Spring Training Job Battles: Red Sox Outfield
The third in our series of Spring Training Job Battles is the muddled picture that is the Red Sox outfield.
Boston helped clear things up by trading Yoenis Cespedes and now manager John Farrell is preemptively calling Shane Victorino his starting right fielder over Mookie Betts.
So if Victorino is starting alongside Rusney Castillo in center and Hanley Ramirez in right, what’s so unclear about that?
Well, first, Victorino must make it to Opening Day in one piece, which is asking a lot after his injury-riddled 2014 season. The 34-year-old only appeared in 30 games last season before succumbing to back surgery.
We dinged Betts by a couple weeks worth of at-bats in our projections, but left Victorino unchanged because we still don’t expect that he’ll stay healthy.
When you look at our projections, it’s not hard to figure out whose skills we believe in more between the two: Betts (triple-slash of .288/.358/.429 with 11 homers and 22 steals) is just a better baseball player than the aging, brittle Victorino (.267/.322/.411 with 10 homers and 12 steals).
Talent will win out in the end.
Boston Globe writer Nick Cafardo believes the Red Sox are just trying to build the value for Victorino, then trade him before the season. Owed $13 million in the last year of a three-year deal, Boston may want to allocate that money elsewhere and get the Betts era more firmly underway.
What this news may do most for fantasy owners is slightly depress the draft value of Betts, cooling the jets of owners who were ready to reach up into the top 80 picks. We dropped Betts down to No. 104 overall and you may even be able to get him later, depending on if Victorino gets hurt before your draft.
There’s another interesting battle in the outfield between Allen Craig and Daniel Nava, who can each play first base as well. There probably isn’t room for both on the same roster, so expect one to be dealt before the season.
Craig needs to have a good spring to show that he’s healthy and ready to put his disastrous 2014 season (.215/.279/.315 with eight homers) in the rear-view mirror. Nava tailed off last year after a breakout 2013, seeing his OPS drop from .830 to .707.
The winner could stumble into a bigger role at some point if Mike Napoli, David Ortiz or Hanley Ramirez break down. The loser of the battle for a Red Sox roster spot could wind up a winner if he gets traded to the right situation.
In AL-only leagues, Nava and Allen are worth a late flyer in case they return to their 2013 form while finding playing time somewhere.
Jackie Bradley Jr. appears to be the odd man out and has been included in lots of trade speculation. His bat is a long ways off from making an impact in fantasy even if he winds up with a team that has playing time for him, as it’s his glove that will make him a major leaguer.