Using this preview: Some players will be spotlighted and I’ll make some knee-jerk rankings of each teams lineup, rotation and bullpen. A better lineup will offer protection for hitters and improve pitchers’ win-loss records. A better rotation will also make things easier on a bullpen. I’m starting with the American League East and I’ll work my way to the National League West. More previews here.
American League East
Boston Red Sox
- Stud: Dustin Pedroia, 2B — The 2008 AL MVP is the new catalyst for the Sox. He probably will not repeat last year’s near 20-20 100-100 performance, but he very well could. This is his fourth year, and he’s only 25. His homer total feels a bit fluky, but he also had 54 doubles last year, so he can rake. On paper, he’s the best fantasy player on the team.
- Bust: Kevin Youkilis, 1B — Youk blew up last year: .312 average, 29 homers, 115 RBIs, 91 runs, 43 doubles. While he’ll be a 20 homer, 90 RBI guy, the Red Sox hype and previous year’s performance will make him a bad value.
- Sleeper: Jason Bay, OF — Jacoby Ellsbury is going to be really good this year, but I think Bay is an even better sleeper. Bay spent years as the big man in Pittsburgh. He’ll have another year with lineup protection, and runners like Ellsbury on base in front of him. He won’t bat as high in the order as he should, but a career year in 2009 is not out of the question.
- Prospect to watch: Justin Masterson, RP — The Red Sox have Michael Bowden waiting to take a rotation spot, but Masterson is a prospect who could make a difference this year. His ERA and WHIP are outstanding. He’ll be overshadowed in a ridiculously talented bullpen, but he’s someone keeper leaguers want to keep an eye on.
- Wild Card: David Ortiz, DH — Ortiz was down across the board last year. I call it a sign of things to come when I called him overrated. But if Ortiz can bounce back to his average offensive season he’ll help the Sox score plenty of runs.
- Starter you may not know but should: Hideki Okajima, Takashi Saito, RP — This is the Red Sox hype machine we’re talking about, so you probably know most of the players on the roster. Okajima and Saito will likely split the setup role, each gaining holds while helping your ERA and WHIP. Both would be closers on other teams. The only downside is they’ll steal innings from each other.
B — You could poke holes in the theories for success or disaster for every batter in the lineup — Bay’s 30 years old, Ellsbury’s unproven. The real wild cards here are Mike Lowell, J.D. Drew, Julio Lugo and Jason Varitek. They’re not going to have career years, but if they have average to above average years, they’ll make this lineup one of the best in the game.
B — Just like the lineup, there are questions here –Beckett’s an injury risk, Lester is good but not a great fantasy player, Daisuke Matsuzaka gave up a ton of strikeouts to improve his ERA last year — but the potential is there for an outstanding staff.
A — Jonathan Papelbon is as entrenched a closer as their is in the league, despite the team bringing in Saito — who saved 81 games over the last three years for the Dodgers. Saito and Okajima solidify the ‘pen and Ramon Ramirez and Manny DelCarmen are just piling on.
To read all of Chinstrap Ninjas team previews, go here.