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Tale of the fantasy tape: Yanks vs. Red Sox

Which American League East rival has superior fantasy talent?
MLB.com @FredZinkieMLB

Few rivalries in baseball -- or any sport, for that matter -- can match the history and intensity of the one between the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox.

The Red Sox won the American League East in 2017, but the Yankees went further in the postseason. Before these storied franchises take the field in '18, let's get a head start on assessing them by comparing the fantasy value of their key players for the upcoming campaign.

Few rivalries in baseball -- or any sport, for that matter -- can match the history and intensity of the one between the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox.

The Red Sox won the American League East in 2017, but the Yankees went further in the postseason. Before these storied franchises take the field in '18, let's get a head start on assessing them by comparing the fantasy value of their key players for the upcoming campaign.

• 2018 Player Preview: Yankees | Red Sox | Full rankings

Catcher: With the ability to produce 35 homers and 90 RBIs, Gary Sanchez reigns supreme among all fantasy catchers. The 25-year-old easily gets the nod over the Red Sox's tandem of Christian Vazquez and Sandy Leon.

Winner: Yankees

Video: Sanchez highlights top fantasy catchers

First base: Although Greg Bird struggled with injuries and poor batted-ball luck last season, he has produced 20 homers over 304 career at-bats and is a sleeper for '18. The lefty slugger has enough upside to edge Mitch Moreland, who could reach the 20-homer mark again this season but lacks the ceiling for shallow-league consideration.

Winner: Yankees

Second base: Dustin Pedroia will open the season on the disabled list while recovering from knee surgery, but he should help in the runs and batting-average categories when he returns to the lineup. The 34-year-old has proven enough in fantasy circles to have an advantage over the Yankees' likely second-base options, which include utility man Ronald Torreyes and youngster Tyler Wade. The arrival of top prospect Gleyber Torres could change the conversation, as he possesses promising plate skills and solid speed. But for now, the Red Sox take this position.  

Winner: Red Sox

Shortstop: Having made major strides in recent seasons, Didi Gregorius can now be counted on to deliver at least 20 homers and 80 RBIs with a solid average. But he falls short of the fantasy potential of Xander Bogaerts, who should rebound from the hand injury that plagued him in the second half of '17 to serve as a five-category contributor in '18.

Winner: Red Sox

Video: Trout, Altuve, Goldy headline fantasy top five

Third base: Although he was inconsistent during his debut season, Rafael Devers showed exciting potential by posting a .284/.338/.482 slash line as a 20-year-old Major Leaguer. Now 21, Devers gives the Red Sox a major advantage over the Yankees, whose unsettled hot-corner situation may include prospect Miguel Andujar.

Winner: Red Sox

Left field: Just nine Major Leaguers logged 20-20 seasons in '17, including the starting left fielder for both of these clubs. But Andrew Benintendi and Brett Gardner are on opposite career paths, and the 23-year-old Benintendi has a better chance to make a major fantasy impact than the 34-year-old Gardner in '18.

Winner: Red Sox

Center field: Jackie Bradley Jr. gets the Red Sox a point at this position, although his edge is a tenuous one. The skilled defender stumbled last year (.726 OPS) after a breakout 2016 season (.835 OPS), and the Yankees may find something special in Aaron Hicks (.847 OPS in '17) if he can hold off Jacoby Ellsbury for the starting gig.

Winner: Red Sox

Video: Zinkie analyzes key position battles to watch

Right field: In a battle of potential 2018 first-round picks, Mookie Betts gets the edge over Aaron Judge. While Judge is definitely one of the most exciting fantasy options for '18 drafts, he will have to show greater consistency to surpass Betts, who has compiled at least 20 homers, 20 steals, 100 RBIs and 100 runs scored in each of the past two seasons.

Winner: Red Sox

Designated hitter: The Yankees locked up this category when they made a blockbuster trade for Giancarlo Stanton in the offseason. The reigning Major League homer and RBI champion, Stanton will be a first-round pick in virtually all '18 drafts. He holds a sizable advantage over Red Sox designated hitter Hanley Ramirez (23 homers, 62 RBIs in '17).

Winner: Yankees

No. 1 starter: While Luis Severino can be selected as a mixed-league ace after breaking out in '17 (2.98 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 230 K's), he falls behind Chris Sale in terms of fantasy value. After striking out 308 batters last season, Sale is a first-round option for '18 drafts.

Winner: Red Sox

Video: Zinkie on fantasy top-tier starting pitcher

No. 2 starter: Although Masahiro Tanaka logged a 4.74 ERA last year, he showed improved strikeout skills (career-best 9.8 K/9 rate) in the regular season and regained his form in the playoffs (0.90 ERA). Tanaka is a more desirable option than Red Sox southpaw David Price, who has much to prove after posting a 3.99 ERA in '16 and throwing just 74 2/3 innings last year.

Winner: Yankees

No. 3 starter: After following up a disappointing and injury-shortened '16 season by returning to form last year (3.55 ERA, 1.21 WHIP), Sonny Gray should be a fine mid-rotation option in mixed leagues during his first full season in the Bronx. Having already topped the 200-inning plateau twice as a big leaguer, Gray holds a slight edge over Red Sox southpaw Drew Pomeranz, who has proven to be effective on a per-start basis but owns a career high of 173 2/3 frames.

Winner: Yankees

No. 4 starter: Rick Porcello took a significant step backward after winning the '16 AL Cy Young Award, posting a 4.65 ERA with a 1.40 WHIP in '17. The right-hander still holds some mixed-league value based on his '16 success and the fact that he's tossed more than 200 innings in three of the past four seasons. But he's now in a dead heat with Yankees youngster Jordan Montgomery, who flashed intriguing potential (3.88 ERA, 1.23 WHIP) in his rookie year.

Winner: Push

Video: Zinkie's second tier of fantasy starting pitching

No. 5 starter: In a battle of potential vs. stability, the Red Sox gain a slight advantage. Eduardo Rodriguez has been plagued by right knee injuries, but he showed strong swing-and-miss stuff (9.8 K/9 rate) last season. Meanwhile, veteran CC Sabathia is likely to be more of a streaming option than a fantasy lineup fixture during his age-37 season.

Winner: Red Sox

Closer: Previously part of the top tier of fantasy stoppers, Yankees fireman Aroldis Chapman took a step back last season (3.22 ERA) and now ranks behind Craig Kimbrel. Coming off a memorable '17 campaign (1.43 ERA, 0.68 WHIP, 16.4 K/9 rate), Kimbrel will be the initial closer off the board in some '18 drafts.

Winner: Red Sox

Setup Men: While the Red Sox have some talent behind Kimbrel (Carson Smith, Tyler Thornburg, Joe Kelly), they are one of 29 teams staring up at the Yankees' embarrassment of bullpen riches. With Dellin Betances (career 2.29 ERA, 14.4 K/9 rate), David Robertson (1.84 ERA, 0.85 WHIP in '17), Chad Green (1.83 ERA, 13.4 K/9 rate in '17) and Tommy Kahnle (2.59 ERA, 13.8 K/9 rate in '17) forming the bridge to Chapman, New York may have assembled an all-time great relief corps.

Winner: Yankees

Video: Zinkie discusses Red Sox vs. Yankees rivalry

Final verdict: Based on fantasy value, the Red Sox are set to hold an edge in this rivalry for a second straight season. The Yankees have significantly narrowed the gap with shrewd moves over the past 12 months, but they drop this fantasy faceoff by a score of 9-6, with one tie.

Fred Zinkie is the lead fantasy baseball writer for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @FredZinkieMLB.