2017 Fantasy Baseball Draft Prep: Red Sox outlook depends on how much Rick Porcello and the offense regresses – CBSSports.com

Regression is something we talk about a lot in Fantasy Baseball, but it’s also a concept that’s widely misunderstood.

The two worst misconceptions can be resolved by simply remembering these two rules:

1. Regression is not always bad.
2. Saying someone is going to regress doesn’t mean they’ll suddenly swing to the other extreme to compensate.

I chose to make these distinctions at the start of the Red Sox team preview because it’s impossible to discuss their Fantasy prospects without using the word regression. Their pitching staff has a Cy Young winner with a career 3.94 FIP, who just posted a career best year in nearly every statistical category. Their offense just scored 33 more runs than the Rockies and 99 more runs than 27 teams. Their catcher (!) had a .392 BABIP last season!

The offensive regression is going to impact the run and RBI areas the most. That might hurt Mookie Betts, but you can’t drop him out of your top three. It will have a bigger effect on Hanley Ramirez, who won’t likely top 100 RBI again and isn’t a top-10 first baseman if he doesn’t.

On the positive side, David Price probably won’t allow nearly 1.2 HR/9 again. Craig Kimbrel will likely get his walk numbers back under control. There will be both positive and negative regression for this team, but more of the former. Even with that in mind it’s hard for me to pick anyone besides them to win the American League.

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How high should we draft the three Red Sox aces?

Full stop. I don’t want to be too controversial here, but the reigning Cy Young winner is not a Fantasy ace. I say that as someone who called Porcello a sleeper last spring. Now he’s a bust candidate if you start drafting him like an ace.

What is SIERA? Skill-Interactive ERA. To quote Fangraphs:

SIERA attempts to answer the question: what is the underlying skill level of this pitcher? How well did they actually pitch over the past year?

Why does that matter? Porcello’s career SIERA is 3.98. He is going to regress in 2017, and that will impact his career high totals in wins and innings. The most likely outcome is Porcello throws around 200 innings with an ERA around 3.60 and wins around 15 games. That is no ace.

I expect David Price to move in the other direction. He and Chris Sale are both part of my second tier (the first tier is just Clayton Kershaw) of Fantasy aces, with Sale having a slight edge. I’d draft Sale in the second half of the second round while Price is more of a third-round pick.

What should we expect from Andrew Benintendi?

As with any prospect, the range of possibilities for Benintendi is pretty wide. The one positive in terms of projectability is Benintendi’s approach at the plate, which gives him a higher floor than most prospects. In two minor league seasons, Benintendi had more walks than strikeouts. While he wasn’t able to maintain that in his short exposure to the Major Leagues, his contact skills and batting eye will certainly be an asset.

Speaking of that short exposure to the majors, it’s important to note that Benintendi will not turn 23 until the All Star break, completely skipped AAA and only saw 263 plate appearances at AA. Growing pains should be a part of the expectations.

A slash line of .280/.340/.450 seems completely reasonable for Benintendi. If he does that near the top of the Red Sox order and hits lefties well enough to play every day, he should threaten 90 runs and be a top-30 outfielder in points leagues. Just remember that’s closer to his ceiling than his floor.

How concerned should we be about Craig Kimbrel and is there an alternative if he falters again?

Craig Kimbrel was not good at all in the month of September. At least that’s what monthly splits would show you. He pitched nine innings in the final month of the year and posted a 6.00 ERA with as many walks as innings pitched. He also missed nearly a month in July with a torn meniscus. Putting together those facts could worry you, especially when coupled with Kimbrel’s 5.1 BB/9.

What’s weird is that Kimbrel was incredible in between those two events. In fact, from the day he returned from injury until September 22, Kimbrel threw 17 innings and allowed 14 base runners and one earned run while striking out 30. Kimbrel basically struggled for four games at the end of the year. In the playoffs he faced four batters and struck out three of them. He did not lose it.

If you think I’m wrong or worry Kimbrel may struggle with injuries again, the Red Sox acquired an elite set-up man in Tyler Thornburg from the Brewers. Thornburg struck out 90 hitters in 67 innings last season and posted a WHIP below 1.00. He could instantly become a top-15 closer if Kimbrel were to go down. As it is, he’s absolutely an asset in AL-only Rotisserie leagues as a help in ratios.

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