Red Sox: Putting pitching prospects on the roster is past due

The Boston Red Sox need to use prospects to fix their pitching problem.

In the nicest way possible, the Boston Red Sox pitching staff has been just disgustingly bad. Absolutely miserable. And that’s said with love – but seriously, just terrible.

No names will be thrown around here when it comes to the Major League pitching issues. Let’s not throw names around, I’m not a big fan of negative journalism. So you won’t see me calling out players simply for not playing well.

But as a whole, there is a clear problem. The Red Sox have given up at least five runs in eight of their 10 games. Five of those games saw them give up at least seven runs. That’s a massive issue, one you can’t pretend isn’t staring everyone in the face.

So the question is, how can you fix it? Sadly, Chris Sale and Eduardo Rodriguez aren’t walking through that door in 2020. They should both be back in 2021, but this year is a lost cause for them.

So there go your two best starters. As for the bullpen, there are plenty of problems.

Phillips Valdez has been a fantastic surprise. Matt Barnes struggled on Sunday but he’s proven himself in the past and Brandon Workman is legit.

Heath Hembree has been a target of a lot of displeasure from the fanbase over the years, but he’s at the very least a solid arm. And he’s looked great in 2020. Marcus Walden‘s really good and arms like Colten Brewer and Austin Brice are inconsistent, but can give good innings at times.

That sounds like some solid mixture. But Boston also has quite a few pitchers that haven’t helped at all. And both Brice and Barnes have high ERA numbers at the moment.

The Red Sox can’t keep using the same few bullpen arms. And with only two legit starters (one that many thought should even be anything higher than a number four in Nathan Eovaldi), the bullpen is used often.

So you could dip into free agency or make a trade? Free agency is not exactly filled with arms though. In fact, Boston keeps picking up players off waivers, and it’s not working out.

As for making a trade, it seems risky given this season could be over any day.

That leaves us with the player pool, and oh – look at that – the Red Sox have some top prospects there. And that’s what they need to go to.

Now, I want to start off by saying, the prospects might not work out in 2020. They could need more time and the numbers won’t be much of an improvement over the pitchers they replace. And that means Boston still won’t be in the playoffs at the end of the year.

But this does do something. Even if that’s the case, the Red Sox are at least adding more intrigue to this season. They are giving the fans a reason to watch.

More importantly though, they are setting themselves up nicely for the future. This season seems like the perfect time for the 3-7 Red Sox to evaluate some talent. Why not see what you have in some of these arms?

Before we start, let’s just get this out of the way right now. Darwinzon Hernandez does not count. The only reason Boston does not already have him in the Majors is because they are bringing him back from an injury. He’ll be with the team the second he is deemed 100% healthy and ready to go.

It is perfectly reasonable for Boston to not want to throw Jay Groome (number seven overall prospect in the system) and Bryan Mata (number four prospect) into the fire right now. Those are the two top pitching prospects in the player pool.

Groome has had injuries and has just 66 MiLB innings under his belt, none in a level higher than Full-A.

Mata meanwhile, has much more experience and even threw in Double-A last year. He’s still just 21 though (turned 21 on May 3). And with a few issues to work out, Boston probably doesn’t want to rush him.

It’s no secret that I love both of them as prospects. I have already been dubbed “El Idolo” and I am inconsolable that they took Baby Bartolo (Dedgar Jimenez) away from him.

Groome still needs a nickname, but I’m adamant that he still has that ace pitcher in him that everyone was so excited for when he first got drafted. Oh, and he’s still just 21 as well (although he turns 22 on August 23).

If the Red Sox feel those two aren’t ready to throw into the season this early, that’s fine. What about the other prospects though?

Mike Shawaryn has already been to the Majors. And while he struggled, I’ve already touched on their mistake – stop trying to make him a reliever.

Long story short, 2019 MiLB Shawaryn had a fantastic 3.59 ERA and 1.29 WHIP as a starter, but a miserable 8.47 ERA and 1.82 WHIP as a reliever.

And wow, what do you know? The Red Sox need starters right now. How about calling up Shawaryn and giving him a real look in a season that you desperately need to try anything at starter. Besides, there’s something there with “Shawshank Redemption” and that’s too good to pass up.

Want another starter? After all Boston technically only has two right now. So how about Kyle Hart? If you read my Prospect Watch articles you should be somewhat familiar with him. That’s because the left-handed pitcher has some absolutely dominant runs in him. And in four years in the minors, he’s never had a bad season.

Last year, Hart posted a 3.52 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP in 156 innings between Double-A and Triple-A. Seriously, he threw 100 1/3 innings in Triple-A last year, it’s not like Hart was far off from the Majors. So why isn’t he getting a look now?

Hart has a 3.13 career ERA. He’s shown an overpowering side, and even had two complete games last year (one a shutout). This is a guy that at the very least could eat innings a little bit. And that would be great so the Red Sox aren’t going to their bullpen after barely two innings, like they’ve been doing lately.

Hart is just 27 and has long been deserving of a shot in the Majors. What possible excuse could the Red Sox have for not giving him a look now? Is it the great ERA and WHIP that are scaring them? Or the fact that he might actually throw multiple innings?

He goes by @hart_attack_kid on Twitter, and I like to think that’s some kind of Shawn Michaels “Heartbreak Kid” tribute. So let’s get him in the Majors already.

Finally, there’s Tanner Houck. The right-hander has a 4.08 career ERA. He had a 4.01 last year between Double-A and Triple-A. What’s most impressive about that, he had a lower ERA in Triple-A (3.24) than he did in Double-A (4.25).

In fact, his Triple-A numbers were downright incredible. The 24-year-old added a .209 BAA and 1.32 WHIP to go along with the lower ERA in Pawtucket. He also struck out 27 batters in 25 innings and showed some nasty stuff that could see that K/9 go through the roof.

He has spent time as both a starter and a reliever. So the Red Sox could use him in either role. Houck is the tenth overall prospect in the system, so like Mata and Groome, Boston might want to exercise some restraint.

There’s a different here though, as Houck has already been close to the Majors. He was in Triple-A last year and there were some rumblings that he could get the call towards the end of the season.

He could add an immediate boost and bring some intrigue to the pitching staff. In fact, any of these names could do that pretty easily.

Truthfully, there might be some names I’m missing here. The 60-man player pool is confusing and it’s really hard to find a definitive list online. But those are the names that stick out clearly. All of them bring a lot to the table and could easily bolster the pitching rotation or the bullpen.

Boston seems content with throwing out arms that have done nothing but give up runs right now though. It’s confusing, and unclear why they are doing it. The comments manager Ron Roenicke made after Ryan Weber‘s last start were telling.

He basically admitted defeat, saying Boston did not have anyone else to go with. For the record, I think Weber could be a solid bullpen arm. It’s been proven that a starter role is not working for him though. So why keep trying it?

And Boston does have other options. They can go to the player pool at try some of the prospects. They seem content trying to hurt us all though. At this point the Red Sox are like Joe Budden giving us this Unnecessary Pain … If you got that reference, just know you have my respect.