Boston Red Sox
2018 Record: 108-54
First Place, AL East
Team ERA: 3.75 (8th)
Team OPS: .792 (1st)
What Went Right
The Red Sox won a franchise-record 108 games during the regular season, the first time they reached the 100-win plateau since 1946. The dominance continued in the postseason, as Boston won 11 of 14 playoff contests, beating the Dodgers to win their fourth World Series title since 2004. Mookie Betts finished as the No. 1 overall fantasy performer in a likely AL MVP campaign that saw him bat .346/.438/.640 with 32 home runs, 80 RBI, 30 stolen bases and 129 runs scored. J.D. Martinez wasn’t far behind, putting together a .330/.402/.629 line with 43 bombs and a league-leading 130 RBI. Xander Bogaerts set new career highs in the power department with 23 longballs and 103 RBI, finishing with a career-best .883 OPS. Andrew Benintendi’s power disappeared after the All-Star break, but he still finished with a robust .290/.366/.465 batting line with 16 homers, 87 RBI, 21 steals and 103 runs scored. Steve Pearce posted a .901 OPS after being acquired at the trade deadline and then went on to capture World Series MVP honors. Chris Sale battled shoulder issues down the stretch, but when healthy he was utterly dominant, holding a 2.11 ERA and 237/34 K/BB ratio over 158 innings. David Price put up a 3.58 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and 177/50 K/BB ratio across 176 frames and then posted a 1.37 ERA over his final 19 2/3 postseason innings. Nathan Eovaldi also had a dominant postseason (1.61 ERA) after a nice close to the regular season (3.33 ERA). He hit some bumps in the road during the second half and in the playoffs, but Craig Kimbrel was awfully good overall again with a 2.74 ERA, 96 strikeouts over 62 1/3 frames and 42 saves. Matt Barnes matched Kimbrel’s 96 strikeouts and did so in fewer innings (61 2/3). Ryan Brasier held a 1.60 ERA and 0.77 WHIP over 34 appearances.
What Went Wrong
Given the remarkable season the Red Sox had, there’s not a whole lot to talk about here. There were a few disappointments, though. Rafael Devers was unable to build upon his strong close to the 2017 season, putting together an inadequate .240/.298/.433 batting line in his first full major league campaign. Eduardo Nunez hit only .265/.289/.388 and also stole just seven bases after swiping 64 bags over the previous two seasons. Jackie Bradley had his moments in the postseason and continued to play remarkable defense, but his .717 OPS was his lowest in four seasons. Hanley Ramirez posted a .708 OPS across 44 games before the Red Sox surprisingly cut him loose. Dustin Pedroia played just three games before being shut down with more knee issues. Ian Kinsler batted only .242/.294/.311 with one home run over 37 contests after being acquired at the trade deadline. Drew Pomeranz was a disaster with a 6.08 ERA across 74 innings of work.
**How will Chris Sale’s shoulder problem affect his fantasy draft stock? Sale was dominant for the first four months of the season, but he threw only 17 innings in the final two months of the regular season and had an up-and-down postseason when he failed to pitch deep into games. The left-hander was still missing plenty of bats, but his velocity was noticeably down and it was clear he wasn’t his normal self down the stretch. Sale did not need surgery and it’s possible he’ll be fine after an offseason of rest. However, he’ll be watched closely by the Red Sox and by fantasy owners in spring training.
**Will Rafael Devers take a step forward in year three? The third baseman’s first full season in the majors was a letdown, as he sported an unsightly .240/.298/.433 batting line and made two separate trips to the disabled list with a hamstring injury. Devers regressed badly against lefties, posting a .619 OPS versus them in 2018 after hitting .400 off of them in 2017. The good news is that Devers’ plate discipline and batted ball profile virtually mirrored what he did last year, and he should have better luck from a BABIP perspective (his BABIP went from .342 in 2017 to .281 in 2018). He also turned just 22 a few weeks ago. He’s a nice bounce-back candidate for 2019.
**Who will be the Red Sox’ closer next season? In all likelihood, the reliever that will handle the ninth inning for Boston next year isn’t currently on the roster. The Red Sox figure to make an effort to bring back Craig Kimbrel, and there’s been some talk that they could be a suitor for Andrew Miller. The best in-house candidates for the role are probably Ryan Brasier (1.60 ERA, 0.77 WHIP) and Matt Barnes (3.65 ERA, 96 strikeouts over 61 2/3 innings).
**Will Michael Chavis make an impact with the big club in 2019? Chavis was suspended for the first 80 games of the 2018 season after testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug, but he returned to bat .298/.381/.538 with nine home runs over 46 games, finishing the year at Triple-A Pawtucket. Chavis is surely headed back to Pawtucket to begin next season, but he should see the majors at some point next year. The top prospect is capable of playing both corner infield spots and there’s been some talk that he could get a look at second base, a position that could potentially be open if Dustin Pedroia isn’t able to overcome his knee issues. Chavis hit 31 home runs across two levels in 2017.
Team Needs: The Red Sox need a closer and probably at least one other reliever capable of handling high-leverage innings. The good news for them is that this free agent market is loaded with bullpen options. They could also look for a second baseman, as they can’t realistically count on Dustin Pedroia and his balky knee.