Red Sox Searching for Next Lester or Buchholz
If the Red Sox are going to create the next Great Red Sox Team – a team that can annually be a top contender for a string of years like the club formed under former manager Terry Francona – developing a top-flight starting pitcher is one of the key building blocks.
The Francona-led team developed Jon Lester – who until last season looked like a world-beater, going 76 wins – 34 losses in his MLB career prior to 2012.
We are seeing this off-season how difficult – and expensive – it is for a team to add a number one or two starter.
The power behind the Dodgers’ costly acquisition of Zack Greinke ($158 million) is they already had Clayton Kershaw (home-grown) on board to be their number one.
The Blue Jays acquired a Cy Young winner (R.A. Dickey) but at a heavy price to their organization – delivering more to the Mets than what the Red Sox were probably willing and able to deal, even with Boston having a strong farm system.
Both of these acquisitions provide proof points on how last year’s Gio Gonzalez trade by the Nationals was a masterstroke. Getting a top pitcher at a reasonable cost in prospects.
For the Red Sox to contend in the AL East in 2013, getting Lester and Clay Buchholz to pitch like number one and two starters is a must.
That’s probably one of the key reasons John Farrell was brought back to Boston to manage.
Farrell knows both pitchers – and had good success as a pitching coach with the Red Sox.
Based on the current off-season, GM Ben Cherington and Farrell are betting Lester and Buchholz can deliver – otherwise, we would have seen more aggressive moves on the pitching front.
Looking at a longer horizon, it appears Boston believes they can develop a top starter from among Matt Barnes, Rubby De La Rosa, Allen Webster and Henry Owens.
Says Cherington, “We have some guys we really believe in. I know that from my standpoint, building a team not just for one year but over a longer time horizon, it sure is valuable to have young players with the ability to make an impact to sort of pencil into a spot here and there.”
Getting one or more of these pitchers to step up as a quality major league starter will help us judge both Boston’s ability to develop pitching and Cherington’s eye for evaluating young talent.
Perhaps closest to contributing to the big league club is De La Rosa, who says he has now mastered the change-up under the tutelage of Pedro Martinez, which obviously would be a great pitch for anyone’s arsenal.
Identifying the Keepers
The Red Sox have a top-tier farm system.
Baseball America expert Jim Callis recently ranked Boston as having the fifth best minor league talent in all of baseball.
Developing that talent. Identifying which ones are keepers; which ones are expendable. Dealing non-keepers at the height of their potential value. These will be key measures in determining Cherington’s success as a general manager.
It is important to note: Typically about 60 percent of top pitching prospects don’t succeed in the majors – here’s a good analysis.
Determining who could be a star among Barnes, De La Rosa, Webster and Owens (if any of them) – and which players the team can “sell high” to acquire “better” talent are vital to the team’s long-term success.
How would you rank Boston’s top pitching prospects? And do you see any of them as “sure bet” big leaguers?