Up: Hector Velazquez
This spot could reasonably have gone to Joe Kelly, Hanley Ramirez, or Xander Bogaerts. Instead, let’s take a moment to appreciate a dark horse, one who has done nothing but dominate all season. Hector Velazquez, signed for a pittance out of the Mexican League after 2016, has looked like a marquee reliever and solid starter through the first month of the season. The 29-year-old has appeared in seven games so far, including two starts, and currently owns a 4-0 record. Across 22 innings, Velazquez has compiled a stellar 2.05 ERA and solid 6.14 K/9.
Improved control has been key for Velazquez in the early going. His BB/9 sits at 1.64, down from 2.55 in limited action with Boston a year ago. However, his strong play in 2018 shouldn’t be as much of a surprise as it’s felt like. Hector made 19 starts for Triple-A Pawtucket in 2017 and went 8-4 with a 2.21 ERA. He also made eight appearances, including three starts, for Boston a year ago, and went 3-1 with a very solid 2.92 ERA.
The truth is that Velazquez has been pitching like he belongs in the majors for over a year now. He’s historically had far greater success as a reliever than as a starter in the big leagues, but he could pitch himself into the rotation at some point this year.