So many things can go wrong in the minor league career of a top pitching prospect. They may never be able to harness their control, or add a solid secondary or tertiary pitch, maybe they can’t repeat their windup. Anyhow, the Red Sox have had an interesting habit over the past few years of taking these pitching prospects and have for the most part fixed their problems, often sending them to the bullpen. A few of these names that come to mind are Andrew Miller, Franklin Morales, Clayton Mortensen, and recently Zach Stewart and Pedro Beato.
Andrew Miller was once a very highly ranking prospect, taken with the sixth overall pick in the 2006 draft by the Detroit Tigers. After just three games in High-A, Miller was promoted directly to the majors at the age of 21. It’s been theorized that this messed him up for the long term, as he was never really the same after that– posting a 6.10 ERA in 8 games out of the bullpen that year. Often times, he’s been solid in the minor leagues, but once he hit the majors he’s been disappointing. The Red Sox took a flyer on him in the winter of 2010 and used him as a starter with little success in 2011 as he posted a 5.54 ERA in 17 games (12 starts). However, this year he’s been used exclusively out of the bullpen and has been fantastic, putting up a 3-1 record, a 2.90 ERA, and striking out 10.16 per nine innings.
Franklin Morales’ story is a bit different to that of Miller’s as he was signed as an international free agent in 2002 and reported to the Rockies’ farm system. For a few years, he pitched with varying degrees of success in the minors as a power starting pitcher. In 2007 though, he was finally called up to the majors and he was very good, putting up a 3-2 mark and 3.43 ERA for the stretch run as the Rockies made it to the World Series only to be swept by the Red Sox. However, he was never truly able to find his groove with the Rockies after that, even after being converted to a reliever. In May 2011, the Red Sox acquired him from the Rockies for next to nothing and there was no looking back. He immediately fit into the Red Sox bullpen and put up a 3.62 ERA after being traded in 2011 and so far has put up a 3.67 ERA in 36 games (8 starts).
After succeeding at Gonzaga University for a few years, Clayton Mortensen was taken 36th overall by the Cardinals in the 2007 draft. He was highly ranked as a Cardinals starting pitching prospect for a few years. He was finally called up to the show in 2009 and was not good– being tossed around for a 2-4 record and a 7.63 ERA in 7 games (6 starts). He was traded several more times after that, first to the A’s, then to the Rockies– where he actually had some success, putting up a 3.86 ERA in 16 games (6 starts)– and finally to the Red Sox. He started the 2012 season down in Triple-A, where he was used exclusively as a reliever and has put up a 1.91 ERA so far. However, all season long he’s bounced in between Triple-A and the majors and has had success in both places as he’s also posted a 1.84 in 15 games with the big club.
During this season, the Red Sox have acquired two more players– Zach Stewart and Pedro Beato– who also fit this mold but have not made their Red Sox debuts yet. Stewart was acquired in the Kevin Youkilis trade and Beato in the Kelly Shoppach deal a few days ago. Stewart is very similar to Clayton Mortensen in that he was drafted early in 2008 and quickly became a top prospect in the Cincinnati Reds system. However, he was traded a few times– first to Toronto, then to Chicago between which he posted a 5.88 ERA in 67.1 major league innings last year. He’s played in 18 major league games with the White Sox this year, with a 6.00 ERA but since being traded to the Red Sox, he’s had success in Pawtucket– a 4.13 ERA so far. Beato, meanwhile, was taken in the first round of the 2006 draft and quickly became an Orioles’ top prospect. However, he’s had little success in the majors– with a 4.30 ERA in 60 relief appearances last year and a 10.38 ERA in 5.1 innings in 2012.
All these players together make up the Boston Red Sox Post-Prospect Reclamation Project. Those are just the five big ones, you could also consider guys like Chris Carpenter (acquired in the Theo Epstein compensation), Alfredo Aceves, and Rich Hill part of the list, just to a lesser degree. So far, the Red Sox are 3 for 3 and are hoping guys like Stewart and Beato make it in the majors before too long.