Boston Red Sox’s Young Pitchers: Projecting Players’ Roles For 2015

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Rubby De La RosaThe Boston Red Sox?s starting rotation conundrum is multilayered.

While the Red Sox need to acquire pitching help this offseason, the organization still has a surplus of young hurlers who could make an impact at the major league level, creating an interesting situation as general manager Ben Cherington prepares to wheel and deal.

The Red Sox?s hope upon trading Jon Lester, John Lackey, Jake Peavy and Felix Doubront before this year?s Major League Baseball non-waiver trade deadline was that at least one of the club?s young starters would make enough of an impact to carve out a spot in the 2015 rotation. Each starter who took the ball had at least some success, but none made a huge statement. Boston essentially is looking at Clay Buchholz, Joe Kelly and three question marks as far as the rotation is concerned.

Red Sox manager John Farrell made it clear immediately following the season that some of the club?s young starters could land in the bullpen in 2015. Farrell didn?t tip his hand as to whose role could change, but it?s clear certain pitchers might be better-suited for the ?pen, particularly if the Red Sox would like to use them at the major league level next season.

Henry Owens, Eduardo Rodriguez and Brian Johnson are part of the next wave of starters who could debut for Boston in 2015. Let?s assume they continue to be groomed as starters — the obvious scenario — and focus on those who auditioned with the Red Sox in 2014. The group includes Brandon Workman, Rubby De La Rosa, Allen Webster, Anthony Ranaudo and Matt Barnes.

Let?s peel back some layers and predict who will land where when the Red Sox break camp next season.

Brandon Workman, RHP
2014: 19 appearances, 15 starts, 87 innings, 1-10, 5.17 ERA
Age: 26
Drafted: Second round in 2010

Workman once looked like a sure thing for the 2015 rotation. The right-hander went 1-0 with a 3.21 ERA in 28 innings over his first five starts in 2014. He tossed at least five innings and allowed three earned runs or fewer in each of his first eight major league starts, marking the second-longest such streak in Red Sox history behind Boo Ferriss (nine starts in 1945).

Workman soon stumbled into a sophomore slump, though, and finished the season winless over his final 11 starts. Although he has exceptional poise and the frame to handle a starting role, Workman?s diminished velocity in the second half was cause for concern. It might have been a product of Workman?s increased workload over the last two seasons, but his stuff certainly plays up in the bullpen.

Projected 2015 destination: Major league bullpen

Rubby De La Rosa, RHP
2014: 19 appearances, 18 starts, 101 2/3 innings, 4-8, 4.43 ERA
Age: 25
Acquired: Via trade from the Los Angeles Dodgers in August 2012

De La Rosa was the most impressive of the bunch in 2014. He flashed electric stuff, particularly in the early going, and showed an ability to navigate through trouble. His home-road splits started to even out over time, though he definitely was a better pitcher at home versus away from Fenway Park.

The Red Sox wanted De La Rosa to trust his fastball more. When he did, the results were good, as he became less predictable. De La Rosa has two very good pitches, but his curveball and/or slider will need to develop more for him to take the next step as a starter.

De La Rosa pitched out of the bullpen with the Dodgers. It?s easy to envision De La Rosa ultimately assuming a relief role in Boston, where he could be groomed as a hard-throwing, late-inning hurler with closer potential.

It’s worth noting De La Rosa is out of minor league options, so he’ll definitely start the season with Boston in some capacity.

Projected 2015 destination: Major league bullpen

Allen Webster, RHP
2014: 11 appearances, 11 starts, 59 innings, 5-3, 5.03 ERA
Age: 24
Acquired: Via trade from the Los Angeles Dodgers in August 2012

Webster?s repertoire is as impressive as anyone?s in the organization. With him, it boils down to command, command and, oh yeah, command. Fortunately for Boston, the right-hander learned to trust his stuff more as the season went on, resulting in improved control. Webster only issued one walk in each of his final three starts, ending the year on a very positive note.

Webster hasn?t shown much swing-and-miss ability at the big league level. He has struck out 5.9 batters per nine innings in 19 major league appearances (18 starts), which is down from his 7.4 strikeouts per nine innings with Triple-A Pawtucket in 2014 and his 9.9 strikeouts per nine innings with the PawSox in 2013.

As Webster gains confidence, the results should only improve. He?ll remain a starter, and he should have an inside track on the No. 5 spot in Boston?s rotation to begin the season.

Projected 2015 destination: Major league rotation

Anthony Ranaudo, RHP
2014: Seven starts, 39 1/3 innings, 4-3, 4.81 ERA
Age: 25
Drafted: First round in 2010

Ranaudo has the lowest ceiling of the group, which isn?t a knock on the 6-foot-7 righty. He also has one of the highest floors.

Some evaluators suggest Ranaudo could wind up in the bullpen, mainly because his arsenal isn?t overly impressive beyond his fastball/curveball mix. If he?s able to remain consistent in pounding the bottom of the strike zone, though, he should stick as a starter, as he certainly has the frame and mound presence to play the part.

Expect Ranaudo to head to Triple-A for more seasoning. Also expect him to receive a phone call if something goes awry in Boston?s rotation.

Projected 2015 destination: Triple-A rotation

Matt Barnes, RHP
2014: Five appearances, nine innings, 0-0, 4.00 ERA
Age: 24
Drafted: First round in 2011

Barnes fell behind the pack this season because of an injury-shortened spring. He then got off to a rough start, which was even more discouraging given his underwhelming 2013 season. In essence, Barnes was trending toward becoming Boston?s forgotten pitching prospect.

Barnes rebounded nicely, though, and was impressive in five relief appearances down the stretch. While the results were mixed, Barnes pounded the strike zone with regularity, showcasing a fastball that sat around 94-96 mph in addition to two solid offspeed offerings.

Barnes still projects as a starter. He?ll likely begin the season in that role at Triple-A, though a shift to the bullpen isn?t out of the question if he struggles.

Projected 2015 destination: Triple-A rotation

Photo via John Rieger/USA TODAY Sports Images

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