If it were August 2015, and we traveled from the future to tell you Rick Porcello would be a serious American League Cy Young contender at this time next year, you’d probably laugh.
But it’s one year later, and here we are.
Porcello isn’t the front-runner in the Cy Young race right now, but he’s definitely in the conversation. The right-hander has had a commanding presence on the mound this season to the tune of a 17-3 record and 3.22 ERA, but the road Porcello took to get there certainly wasn’t easy.
The 27-year-old came to Boston before the 2015 season under a ton of pressure. He was traded from the Detroit Tigers for star outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, and the Red Sox inked him to a four-year, $82.5 million contract before he even threw a pitch for Boston. Porcello’s numbers had been trending positively in Detroit, and he turned in a great 2014 season, but with the Red Sox, Porcello sputtered to a 9-15 record, a 4.92 ERA and a .287 opponent batting average.
But Porcello’s success in 2016 proves that it’s tough to judge a pitcher, or any player, by one season on a new team. They’re professionals. They’re supposed to adapt. But there’s also a learning curve like there is with any other job.
Porcello moved to one of the most hitter-friendly ballparks in Major League Baseball in Fenway Park and gave up about a million (or 25) home runs in 28 starts. He pitched in one of the most ruthless media markets in all of sports. It took him a season to get comfortable, but he did it. And he even started the process at the end of the 2015 season, when the Red Sox already were well out of the race.
It’s not a fun process for fans to watch, but it should give them hope that Boston’s current struggling offseason acquisitions can bounce back. Hanley Ramirez did it in 2016 when he moved back to his home in the infield. And David Price and Craig Kimbrel might be able to do it, too.
Price and Kimbrel are in the same boat as Porcello: Price came in on a huge contract, Kimbrel came to Boston in exchange for four good prospects and neither is performing to their full expectations. But, like Porcello, these are two very talented players. So, while it’s not ideal for a team to see its biggest investments struggling, Porcello proves the Red Sox could very well have something to look forward to.
Thumbnail photo via Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports Images