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Travis Lakins needs to get a chance in September

It’s weird to not give him a chance

Travis Lakins
Kelly O’Connor;

The Red Sox are making a couple of call-ups ahead of Tuesday’s game in Atlanta with the minor-league season ending on Monday. They’ll be activating Rafael Devers off the disabled list while also adding veteran and former All-Star Brandon Phillips to the roster for the first time in 2018. Both of these additions make sense, as we discussed the morning. However, according to Sean McAdam, there are no planned call-ups after this duo.

Now, just because they say there are no plans for further call-ups doesn’t mean they definitely won’t call anyone else up to the majors. That being said, well, it means it’s more likely than not that the roster on Tuesday will be the roster for the rest of the month. That seems strange to me, and there are a few guys still off the active roster that I would’ve thought could get the call in September. The team can roster up to 40 players, and while teams rarely roster that many they could come close. Instead, they’ll keep some intriguing players in the minors. That includes Travis Lakins, who seemed like the most exciting potential call-up this September.

Lakins has always been an interesting prospect, but his career never really got off the ground like he and the organization had hoped. Boston selected the righty out of Ohio State University in the sixth round back in 2015 as a starting pitcher. He wasn’t a perfect prospect, but the stuff was highly intriguing and that remained the case through the minors. However, he couldn’t stay consistent or healthy, and that ultimately cost him a rotation role. The Red Sox made the switch with Lakins on a full-time basis about a month into this season, and things took off immediately. As a reliever this year, he pitched to a 1.21 ERA in 37 13 innings with 37 strikeouts and 13 walks. He was absolutely dominant and didn’t miss a beat after being promoted to Pawtucket. Between his intriguing stuff throughout his career, that performance and the fact that he’s already 24 years old, it seemed like the right time to get him a chance in the majors this September.

Boston Red Sox v Tampa Bay Rays Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images

Now, there is one complication with the idea of getting Lakins on the active roster, and that’s the fact that he’s not on the 40-man roster. Phillips also didn’t have a spot on the 40-man, but the Red Sox had one open spot and the veteran took it. So, if Lakins were to come to the majors someone else on the 40-man would have to go through waivers and potentially be lost for nothing. That’s not ideal, but the Red Sox have some options in that respect. Most obvious among them is Tony Renda, who has had a strong year in the minors but has a whole career of data suggesting he’s probably not going to be a major help moving forward. Plus, Phillips takes that other infield role for this year and next year both Marco Hernandez and Esteban Quiroz could be back to fill that role. Losing Renda wouldn’t be the end of the world. It should also be mentioned that the Red Sox may want to keep that move in their back pocket in case Dustin Pedroia really can return before the end of the year, but that still seems incredibly unlikely to me.

There are a couple of major reasons why Lakins should be on the major-league roster. One of them is that this bullpen could use as many bodies as possible. It’s because of this that I’m surprised guys already on the 40-man like Chandler Shepherd and Justin Haley aren’t being called up. The Red Sox are obviously still fighting to clinch the division and potentially home field throughout the playoffs and due to that will want to use their best pitchers as much as possible. That being said, they also want their arms fresh in October and having more options to provide innings — especially with the rotation failing to get deep into games these days — would seem like a no-brainer to me.

Perhaps more importantly is that Lakins would add another layer of competition to the battle for the postseason roster and, by extension, position on the depth chart that call-ups like William Cuevas and probably even Bobby Poyner and Robby Scott don’t. It’s entirely possible that we’re overrating Lakins’ potential to make that kind of run in September, but everything about his pedigree and results in the high-minors suggest that’s not the case. Matt Barnes, Heath Hembree and Tyler Thornburg are all struggling right now, and Joe Kelly has been better but still not terribly trustworthy. I don’t see Lakins jumping all, or even most, of those names, but it wouldn’t be a total shock to see him get into that Hembree tier in a perfect scenario.

Look, there’s not much to complain about with this Red Sox team even with a mortal stretch of late, and they’ve proven they know what they’re doing. Additionally, I think most of the bullpen worries are overblown and more due to fatigue than a lack of talent. That being said, even if fatigue is the only reason for the struggles having someone like Lakins to ease the workload is an easy call. That he at least has the potential to provide competition and possibly — however unlikely — make his way onto the postseason roster? Well, that’s a nice little added bonus. The Red Sox can still make more call-ups, and I’d hope they come to their senses and give Lakins a shot.