Boston Red Sox: 10 bold predictions for the 2022 season

FT. MYERS, FL - MARCH 31: Rafael Devers #11 of the Boston Red Sox reacts after hitting a solo home run during the first inning of a Grapefruit League game against the Minnesota Twins on March 31, 2022 at jetBlue Park at Fenway South in Fort Myers, Florida. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)
FT. MYERS, FL - MARCH 31: Rafael Devers #11 of the Boston Red Sox reacts after hitting a solo home run during the first inning of a Grapefruit League game against the Minnesota Twins on March 31, 2022 at jetBlue Park at Fenway South in Fort Myers, Florida. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images) /
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FT. MYERS, FL – MARCH 30: Tanner Houck #89 of the Boston Red Sox delivers during the first inning of a Grapefruit League game against the Atlanta Braves on March 30, 2022 at jetBlue Park at Fenway South in Fort Myers, Florida. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)
FT. MYERS, FL – MARCH 30: Tanner Houck #89 of the Boston Red Sox delivers during the first inning of a Grapefruit League game against the Atlanta Braves on March 30, 2022 at jetBlue Park at Fenway South in Fort Myers, Florida. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images) /

Tanner Houck leads the Red Sox in strikeouts

At first glance, this prediction may seem like a lack of confidence in Nathan Eovaldi. After all, the 2021 All-Star struck out nearly 200 batters last year and seems like an obvious choice to pace the team in punchouts again. Yet the reason I don’t have him at the top of the strikeout leaderboard in 2022 has much less to do with Eovaldi and much more to do with the confidence I have in Tanner Houck.

No pitcher on the Red Sox has the kind of swing-and-miss stuff that Houck has. His slider is one of the best in baseball, holding hitters to a .159 batting average and an incredible 42.4% whiff percentage. He pairs that pitch with a hard-biting sinker and an improving splitter, both of which induced swing-and-misses at over a 30% rate. Houck’s 11.3 K/9 easily paced the team, and the only thing that prevented him from leading the Red Sox in overall strikeouts was a lack of innings.

In 2022, however, Houck is going to get those innings. Houck won a spot in the starting rotation this spring, and with the Red Sox’s starting pitch depth being what it is, he’s unlikely to lose that job. Even if Houck only throws 150 or so innings, that should be good enough to lead the club in punchouts.