We’ve spent a lot of the past couple of months in this strange, baseball-less world looking back on Red Sox history, and we will continue to do just that. We don’t often have the time for that kind of stuff, so that is a rare upside from this. For this week, though, I’m going to look a little bit forward. We’re going to be trying to find the next Red Sox players to win each major award. For the Rookie of the Year, Cy Young and MVP we’ll be running down multiple candidates for that one award. Yesterday, we went position by position to look at the next Gold Glove and Silver Slugger winners for the organization. Today, we’ll focus on the Cy Young winners.
This is obviously a little bit of a tough one given the lack of success the Red Sox have had in developing pitching over the last couple of decades. They have had a recent Cy Young winner with Rick Porcello and then of course Pedro Martinez did his thing at the turn of the century. As I said yesterday, this isn’t me predicting any of these guys will win a Cy. Just that they are the most likely.
5. Jay Groome
I think, despite the reputation for their pitching development alluded to above, the Red Sox are developing some interesting pitchers down on the farm. The most notable of them right now are probably Tanner Houck, Bryan Mata and Thad Ward, all of whom would be as high as Double-A if minor-league baseball was having a normal year. However, those guys all project to be, at best, good rather than great. You need real upside to win a Cy Young, and that’s what Groome is. I’m skeptical of him hitting the ceiling, which is why he’s down here despite having the highest ceiling in the minors and arguably in the entire organization among pitchers, depending on how you feel about a couple of major leaguers I’m going to mention later. But Groome is still young and the Red Sox still believe in the talent.
4. Noah Song
We are starting with the same two players that started our look at potential Rookies of the Year, which is an interesting development. I’m not sure there is too much for me to add here that I didn’t say yesterday about Song. The delay in his development due to military service knocks him down a bit here, but as I said I really believe in Song’s talent. I suspect he’ll come back in shape and he’s probably got a ceiling a tier below a Cy Young contender, but so did Rick Porcello, right?
3. Eduardo Rodriguez
The first actual major leaguer on this list, Rodriguez had the breakout we were all looking for last year. There was still some uneveness at times, particularly in the beginning of the year, but we saw the efficiency combined with his big stuff that made him the clear top pitcher on the roster. It was a performance that was good enough for him to get some Cy Young love after the season and finish sixth in that race. Maybe he should be higher on this list, but I kind of see that as his best season. Don’t take that to mean I don’t think Rodriguez is good or that he is going to get worse, because I think he can stay at a similar level as 2019 for a couple of years. The issue is that he needs a substantial step forward to win a Cy Young, and I don’t know how likely that really is.
2. Chris Sale
Sale’s inclusion and being this high on the list might be a little controversial given how inconsistent he was last year and the fact that we don’t know how he’ll come back from Tommy John surgery. The talent is still there, though. Even with that inconsistency last season, he finished with over 13 strikeouts per nine innings, a 3.42 FIP and a 2.93 DRA. The ERA was inflated and I don’t think it’s fair to say it was all bad luck, but there were still plenty of signs that Chris Sale can still be Chris Sale. If the surgery helps him get his fastball command back on a consistent basis, I think there’s a very real chance Sale can get back to his old self. Unfortunately, even his old self never won the Cy Young, which goes to show just how hard this is.
1. Insert pitcher from out of the organization here
This feels like a cop out, but let’s be honest. Chances are the next Red Sox Cy Young winner is not in the organization. To make it more fair, though, I’ll say I’m not including players who haven’t been drafted yet either. That’s probably most likely for most teams and most awards. But looking around the organization, including the four players mentioned above, I don’t really feel great about any of their chances. I do think the Red Sox are going to make some sort of splash for a pitcher at some point in the next couple of years — think of guys like Noah Syndergaard or Jon Gray or Germán Marquez, with many other possibilities I’m not thinking of right now — and I think that acquisition, whoever it may be, is the most likely to win the award.