Lefty Josh Taylor has been a pleasant positive for the Red Sox bullpen
By Rick McNair
The Boston Red Sox offense has some gems but the pitching staff has some duds. One exception is the emergence of Josh Taylor.
A difficult task is sifting through the Red Sox pitching staff attempting to weed out a hurler who has accomplished above and beyond this season. A Sisyphus task that does have a few rewards such as Brandon Workman and a 26-year-old lefty Josh Taylor who the Red Sox received in trade from the Diamondbacks for Deven Marrero.
Trades such as the one that brought Taylor to town are generally received at the same level of excitement as a school board budget meeting, but some ignominious deals actually have significant reverberations such as picking up Luis Tiant many decades ago.
Taylor’s pitching specifics are limited to two pitches – a fastball and a slider. As noted Taylor will occasionally show a curveball, but that is merely just 2% of the time. Taylor’s fastball is in the mid-90s and his control (2.4 BB/9) has been surprisingly efficient in the small sample of his inaugural season.
Periphery metrics such as SIERA (3.01) and xFIP (3.18) are trending positive. Taylor also has the best swinging strike (SwStr) percentage on the team – 15.7%.
Taylor has already been on the professional baseball shuttle after being signed as an undrafted free agent by the Phillies who traded Taylor to Arizona. With the Phillies system, Taylor worked as a regular in the rotation and then assumed a mixed role in the Diamondbacks system. The Red Sox have converted Taylor to strictly the bullpen and as a part-time closer. Maybe that third pitch was never developed?
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At Pawtucket (AAA) Taylor had the same disease that seems to be in epidemic stage with Red Sox pitchers – walks. Taylor had a 4.2 BB/9 with the PawSox to be somewhat mitigated by a 12.3 K/9 and that is 11.7 in his MLB stint.
Taylor has impressed and is one of the few to take advantage of an opportunity on a staff looking for a savior or I should say, multiple saviors. Being a lefty gives Taylor a distinct advantage since the rotation is lefty-heavy and the ‘pen is lefty light. With the emergence of promising prospect Darwinzon Hernandez, the Red Sox may have two capable lefties out of the bullpen.
The rest of 2019 will be a further test for Taylor to see if batters eventually remove the gloss from his early positive showing. If Taylor continues to be stable, gets higher leverage situations, and keeps his minor league propensity for walks under control Boston could have a big plus in rebuilding the staff.