Fantasy Breakdown: Boston Red Sox for 2021

A preview of the Red Sox's lineup, rotation, and bullpen for 2021.

As we prepare for the season ahead, the Pitcher List staff will be creating profiles for every fantasy-relevant player for 2021. Players will be broken up by team and role through starting pitchers, bullpen, lineup, and prospects. You can access every article as it comes out in our Player Profiles 2021 hub here.

Hitters 

Starting Pitchers 

Relief Pitchers 

At A Glance

 

After an abysmal 2020 season, the good news for Boston is it can only go up from here. They still have some holes to fill on the roster, particularly pitching-wise, but pending further offseason moves, it could be a surprisingly good bridge year for the Sox. Yes, sorry Sox fans, bridge year. Chaim Bloom has already done a good job setting up the Sox for future success, but as of right now, any chance the Sox have at October baseball in 2021 at the moment seems dependent on key hitters such as J.D. Martinez and Andrew Benintendi having rebound years, and of course the return of Chris Sale following Tommy John surgery. Still, there’s a lot to be excited about in players such as Xander Bogaerts, Alex Verdugo, and Rafael Devers. And with the return of Eduardo Rodríguez and a lot of new faces competing for a spot in the starting rotation, the pitching without a doubt should be a lot sharper than last year’s disaster.

Hitters

By Sarah Griffin

Projected Lineup

Infielders

Rafael Devers (3B)

2020: 32 R, 11 HR, 30 RBI, 0 SB,  .263/.310/.483 | [3B] #11

2021 ADP: 44.70 ([3B]#45)

Perhaps a combination of his impressive 2019 campaign and a shortened season, 2020 felt like a rather underwhelming year personally for Devers. However, by the end of the season, he seemed to be channeling his 2019 form more. It was frustrating at times to see some regression from one of the best young hitters in baseball, but for Devers regression still looks like 32 runs, 11 home runs, and 30 RBIs in a 60 game season, which is certainly not anything to scoff at. That being said, there are a couple of areas for concern with him coming into 2021. The big one of course being his defense. It seemed he turned a corner defensively towards the middle of the 2019 season with the glove and was able to finish strong, with far fewer errors and mishaps that make one want to slam their hand into their head. Alas, in 2020 all that progress seemed to have disappeared, with Devers leading the league in errors. His bad luck continued to the plate, striking out at the highest rate in his career: in 232 at-bats, Devers struck out 67 times. In some games, it seemed like he was swinging at any pitch that came his way, as he also reached a career-high swinging strike rate. At least offensively by the end of the season, he began to show flashes of the elite hitter we know and love. With the return of his beloved mentor Alex Cora as manager this season, hopefully, that’ll help Devers. The big narrative this season for him will be if he truly is cut out for third base.

Xander Bogaerts (SS)

2020: 36 R, 11 HR, 28 RBI, 8 SB, .300/.364/.502 | [SS] #2

2021 ADP: 36.51 ([SS]#36)

While Alex Verdugo may have been the talk of the town at the end of the last season, it’s important not to overlook another fantastic season from Xander Bogaerts. Bogaerts has become the most valuable player on the Red Sox roster by far, and it’s not just because of the leadership he brings on and off the field. Bogaerts had another All-Star-caliber season hitting .300/.364/.502 with 11 home runs to tie for first on the team with Devers and 28 RBIs in second behind Devers. Bogaerts showed development in both his control and discipline at the plate, which was by no means too much of an issue for him in the past to begin with. While he struck out at a higher rate than usual and walked less, overall Bogaerts showed maturity at the plate and was arguably the best hitter in the lineup. As a shortstop, Bogaerts’ defense still needs some work – however, I don’t think anyone is calling for a position change. As long as Bogaerts keeps performing the way he has the last six years or so and continuously progresses, it should be another good year for him.

Christian Vázquez (C)

2020: 22 R, 7 HR, 23 RBI, 4 SB, .259/.344/.457 | [C] # 7

2021 ADP: 157.08 ([C]#155)

After a breakout year in 2019, the catcher followed up in 2020 with a statistically even better year, the best of his career. Offensively Vázquez is a great contact hitter and found improvement at the plate since 2019 drawing walks at a higher rate than ever before. On the other hand, he struck out 23% of the time, a career-high. Behind the plate, Vázquez’s glovework continues to be his major selling point. While he may not be considered the best of the best backstops in the league, he displays consistency in control in calling a game as well as pitch framing. After the Red Sox moved on from Sandy León last season, Vázquez stepped up as the #1 guy behind the plate while also bringing an offensive spark to the lineup, something we hope to see again for 2021.

Bobby Dalbec (1B)

2020: 13 R, 8 HR, 16 RBI, 0 SB, .263/.359/.600| [1B] #29

2021 ADP: 268.95 ([1B] #262)

After making his long-awaited MLB debut on August 30th, 2020, in just 23 games Dalbec put on an impressive rookie debut season, leaving much to look forward to from him in 2021. Dalbec’s bat provided power to a lineup that desperately needed it, especially with J.D. Martinez having a down season. His first career hit was a home run, ending the year with 8 home runs total in just 92 plate appearances. While he’s probably not going to be in the home run derby in a full season, his power is very real. While Dalbec was able to draw 10 walks at the plate last season, he still needs a lot of work on discipline at the plate. An issue that popped up for him was swinging at pitches out of the zone. His strikeout rate, in general, does appear to be a bit of a concern. However, the numbers of a rookie in just 23 games are certainly a bit skewed.

Michael Chavis (2B)

2020: 16 R, 5 HR, 19 RBI, 3 SB, .212/.259/.377| [2B] # 23

2021 ADP: 383.48 ([2B]#371)

Michael Chavis had a lot to prove in 2020 and unfortunately, it did not pan out for him. Defensively he played in a few different positions last season both at first base, second base, a couple of appearances at third base, and the outfield. However, as of right now with eyes on 2021 he most likely will alternate at second base with Christian Arroyo and Bobby Dalbec up full-time at first and the emergence of Triston Casas on the horizon. The leash for Chavis next season will definitely be short. After a hot debut in 2019 was quickly grounded by strikeout after strikeout, 2020 showed regression at the plate. While he’s not a terrible fielder, if he continues to struggle offensively, his days with the Sox could be numbered. There’s also a question of just how much playing time he’s even going to get at second base, especially with the addition of Christian Arroyo to the roster and Jeter Downs in the system.

Christian Arroyo (2B)

2020: 7 R, 3 HR, 8 RBI, 0 SB, .240/.296/.440 | [2B] #39

2021 ADP: 683.69 ([2B]#653)

Arroyo was picked off of waivers from the Cleveland Indians last August and became a great pickup for the Sox, earning a role as the everyday second baseman by the end of the season. Coming into 2021, Arroyo most definitely will be seeing a lot of playing time once again in his first full season with the Red Sox. Second base has been a big question mark for the Red Sox ever since Dustin Pedroia’s injury problems arose. With Boston’s second top prospect Jeter Downs playing in Worcester this season it’s highly unlikely Arroyo will be the long-term solution at second base. However, for the time being, between him and Chavis he is the stronger option. He played just 14 games with the Red Sox in 2020, but he proved to be an effective contact hitter and a sufficient second baseman. His defense certainly isn’t Gold Glove worthy by any means, but for someone who did not primarily play at second base throughout his career, he’s good enough for the time being. Nothing spectacular, but it gives the Sox a better situation at second than the last couple of seasons for the time being.

Kevin Plawecki (C)

2020: 8 R, 1 HR, 17 RBI, 1 SB, .341/.393/.463 | [C] #25

2021 ADP: 630.68([C]# 595)

Kevin Plawecki signed as a free agent with the Sox last January ultimately as Sandy León’s replacement and a backup for Vázquez behind the plate and was the perfect fit for the role. While he only appeared in 24 games all season with just 89 plate appearances, his offense was just what the Sox needed. While he may be a downgrade defensively from León behind the plate, his issues with pitch framing are certainly fixable and throughout his career he’s been very up and down with his framing, so perhaps 2021 will be a rebound year in that sense. At the plate, Plawecki finished the season batting .341/.393/.463, and yes, again, very small sample size between his limited appearances and a 60-game season. But all in all, Plawecki was a smart and correct investment for the Sox as Vázquez’s backup.

Yairo Muñoz (SS,OF)

2020: 6 R, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 2 SB, .333/.333/.511 | [SS,OF] #60

2021 ADP:696.68([SS/OF]# 679)

Muñoz signed with the Red Sox back in March 2020 but did not make his debut with Boston until September 1st, another player with a very small sample size of just 12 games. Still, he put on a good show in those 12 games and most likely earned himself a roster spot for this season, perhaps as the new Brock Holt? (Kidding). To keep it simple, Muñoz is not an everyday player, but he’s an above-average utility guy. He seemed more motivated than ever both at the plate and on the field since joining the Sox, and he’s a low-risk addition to the roster given his versatility. He’s no Brock Holt, but he’s a solid runner up for utility man. 

Outfielders

Alex Verdugo (CF)

2020: 36 R, 6 HR, 15 RBI, 4 SB, .308/.367/.478 | [CF] # 99

2021 ADP: 229.79 ([CF]#225)

Look, we all know the narrative with Verdugo. You cannot replace Mookie Betts. However, Verdugo did a standup job in his first season in Boston making a name for himself. He was by far the best part of 2020 both offensively and defensively. While the 2020 Red Sox stunk, they still had one of the best offenses in the American League and Verdugo was a big part of that, with the highest BA and OBP on the team, and not far behind in slugging percentage and OPS. Defensively, while again no one can be Mookie Betts, Verdugo had no shortage of eye-widening plays himself out of right field. To the shock of no one, he earned team MVP and is already looking forward to extending his impressive first season in Boston into 2021. With the acquisition of Hunter Renfroe, it’s more than likely at the moment Verdugo will play center field this time around, barring of course any big signings or trades for another outfielder. 

J.D. Martinez (DH/OF)

2020: 22 R, 7 HR, 27 RBI, 1 SB, .213/.291/.389| [DH/OF] # 28

2021 ADP: 96.36 ([DH/OF]#96)

2021 is going to be an important season for Martinez. There were very few, if any, high points of Martinez’s 2020 season. Finishing the year batting .213/.291/.389, it was his worst season since 2013 in Houston, resulting in his release from the team. Of course, it’s important to remember Martinez himself said a lot of his struggles last season stemmed from the inability to watch video during games. Still, as one of the best hitters in baseball, that cannot solely be blamed. He never looked lost at the plate, he just could not seem to channel the power in his bat he’s known for to launch one opposite field. All in all, the expectations for Martinez this season is for him to return to 2019 form at the least. While it’s unlikely he’ll ever have another season like 2018, he still remains one of the best hitters in the game and hopefully, 2020 was just a throwaway season for him.

Andrew Benintendi (LF)

2020: 4 R, 0 HR, 1 RBI, 1 SB, .103/.314/.128 | [LF] #16

2021 ADP: 229.56 ([LF]# 217)

Look, if the year 2020 was a human, it would be Andrew Benintendi. He appeared in just 14 games before landing on the injured list for the remainder of the season due to a strained rib cage, and those 14 games were ugly for the left fielder to say the least. Batting .103/.314/.128, Benintendi looked absolutely lost in his 52 plate appearances. Strikeouts have been a big problem for Benintendi the last couple of years, and only seem to be worsening. Ever since 2017, it seems he’s been on a downward turn. While I’m willing to overlook 2020 due to the small sample size, his 2019 campaign was not much better. On top of that, Benintendi remains a pretty average outfielder. Long story short, he’s very replaceable. The Red Sox were patient with him in 2019 when things really started to take a downward turn and were patient in his few appearances in 2020. The good news is it can only go up from here (knock on wood), but his future with the Sox certainly seems to be on a short leash this time around.

Hunter Renfroe (RF)

2020: 18 R, 8 HR, 22 RBI, 2 SB, .156/.252/.393| [RF] #TBD

2021 ADP: 467.26 ([POS]#447)

The Red Sox signed right fielder Hunter Renfroe to a one-year, $3.1 million contract this offseason after he was designated for assignment at the end of the 2020 season by the Tampa Bay Rays. After a tough season for Renfroe, Fenway is the perfect place for him to have a rebound year. Bloom believes him to be a much more multi-faceted player than it may seem, but of course, the big selling point with him is his powerful bat. In 2019, Renfroe racked up 33 home runs with the San Diego Padres, a bat made for the Green Monster. While the acquisition mainly comes out of a desire for more power in the lineup, he’s also a solid addition defensively in the outfield. Do not let his 2020 stats fool you, he’s someone who at the very least, adds depth to the outfield but is expected to contribute on both sides of the field. As of right now, it is expected for Renfroe to be the everyday right fielder moving Alex Verdugo to center field. However, that is subject to change if the Red Sox make any more outfield additions this offseason.

Watch List Considerations

Jonathan Araúz (2B, 3B, SS)

Rule 5 draftee Jonathan Araúz managed to play to a level worthy of keeping him on the major league roster all season so the Red Sox could retain him for the future, an impressive feat considering he hardly had any experience beyond High-A prior to 2020. While he held it down at second and third base in his 25 games, more likely than not Araúz will spend most, if not all, of 2021 in Worcester. He wasn’t particularly impressive at the plate, but he showed flashes of potential for sure, which is promising considering he had no major league experience whatsoever. Still, injuries, trades, and life happen, so who knows, Araúz could make another appearance or two back at Fenway.

Triston Casas (1B)

The top prospect in the Red Sox minor leagues, Casas is also one of the top first base prospects in all of baseball. A multi-faceted player with a particularly impressive bat, Casas still needs development in Triple-A, but with Dalbec major league ready at first base now, once Casas is ready to go the two have the potential to be the best first base platoon the Sox have had in years. Not only that, but the addition of Casas’s bat to the lineup will for sure be dangerous for opponents.

Jeter Downs (2B, SS)

Directly behind Triston Casas in the prospect rankings is Jeter Downs. Downs is the future second baseman without question. He’s quick on the field both with the glove and running and his bat is another one with solid power. While he’s not ready yet, depending on his progress in Worcester he could be making appearances at Fenway as early as this summer.

Starting Pitchers

By Sarah Griffin

Chris Sale (Locked In Starter)

2019: 6-11, 147.1 IP, 218 K, 4.40 ERA, 1.09 WHIP | SP # 41

2021 ADP: 233.38 (P# 230)

Repertoire: 46.4% [Fastball], 38.4% [Slider], 15.2% [Changeup]

It’s difficult to predict what kind of season Chris Sale is going to have when we don’t even know when he’ll return to the mound this season. The last time we saw him pitch was 2019 when he was riddled with health issues resulting in his Tommy John surgery. The good news is Sale’s agent B.B. Abbott recently spoke to the media and told them his recovery was going great and the moment he is actually progressing ahead of schedule. The hope is for him to start throwing again in January, and when he does return, it’ll be vintage Chris Sale, circa 2017 and 2018. As of right now, the hope is to have him game ready by some time in June.

Eduardo Rodríguez (Locked In Starter)

2019: 19-6, 203.1 IP, 213 K, 3.81 ERA, 1.33 WHIP | SP #57

2021 ADP: 244.25 (P#240)

Repertoire: 54.6% [Fastball], 23.5% [Changeup], 17.6% [Cutter], 4.3% [Slider]

After a career year in 2019, Rodríguez sat out the entirety of the 2020 season due to myocarditis caused by COVID-19. It’s been a long road back to health for Rodríguez these last 7 months, but Rodríguez says he’s ready to go with all eyes on the 2021 season. He posted a video in December of himself throwing and is expected to be ready come spring training. With an injury-ridden 2019 for Chris Sale and David Price, Rodríguez stepped up as the ace of the rotation starting in 34 games, pitching 203.1 innings, and ending the season with a 3.81 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, and 213 strikeouts. He finished in sixth place in Cy Young voting and it seemed finally, Rodríguez had the breakout season we had all been waiting for since 2015. Like Sale, it’s tough to make any set predictions for his 2021 after not pitching for so long. What we do know is he has high expectations to fill, especially with Sale not set to return until at least June.

Nathan Eovaldi (Locked In Starter)

2020: 4-2, 48.1 IP, 52 K, 3.72 ERA, 1.20 WHIP | SP # 17

2021 ADP: 251.13 (P# 244)

Repertoire: 37.7% [Fastball], 25.5% [Cutter], 17.1% [Curveball], 14.0% [Split-Fingered Fastball], 5.6% [Slider]

Nathan Eovaldi is a good pitcher. Is he the number one in an MLB rotation good? No, but given the cards the team was dealt, he stepped up to the task last season in what was by no means an easy job. 3.72 ERA with a 1.20 WHIP is not a standout year for a starter, but considering the rotation’s average ERA of 5.30 to end the year and many Red Sox fans feeling the only games even worth watching were those with Eovaldi pitching, it was sufficient. The two narratives following Eovaldi in his last two seasons with Boston have been he was signed solely for his role as a playoff hero back in the 2018 World Series, and that he cannot ever perform to his potential due to injury. While he did spend some time on the injured list once again in 2020, he looked a lot more like himself than he did in 2019, mainly, he seemed to regain his control. A big problem for Eovaldi in 2019 was walks, allowing 35 walks in 67.2 innings pitched. Last season in 48.1 innings pitched, he allowed just 7, one of the lowest walk rates in the league among qualified pitchers. He also was striking out a lot more batters, perhaps to the credit of changing up his pitching repertoire a bit more. Rather than relying solely on his fastball because as we all know, it is FAST, he utilized his cutter, curveball, and splitter a lot more than he has in the past. Long story short, while maybe just 9 starts do not paint the whole picture still, Eovaldi’s contract proved to be more than just a “playoff hero” reward this last year. Hopefully, with the return of Rodríguez and eventually Sale, Eovaldi can continue what he was doing last season into this year, just this time in that second or third spot in the rotation.

Tanner Houck (Likely Starter)

2020: 3-0, 17.0 IP, 21 K, 0.53 ERA, 0.88 WHIP | SP #89

2021 ADP: 396.26(P# 382)

Repertoire: 62.3% [Fastball], 35.5% [Slider], 2.3% [Split-Fingered Fastball]

Though he had just three starts total last season, Tanner Houck left a lot to be excited about for his future with the Red Sox. In 3 starts with 17 innings pitched, he allowed just 6 hits and 2 runs, including a solo home run, and striking out 21 batters finishing his first major league season with a 0.53 ERA. Again yes, 3 starts are not all that telling, and the 24-year old is determined to prove it wasn’t just a lucky few starts. Houck has been training with Eric Cressey all offseason in Florida, who also trains pitchers such as Justin Verlander and Corey Kluber, in hopes of earning a permanent spot in the starting rotation for 2021.

Nick Pivetta (Fringe Starter)

2020: 2-0, 15. 2 IP, 17 K, 6.89 ERA, 1.53 WHIP | SP #37

2021 ADP: 493.83 (P# 479)

Repertoire: 49.3% [Fastball], 24.5% [Curveball], 20.0% [Slider], 6.2% [Changeup]

Pivetta, similar to Houck, had a solid couple of outings with the Red Sox in 2020. Unlike Houck, it’s a bit more difficult to get excited about Pivetta earning a permanent rotation spot due to his stats years prior. Pivetta was a part of the trade made at last season’s deadline in August from the Phillies with Connor Seabold for Brandon Workman and Heath Hembree. While short term it looks like the Sox won that trade after an abysmal season for both Workman and Hembree with Philadelphia, many in Philly were relieved to see Pivetta go after he struggled to find his game the last few years. At the time he was traded to Boston, he had a 15.88 ERA at the major league level in just 3 appearances out of the bullpen. He has not been a regular everyday starter since 2018, starting 32 games, pitching 164 innings, and ending the year with a 4.77 ERA. Ultimately the question is if Pivetta really just needed a change of scenery and can contribute as a starter once again.

Matt Andriese (Fringe Starter)

2020: 2-4, 32.0 IP, 33 K, 4.50 ERA, 1.00 WHIP | SP #TBD

2021 ADP: 734.81 (P#773)

Repertoire: 43.2% [Fastball], 37.0% [Changeup], 11.8% [Curveball], 8.0% [Slider]

In a pretty slow offseason so far the Red Sox’s biggest move has been the signing of Matt Andriese, formerly with the Angels with four years spent in Tampa under Chaim Bloom. Andriese also has a relationship with fellow pitcher Nathan Eovaldi, who he befriended when they were both in Tampa and helped in convincing Andriese Boston was the right move. Andriese is another one whose role with the Sox is to be determined: ultimately he, Pivetta, and Houck are all competing for spots in the rotation. While Andriese has the most major league experience of the three, he has not been a starter since 2017 back in Tampa. Since then, he’s struggled to find consistency similar to Pivetta. He could very well start off in the bullpen as a depth piece, but with the absence of Sale to begin the season and what feels like a million questions around the rotation as it stands now, Andriese could see himself as a fifth or sixth guy for the Sox.

Watch List Considerations

Chris Mazza (RHP)

Mazza was one of the below-average pitchers brought in through a seemingly revolving door of starters in 2020. He appeared in 9 games for the Red Sox and started 6 of those. In terms of some of the guys brought in to start last season, Mazza was one of the better ones finishing with a 4.80 ERA. To be fair, most of Mazza’s career has been spent in the minor leagues with the New York Mets prior to 2020. While he didn’t earn himself a spot in the starting rotation, it would not be a surprise to see Mazza given some chances to start again this season, especially with Sale’s return date questionable. While he let up 18 runs in 30 innings, he also struck out 29 batters. There’s potential and with the starting rotation still one big question mark, he certainly has a chance at starting a game or two again.

Relief Pitchers

Matt Barnes (Closer)

2020: 9 SV, 4 HLD, 23.0 IP, 31 K, 4.30 ERA, 1.39 WHIP | RP #32

2021 ADP: 226.92 (RP#223)

The rumors have already begun for who in-house will be the Red Sox’s next closer. And this time rumor has it, it’s Matt Barnes. With Workman gone, Barnes is the most valuable and reliable piece the Sox have in their bullpen. So in that sense, it is not surprising he’d be the pick as the closer. However, Barnes tends to struggle in the 9th and is much more well-suited as the setup man. Of course, that’s all reliant on if the Sox sign or trade for an actual closer. Barnes finished off last season strong after a rough start, but his success really will be determined by what kind of role he plays in the pen. He did pick up the slack once Workman left, but the small sample sizes of the 2020 season make it hard to make a final decision about anything.

Darwinzon Hernández (Next in Line)

2020: 0 SV, 2 HLD, 8.1 IP, 13 K, 2.16 ERA, 1.56 WHIP | RP #63

2021 ADP: 599.16 (RP#561)

Hernández’s season was interrupted due to COVID, appearing in just 7 games towards the end of the season. Since his debut in 2019, there have been mumblings he’s the answer to the Red Sox’s closer question, even when Brandon Workman was around. Unfortunately, we still don’t know entirely what to expect from Hernández. He has some of the nastiest stuff out of every reliever in the pen, but his command is still all over the place and his few appearances in 2020 does not help. 2021 will be a critical year for Hernández and seeing if he can live up to his potential. 

Josh Taylor (Next in Line)

2020: 0 SV, 1 HLD, 7,1 IP, 7 K, 9.82 ERA, 1.64 WHIP | RP #72

2021 ADP: Undrafted

Blurb: Much like Hernández, it’s tough to predict the type of year Josh Taylor will have as his 2020 was skewed by contracting COVID during summer training camp and he never quite returned to game-ready form, hence his only 7.1 innings pitched all season after a successful 2019, pitching 47.1 innings, striking out 62 batters, and finishing with an ERA of 3.04. He became a significant piece of the 2019 bullpen – unfortunately, his 2020 was a throwaway season. If he comes back this spring with the same stuff he had in 2019, he could be a solid late-inning guy. 

Ryan Brasier (Other Hold Options)

2020: 0 SV, 11 HLD, 25.0 IP, 30 K, 3.96 ERA, 1.40 WHIP | RP #70

2021 ADP: 739.51 (RP# 804)

2020 was a pretty good bounce-back year for Ryan Brasier, even if his 3.96 ERA does not make it seem that way. Braiser was another pitcher on the Sox who had a career year strikeout wise, with a strikeout rate of 27%. His command was much more on point this year than in 2019. Like Matt Barnes, he had a tough start to the season skewing his stats in a 60-game season, but overall Braiser performed well enough to almost certainly lock up a spot in the bullpen once again for 2021.

Phillips Valdez (Other Hold Options)

2020: 0 SV, 4 HLD, 30.1 IP, 30 K, 3.26 ERA, 1.62 WHIP | RP #71

2021 ADP: Undrafted

Valdez was a quiet waiver pickup from the Rangers that turned into one of the best moves the Sox made all 2020. He became a key piece to the bullpen in what was really his first full season at the major league level. Valdez did not give up a run until his sixth appearance, and after pitching 30.1 innings last season, only let up 16 runs total, 11 of those runs coming in September after a tough few appearances to start the month. While a 3.26 ERA and 1.62 WHIP might not seem like anything all that extraordinary, in terms of the Red Sox bullpen he was by far one of the most reliable guys out of the pen whose ability to limit runs was key in a group of relievers who collectively struggled with doing so. His changeup was one of the best among relievers in 2020 and the key to his success. The big question for Valdez in 2021 is what his role will be in the bullpen and if he can handle the pressure. For the most part last season he pitched in low-leverage situations and seemed to struggle the later in games he appeared. While we don’t know for sure what the Sox bullpen will look like yet, there’s good reason to believe Valdez will play a significant role in it at least to start the season.

Colton Brewer (Middle/Long Relief)

2020: 0 SV, 0 HLD, 25.2 IP, 25 K, 5.61 ERA, 1.75 WHIP | RP #48

2021 ADP: Undrafted

In the 11 games he appeared in, Colton Brewer started 4 of those games. While 4 might not seem like a lot, if there is one thing we learned from those 4 games it’s that Brewer is NOT a starter. If he just performed as a reliever like he did in 2019, I still don’t think Brewer’s stuff is anything to write home about but in a pretty deplete bullpen I think it would’ve been a much better season in retrospect for him. Of course, that’s really to no fault of his own. The Sox were desperate for starting pitching and their bullpen just was not strong enough to carry any slack from starters, which, there were a lot of. Hopefully in 2021 Brewer can find a role out of the pen more suited for him. Otherwise, it could be the end of the road for Brewer in Boston. 

Austin Brice (Middle/Long Relief)

2020: 0 SV, 4 HLD, 19.2 IP, 25 K, 5.95 ERA, 1.53 WHIP | RP #31

2021 ADP: Undrafted

A new face in the Boston bullpen last season, Brice’s season can be summarized easiest as inconsistent. Over 19.2 innings pitched, Brice struck out 25 batters, a career-best strikeout rate for him. Unfortunately in those 19.2 innings he also let up 13 runs and walked 13 batters. He was a low-risk signing last offseason and most likely will return to the bullpen next season pending arbitration. But he’ll probably play a similar role to last season appearing in the middle of the game in not super high-leverage situations, only this time he’ll probably have less room for error as the Sox 40-man roster is filling up quickly and decisions need to be made. 

Marcus Walden (Middle/Long Relief)

2020: 1 SV, 2 HLD, 13.1 IP, 10 K, 9.45 ERA, 2.40 WHIP | RP # 64

2021 ADP: Undrafted

Poor Marcus Walden. A regular out of the bullpen in 2019 posting a 3.81 ERA allowing 33 runs in 78 innings, in what was supposed to be the year to solidify his spot in the pen turned into a failure. Walden was demoted to Triple-A for a majority of last season, and thus only pitched 13.1 innings at the major league level. Unfortunately, his 15 appearances were disastrous. Walden posted a 9.45 ERA to end the year and while it’s tough to make a solid judgment with such a small sample size, he just was not good in 2020. He allowed 18 runs in 13 innings, 5 of those home runs. It would be reasonable to wonder where he falls on the roster in 2021, and how much patience the Sox have with him.

Watch List Considerations

Connor Seabold (RHP)

Connor Seabold was the other pitcher acquired from the Phillies in the Workman/Hembree trade alongside Pivetta. His repertoire includes a fastball, slider, and changeup, and scouts say he is “near major league ready,” per Prospects 1500. He’s the Red Sox’s #15 prospect and while the plan is to have him in Worcester to start, it’s very possible we see him given a chance out of the bullpen this season.

Garrett Whitlock (RHP)

Selected in this year’s Rule 5 draft from the Yankees, Whitlock underwent Tommy John surgery last season and in his return to the mound, he’ll be putting his two-seamer, sinker, and changeup to the test at the major league level. Of course with all Rule 5 draftees the main goal is to keep your spot on the major league roster. However, if Whitlock lives up to expectations, he can be a valuable multi-inning reliever.

ADP data taken from FantasyPros composite ADPs [hyperlink to be added once 2021 data is available].

2019 Positional Rankings from Razzball’s 12-team Player Rater (ESPN).

Photo by Keith Gillett & Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Michael Packard (@designsbypack on Twitter & IG)

Sarah Griffin

Christian Yelich enthusiast, Minor League Baseball lover, aspiring woman in baseball.

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