Red Sox Season Preview: Pitchers Edition

The Red Sox are finally scheduled to begin their 2020 season on July 24th at Fenway vs Baltimore. With that in mind, here is our season preview of the Sox’ pitchers along with the roster projection. To keep things simple, we’re assuming they will go with 13 pitchers and 13 hitters to complete the 26 man roster.

Overview: This pitching staff is the worst I’ve ever seen in my Red Sox lifetime. They only have three starting pitchers, and one of them already has the coronavirus. It makes the 2015 Red Sox rotation look like the 90s Braves. John Henry should be ashamed of what he’s putting on the field this year. If it wasn’t for the pandemic, they would be getting ripped apart by the media. Thankfully, I’m here to do it for them.

Starters

Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP

E-Rod quietly had an excellent 2019 campaign pitching over 200 innings with an ERA of 3.81 and over 200 strikeouts. Rodriguez also had a career-high ERA+ of 126 while finishing sixth in the AL Cy Young race. With Chris Sale out until possibly 2021 at the earliest, E-Rod is the clear cut number one starter for the foreseeable future. The big issue here is that he tested positive for the coronavirus early this week, and it would be difficult for him to test negative for consecutive days in a row before July 24th. Expect him to miss his first turn in the rotation, but possibly make his second start.

Nathan Eovaldi, RHP

Eovaldi had a very disappointing 2019 season after receiving a sizable chunk of change following his super-human 2018 playoff performance. Injuries were the main culprit of his dreadful year, with elbow issues again lingering, but he seems to be fully healthy entering 2020. A shortened season certainly helps him, as Eovaldi is rarely able to stay healthy for a long period of time. If Eovaldi can perform as an adequate number two starter, the Sox may have a legit shot to make the playoffs in a wacky 60 game season. With E-Rod likely out on opening day, Eovaldi should be next in line to get the start.

Martin Perez, LHP

This is where things get dicey. Simply put, Perez is in way over his head as a number three starter. The guy just is not that good. Among starting pitchers in 2019, Perez had the 4th worst ERA in the league at 5.12. And the Red Sox decided to pay him seven million this year. The only silver lining to Perez is that he eats innings, tossing over 165 in three of his last four seasons. As a number five starter, Perez is pretty decent, but as your third? That’s asking far too much.

Ryan Weber, RHP

If you thought Perez was bad, wait until you see this guy. The journeyman didn’t really pitch well at all in 2019, posting a 5.09 ERA, albeit in a limited sample size. Weber performed pretty well in the limited spring training in March, allowing zero runs in nine innings, which essentially won him the number four spot in the rotation. Weber will likely act as an “opener” meaning he’ll only pitch 2-3 innings per start, and let the bullpen do the rest. I guess the only silver lining for Weber is that his expectations are so astonishingly low that anything he contributes will be a bonus.

Collin McHugh, RHP

The former Astro is the biggest wild card of the Sox pitching staff. He had elbow surgery last year, and would have started the year on the IL had the season started on time, but looks ready to go. When healthy, McHugh is excellent, posting a 1.99 ERA in 2018 as a reliever. He hasn’t started a game since 2016, but a role as an opener that could expand to a full-time starter isn’t out of the question for McHugh. It’s unclear if he will start in the bullpen or the rotation, but the upside is high.

Relievers

Brandon Workman, RHP

The clear cut closer and ace of the Red Sox bullpen, Workman finished off 2019 with an impressive 1.88 ERA and 1.03 WHIP. He enters 2020 in a contract year, so if the Sox are out of it by the trade deadline, look for Chaim Bloom to deal him to a contender.

Matt Barnes, RHP

At this point in Barnes’s career, we pretty much know what the Sox are going to get out of him. He’s a good-not-great 7th/8th inning guy that is capable of putting together excellent stretches. He’ll have an ERA in the mid-to-high 3’s, and he’ll walk too many batters for my liking.

Darwinzon Hernandez, LHP

The flame-throwing lefty had an up-and-down 2019 season, including stretches of both dominance and incompetence. Like the rest of the Red Sox relievers, he walks far too many hitters, (1.75 WHIP), but Hernandez still has a lot of upside as a reliable back of the bullpen guy at just 23 years old.

Heath Hembree, RHP

Like Barnes, we basically know what we’re going to get from the 31-year-old hurler acquired in the 2014 Jake Peavy trade. Hembree is a solid 6th/7th inning reliever who won’t wow you with electric stuff, but he throws hard and strikes guys out at a decent clip (2.55 K/Walk ratio).

Marcus Walden, RHP

Another journeyman member of the Sox staff, Walden pleasantly surprised in 2019, albeit mostly in low-leverage situations. It was his first year as a full-time reliever, and he did a solid job keeping guys off the bases with a 1.19 WHIP. Walden is a guy who can pitch multiple innings at a time, so look for him to get action on days when the Sox go with an “opener”.

Ryan Brasier, RHP

Brasier came out of nowhere in 2018 and became an integral part of the Sox bullpen during their World Series run. In 2019, Brasier was simply horrendous, losing his spot as a high-leverage reliever after putting up a 4.85 ERA along with a 4.42 FIP. Look for a bounceback season for the former Japanese League reliever.

Josh Taylor, LHP

Taylor had a very impressive 2019 rookie season, putting up good all-around numbers including a 3.04 ERA to go along with a 3.88 K/Walk ratio. If the big lefty can improve on his 2019 season, he could very well position himself to become a key cog of the 2020 bullpen.

Brian Johnson, LHP

Johnson was frankly putrid last year, and the only reason I have him on the opening day roster is that the Red Sox have no one else with MLB experience. If a guy like Chris Mazza or Jeffrey Springs shows that they’re ready to be a legit big-league pitcher, Johnson could easily find himself unemployed.

*All stats via Baseball Reference

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