Pitching MVP – second tier
Steven Wright is a nifty knuckleball pitcher who has other pitches that go beyond the either deadly or hittable K-ball. Wright often reaches into the 89 MPH range with his fastball, mixes in a curve and has a nice change-up. No one trick pony like Tim Wakefield.
Wright was on a path in 2016 to have a season that may have been second to Porcello on the staff, but injury intervened. The first time All-Star’s recovery is a key to team success in 2017 and Wright will be watched closely.
If Eduardo Rodriguez had an entire season in 2016 like he produced in the second half he may have challenged Porcello and Price for best in show. Will Rodriguez get better action (control) on his slider? If so, coupled with his fastball and excellent changeup the Red Sox may have a star in the making.
Rodriguez development is also important in case Price exercises his contract opt-out clause. At this point, Rodriguez is just a bundle of tantalizing promise, but 2017 could be a breakout year.
A reliever needs domination to be considered for team and league awards. Can Craig Kimbrel get 50 saves? Can Kimbrel start to be a consistent shutdown closer instead of the occasional walk machine? Even with Kimbrel’s flaws, he remains one of the best in the league.