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Spring primer: Boston Red Sox

By C. Trent Rosecrans | Blogger
The Red Sox would obviously like to put 2011 behind them, moving into 2012 with a new general manager, a new manager and a new closer. Will Bobby Valentine, the new sheriff in town, be enough to keep last year's prohibitive favorite return to form?

Major additions: RHP Andrew Bailey, RHP Mark Melancon, INF Nick Punto, OF Cody Ross, OF Ryan Sweeney
Major departures: RHP Jonathan Papelbon, INF Jed Lowrie, OF Josh Reddick, SS Marco Scutaro, OF J.D. Drew

Probable lineup
1. Jacoby Ellsbury CF
2. Dustin Pedroia 2B
3. Adrian Gonzalez 1B
4. Kevin Youkilis 3B
5. David Ortiz DH
6. Carl Crawford LF
7. Jarrod Saltalamacchia C
8. Ryan Sweeney RF
9. Mike Aviles SS

Probable rotation
1. Jon Lester
2. Josh Beckett
3. Clay Bochholz
4. Daniel Bard
5. Alfredo Aceves

Back-end bullpen
Closer: Andrew Bailey
Set-up: Mark Melancon, Bobby Jenks, Franklin Morales

Important bench players
INF Nick Punto, OF Cody Ross

Prospect to watch
The Red Sox hold a $12 million option on Kevin Youkilis for the 2013 season, but may decline that option, depending on how they feel about the progress of Will Middlebrooks. Middlebrooks is without a doubt the team's future at third base after hitting .302/.345/.520 in 96 games at Double-A Portland last season. Middlebrooks struggled in 16 Triple-A games last year, but will likely get a full year there followed by a September call-up to see if he can take over for Youkilis in 2013 or if he still needs a little more time to get ready.

Fantasy sleeper: Ryan Sweeney
"The line-drive hitting outfielder was penalized by playing his home games in Oakland, but in Fenway Park, Sweeney gets a double-hitter's nirvana as his new home park. If Sweeney was capable of producing a 30-plus doubles season in Oakland, 35 or 40 doubles would not be out of the question in Boston." -- Al Melchior [Full Red Sox fantasy preview]

Fantasy bust: Jarrod Saltalamacchia
"His pace of 16 home runs in 358 at-bats was far better than any ratio he had put up previously, and particularly with a high percentage of short-distance homers, it seems unlikely that he will equal it this year. Salty's 23 doubles were also out of character, though some of those can be attributed to playing home games at Fenway Park." -- Al Melchior [Full Red Sox fantasy preview]

Optimistic outlook
Everything that went wrong in 2011 goes right this year. Crawford overcomes his early injuries to have an MVP type season, to go along with a monster year by Gonzalez. Aviles is competent at short and Sweeney is a beast now freed of Oakland's cavernous park. Jon Lester, Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz all have injury-free seasons and pitch to their ability. In all, it all works out and the team goes on to win the World Series, helping ease the memories of the disappointment of 2011.

Pessimistic outlook
They open a Kentucky Fried Chicken in the clubhouse and the team revolts against Bobby Valentine's no-booze mandate, leading into full-scale anarchy. Anything less than a playoff berth will be seen as a complete and total failure -- and anything less than a World Series title will be a disappointment.

RELATED: Projected lineups, rotations and closers for all 30 teams

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