Welcome to Over The Monster’s One Big Question series. For the next 40 (week)days, we will be trying to answer one important question for each player on the Red Sox 40-man roster. The goal is to find one interesting portion of each player’s game to watch for, whether that be in spring training or the early regular season. We’ll be going straight down the list on the team’s roster page, meaning we’ll be going in alphabetical order through each position group, starting with the pitchers. Today, we’re highlighting Robby Scott.
The Question: Can Robby Scott grab hold of the second left-handed reliever job?
Robby Scott is one of the most uninteresting players on the Red Sox 40-man roster, but he is one of the most interesting stories in the majors. The lefty was undrafted out of the
University of Florida Florida State University, so he took his talents to the Independent Leagues. He eventually signed with the Yuma Desert Rats of the North American League, where he played under manager Jose Canseco. A Red Sox scout noticed him shortly into his debut season, and Scott was eventually pulled one inning into his outing because the scout liked what he saw. From there, he methodically made his way through the system as a swingman who spent most of his time in the bullpen. Against the odds, he was able to make his major-league debut in 2016.
Scott impressed in his first taste of the majors, but it was only in six innings over seven appearances. That’s hardly a sample upon which we can make any real conclusions. Still, he came up when the Red Sox were fighting for a postseason spot and needed help from the left side in the bullpen. Fernando Abad wasn’t doing as well as they had hoped, and their minor-league options were lacking. Scott did the job, and even though he wasn’t rewarded with a spot on the postseason roster, he’s put himself in position for a much longer stint in 2017. Now, it’s just a matter of him being ready for whenever his chance will come and being able to run with it. The jury’s still out on whether he’ll be able to do so.
In those six innings, the southpaw didn’t allow an earned run and struck out five batters while walking just two. It wasn’t just his major-league time that was impressive, though. Scott spent the majority of the season with Triple-A Pawtucket, and accrued 78 innings over six starts and 26 relief appearances. In that time, the now-27-year-old struck out over eight batters per nine innings while walking fewer than two. Combined with his 2.54 ERA, it was the best Scott has looked since signing with the organization in 2011. However, it was his second taste of the International League, so we can’t get too carried away with the performance, but it’s at least encouraging.
As we all know, you can’t simply scout the statline. Players — particularly older players, and particularly relievers — can look great in the minors before falling flat in extended major-league looks. Scouting reports are hard to find on Scott, but the always reliable Sox Prospects is on the case. You can read the full report yourself, but the jist is that Scott throws an underwhelming fastball with solid secondaries in his curveball and changeup.
One interesting piece of that report is when they mention his reverse splits, which not what you expect from a potential 2017 LOOGY. Upon further review, it must be an older report, since he hasn’t posted reverse splits in two years. Across both levels last season, lefties were only able to manage a .463 OPS versus a .687 mark for righties. Obviously, the performance from righties was more than fine as well, but he was utterly dominant against lefties. If you go back to 2015, he was still good against lefties, but righties dominated at the plate.
The key for Scott is his secondaries, which isn’t terribly surprising for a guy who throws a mid-to-high-80’s fastball. Depending on the handedness of his opponent, he utilizes different secondaries. When a righty is at the plate, he leans heavily on his changeup. When the pitch is on, it can dart down and away from his opponent and be a real weapon. That’s probably not going to be the important offering, though, given Scott’s likely role in the majors.
Instead, that will be the curveball. Looking at Brooks Baseball, he threw the pitch nearly half the time against lefties in his short major-league sample. On the one hand, it was an effective pitch. The curveball drew whiffs on two-thirds of swings and only one batted ball. On the other hand, we’re talking about a 22-pitch sample, which is mostly meaningless. As such, this will be the pitch to watch in spring training and upon his first call-up of the season. Based on his numbers against lefties all year, including Triple-A, one would assume it was an effective pitch that worked more often than not for him in 2017.
Despite his strong performance last year, Scott will start the year in Triple-A if everyone makes it out of spring training healthy. Robbie Ross is clearly going to make it as the top lefty, and Fernando Abad will get the first shot as the LOOGY. We all saw how that worked out last year, though, and whether it’s by injury or underperformance another lefty will be needed at some point. Scott has an open path to being that guy, and should get an extended major-league opportunity if he pitches well at Triple-A. If that breaking ball is working, we’ve seen that he has what it takes to be an effective LOOGY and there’s no reason he can’t stick around all year. Of course, whenever you’re dealing with a fastball that doesn’t break 90, you’re talking about a razor-thin margin of error. Even if Scott can’t stay on the right side of that line, he’s already come a lot further than anyone ever thought he would.