Analyzing Boston Red Sox Hitters for 2020 – 60-Game Update

Jai Correa looks at the Boston Red Sox hitters and their fantasy outlook for 2020.

The Red Sox were unable to defend their title this past season, as they missed the playoffs. That wasn’t the offense’s fault, though, as Boston produced 901 runs—fourth-most in baseball—with a 106 wRC+ (sixth-best). With significant rotation injuries to Chris SaleDavid Price, and Nathan Eovaldi, the Red Sox couldn’t score enough runs to spot their ailing pitching staff. Boston’s lineup will continue to mash in 2020, despite the departure of 2018 AL MVP Mookie Betts.

(Last Updated: July 7)

 

60-Game Season Update

Trending Up

Not too much has changed for the Red Sox during the shutdown, as their offense was pretty much set in the abbreviated Spring Training, with maybe just some bench roles that needed to be sorted out. Losing Chris Sale isn’t great, but that doesn’t affect the offense too much. Mookie Betts still isn’t here, and due to the circumstances of the pandemic, that trade looks like it’ll end up not hurting the team as much as it could have, and the top piece of the trade coming back to the Red Sox, Alex Verdugo, looks like he should be 100% ready for the start of the season after a back injury had his status for the original start of the season in doubt. Other than that, there’s not much that’s too different regarding the Boston hitters.

 

Trending Down:

Verdugo’s improved health pretty much ends whatever opportunity Kevin Pillar had, as he would have been the most logical fill-in for Verdugo during his injury. Pillar will essentially be limited to bench duties, although he could platoon with Jackie Bradley Jr. in centerfield it won’t exactly make him a hot option for fantasy purposes. Overall, not too much is different for the team, in what was already expected to be a bit of a transition year.

 

Projected Lineups

BOS Lineup v RHP
BOS Lineup v LHP

 

Roster Changes

 

 

Hitter Previews

 

Catchers

 

Christian Vazquez (C | Batting 8th)

2019: 66 R, 23 HR, 72 RBI, 4 SB, .276/.320/.477 | C #2 (per ESPN Player Rater)

2020 ADP: 276.2 (C #10) [per Pitcher List Mocks 2020]

 

Christian Vazquez broke out in 2019. most notably through his career-high 23 home runs. Vazquez’s first three seasons offensively were composed of little dinks to right field, hitting for a high average, and not much else. This was very similar to what Xander Bogaerts offered before his breakout in 2018. Both hitters have immense talent, resulting in a large contact radius at the plate. Looking to hit balls for damage is what changed both players’ outlook offensively—in Vazquez’s case, his hard-hit percentage of 28.6% in 2018 rose to 38.5% this past season. Despite the jump, Vazquez still only ranks middle of the pack in hard-hit percentage and therefore doesn’t have the expected metrics that would make him a must-have catcher in fantasy. Nevertheless, with his above-average defensive value combined with the recent trade of Sandy Leon to Cleveland, Vazquez should be able to handle the majority of the catcher duties and could accumulate a similar stat line through volume.

 

Strengths: PA/AB, AVG

Weaknesses: OBP 

 

Best-Case Scenario

 

Slight improvements in chase rate and hard-hit percentage would help Vazquez improve his walk rate and home runs, possibly breaking into the 30-home run tier.

 

Worst-Case Scenario

 

Batted-ball regression could result in fewer than 20 homers and a drop in other slugging numbers that made him stand out in 2019.

 

2020 Projection: 56 R, 14 HR, 58 RBI, 5 SB, .263/.311/.418.

 

Infielders

 

Mitch Moreland (1B | Batting 7th)

2019: 48 R, 19 HR, 58 RBI, 1 SB, .252/.328/.507 | 1B #35 (per Fangraphs Auction Calculator)

2020 ADP: 627.1 (1B #53) [per NFBC]

 

Flying under the radar, Mitch Moreland was brought back on a one-year pact to play first base. Moreland is a great defensive first baseman, but he also has taken great strides at the plate since putting on a Boston uniform, posting a .835 OPS and .351 xwOBA this past season. Unfortunately, Moreland was only able to register 335 plate appearances due to back and quad injuries, though still reached an impressive 19 home runsbacked .414 xOBAcon and 45.6% hard-hit rate.

However, despite an enamoring batted ball profile, Moreland is mostly in a platoon and will split time with Michael Chavis at first base—with Jose Peraza playing second base against left-handed starters.

 

Strengths: SLG

Weaknesses: AVG 

 

Best-Case Scenario

 

Moreland’s 2017 campaign attained a .374 xwOBA, 22 home runs, and 79 RBI. Ideally, he replicates that line while adding a few more home runs—25 or more.

 

Worst-Case Scenario

 

Moreland needs to be healthy to put his batted ball metrics to use. Fewer than 450 at-bats would make him fantasy irrelevant.

 

2020 Projection: 56 R, 19 HR, 63 RBI, 1 SB, .251/.326/.468.

 

Michael Chavis (2B | Batting 6th)

2019: 46 R, 18 HR, 58 RBI, 2 SB, .254/.322/.444 | 2B #48 (per ESPN Player Rater)

2020 ADP: 271.8 (2B #22) [per Pitcher List Mocks 2020]

 

Dustin Pedroia was injured, Eduardo Nunez wasn’t offering very much, and second base was a black hole. Chavis was brought up to provide some thump from the keystone and initially delivered, hitting 10 home runs in his first 36 games. After that, teams started to exploit the swing-and-miss in Chavis’ long swing—especially at the top of the zone with heaters. Added with injuries, Chavis was not able to finish the season as strongly as he started.

There are a couple of things to consider when looking at Chavis. A positive would be that he had an average exit velocity of 93.7 mph on fly balls and line drives—a solid number with Anthony Rendon and Michael Conforto in close proximity. The negative that will make or break Chavis’ fantasy standing is his 33.1% strikeout rate from this past season backed by a 19.8% swinging-strike rate. As we go into next season, Chavis’ ability to produce will fall on whether he can put more balls in play and put his batted-ball skills to work. For now, Chavis should be able to play the majority of the starts at second base with some additional work at first base if need be.

 

Strengths: HR

Weaknesses: OBP, K% 

 

Best-Case Scenario

 

If he finds a way to limit the strikeouts, Chavis will be able to play every day in a dominant lineup with plenty of runners on before him. Chavis also has 30-home run potential if he plays more often than not.

 

Worst-Case Scenario

 

He continues to strike out at an astronomical clip and gets used sparingly.

 

2020 Projection: 73 R, 25 HR, 77 RBI, 4 SB, .248/.313/.452.

 

Jose Peraza (2B | Batting 9th)

2019: 37 R, 6 HR, 33 RBI, 7 SB, .239/.285/.346 | 2B #64 (per ESPN Player Rater)

2020 ADP: 426.8 (2B #42) [per NFBC]

 

Jose Peraza fell apart in 2019, only stealing seven bases and posting a .631 OPS, largely due to a drop in sprint speed (28.8 ft/s to 28.0 ft/s) and his poor batted-ball metrics finally catching up with him. With his disastrous performance, Peraza was non-tendered by the Reds and now gets an opportunity with the Red Sox to replicate the departing Brock Holt‘s success as a utility player. Peraza should get the second base gig to start the season, and putting him at the bottom of the lineup could lead to some gaudy runs-scored numbers if he’s able to get on base for Boston’s top four. Additionally, considering most Red Sox hitters control the strike zone exceptionally well, Peraza could learn a thing or two and put together better at-bats. Peraza is best left undrafted; however, being a part of a great Red Sox lineup will make him someone to keep an eye on.

 

Strengths: SB

Weaknesses: Everything else

 

Best-Case Scenario

 

If Peraza can achieve his 2018 OBP of .326, there’s a chance he could get near 80 runs scored. Peraza would also have to recoup most of his stolen base totals of seasons past—possibly getting up to 30 steals.

 

Worst-Case Scenario

 

He repeats his 2019 numbers and gets limited playing time.

 

2020 Projection: 33 R, 5 HR, 28 RBI, 8 SB, .283/.324/.403.

 

Rafael Devers (3B | Batting 2nd)

2019: 129 R, 32 HR, 115 RBI, 8 SB, .311/.361/.555 | 3B #1 (per ESPN Player Rater)

2020 ADP: 22.7 (3B #5) [per Pitcher List Mocks 2020]

 

Playing a solid defensive third base for the first time in his career, Rafael Devers was able to keep his immensely talented bat in the lineup and become Boston’s two-hole hitter en route to a monster campaign. What fueled his breakout was an increase in balls hit in the air and a jump to an astonishing 92.1 mph average exit velocity. Devers was also able to decrease his strikeouts to 17% from 24.7% in 2018. The one reason for concern for Devers is that he sports a 37.5% chase rate and a 13.2% swinging-strike rate, possibly leading to more strikeouts. That being said, an improvement in those areas would make him an even more dominant force in 2020.

 

Strengths: PA/AB, R, HR, RBI, AVG

Weaknesses: BB% 

 

Best-Case Scenario

 

Hitting the 40-homer plateau while working toward a 1:1 BB:K ratio.

 

Worst-Case Scenario

 

A regression in strikeouts could affect his numbers, but Devers still seems a lock for at least 25 home runs.

 

2020 Projection: 94 R, 32 HR, 105 RBI, 9 SB, .299/.355/.546.

 

Xander Bogaerts (SS | Batting 3rd)

2019: 110 R, 33 HR, 117 RBI, 4 SB, .309/.384/.555 | SS #6 (per ESPN Player Rater)

2020 ADP: 37.7 (SS #8) [per Pitcher List Mocks 2020]

 

Bogaerts followed a superb 2018 with an even better season in 2019. He had some regression in his batted-ball metrics but counteracted that with an increase in walks, a league-leading 91 two-strike hits, and hitting third in a powerhouse Red Sox lineup that provided tons of run-scoring opportunities. Despite a large discrepancy between his .390 wOBA and .358 xwOBA, Bogaerts’ lineup and park situation indicate that 2020 should not be any different than this past season.

 

Strengths: PA/AB, R, HR, RBI, AVG

Weaknesses: SB 

 

Best-Case Scenario

 

He sees an uptick in home runs, possibly pushing 40, while essentially keeping his 2019 numbers.

 

Worst-Case Scenario

 

Bogaerts has overproduced these past two seasons with respect to xwOBA, so some regression might result in a campaign similar to 2018 than 2019.

 

2020 Projection: 95 R, 25 HR, 97 RBI, 6 SB, .292/.368/.499.

 

Outfielders

 

Alex Verdugo (RF | Batting 1st)

2019: 43 R, 12 HR, 44 RBI, 4 SB, .294/.342/.475 | OF #92 (per Fangraphs Auction Calculator)

2020 ADP: 299.2 (OF #68) [per NFBC]

 

The once highly touted Dodgers prospect Alex Verdugo now finds himself in Boston after the recent blockbuster trade sending Mookie Betts and David Price to Chavez Ravine. In his first extended major-league look, Verdugo managed to hit for decent power—12 home runs—and demonstrate an excellent approach at the plate, posting a .294 average with only a 13% strikeout rate. He ended up missing most of August and September from a back injury but Verdugo should be fully healthy for Spring Training.

Verdugo’s fantasy outlook has completely changed in light of the recent trade, as he’ll escape the uncertainty of playing time in Los Angeles and enter a full-time gig to attempt the replication of his predecessor’s production. In Boston’s lineup, Verdugo should lead off since Benintendi struggled so mightily in the role last season—hitting in front of the All-Star crew in Devers, Bogaerts, and Martinez—which should lead to great counting stats. If there are additional opposite-field hits, using the Green Monster to his advantage while continuing to increase the number of balls he hits in the air, Verdugo could be of nice value in the back end of drafts.

 

Strengths: AVG

Weaknesses: HR, SB 

 

Best-Case Scenario

 

Verdugo’s current Depth Charts projection is appealing, but approaching 100 R, 20 HR, and 80 RBI coupled with his current slash line would be a great start to his Boston tenure.

 

Worst-Case Scenario

 

Verdugo is now thrown into the fire as the Red Sox faithful will look to him, rather unfairly, to be a worthy replacement of Betts. A combination of pressure and recent injury concerns could push him toward his 2019 numbers.

 

2020 Projection: 84 R, 17 HR, 84 RBI, 7 SB, .307/.367/.479.

 

Jackie Bradley Jr. (CF | Batting 7th)

2019: 69 R, 21 HR, 62 RBI, 8 SB, .225/.317/.421 | OF #88 (per ESPN Player Rater)

2020 ADP: 375.2 (OF #102) [per NFBC]

 

At this time last year, Jackie Bradley Jr. had a lot of helium, not only because of his stellar postseason performance, but also because of a 91.9 mph average exit velocity (top 7 percent in the league), 50.1% hard-hit percentage (top 4 percent), and a career-high 12-degree average launch angle. Of course, Bradley has been plagued by inconsistency for years, and 2019 was no different. You see flashes of Bradley’s talents backed by his above-average batted-ball metrics, but then negated in prolonged struggles as a result of a 15.7% swinging-strike rate—lack of contact. Unfortunately for JBJ, all the gains made in his batted-ball metrics dropped sharply while having another increase in strikeout rate for a third consecutive season. Manager Alex Cora’s patience was tested as Bradley sat against left-handed pitching, something that had not happened often prior to this season. JBJ does have the talent to be a superb fantasy asset, though his given inconsistency from month to month bounds him to an intriguing flier in most leagues.

 

Strengths: PA/AB

Weaknesses: AVG, OBP, K% 

 

Best-Case Scenario

 

Of course, the best thing would be for JBJ to finally solve his inconsistency woes. However, that’s a big if. If he steals more often and gets into the 15-20 range, a potential 20-20 season would be very nice for Bradley.

 

Worst-Case Scenario

 

Bradley continues to struggle against lefties and thus becomes more of a platoon option in center field, therefore losing significant at-bats.

 

2020 Projection: 81 R, 22 HR, 78 RBI, 12 SB, .240/.325/.426.

 

Andrew Benintendi (LF | Batting 5th)

2019: 72 R, 13 HR, 68 RBI, 10 SB, .266/.343/.431 | OF #52 (per ESPN Player Rater)

2020 ADP: 87.7 (OF #125) [per Pitcher List Mocks 2020]

 

After his stellar 2018, Andrew Benintendi took a significant step back this past season largely due to an incredibly poor start that resulted in being pushed down toward the bottom part of the lineup. These struggles largely manifested from a leg kick he had implemented a season prior to generate more power. As a result, Benintendi decided to revert to his college swing—with no leg kick—to get himself back on track. Despite the change, his xwOBA only increased from .337 before the All-Star break to .345 post. The flatter swing also resulted in increases in Benintendi’s line-drive rate but also in ground balls. Overall, Benintendi’s 2020 production will likely sandwich itself between these past two seasons—hopefully favoring his 2018 campaign more than the last.

 

Strengths: PA/AB

Weaknesses: HR 

 

Best-Case Scenario

 

A more aggressive approach on the base paths would adeptly suit Benintendi’s playstyle—a 20-20 season would be ideal.

 

Worst-Case Scenario

 

He repeats his 2019 campaign, possibly with fewer stolen bases.

 

2020 Projection: 95 R, 19 HR, 79 RBI, 13 SB, .273/.353/.431.

 

J.D. Martinez (DH/LF | Batting 4th)

2019: 98 R, 36 HR, 105 RBI, 2 SB, .304/.383/.557 | OF #12 (per ESPN Player Rater)

2020 ADP: 21.0 (OF #7) [per Pitcher List Mocks 2020]

 

Like Betts, J.D. Martinez once again delivered with a fantastic 2019 but was easily short of his 2018 production. Martinez came back to earth with decreases in hard-hit percentage and average exit velocity, though those losses were met with gains in walks and line-drive rate with a decrease in strikeouts. Overall, Martinez will continue to be the driving force in a star-studded Boston lineup, thus being one of the top outfielders in fantasy this year.

 

Strengths: PA/AB, R, HR, RBI, AVG, OBP

Weaknesses: SB 

 

Best-Case Scenario

 

He mimics his 2018 campaign.

 

Worst-Case Scenario

 

Martinez has dealt with injuries in the past, and that would be the only thing that would hinder him significantly.

 

2020 Projection: 104 R, 40 HR, 119 RBI, 3 SB, .301/.378/.576.

 

Playing Time Battles

 

First Base/Second Base: These two are intertwined for the sole fact that Chavis can play both positions. For now, Peraza should start at second and Chavis at first. Of course, Chavis is out of minor league options, so there could be days against left-handed starters when Bradley sits and Peraza goes to the outfield while Chavis slides over to the keystone. The situation isn’t really something to monitor unless Peraza shows significant improvement at the plate and on the basepaths.

 

Projected Lineup

 

Projected Lineup v RHP
Projected Lineup v LHP

 

Conclusion

 

The Red Sox have a phenomenal lineup that sports many top offensive pieces—Martinez, Bogaerts, and Devers—while having possible breakout players in Bradley Jr., Chavis, and the newly acquired Verdugo. Boston has the offense that many fantasy owners will want a piece of so make sure you plan accordingly in drafts.

Featured Image by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)

Jai Correa

Jai Correa is an alumnus of UMass Amherst. He is incredibly passionate about the Red Sox, Indian cricket and economics.

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