though, he could be in for another half-season or so of bullpen work. Papelbon overpowered major league hitters with his fastball last season, even though he wasn’t throwing much harder than 94-95 mph. The rest of his arsenal needs work. He has a pretty good slider and the makings of a quality splitter, but he needs more experience with each. Regardless of his role, Papelbon will have some fantasy value this season. He could be a top candidate to close should Keith Foulke disappoint.
Mike Timlin - BOS - R Throws: R   Age: 40       4x4: $4 5x5: $3
2005: Started:0 Relieved:81 Role: Set-Up
Not that he deserved a place on anyone's Cy Young ballot, but Timlin was every bit as important to the Red Sox last year as Mariano Rivera was to the Yankees. At age 39, he took the ball a franchise-record 81 times and compiled a 2.24 ERA. He even converted 11 of 13 save opportunities after Curt Schilling was moved from the closer's role back to the rotation for the stretch run. In truth, he didn't pitch as well as the ERA suggests. Eighteen of the 32 runners he inherited went on to score, and his 1.32 WHIP was his worst mark since 2001. The Red Sox will try to avoid using him so often again this year, and they'd definitely prefer to keep him out of the closer's role. Other setup men will be better value picks.
Craig Hansen - BOS - R Throws: R   Age: 23       4x4: $0 5x5: $0
2005: Started:0 Relieved:4 Role:
The future in the closer's role for the Red Sox, Hansen should be the AL's next great reliever. The St. John’s product slipped to the 26th pick in last year's draft because of his bonus demands, but the Red Sox were willing to give him a major league deal worth $4 million, a move that only looks smarter after what happened to the reliever market over the winter. Hansen throws in the mid-90s and has a great slider. He didn't make the immediate impact the team was hoping for last season, but he's not far away. It's likely he'll be in the majors for good by midsummer, and if Keith Foulke doesn't come all the way back from his knee problems, he could find himself in the closer's role before the end of the season. Look to stash him away.
Jon Lester - BOS - S Throws: L   Age: 21       4x4: $0 5x5: $0
2005: Started:0 Relieved:0 Role:
Jonathan Papelbon made quite an impression after arriving in Boston last season, but the Red Sox may have an even better pitching prospect on the way in Lester, who was a second-round pick in 2002. With uncommon velocity for a lefty, he’s been one of the team’s most sought-after players in trade talks for years. Lester can reach the mid-90s with his fastball and mixes in a plus curve, a cutter and a changeup. The total package gives him No. 2-starter potential. Expect him to debut for the Red Sox before the end of the season, though he may not have a regular rotation spot until 2007. He’s one of the AL’s top fantasy pitching prospects.
Cla Meredith - BOS - R Throws: R   Age: 23       4x4: $0 5x5: $0
2005: Started:0 Relieved:3 Role:
Last May, after opening the season with 15 scoreless innings in Double-A and one more in Triple-A, Meredith arrived in Boston. It was just 11 months after being drafted in the sixth round out of Virginia Commonwealth. Instead of being eased into action, Meredith was thrown right into the fire by manager Terry Francona, making his major league debut with the tying run on second in a game against the Mariners. He ended up allowing a grand slam to Richie Sexson in the contest, and he made just two more appearances before getting sent down, never to be heard from again. Meredith doesn't have great stuff, but his high-80s sinker should make him useful against right-handers after he gains more experience. Since he struggled at Pawtucket after returning to the minors, he's not in Boston's plans for the start of this year.
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