The Red Sox pitching staff isn’t bad. I mean, it is bad, but also that seems like way too nice of a descriptor. It feels like you’d only call the Red Sox pitching staff bad if you were in their presence and you were trying not to hurt any feelings. The truth of the matter is that the Red Sox pitching staff is [insert your favorite harsh synonym for terrible from the thesaurus]. They are historically ineffective and everyone involved with pitching and putting this staff together should be very thankful that this game is only 60 games (though not thankful for the cause of the shortened season, for obvious reasons). That small sample is probably going to keep them from being a consensus as the worst pitching staff ever, or at least in the conversation.
And yet, we chug along because baseball will, presumably, continue after this season is over and the Red Sox, presumably, will participate in that continuation. Their pitching staff will have some reinforcements next year, including the hopeful return of Eduardo Rodriguez and eventually Chris Sale and a theoretically healthy Nathan Eovaldi. It’s also fair to assume they will bring in at least a handful of new faces via free agency and/or trades. That said, there are still some pitchers on this current roster who will be on next year’s, and this season has largely been about figuring out who is worth keeping around. For the most part, the borderline players have failed that test. Not all, but most. There also, however, some pitchers we haven’t seen yet. Today, with 23 games left on the schedule, I want to look at the pitchers on the 60-man player pool who we have not seen yet and try to figure out A) whether or not we will and B) what we can expect if we do.
There is but one pitcher down in Pawtucket who has pitched in the majors before that we have not seen yet, and that is one of the newest additions. Pivetta was, of course, acquired from the Phillies in the deal that sent Brandon Workman and Heath Hembree their way. To start with, we will see him at some point before the end of the season, assuming good health. A classic change-of-scenery candidate, Pivetta always tempted Phillies fans and their organization with big potential, but besides posting great peripherals in his sophomore year he never made good on it. The Red Sox are working to stretch him out right now and make a few tweaks, but I’d assume we’re going to see the righty within the next week or two so he can get at least a few starts before the end of the year. This season has been defined by reclamation projects on the mound, and while I’d put the odds on Pivetta working out as a viable major-league starter below 50 percent he’s still the best chance they’ve had with one of these types of acquisitions this season.
After the trade deadline, Red Sox fans were hoping to see two prospects come up and fill the empty roster spots. One was Jarren Duran, who we probably aren’t going to see in the bigs this summer. The other was Tanner Houck. The former first round pick is much more likely to see some time at Fenway before this hellish season is over. The big righty still has some things to work on, which is why he’s not up yet, but the positives are striking. Houck is a big, imposing figure on the mound and has a fastball/slider combination to match the physique. It is why many see him as at least being capable of providing big innings out of the bullpen. The issue is the Red Sox still want him to start, and he can’t do that right now because he lacks a pitch to get lefties consistently. That’s what they have been working with him on down in Pawtucket all summer. There’s certainly no guarantee that Houck will be up before the end of the year, and there’s something to be said about potentially burning an option in a lost season, but keep in mind that he does have to be added to the 40-man after the season if he is not placed there during it. I still think we’ll see him in some capacity for a couple appearances before the year is out.
Mata is seen by many as the top pitching prospect in the organization, and it’s not hard to see why. He has the arsenal to stick in the rotation, and the stuff to miss many bats while pitching in that role. His biggest issue in his professional career has been his command, which continued to be an issue last season when he walked 41 batters over 104 innings between High-A and Double-A. So, there is still work to be done, but it also must be mentioned that he only just turned 21 this past May. I don’t think there’s much of a chance we’re going to see Mata this summer, and that was the case even before he had to leave his last outing in Pawtucket due to a hamstring cramp. The development happening for guys at the alternate site shouldn’t be discounted entirely, but Mata still only has 10 1⁄3 innings above High-A. The time to really start expecting him to come up is probably in the second half next season.
The prospect who came along with Pivetta in the Phillies trade, Seabold has been talked up by anonymous scouts nonstop since the trade. This is clearly not a bad thing, but it’s also something I’d caution reading too much into as it is a common phenomenon after a trade. That said, there is plenty here to be excited about. The righty and former third round pick doesn’t really have the kind of stuff that will blow you away, but he has three very solid pitches and a good idea of how to use it and command all of his offerings. Like Mata, Seabold has limited experience above High-A, though he is a few years older having turned 24 in January. I’d say he’s more likely to come up than Mata, but the chances are still low enough to be inconsequential. Again like Mata, I’d look for the debut to come later next season.
Let’s get this out of the way. Groome is not coming up this year. Yes, he has to be protected from the Rule 5 Draft this winter, but as I mentioned with Houck calling him up this year would burn a valuable option year. While the reports from Pawtucket have been very encouraging, we’re still talking about a guy who has not really been able to pitch much as a pro and hasn’t even pitched in High-A. I’m very curious to see how aggressive they’ll be with him next season after the experience he gained against more seasoned competition this summer, but for this season it’s still just about development.
Gonsalves was once a top prospect in the Twins organization, but injuries and command issues have since stripped him of this title. His path to the majors this year got a bit more complicated after he was designated for assignment and outrighted off the 40-man roster. We probably won’t see him this year, but it’s certainly not impossible as he can provide bulk innings and as we all know this team is looking through any option that can do that.
Tapia was probably the most surprising addition to the player pool to me, as he has been in the minors forever and hasn’t been particularly effective in recent years. Last season, he pitched to a 5.18 ERA over 66 innings. He could be up this year due to a lack of options, but he’s at best an emergency reliever and if he were to be called up he’d be a clear DFA candidate this winter to make room for the approaching Rule 5 crunch.
Simpson is 28 and hasn’t pitched about Double-A, but that doesn’t mean there’s no potential here. He’s fought injuries in his career which makes him more raw than you would expect for someone approaching 30, but there is a legitimate fastball/slider combination here. He just needs to figure out where things are going. If he’s shown some flashes of command in Pawtucket, I’d like to see him get a shot this summer. At the very least, seeing real major-league stuff would be a nice change of pace.
Blair is my favorite story among all of these pitchers as a former first round pick who pitched his way out of baseball back in 2014 before coming back last season. As with Simpson, there is legitimate stuff here and he struck out over 12 per nine in his comeback season last year. The likelihood of him sticking around long-term is probably very small, but even just for a nice story to root for I’d like to see him get a few appearances by the end of the year.