Welcome to the Red Sox Review series. It’s a fairly standard feature in which we will review the year that was for every player who made a decently large impact on the Red Sox this year. How do we come up with that definition? Completely arbitrarily, of course! The list of players we’re using can be seen here, and if we are missing anyone please let me know in the comments. Anyway, for the players who are included we will wrap up their season in a sentence, look at the positives of their 2018, the negatives, review their One Big Question from the preseason (when applicable!) and look ahead to what’s on the table for 2019. Today, we discuss Bobby Poyner.
When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for someone to recap Bobby Poyner’s 2018 season, I am called back to Over the Monster after a six-week post-World Series sabbatical to wax rhapsodic about ya boy.
The Year in a Sentence
Poyner’s feel-good season started and ended strong, but the middle was one big bus ride between Pawtucket, Boston and back.
In a season where even playoff hero David Price was absolutely walloped by the Yankees on several occasions, Poyner never looked overmatched on the mound against anyone. That’s hard enough for someone of Price’s pedigree, but for Poyner, a 14th round pick, it’s his stock in trade. He’s got just enough talent to make things work, everything else being equal -- so he makes sure everything else is equal.
Poyner rode a strong Spring Training to a spot on the Opening Day roster, and was reliably enough used in the early going that you knew the Sox believed in him not merely as a mop-up guy, but real asset. He pitched high-leverage innings, picking up two holds in four appearances in the first half of April. Then Eduardo Rodriguez and Drew Pomeranz came back from the Disabled List and Poyner, with options aplenty, began to ping-pong between Massachusetts and Rhode Island until the roster expanded in September, with the more tenured (and often lesser performing) relievers getting the call instead.
It wasn’t personal. It was strictly business, and wherever Poyner went he went about that business. He’d put up a 3.22 ERA/4.01 FIP at the big-league level and a 3.19 ERA/3.89 FIP for the PawSox. He struck out two more batters per nine (9.67 to 7.33) and walked one fewer (2.30 to 1.21) in the bigs than in AAA though, unsurprisingly, gave up more twice has many homers (1.6 to 0.8). There was no question he could pitch in the big leagues and if you looked at the numbers instead of the pedigree you could see him in a high-leverage role for any number of big-league teams, provided they properly identified their ruby in the rough. That he pitched in the postseason tells you all you really need to know about where he stands in the organization. They think he’s a weapon.
It’s hard to think of a negative after a year in which Poyner positively contributed to the best Red Sox team of all time, service for which he will receive a World Series ring, giving him one more than Ted Williams, Barry Bonds and Mike Trout combined. But if we must, he, uh, gave up a home run on Opening Day and in a tight April game against the Yankees. His xFIP in AAA was 4.48. He’s from Florida. Of these, only the last is potentially truly negative, but he has the standard baseball player waiver, so that’s out. The negative was external: He was blocked.
The Big Question
Poyner didn’t even merit one coming into the year, so I’ll ask one going forward:
Can Poyner break into the Red Sox pen proper, or is he destined to be a Quad-A player for the rest of his career?
The Year Ahead
Compared to Ryan Brasier, Poyner was young for a rookie, but compared to most anyone else, he was fairly long in the tooth. All of this means he’s still on his rookie contract, and the financial and logistical benefits therein favor the Red Sox. I’d expect to see more of him in the majors this year and expect him to break camp with the team on more solid ground, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s back on the bus a couple times. That said, I think he’ll be used more often in higher-leverage spots this year, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he turns into Boston’s lefty specialist, especially if reverse-splits specialist Joe Kelly doesn’t return. In that case, Poyner might be free of Pawtucket for good. Dare to dream.