Boston Red Sox: 5 key spring training roster battles

Red Sox catcher Jorge Alfaro
Red Sox catcher Jorge Alfaro / G Fiume/GettyImages
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Red Sox pitcher Ryan Brasier
Red Sox pitcher Ryan Brasier / Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/GettyImages

Red Sox Final Bullpen Spots (lots of options)

The Red Sox invested heavily into their bullpen this offseason, adding Kenley Jansen, Chris Martin, Joely Rodriguez, and Richard Bleier. They should join John Schreiber and whoever doesn't join the rotation, whether that's Tanner Houck, Nick Pivetta, or James Paxton. While Fangraphs currently projects Kutter Crawford to be the final member of the bullpen, that's assuming Bryan Bello is in AAA. Given the potential for injuries or trades before opening day, who are the candidates to fill out the back of the bullpen?

Crawford was pretty unspectacular as both a starter (5.43 ERA) and as a reliever (5.63) in 2022, though he struck out 22 hitters in 16 innings as a reliever for a 12.4 K/9. He could work across a full season, but the Red Sox will likely give a chance to quite a few different guys throughout spring training. Joining him as an apparent option is Ryan Brasier, who posted an odd split of a 5.78 ERA with a 3.61 FIP in 2022 and seems to be favored by Chaim Bloom.

Wyatt Mills was acquired from the Kansas City Royals earlier in the offseason. He excelled at limiting Home Runs last season, though he's not an overpowering strikeout or velocity pitcher. Neither is Zack Kelly, but he had a 4.28 FIP and 4.33 xFIP thanks to a 2.6 BB/9 in 2022. Kaleb Ort has been an excellent strikeout pitcher in the minors, but that didn't translate to the majors in 2022. He survived a wave of DFA's this offseason, so perhaps the Red Sox are still hoping he can break out.

After that comes a wave of starting pitchers who could break camp as a reliever. Chris Murphy will get a shot in spring training, but he struggled mightily in AAA as a 24-year-old with a 5.50 ERA, 4.9 BB/9, and 6.9 K/9. Josh Winckowski, with his low strikeout rate and high Home Run rate, also doesn't seem to have the makings of a reliever. Brandon Walter should get a look in the majors at some point this season as a spot starter - he posted a 2.88 ERA with 1.1 HR/9, 0.5 BB/9, and 12.2 K/9; he didn't get much of a look in AAA, but he could surprise in spring training and make the bullpen, though it's more likely he'll start out in the AAA rotation. Bryan Mata, with his excellent fastball touching 100 MPH and good offspeed stuff, could be a good choice for the bullpen; he'll have to settle down on his walks, but he posted an 11.4 K/9 across four levels in the minors last season. The longtime prospect could finally get his chance to pitch in the big leagues this season.

Whoever makes the final spot of the bullpen will depend on how they perform in spring training. Chaim Bloom has highly favored Ryan Brasier this offseason (per Chris Cotillo of MassLive), and he could be a lock at this point. Zack Kelly, Kaleb Ort, and Wyatt Mills all survived a wave of DFA's, so they should all be squarely in the mix. But look out for Bryan Mata to have a solid spring and contend for the bullpen.