Matt Barnes Likely Next Man Up If Starter Goes Down

matt  barnes

This winter the Red Sox made some moves to their pitching staff that signaled they were moving onto the next wave of pitching prospects. Besides not being able to retain Jon Lester, gone are Rubby De La Rosa, Allen Webster, and Anthony Ranaudo. De La Rosa and Webster were sent to Arizona in the Wade Milley trade, while Ranaudo was sent to Texas for Robbie Ross.

Henry Owens, Brian Johnson, and Eduardo Rodriguez are the next wave of pitching Matt Barnesprospects the Red Sox have, and are all left handed, highly valued in today’s game. We are not going to argue about who has the most potential as the Red Sox hope all three lefties pan out. The one holdover from the Pawtucket Red Sox rotation from last season is Matt Barnes.

Barnes, 6’4 210 pounds out of the University of Connecticut throws hard and has been a starter since the Red Sox drafted him in the first round of the 2011 MLB Draft. There has been talk of Barnes converting to a reliever this season and even cracking the opening day roster out of the ‘pen. However with Alexei Ogando and Robbie Ross Jr. likely ahead of Barnes of the depth chart, he may start the season in AAA Pawtucket and be ready for the call if a starter should go down.

Not many teams have all five starters make 30 starts in a season. The Rangers are already experiencing problems with Yu Darvish likely missing the year because of the Tommy John Surgery. The Blue Jays will be without Marcus Stroman for the season after he torn his MCL during fielding drills. And just yesterday the against the Red Sox, Yankees starter Chris Capuano strained his quad running to cover first base. Rotation depth is something you need in baseball to make it to October.

Barnes made his major league debut last season after the minor league season ended. He appeared in 5 games for the Sox tossing 9 innings, while giving up 4 runs. So far this spring Barnes has appeared in 2 games, striking out 6 in 4 innings of work with only 2 hits allowed. The Sox could have used Barnes as a trade chip like they used Webster, De La Rosa, and Ranaudo, but they kept him– signaling he is still a part of the future.

A lot can happen in the three weeks left of spring training, but don’t be surprised if Matt Barnes does not make the team out of spring training. The value he has as a depth starter is huge and flip flopping him from starter to reliever might have an impact on him, like it did on Brandon Workman last season.

Questions Surrounding Allen Webster Entering 2015

allen websterAlthough it is a different year, it is the same story for Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Allen Webster. His stuff is impressive, his velocity is impressive, he succeeds at the AAA level; then comes his time in the big leagues where his biggest flaw is put on display — command.

Despite spotty success at the big league level, for the most part he has not pitched well. On Friday September 12, he pitched a sharp outing— going six strong innings allowing two runs on four hits while walking a man and punching out a pair. His success came as a result of better-than-normal command. Throwing 83 pitches, 55 of which were strikes, a little more than 66% percent of his pitches were thrown for strikes.
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Improving to 4-3 on the year, Webster’s record is virtually a useless stat. His ERA stands at 6.02 on the year through nine starts thanks to a barely 60% strike rate on the mound. Walking 26 men while fanning just 28 in 46.1 innings is not exactly great command, especially when he has plunked six batters.

Last year, a year in which Webster really struggled in the big leagues, was not much different. Posting an ERA of 8.60 in seven starts and an outing in relief, Webster once again struggled with command barely tossing 60% for strikes. His walks-to-strikeouts was not impressive last year either, walking 18 men while punching out 23 in 30.1 innings of work.
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It was thought early this year, that Allen Webster may get a shot in the 2015 Red Sox rotation however, now this does not appear to be the case. This year, Webster has only reaffirmed what impression he left on manager John Farrell last year — he has great stuff but cannot throw strikes. Showing flashes of dominance is not enough to earn a spot in the rotation next year. Webster must be able to consistently string together successful outings before he gets a full-time gig in the Red Sox rotation.
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It seems certain he will land a job with the Boston Red Sox eventually, but he will not be handed one heading into 2015.

At this point, Rubby De La Rosa is the only youngster who has done enough to prove himself as a Major League starter, combining great stuff with sufficient command to be successful at the big league level.

Has Allen Webster Turned A Corner?

Allen WebsterAllen Webster has ‘the stuff’ and minor league success that suggests he could be a prosperous big league starting pitcher. The Red Sox certainly concur with that statement, and have given him multiple opportunities the past two seasons to try to fulfill the prophecy set for him. However, his control, or lack thereof, has held him back from thriving, and among starters who have logged at least twenty innings, Webster has the highest BB/9 ratio at 6.97.

No one, I mean no one, can be mildly successful with such an abysmal walk rate. I don’t care if you have a strikeout rate like Jose Fernandez or a sharp sinker designed to induce ground ball double plays; simply put, it’s just impossible.

The right-hander surrendered eleven — yeah, eleven — free passes his first two starts this season. His last two outings have been much better, as he only allowed five base on balls in that period, and earned two victories to his name in the process. Each of those starts he failed to eclipse 85 pitches, but still went six plus innings both games.

Sure, one — his most recent, actually —  of the two aforementioned starts was against the not-so-formidable Houston Astros’ offense, however, the start beforehand was facing, according to wRC+ at least, the best offense in baseball in the Los Angeles Angels. Ironically, to this date it is the best outing of his young career.

Has a corner been turned? Truthfully it’s too soon to say for certain, yet going to his slider, which has held hitters to a meager .118 OPS this season according to Pitch F/X, much more frequently the past two starts may be the answer to — other than control of course — his new-found MLB success. Take a look at his slider percentage correlated to his performance per game in ’14.

7/27 vs. Tampa Bay Rays- Allowed 2 earned runs in 5 and 1/3 innings while throwing the slider 7.0% of the time.

8/2 vs. New York Yankees- Allowed 4 earned runs in 2 and 2/3 innings while throwing the slider 5.6% of the time.

8/8 vs. Los Angeles Angels- Allowed 2 earned runs in 6 and 2/3 innings while throwing the slider 25.0% of the time.

8/14 vs. Houston Astros- Allowed 4 earned runs in 6 innings while throwing the slider 24.7% of the time.

Obviously this is a small sample size, and a firm perspective on him can’t be judged at this early juncture. However, signs of hope for Webster can be evidently seen.

It’s Time for Jake Peavy to Be Traded

Jake PeavyThe Boston Red Sox are 8-3 over their last 11 contests and two of those losses have come at the expense of starting Jake Peavy. Now, Peavy has pitched in some great games this season, but he also has given the lead up multiple times after the Boston Red Sox have battled back to tie the contest. The veteran now is 1-9 on the season in 20 starts and a change of venue might be what the pitcher needs to get back on the winning track.

In his most recent outing on Tuesday, Peavy threw away a definite infield hit to allow the Toronto Blue Jays to score first in the third inning. Then the wheels fell off in the sixth inning when the frame started off with a Jose Reyes home run, which was followed by a double and a two-run homer to put the Blue Jays up 4-0.

The 33-year-old has had trouble keeping the ball in the park, with the most home runs allowed in the AL this season, while leading the Red Sox in runs allowed at 67. He also leads the staff in walks (46) and in losses. Sure, he has received the lowest run support in all of MLB, but he really hasn’t given the team much to work with in his other starts as he now owns a 4.72 ERA on the season.

The Red Sox are trying to work on a deal to send Peavy to the St. Louis Cardinals, but the Cardinals just want to pick up the salary for the rest of the season while the Red Sox want at least one prospect or player to be added into the deal.

If the team really wants to move on from Peavy, who is a great presence in the clubhouse even with the losing record, then they need to look at all their options, and the pitchers in the minor leagues are ready to start at the major league level.

Pitchers like Allen Webster, Matt Barnes, Anthony Ranaudo and Steven Wright have shown they can get the job done. They have the right to at least spot start in the rotation and showcase what they can do for this squad in the future. You can’t forget about Brandon Workman either!

If the Red Sox are buyers or sellers at the trade deadline, Peavy should be on the trading block either way with the way he has been pitching this season. Leaving a game with the lead only once in 20 starts is average at best and the Red Sox should move on while he has some value.

Why Rubby De La Rosa Gets the Nod in Starting Rotation

Rubby De La Rosa (AP)With Clay Buchholz missing some time due to a hyper-extended knee, Rubby De La Rosa will get the start on Saturday against the Tampa Bay Rays. Depending on how that goes, the 25-year-old could see multiple starts with the Boston Red Sox while Buchholz is on the mend.

De La Rosa may be 2-3 on the season, but the 3.04 ERA through 10 starts has really been phenomenal. Plus, 52 strikeouts in 53.1 innings isn’t too shabby either. The youngster has not started in the majors since August 31, 2011 with the Los Angeles Dodgers after dealing with Tommy John surgery in 2012 and working his way back in 2013. He did come up as a reliever, but Saturday will be his first start with the Red Sox.

Allen Webster and Anthony Ranaudo were both options, but Webster got tagged for six earned runs on Sunday and has not been great in the early going of his starts at the major league level. Ranaudo has no major league experience and is still getting used to the Triple-A atmosphere.

Webster will likely be next in line with a solid 3.17 ERA in 59.2 innings of work. The 43 strikeouts compared to 25 walks is of some concern, but the groundball rate has been solid, but the 1.91 GO/AO for De La Rosa is even better.

Everyone wants Henry Owens to be the guy called up as soon as possible, but he needs at least 10 or more starts at Triple-A before he even gets looked at. So, the Red Sox need to promote him from Double-A Portland to Pawtucket in order for him to be considered by management.

De La Rosa is the guy for the time being.

Fill-In Options for Felix Doubront in the Starting Rotation

Allen WebsterFelix Doubront landed on the 15-day disabled list on Wednesday afternoon and will likely need a replacement for at least the next couple of weeks after being diagnosed with left shoulder fatigue.

The Boston Red Sox may go with Chris Capuano for a spot start or two, but there are other options down in the minors who might be a better look until Doubront can get back on the field.

1. Allen Webster: The sinker-baller had some trouble finding his command last season in the majors and still has a 39-22 K-B ratio in 54.2 innings of work with the Pawtucket Red Sox in 2014, but his overall numbers are impressive. He is 2-2 with a 2.47 ERA through 10 starts and has allowed only two home runs. If he can continue keeping his sinking fastball low in the zone, then he will be a great commodity at Fenway Park.

2. Brandon Workman: Workman should really be a top option to be brought up, but his eight homers allowed and 5.12 ERA to go along with 40 hits allowed in seven starts should not make him an option at the moment. The 25-year-old is 3-1 thanks to run support, but he has not looked like he has been able to keep the ball in the ballpark so far in 2014.

3. Rubby De La Rosa: Another key player in the deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers, De La Rosa has looked solid with a respectable 3.42 ERA in 47.1 innings. The 2-3 record is thanks to mediocre run support since the starter has yet to allow a home run through nine starts.

4. Anthony Ranaudo: The final player in the farm system the Red Sox should take a look at is Ranaudo who has thrown 52.1 innings, which is second to Webster so far with the Paw Sox. The 24-year-old may need more time in Triple-A, but he has proven that he can get the job done with a 4-3 record with a 3.27 ERA. The 28 walks may be a little high, but the 49 strikeouts shows that he has the stuff to get batters to swing and miss.