Thursday, February 21, 2008

MLB Previews: Boston Red Sox Have All the Elements

Boston Red Sox Last season: Won AL East (96-66), beat Angels and Indians in playoffs, swept World Series over Colorado Rockies. 2008 Outlook: Should win the AL East again with relative ease, as the Yankees retool and the rest of the competition isn't much. With a solid rotation and bullpen and plenty of mashers at the plate, the Sox are serious contenders for a repeat World Series win. Biggest Changes: Sean Casey will get a little playing time at first base with Kevin Youkilis as the incumbent as David Ortiz takes his usual role as DH. Casey will get loads of pinch hit chances, though, because he's a great singles hitter with plenty of plate presence. The losses of reliever Eric Gagne and sometime starter Matt Clement won't have much impact, as neither was a major contributor last year. Look for Jacoby Ellsbury to get the nod as the starting center fielder over Coco Crisp and watch to see if Dustin Pedroia suffers a letdown after his outstanding rookie season. Julio Lugo at short is the only possible defect on this team, but if he can hit for a little better average than last season's .237, he should be fine. Rookie/Free Agent Prospects: Clay Buchholz, who threw a no-hitter in his second major league start, could be the fifth starter or better, depending on Curt Schilling's readiness. RHP David Aardsma could be a middle reliever or spot starter. Best fantasy bets: Hitters are abundant, but closers like Jonathan Papelbon are a rarity. He should be your top pick from this squad. You also should like David Ortiz because he produces year-in and year-out. Manny Ramirez turns 36, but is still productive, though injuries limited his playing time last season. Jacoby Ellsbury could be a steal especially if he does steal - bases, that is. Josh Beckett will be close to the top of everyone's list, and you'll pay a premium for him. Three Excellent Links: Over the Monster: A Boston Red Sox Blog Manny Ramirez career stats - "Being" needs just 10 more homers for 500. Boston Globe Sports Page Next: New York Yankees

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