Who has pitched their way into the 2015 Red Sox rotation?


This represents part one of a five-part analysis of the 2015 Red Sox rotation. Part one takes a look at the arms who will be drawing the curtain on the 2014 season, and categorizes players based on whether they will start next year in the rotation, the bullpen, or away from the major league team.

Making the cut:

Clay Buchholz

Despite his best efforts to pitch his way out of Major League Baseball with an ugly 5.34 ERA,  Clay Buchholz will be given a spot in the team’s 2015 pitching staff. The improvements since the all-star break, albeit minimal, do give credence to the idea that he can be a good pitcher next year. Prior to the break, his 5.42 ERA and .292 opponents batting average against really had me concerned for his future. Not to say that my concerns have been alleviated, but there are at least a few notable efforts to point out in his game log. It was a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde type of year for him, but unfortunately a few dominant performances are not enough to make up for a significant sample size of purely atrocious pitching. But those few outings, although few and far between, DO remind us of what Buchholz can be at his best.

Joe Kelly

Kelly has stumbled a little bit, allowing four earned runs in two of his last three outings. But his big picture production is still a strong source of hope for next year. In 10 starts with Boston, he has allowed more than three earned runs on just three occasions, and two of those three came in the last two weeks. Kelly is a young pitcher (26) who has spent time in the bullpen, so its not a stretch of the imagination to question whether he is simply running out of gas as the season winds down as well. His peripherals are not outstanding (4.37 FIP, and a WAR below .5) so the ceiling is limited here, but as a young, affordable innings eater Kelly could be quite valuable to the team next year. Temper expectations, we are talking about a middle or back end starter, but he has really exceeded expectations here in Boston. Especially next to the player he was traded alongside Allen Craig (yikes…).

Allen Webster

I did say to be patient with Allen Webster, didn’t I? As the tweet above from the excellent Twitter source for all things Red Sox @redsoxstats emphasizes, Webster may have finally made the leap we have been waiting for. Our own Conor Duffy recently examined Webster’s recent run of success and concluded, much like myself, that Webster has finally earned a spot on next year’s staff. I have been a believer in Webster for a while now, but it is nice to finally see some results to back up my claims. With the ability to miss bats, it only seemed a matter of time before he found success, the key will be to maintain command. His potential far exceeds that of Kelly’s and it wouldn’t surprise me in the least to see him pitch to better results.

Rubby De La Rosa

Rounding out the four-man group is the other major component received from the Dodgers in 2012, Rubby De La Rosa. Definitely a victim of wear and tear, De La Rosa carries a ghastly 7.79 September ERA. I have to be honest, I am still a little concerned about him as there is still reason to question whether he has the versatility in his offerings to thrive as a starter. In fact, given his power pitching, he would almost surely thrive in a bullpen role. But as of now, he looks to be in line for a starting role and if you disregard the concerns of scouts and judge him purely based on his performance, it is a role well earned. He went 7 innings without allowing a run in his debut all the way back on May 31 against the Rays, and carried a 2.64 ERA through his first seven starts with the team. His upside is intriguing, and for now that will win him a spot, but should he not succeed as a starter there is plenty of reason for optimism for a successful career as an anchor of our bullpen for a long time.

Just missed:

Matt Barnes

I desperately wanted to come up with an excuse to give Matt Barnes a shot in the rotation. I put a lot of faith into a pitcher’s natural ability, and Barnes has more natural talent than anyone on this list save perhaps Buchholz. Likely few readers will remember the days that Barnes, Bradley and Bogaerts comprised the killer B’s of the Red Sox farm, but after dazzling to start his career with the Red Sox he left many wondering if he would ultimately end up disappointing the way Bradley has (and Bogaerts did aside from May and September) after putting together a downright putrid stretch for the last year and a half. But he returned to his dominant ways in the minors last month and earned a September callup. He looked terrific in his debut, pitching three innings of scoreless ball out of the bullpen. He has the stuff and mettle to start, its just a matter of time (and consistent success) before he gets a shot.

Bound for the Bullpen:

Steven Wright

Wright has done very little to lose a job as a starter but it is simply a matter of having too many good options. Wright goes to the bullpen by default given his limited starting upside, but as a spot starter, could be huge for the team. His knuckle-ball will call to mind shades of Tim Wakefield, but his role will likely be closer to that of Alfredo Aceves (pre-meltdown) or Franklin Morales.

Anthony Ranaudo

Ranaudo on the other hand, has affirmed my skepticism and seems like he may not have the skills to translate his Minor League success to Major League success. He has strong primary and secondary options in his curveball and fastball but a stagnating changeup has led many scouts to conclude he will not succeed as a major league starter. Still as the International League Pitcher of the Year, don’t write off Ranaudo entirely as he would likely be given a chance on most other teams without the depth that we have. He has a weakness for allowing the home-run ball, but he could be a very strong pitcher in a National League rotation and may present the most value to the Red Sox as a trade chip.

Brandon Workman

Workman, like Steven Wright, was pegged for the bullpen from the get-go, and again like Wright, he proved skeptics wrong in his first taste of the big leagues. Unfortunately for the righty, he was unable to sustain his success and put together a poor make or break campaign in 2014. Given his fantastic command though, he could be quite useful as the Red Sox look to retool their bullpen this winter, and he, Wright, the resurgent Edward Mujica and a hopefully resurgent Junichi Tazawa will form quite a core of young relief arms.