The Red Sox mystery of poor rotation development continues
The Boston Red Sox rotation can best be characterized by the name of Brian Johnson. Johnson was a first-round pick (2012) whose promise in Boston never materialized. Being genetically predisposed as a left-hander does have advantages and Johnson has again surfaced signing a minor league deal with the Angels. Johnson was pitching for the Milwaukee Milkman before signing with the obviously desperate Angels.
Johnson is just another name in a long list of dismal disappointments in Red Sox pitching development. Prior to Johnson was another lefty, Henry Owens, who was the number one pick in 2011. When last seen, Owens had signed to pitch for the Lexington Legends. Lefty Trey Ball was a 2013 number one pick and slothed around the Red Sox system until 2019. Three number one picks, all left-handed, all failed.
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Hard-throwing and hard living Michael Kopech stands out as a potential (note that word) exception to malfunctions when drafting pitching. Kopech was instrumental in acquiring Chris Sale. Both have suffered the plague of Tommy John Surgery (TJS). Kopech has much to prove with maturity and ability.
One possible and noteworthy success was drafted with the full intention of being in the rotation. Matt Barnes was naturally a number one pick (2011) after the Red Sox lost out on Sonny Gray who the A’s picked just before Boston. Barnes never materialized as rotation fodder but has most certainly provided superior bullpen support.
The tragic drafting has Jay Groome still in the mix pitching for Greenville. Groome certainly meets the physical profile of what the Red Sox evaluators consider in regard to lefty pitching. Tall – as in very tall – not overpowering, hard-working, and considered by all as “can’t miss.” Then they miss.
Even when promise surfaces the Red Sox just get cursed. Tanner Houck should be in the 2021 rotation. He earned it. Houck demonstrated his ability to be a plus talent. Now the righty has a cranky elbow. Houck is not alone in the infirmary.
Bryan Mata is or was on the fast track until derailed by TJS. Mata is currently ranked 11th among Sox prospects. Keeping orthopedic surgeons fully employed is the two pitching prospects among the top ten. Thad Ward is also a TJS and promising Connor Seabold is still on the shelf with elbow inflammation.
The Red Sox system is quite adept at churning out position talent. The lineup is sprinkled with homegrown. Then comes the pitching. The Red Sox management has spent a considerable price in talent and money to stabilize the rotation. The prospect cost of Sale and the contract for David Price bear witness to that. What gives?
This is certainly not new territory for discussion. The pitching development escapades have been consistent from administration to administration. Is it purely a management issue? Or is it simply a curse? Boston fans are well acquainted with curses, bad luck, misfortune, and disappointment. Just one or two not hitting the skids the last ten or so years could have altered the Red Sox dramatically.
I have embraced just being bad luck. Li’l Abner comic strip had a character named Joe Btfsplk. Joe is a well-meaning but cursed person. A dark cloud perpetually follows Joe around bring misfortune to everyone around him. The Red Sox have had that dark cloud for far too long.