With a pitching staff overflowing with the likes of Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, Justin Masterson, Brad Penny, John Smoltz and Tim Wakefield (as well as the injured Daisuke Matsuzaka), the Boston Red Sox club has a plethora of options for the starting rotation. And there is more on the way. Let’s update the “disgusting” (ie. enviable) starting pitcher depth in the minor league system:
Clay Buchholz: Doomed by a poor 2008 season, this 24-year-old hurler has turned things around in 2009 but the organization lacks a spot for him at the Major League level. Buchholz has a 2.11 ERA (3.26 FIP) in 93.2 innings. The right-hander has allowed just 59 hits, while posting a walk rate of 2.79 BB/9 and a strikeout rate of 8.26 K/9. Right-handed hitters are managing a batting average of just .130 against Buchholz.
Michael Bowden: Like Buchholz, this 22-year-old right-hander would probably be pitching in the Majors for just about any other big league organization. In 16 triple-A starts, Bowden has an ERA of 3.32 (4.49 FIP) and he’s allowed 70 hits in 81.1 innings, while posting rates of 3.43 BB/9 and 5.98 K/9. He’s not flashy, but he has the potential to be a solid No. 3 starter.
Felix Doubront: This 21-year-old southpaw from Venezuela is not talked about as much as some of the other pitchers in the system, but you cannot ignore his potential. Doubront has a 3.71 ERA (3.93 FIP) in 15 double-A starts. He’s been a little too hittable with 64 hits allowed in 63 innings and he has a walk rate of 4.14 BB/9, but his strikeout rates have increased as he’s climbed the organizational ladder. With a little more command and control, Doubront could vault into the upper echelon of Boston pitching prospects.
Junichi Tazawa: Tazawa received a fair bit of press this past off-season as a highly-regarded Japanese amateur free agent. Boston payed a pretty penny for the right-hander, but he’s more than justified the contract with an excellent season in double-A. Tazawa has allowed 72 hits in 87 innings of work while posting a walk rate of 2.59 BB/9. He also has a strikeout rate of 8.17 K/9, while adjusting to life in North America. Tazawa has been particularly tough with runners in scoring position (.163 average, compared to .246 with the bases empty).
Casey Kelly: Things were not supposed to go quite this easily for Kelly. The 19-year-old doesn’t even want to be a pitcher; the former two-way prep prospect would much rather play everyday at shortstop. The organization agreed to let Kelly play shortstop in 2009 if he first pitched about 100 innings on the season. With 95 innings pitched, he’s about to leave the mound behind for 2009, but Kelly has excited just about everyone with his potential as a pitcher. He blew threw low-A with a 1.12 ERA (2.14 FIP) in nine starts. In eight high-A starts, Kelly has allowed 33 hits in 46.2 innings of work. He’s also posted a walk rate of 1.35 BB/9 and a strikeout rate of 6.75 K/9. Kelly has a healthy groundball rate at 53%. If you’re the Boston management, you have to cross your fingers and pray that Kelly sucks big time with the stick so he’ll turn his attention back to pitching.