Red Sox SP: Nathan Eovaldi
The 2021 Red Sox rotation was a mess. Chris Sale didn’t return until August. Eduardo Rodriguez was hit hard and posted the worst season of his career. Garrett Richards was unusable after the sticky stuff crackdown, Martin Perez had a second-half ERA of 6.75, and Nick Pivetta struggled after a hot start.
The one constant was Nathan Eovaldi, who was healthy and effective all season long. That is something that would have been unthinkable two years ago. Eovaldi spent his first seven years as a promising but inconsistent starter who missed too much time with injuries. It looked like he turned the page with his incredible 2018 playoff run, but the injury bug bit him again in 2019, and he was terrible the few times he was available (5.99).
Who would have thought that Eovaldi would prove himself as the Red Sox’s most dependable starter over the last two years? Since 2020, Eovaldi has lowered his ERA from 4.30 to 3.75, raised his K/9 from 7.0 to 9.9, and cut his walk rate from 2.9 to 1.6. He did all of that without missing any time on the IL, toeing the rubber more often than any other Red Sox starting pitcher.
The key to Eovaldi’s success is the command of his deep arsenal of offerings. He throws five pitches more than 12 percent of the time, and his ability to control each of them allows them to be thrown in any count. That arsenal has gotten even sharper in recent years, as his cutter gained four inches of vertical movement in 2021 while his curveball gained over two.
Eovaldi unquestionably has the command and stuff to be a frontline starting pitcher, but the question will always be health. A two-time Tommy John surgery recipient, Eovaldi started 30 games just once in his first ten seasons before leading the league with 32 starts in 2021. As he enters his 12th season in the league, Eovaldi is more susceptible to injuries with such serious mileage on his arm, and the Red Sox can ill-afford to lose their ace.
As good as Eovaldi’s 2021 season was, there is evidence it could have been even better. Eovaldi’s league-leading 2.79 FIP was nearly a run lower than his 3.75 ERA, indicating that he was suffering from poor batted-ball luck and terrible defense. With the Red Sox improving their defense with the additions of Trevor Story and Jackie Bradley Jr., Eovaldi could be even better in 2022.
Stat Predictions: 13-7, 3.63 ERA, 172 IP, 9.2 K/9, 1.9 BB/9