Top Red Sox pitching prospect: Owens or Rodriguez?


Since early 2013, when Henry Owens started experiencing excellent results to go along with his great combination of size and stuff, there hasn’t been much question about who is the top pitching prospect in the Red Sox organization. That sentiment stayed true even after the Red Sox acquired Eduardo Rodriguez from the Orioles at the trade deadline; however, after an incredible stint in Portland, Rodriguez appears to have tightened the gap between himself and Owens and there is a bit of debate over who ranks as the top pitching prospect in Boston’s farm system.

Rodriguez is a 6’2″, 200 pound left-hander who has the ceiling of a solid #2 or #3 starter. He has three average or better pitches, with his fastball sitting in the low 90’s but reaching into the mid-90’s at times. Rodriguez’s change and slider are both good pitches as well and, while none of his pitches are stellar, his solid three-pitch mix and good command project him as an important piece of Boston’s future.

He first gained national recognition as a top prospect in 2013, when he posted a 2.85 ERA in 14 starts for High-A Frederick. He then struggled a bit after a promotion to Double-A Bowie, with his ERA rising to 4.22, but it still wasn’t bad enough to discredit his strong season.

Entering the 2014 season, Rodriguez was considered one of the Orioles’ top prospects and was highly-regarded by Baseball America (#65 in baseball), (#68 in baseball), and Baseball Prospectus (#61 in baseball). However, a tough start to the season, which saw him scuffle to a 4.79 ERA with Double-A Bowie, wasn’t a particularly impressive follow-up to Rodriguez’s breakout 2013 season.

After being traded to the Red Sox, however, he regained all of his previous glory with a phenomenal six-start stint with Double-A Portland. In that stretch, he posted a stingy 0.96 ERA to go with 9.4 K/9 and 1.9 BB/9, pitching well enough to put himself in the conversation for Boston’s best pitching prospect.

Henry Owens is a more familiar name to Red Sox fans as he has broken out into one of the best left-handed pitching prospects in all of baseball after two great years. Owens rose to attention after showing excellent strikeout ability (11.5 K/9) in Single-A Greenville, though his results (4.87 ERA) weren’t so pretty, but he really put it all together in 2013.

During his 2013 season, Owens cut his ERA to 2.67 in 26 starts for High-A Salem and Double-A Portland, maintaining his excellent strikeout rate (11.3 K/9) but also maintaining his concerning walk rate (4.5 BB/9). However, in 2014, he took one more step forward as he cut his walk rate to a more respectable 3.3, while maintaining a great ERA (2.94) and K/9 (9.6) in 26 starts between Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket.

Both pitchers are likely to start next season in Pawtucket, just one step away from Boston, and it’s worth wondering if either will really separate themselves as the top Red Sox pitching prospect. Owens certainly has the higher ceiling, with the potential to become a truly dominant pitcher if he is able to translate his high strikeout rate to the majors. However, there are also concerns over whether his low 90’s fastball and loopy curve will play at the highest level as Owens, throughout his Minor League career, has primarily relied on the deception inherent in his 6’7″ frame.

And while Rodriguez may have the lower ceiling, he also probably has the higher floor. He has better command than Owens and has a better mix of pitches, though Owens’ change is probably better than any of Rodriguez’s offerings. Both pitchers will hopefully establish themselves as excellent young pitchers next season, but for now, let’s determine which one is the top prospect.

Tell us what you think in the poll and in the comments section below!