The MLB Draft is just five days away and this is the time that we generally take to reflect on Boston’s performance in recent drafts. After taking over for star general manager Theo Epstein, Ben Cherington led the draft for the Red Sox for the first time in 2012. And though that draft has not produced any major leaguers or star prospects yet, it appears on the cusp with first rounders Deven Marrero and Brian Johnson in Triple-A. Another unheralded, but potentially equally impactful, name from that draft (in fact, another first rounder) is Pat Light and he could be in the majors by the end of the season as well.
Ironically, before this season, Light was viewed as one of the bigger disappointments in recent draft history. Taken in the supplemental first round in 2012, the right-hander from Monmouth University just looks like a pitcher. At 6’6″ and 200 pounds, Light consistently throws his fastball in the mid 90’s and his frame allows for deception and the ability to induce grounders at an impressive rate.
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However, for Light’s first few seasons since being drafted, that fastball was really his only solid offering. Despite his future home likely lying in the bullpen, the Red Sox had used Light from the rotation for both the 2013 and 2014 seasons. Light was unable to develop either a consistent curve or a slider in those two years and his results showed it as he posted a 4.83 ERA between Single-A Greenville and High-A Salem last season.
With Light now 24 years old, the Red Sox decided that there was no more time to waste in his development. The Red Sox changed him to a reliever on a full-time basis and aggressively promoted him to Double-A Portland despite his struggles in Salem last season. And so far this season, Light has totally rewarded Boston’s faith with a dominant performance out of the Sea Dogs’ bullpen.
In 18 relief outings, Light owns a 2.36 ERA with 10.8 K/9 and 3.7 BB/9 and, perhaps most impressively, has limited opposing hitters to just a .156 batting average. From the bullpen, Light has scrapped his mediocre breaking balls and begun to use his splitter, a pitch which he had used in college but not since.
His fastball-splitter combination has proved to be a dominant force in shorter outings and Light is already pushing a promotion to Triple-A Pawtucket. If Light receives a promotion soon and can dominate the International League as he has done the Eastern League, then it’s not out of the question that we could see him in Boston by the end of the season.
The Red Sox’ bullpen has been far from the largest weakness on the team this season, but it’s also far from perfect. The relief corps have been improved with the addition of another converted starter in Matt Barnes, but the Red Sox only really have four solid relievers in Koji Uehara, Junichi Tazawa, Alexi Ogando, and Barnes. The addition of Light could prove to be essential if the Red Sox are able to turn their season around and contend, as he has the potential to be a late-inning reliever awfully soon. If the Red Sox find they need a high-leverage reliever in order to contend, don’t be surprised if they hurry Light through the minors this season.