Boston Red Sox: Who from the bullpen should stay in 2016?

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Aug 7, 2015; Detroit, MI, USA; Boston Red Sox relief pitcher

Robbie Ross

Jr. (28) pitches in the sixth inning against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Robbie Ross Jr

OK so in an ideal world, every reliever in the Red Sox bullpen would consist of clones of Aroldis Chapman and Craig Kimbrel. In real world 2016 AL East, there’s room for someone like Robbie Ross.

Yes, he did struggle at first, but his struggles never, even at their worst, showed themselves to be as profound as those experienced in the rest of the bullpen. For better or worse, the Red Sox found themselves unable to function without an at least semi-reliable pitcher who could come in and close the door in the 9th inning. After failed attempts to find this in Tazawa and Jean Machi, the ball was handed to Ross and he did, well, not so bad. After being made the closer for the rest of the season, Ross took all 6 saves from the 6 opportunities handed to him. Certainly several of them gave reason for increased alcohol intake from Red Sox Nation, such as the two runs he leaked in the 9th inning to the Toronto Blue Jays on September 20. That said, he never failed to get the last out when it was needed. Compared to the failures of Tazawa and Machi, that was significant and welcomed.

With Uehara returning to full health and Dombrowski already determined to find a back-up closer, it’s unlikely we’ll see Ross return to the role in 2016. That said, he has the stuff and the projection to be able to be a competent, if unspectacular, middle reliever too. His fastball sits at 94 MPH and he complements it with a cutter and slider. Both his fastball and his peripherals all could be described as serviceable, if nothing else. Actually, serviceable is a word that could be used to describe Ross in general. Keeping opponents to an AVG of .250 isn’t amazing but is probably good enough situationally. His K/9 rate of 7.86 is similarly middle of the road, but since June, Ross did manage to strikeout 38 batters in 40 innings, which is more than acceptable.

Perhaps Ross’ best arguments for inclusion in 2016 are that he is only 26, pitches for the league minimum and is under team control until 2018. From reports in the clubhouse he seems to be popular and has connected in particular with some of the Red Sox up-and-coming stars to be. It seems that ultimately more is to be gained by keeping him and using him than finding even equal value in the trade market.

Certainly Ross isn’t going to always be the kind of dominating, lights out force in the bullpen that Dombrowski is looking for. That said, he is good enough to be a solid, middle reliever that Boston lacks almost as much as an ace.

Next: Heath Hembree