As the Boston Red Sox continue to search for capable relievers to make up their bullpen, Bobby Poyner has consistently proven that he deserves a roster spot.
There has been quite a bit of debate this offseason surrounding the Red Sox bullpen. Some seem to think the bullpen can be improved from within the organization, while others believe the group could still benefit from a free agent addition or two. It seems as if an overwhelming majority, though, feel that this current group of relievers could end up costing the team dearly this season.
There has been a great deal of discussion over which of these pitchers is going to have to step up in 2019 to counterbalance the departures of Joe Kelly and presumably Craig Kimbrel. Matt Barnes and Ryan Brasier are the obvious options to anchor the bullpen as of right now, but any key contributor beyond them remains a mystery. Names like Colten Brewer, Carson Smith, and Tyler Thornburg have all been optimistically thrown around, but it’s unlikely anyone feels truly confident about those predictions.
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The Red Sox don’t necessarily need someone in their bullpen to become an All-Star. All they need is a few reliable relievers to hold down the fort late in games. Their powerful offense and star-studded rotation can handle the rest. Matt Barnes and Ryan Brasier should be able to get the job done when called upon, but the options beyond them are murky.
Many of the pitchers hoping to secure a roster spot have shown some type of promise at one point or another, but injuries and inconsistency have since stalled their careers. These are two traits that no ballplayer wants attached to his name.
The Red Sox know they aren’t going to match up with the New York Yankees’ bullpen at any point this year, but that’s not an issue. The issue is finding someone, anyone, who can provide reliability down the stretch.
Bobby Poyner could be that guy.
Fans may be unimpressed with the proposed solution, but a quick dive into Poyner’s career thus far will prove that he at least deserves the chance to win over the Alex Cora’s trust. Following an explosive spring training in 2018, the 26-year-old made the roster and pitched well early on.
Back then, everything was clicking for the Red Sox at the time so Poyner’s contributions may have been overlooked. A 2.57 ERA over seven appearances with only one walk should have turned some heads, but the media and fanbase were too busy concentrating on the rest of the team’s many strengths.
After a lengthy outing in which he threw thirty-seven pitches, Poyner was optioned to the minors in order to get the Sox a fresh arm. The rest of 2018 was filled with brief major league stints for the southpaw, but none long enough to really generate any significant buzz. Meanwhile, he continued to impress in Triple-A, finishing the year with a glowing 3.14 ERA.
Few within the organization would deny that Poyner’s numbers are impressive, but the team last year clearly didn’t have much of a need for him. Now, however, they certainly do. The long-awaited answer to the search for a reliable reliever has been right under their noses the whole time. Over the course of his brief career, Poyner has shown himself to be nothing if not consistent.
It’s possible that those numbers are too small of a sample size to make anything of, but they are at least impressive enough to earn him an opportunity to prove himself in the bigs. Unfortunately, many of the expected Red Sox relievers are out of minor league options, which means the team will either have to keep them on the roster or get rid of them outright. Poyner still has minor league options available, which negatively affects his chances at making the Opening Day roster.
Still, his performance when given the chance has been nothing but positive. He struck out over a batter per inning in the minors last season and has consistently put up impressive strikeout numbers throughout his career, while simultaneously boasting a low walk rate.
Despite being a lefty, Poyner has actually fared better against right-handed hitters for the majority of his career. This means that his role with the team wouldn’t be confined to solely being a specialist. A left-handed pitcher who can be used in any situation sounds like something the Red Sox should be salivating at, not backing away from.
While Poyner may not generate the kind of buzz that Darwinzon Hernandez and Jhonathan Diaz might doesn’t mean that he still doesn’t have potential. It’s important to remember that no one expected Brasier to be as effective as he was last year and yet he was a key piece to Boston’s championship. Poyner could very well end up being the guy for 2019.
There’s only one real way to find out: put this guy on the roster and see what happens. Worst comes to worst, he just gets optioned back to the minors. At the very least, it’s worth a shot. With the Red Sox still looking to answer the question of who will close out games, Poyner very well may be the best bridge to get to Barnes or Brasier.