Boston Red Sox: The role and impact of Austin Maddox in 2018

HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 06: Austin Maddox
HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 06: Austin Maddox /

The Boston Red Sox received a pleasant surprise when Austin Maddox gave them an additional bullpen boost late in 2017. What will his role be in 2018?

The bullpen of the Boston Red Sox took some hits in 2017. Carson Smith missed most of the year, while Tyler Thornburg never even saw the regular season. Joe Kelly saw injuries as well, and a few bullpen members struggled with consistency. Boston did receive two big boosts during the year though, in the form of Brandon Workman and Austin Maddox.

Both pitchers figure to factor heavily into the 2018 bullpen as well. While the Red Sox have seen plenty of Workman in the past, Maddox is still somewhat of a mystery. This is due to the fact that he only threw 17 1/3 innings in the Majors last year. No matter how dominant those innings were, that’s still a small sample size.

In the 17 1/3 innings, Maddox allowed just one run thanks to an opponents batting average of .200 and a walks plus hits per inning pitched (WHIP) of 0.87. What might be even more impressive is the 14 strikeouts compared to just two walks in that time.

With those numbers in mind, it’s easy to imagine Maddox will get his shot in 2018. With all the key members returning though, what role will the 26-year-old get?

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Closer is off the table for obvious reasons. Craig Kimbrel has that on lock for the foreseeable future. The eighth inning role is more suited for players like Joe Kelly and Carson Smith at this time as well.

After that, there’s the seventh inning, lefty specialists, long relievers, and throw-in arms. Maddox doesn’t seem like a long guy, and clearly isn’t a left-handed pitcher. While he might not get main seventh inning duties, he’s proven he’s more than a garbage time pitcher.

Nevertheless, Maddox might get low-leverage situations to start the year. This would be to make sure 2017 wasn’t a fluke. The Red Sox have a strong enough bullpen that they have the luxury of giving small spots to a talented arm to see how it plays out.

Should he continue to look dominant though, expect to see Austin Maddox in clutch situations as early as May.

While it’s good to have a set route to your closer, having options is a wonderful thing. If Maddox looks strong, the Red Sox can have a rotation of four-or-five trustworthy relievers to bridge the gap to Kimbrel. Instead of having a single “seventh inning” and a single “eighth inning” guy, Boston can rotate between a core group. This gives them the opportunity to keep everyone fresh and play to matchups.

Next: Red Sox: Luck may run out in 2018 for Drew Pomeranz

With all this in mind, the impact of Austin Maddox on the Boston Red Sox could be monumental in 2018. There’s potential for him to be another impressive arm in an already impressive bullpen.