Having seen the Greenville Drive on multiple occasions in each of the past four seasons, I’ve grown familiar with much of the Red Sox organization at the minor league level. A current weakness is pitching, and this was addressed over the weekend when the Red Sox added two promising young hurlers I’ve scouted on multiple occasions in Rubby de la Rosa and Allen Webster. And while I haven’t seen Matt Barnes or Henry Owens in person yet, I’ve registered 98 MPH readings on my radar gun for both of the two new guys, which undoubtedly makes them among the hardest throwers in the system.
While pitchers like Jesus Colome show that velocity isn’t everything, fastball speed is still a nice weapon to have, and all else being equal, you’d rather have the guy throwing 98 than the guy throwing 92. However, in the case of Webster and De La Rosa, it’s important to address velocity in terms of increased margin for error, especially in light of their command issues.
In four years of writing first hand reports on prospects, Rubby De La Rosa has the biggest pure stuff I’ve seen in person next to Dylan Bundy. Prior to Tommy John surgery, I was convinced the right-hander was one of the most undervalued assets in baseball and should have ranked among the best pitching prospects in the game.
Missing nearly a full year of development due to major surgery does raise questions about De La Rosa’s ultimate ceiling, but also makes this a buy low play as healthy rookies who average nearly strikeout per inning and ground ball rate of 50% are viewed as assets.
In game action, I’ve seen De La Rosa touch 99 MPH while working quite comfortably in the 94-97 MPH range with wicked down and in movement to right-handed hitters. At peak velocity, his command and movement regresses, but De La Rosa can be dominant in the mid-90′s.
His slider and changeup also flash above average as part of a true power arsenal, while his 2-seem fastball could prove devastating at 92 MPH should De La Rosa learn to command it down in the zone. The potential is there for him to quickly become the best pitchers in the organization — especially if his command improves.
As for Webster, I’ve witnessed him dominate for four innings twice before tiring and falling apart. In person, he presents as one of the leanest players on the field and in need of additional strength — especially through his core. At his best, he’s capable of working full innings at 94-96 MPH with sink and at least average command of the pitch.
Webster’s arsenal also included a slider and curveball with downward movement, leading me to believe he will become a heavy ground ball pitcher. I have yet to see a true “out pitch” out of him, or quality changeup, but Webster is nearly a year younger than De La Rosa and could spend another couple of years in the upper minors and still be considered young at the time of his debut.
With the graduation of Felix Doubront from upper level security blanket to member of the Red Sox rotation, the organization had a pitching void to fill as their two best pitching prospects began the 2012 season in Single-A. And while Matt Barnes has been successful, he’s not exactly being fast tracked either.
Anthony Ranaudo fell apart. Drake Britton and Stolmy Pimentel are picking up the pieces in an attempt to become relevant again. Much like the big league rotation, the “Prospect Sox” expected to be the next wave are in a state of flux as well.
By adding Rubby De La Rosa and Allen Webster, The Red Sox have added a pair of power arms who are likely to beat the prospect field to Boston. Each has questions regarding long term role and whether best fit is in the rotation or bullpen, but both could develop into rotation stalwarts at minimum salaries by as early as next season.