MLB Insider’s ‘Bold’ 2023 Prediction Might Make Red Sox Fans Queasy

Could a former Boston pitcher win the AL Cy Young Award?

by

Apr 13, 2023

The Red Sox’s trade that sent Jeffrey Springs and Chris Mazza to the Rays before the 2021 season initially looked like a win for Boston, as neither pitcher contributed much during the pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign and catcher Ronaldo Hern├índez was just two years removed from being a top-100 prospect.

Now, it’s hard to view the deal as anything but a massive victory for Tampa Bay, a notion that was reinforced Thursday when ESPN.com published a column featuring “bold” predictions from MLB experts.

The predictions, based on each team’s first dozen or so games of the 2023 Major League Baseball season, needed to be something each expert truly believed could happen. And MLB insider Jeff Passan swung for the fences by predicting Springs would win the American League Cy Young Award, a projection ESPN.com dubbed “pretty hot” given some of the other elite AL hurlers vying for the hardware.

“Yes, I’m suggesting a 30-year-old who before last season had started two games in his major league career is primed to beat out Gerrit Cole, Jacob deGrom and Shohei Ohtani for the prize of best pitcher in the American League,” Passan wrote. “A 30th-round draft pick on his third organization will be better than Dylan Cease, Kevin Gausman and even his own teammate Shane McClanahan. Why? Well, the one-word answer is: sweeper. Springs bullied his way into Tampa Bay’s rotation last year on the strength of exceptional fastball command and a gyro-spinning changeup that dies three-quarters of the way to the plate. But the emergence of a legitimately excellent breaking pitch — the sweeping slider he developed over the winter — has taken a good pitcher and made him great. In six starts between spring training and the regular season, Springs has thrown 27 shutout innings, struck out 43 and allowed only 16 baserunners. He’s still +2500 to win the Cy Young. Get in before the odds grow even shorter.”

Springs was excellent in his first two seasons with Tampa Bay, first as a reliever and then as a starter. The left-hander went 9-5 with a 2.46 ERA, a 1.071 WHIP and a 146 ERA+ in 135 1/3 innings across 33 appearances (25 starts) in 2022 and entered Thursday’s outing against Boston having thrown 13 scoreless frames to begin 2023.

Obviously, this is a stunning development based on where Springs’ career was just three seasons ago, when he posted a 7.08 ERA in 16 relief appearances (20 1/3 innings) with Boston. And it would’ve been difficult to project what lied ahead for Springs as his repertoire evolved. But it’s definitely a tough pill to swallow for the Red Sox as they continue to navigate some troubling starting pitching woes to open the new season.

Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images
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