Brian Johnson era just around corner for Red Sox?
With Eduardo Rodriguez in the majors to stay, the Red Sox are firmly into the “tinkering” phase of the season. Sitting in last place with a 24-30 record, nothing has worked for the Red Sox this season and, though the offense has been more a problem than the pitching of late, it’s time to change some things around regardless. Promoting prospect Brian Johnson, the 24 year old southpaw who is dominating his Triple-A opposition this season, is one of the more obvious moves to make in the coming weeks.
Between Clay Buchholz, Rick Porcello, Wade Miley, and Rodriguez, the front four of Boston’s rotation is fairly settled. The Red Sox are currently utilizing a six-man rotation, but with that course of action bound to end shortly, the fifth spot is up for grabs between Joe Kelly and Steven Wright.
Kelly has largely fallen flat on his prediction that he would win the Cy Young Award this season, owning a 5.83 ERA through his first 10 starts. He has shown flashes of brilliance, throwing one of the hardest fastballs in the league and occasionally demonstrating enough command to use it effectively, but he has struggled on the whole this season. And though Wright has been the definition of solid in his three starts this season, pitching to a 3.71 ERA and walking just 3 batters in 17 innings, he is likely not a major part of the team’s future.
In the long run, neither Kelly nor Wright may be a major league starting pitcher. With Kelly’s elite stuff but lack of consistent command, he might be best served to transition into a late-inning reliever. He absolutely has the potential to be elite in that role as shorter stints may better allow Kelly to harness his control and perhaps even allow his already dominant fastball to play up further.
Moving Kelly to the bullpen would give the Red Sox a power arm at the back of the ‘pen, helping out a relief corps starved of hard throwers. Meanwhile, the Red Sox could either option Wright to Pawtucket as starting depth or use him from the bullpen as a long reliever.
In their stead, the Red Sox would place Johnson in the fifth spot in the rotation, creating a starting five with the potential to be a very solid group. Johnson has been stellar in Triple-A thus far, pitching to a 2.60 ERA with the phenomenal peripherals to back that performance, including 9.3 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9. And though Johnson likely profiles as a mid-rotation starter at best, that has plenty of value and, by all accounts, he’s ready to contribute now.
Of course, the success of the Red Sox this season will hinge on whether the bats are able to turn around their unfathomably bad start. Having a solid starting rotation won’t hurt, though, and this pitching staff is likely best if it contains Johnson. Kelly deserves at least one more chance to preserve his jobs, but Johnson has nothing left to learn in Triple-A and, barring an epiphany from Kelly, he belongs in the majors as soon as possible.