Producing within the farm system or acquiring via trade and free agency of a left-handed ace has long been a daunting task for the Red Sox.
With each appearance in spring training the evaluation process will appear similar to a hotly sought after IPO on Wall Street as a pitch to pitch and inning to inning the ebb and flow of performance impacts upon projected expectations.
The Red Sox have a starting rotation that has question marks galore. A rotation that could have as many holes as a sweater consigned to a moth infested closet. The one or three bright spots are the projections attached to three premium prospects. All are left-handed hurlers.
Henry Owens, Brian Johnson and Eduardo Rodriguez just may represent the future gold standard of pitching for Boston – a true ace. The pathway is long and can resemble a pot holed street as the potential value escalates on diminishes while they hone their collective skills at 3A.
All three represent that Boston rarity being a high quality left-handed starter. Boston has some that they either brought through their system or acquired.
Babe Ruth, Herb Pennock and Lefty Grove all are members of the Hall of Fame. All pitched in Boston and made significant contributions. Mel Parnell came out of the minor league system and won 123 games for the Red Sox in an injury abbreviated career. Bruce Hurst won 88 games for the Red Sox before being shipped to San Diego. Jon Lester we all know about and even Bill Lee can be put in the pitching blender – not an ace, but for entertainment value give him some bonus points.
Parnell is the wins standard-bearer for Boston portside hurlers. A two-time twenty game winner and All-Star who pitched a no-hitter in his last season in Boston. An exceptional pitcher when the disclaimer of being healthy is attached.
There is more to the Boston story of left-handed pitching. The names are consigned to the baseball history books and obscure viewing on statistical web sites. Billy Rohr, Ted Bowsfield, Casey Fossum, Roger Moret, Frank Baumann, Ken Brett, John Curtis, Bob Ojeda, and those are just a few that I have managed to extract from my baseball memory banks. There are more.
Each of those mentioned has a common connecting thread in that they were projected for success. Some did have productive careers, but elsewhere. Some were derailed by injury and others simply flamed out. None came close to qualifying for that elusive ace status either in Boston or elsewhere.
Expecting our current three high level prospects to come in and produce big numbers is simply not going to happen. If history is any example, the Red Sox would be fortunate to have another one become Hurst and elated if one became Lester or Parnell.
Boston may have to go elsewhere and that would mean finally pulling the trade trigger on Cole Hamels. I have no idea what the final negotiated price would be. Personally, I would be reluctant to trade-off a Mookie Betts or Blake Swihart. One of the ranked left-handed prospects? Not so much based on the probability of ace status in their futures.