Boston Red Sox pitching depth and outlook of postseason roles

HOUSTON, TX - JUNE 03: Rick Porcello #22 of the Boston Red Sox pitches in the first inning against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park on June 3, 2018 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - JUNE 03: Rick Porcello #22 of the Boston Red Sox pitches in the first inning against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park on June 3, 2018 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) /

As the season winds down and the Red Sox inch towards a third straight AL East title, there will be a few battles among pitchers for spots on the postseason roster.

With the Boston Red Sox likely clinching a division title very soon, they will have the luxury of being able to give certain pitchers extra rest. With that being said, it seems that reviewing the depth the Red Sox currently have is appropriate.

It is also worth noting which pitchers are currently fighting for a spot on the playoff roster, and which have likely already secured their playoff spot.

Starting pitchers:

Chris Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello, Eduardo Rodriguez, Nathan Eovaldi

When discussing the Red Sox rotation, Chris Sale is usually the first guy anyone thinks of. Despite two DL stints in the second half, the Red Sox ace is still having a phenomenal year, currently having career bests in ERA and FIP. There could even be some argument that these DL stints may have been beneficial to him, considering his second-half struggles in past years.

When Sale was out, David Price stepped up in a huge way. He has a 2.22 ERA and a .560 OPS against since the horrible outing in New York on July 1st.

After those two, the rotation becomes more of a question mark. Rick Porcello certainly has not been great this year but has been serviceable. He also provides a right-handed arm in a rotation where there are not too many.

Left-handed pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez is likely having the best year of his career, with career bests in ERA, FIP, and K/9. After getting roughed up against Houston, he started varying his pitches more and was much more successful in his most recent start.

Nathan Eovaldi is starting on Tuesday, but it seems his future for this season is in the bullpen. He has been solid with the Red Sox, posting a 4.17 ERA, but with a 3.49 FIP, suggesting he is due for some positive regression.

Postseason outlook: Sale and Price will be the Games 1 and 2 starters, while Porcello seems to have an inside track at being the Game 3 starter. It is hard to imagine Rodriguez is not on the postseason roster either as the Game 4 starter or as a reliever. Eovaldi seems to have a good shot at the postseason bullpen.

Long relievers/spot starters:

Brian Johnson, Hector Velazquez, Drew Pomeranz, William Cuevas

Throughout the 2018 season, both Brian Johnson and Hector Velazquez have proved to be reliable pitchers when needed. In 77 innings this season, Hector Velazquez has a 3.24 ERA with a 4.36 FIP. Even with the high FIP, those are relatively solid numbers for the role Velazquez has.

In 93 innings, Brian Johnson has a 4.24 ERA and a 4.50 FIP. He has made more starts than Velazquez, playing a slightly more important role on the team and providing extra value as a lefty.

After a terrific 2017 in which he stepped up following injuries in the Red Sox rotation, Drew Pomeranz has struggled. He was out early in the season and never really got healthy. His velocity has not gotten back to what it used to be, and his money pitch, the curveball has not had the same effect it had in previous years. He will likely continue to be used in lopsided games and following rain delays when the starter is forced out.

William Cuevas has made a few appearances for the Red Sox after a solid season in AAA, but it seems unlikely that he sees the mound much over these last couple weeks.

All four of these guys may get a start or two once the Red Sox clinch to give the regular starters some rest.

Playoff outlook: The only guy here who seems to have a shot at the playoff roster is Brian Johnson. However, it seems he will be facing an uphill battle with multiple starters being moved to the bullpen, with one possibly being a lefty.

Middle relievers/specialists

Bobby Poyner, Brandon Workman, Heath Hembree, Joe Kelly, Tyler Thornburg, Robby Scott

At the beginning of spring training, Bobby Poyner was a guy most people had not heard of. After a terrific spring, he made the opening day roster. He was very good early in the year, owning a 1.69 ERA following an appearance on June 6. After this outing, he was strangely sent down for three months despite the Red Sox not having a true lefty reliever (not sure if Brian Johnson is really a reliever).  Since his return he has continued his success, allowing only two runs in 6.2 innings. He provides the Red Sox a solid lefty down the stretch and possibly in the postseason.

This season for Brandon Workman has been a solid one. He has a 2.33 ERA, but with a 4.44 FIP. However, he does have postseason experience, being part of the 2013 World Series team, which the Red Sox may value.

Since being successful as a September call-up in 2016, Robby Scott has struggled. Control is his main issue and it showed in his last appearance when he walked 2 men and hit another 2 in a third of an inning.

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After those three, the more household names are the ones that come to mind. Joe Kelly has had a very strange season. On May 29, he had a terrific 1.73 ERA. Fast forward to July 24, and his ERA was up to 4.79. Currently, his ERA sits at 4.19, which is likely higher than where the Red Sox want it. His control issues are also a big issue, walking more than 4 per 9 without a really high strikeout rate.

On the other hand, Tyler Thornburg has struggled for most of the year. His ERA has not gone below 4.11 and currently is 5.62. It is still early to make a final judgment, but so far the trade for him looks like a really bad one.

Heath Hembree comes to mind as a specialist because of how often he is used with runners on base. Alex Cora really likes what he has done this season when coming in with runners on base and he will likely continue to get these same opportunities.

Playoff outlook: Poyner, Workman, Hembree, and Kelly have legitimate shot at the playoff roster, but Kelly’s recent struggles might leave him on the outside looking in. Poyner provides the bullpen with a lefty presence it has not had all year. Barring a late-season implosion, Workman’s chances are looking pretty good. Unless Thornburg has a few really impressive outings it seems he will not be pitching in the postseason. Robby Scott has no chance at the roster. Hembree is a near lock because of Alex Cora’s usage of him with base runners.

Late Relievers:

Craig Kimbrel, Matt Barnes, Ryan Brasier, Steven Wright,

With Craig Kimbrel, it is pretty simple. He is the closer for the rest of the year and that is not changing. Matt Barnes had been fantastic this year until recently. As of August 17, Barnes was 9th among all relievers in FIP. After a really rough outing against Miami, his ERA jumped from 2.89 to 3.51. He made two scoreless appearances after that but has been out since the second one on September 3 due to hip inflammation. The Red Sox hope he can get healthy and return to first-half form for the playoffs.

Ryan Brasier made his first appearance on July 9, and almost no one knew he was. He had not pitched in the majors since 2013 because of injuries. In 29 appearances, he boasts a 1.53 ERA and is known for his fastball in the high 90s. Despite being an unknown early in the year, it seems the Red Sox will be expecting Brasier to play a pretty big role in the postseason.

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Steven Wright is an odd situation because it is unclear how Alex Cora plans on using him. His last two appearances have been in the 8th and 9th inning in one-run games, so I decided to put him here. He even got his first career save yesterday. He could be used in this role, but using him as a change of speed seems to be the one that fits him best, but with the team’s success this year it is hard to argue with anything Alex Cora does at this point.

Postseason outlook: All four of these guys are locks.