Boston Red Sox (very) early starting rotation predictions

It’s that time of the year where we start talking predictions. Let’s start with how the Boston Red Sox starting rotation will fare in 2017.

Nothing gets table talk more interesting, or intense, than predicting how players will do for the upcoming season. In a series of posts, I’ll lay out my predictions on how each player will do for the much anticipated 2017 Boston Red Sox season. Some may be critical (because I love to stir the pot), but most will be optimistic with it being so early. Then again, that’s what makes these types of posts great, right?

For the rotation, I will focus on five pitchers who I believe will make up the rotation for the Spring. Chris Sale, Rick Porcello, David Price, Steven Wright, and Clay Buchholz will be the group I focus on.

Eduardo Rodriguez, Joe Kelly, and Drew Pomeranz will not be featured in this article, since I believe their role will be in the bullpen to begin the season.

Here is my (very) early predictions on the 2017 Boston Red Sox starting rotation:

Oct 2, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Chris Sale (49) pitches against the Minnesota Twins during the first inning at U.S. Cellular Field. Mandatory Credit: Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

Oct 2, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Chris Sale (49) pitches against the Minnesota Twins during the first inning at U.S. Cellular Field. Mandatory Credit: Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

Chris Sale: Well. I don’t really have much to say about Sale. He’s about as straight forward as it gets. The guy is dominant, and I don’t mean that in the terms of how he just throws hard, I mean he literally dominates everyone. A 6’6″ 180 pound freak of nature, he has a wind up that makes me ache just looking at him. His near side arm delivery is deceptive, and makes his off speed even tougher to hit. His fastball is explosive, hitting mid to high ninety’s if he feels like it. He wasn’t cheap to get, but at 27 with some time left on his contract. He will be in Boston a while and will be fun to watch.

My Take: Coming from a notoriously bad offensive team in Chicago, he will head over heels when he sees the numbers the Red Sox offense puts up for him. However, Sale has three starts at Fenway in his career. One was a disaster (he gave up seven earned runs and 12 hits in five innings in 2015) and two were gems (two one-run, four-hit outings in seven innings — one in 2014 and the other in 2016). But the short fence in left field might be a huge problem for Sale over the course of a season, as it is for everyone in baseball.

Since 2010, hitters produced a flyball against Sale on 35.4 percent of balls put in play — one of the highest rates among pitchers with at least 750 innings during that span. At Guaranteed Rate Field (the home of the White Sox), a reduced number of those that made their way to the left-field fence wouldn’t leave the park, but at Fenway, things could get ugly. The different venue could pose problems for Sale, but it’s nothing to worry over just yet.

However, even a less-effective Sale is still a top pitcher in baseball. Sale is expected to go 15-9 with a 3.44 ERA for Boston next year, finishing right behind Cleveland Indians ace Corey Kluber in wins above replacement according to Fangraphs. I think he will be a little better than that, but will once again fall short in the Cy Young race in 2017.

My Prediction: A Cy Young caliber season,17-8 and 3.15 ERA. 200.0 IP (will probably be higher) because he’ll be overused and around 250 K’s. 

Jul 19, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Rick Porcello (22) delivers against the San Francisco Giants during the first inning at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Jul 19, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Rick Porcello (22) delivers against the San Francisco Giants during the first inning at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Rick Porcello: If you put money on Porcello winning the American League Cy Young this season, then I’m never gambling against you. Porcello posted impressive numbers last season going 22-4 with a 3.15 ERA. Pretty good for Pretty Ricky, a guy who was expected to play number two to David Price all season. The former Tigers prospect is going to have all eyes on him next season when it comes to production, and could be the first person to repeat as AL Cy Young since another Red Sox pitcher won back to back in ’99 and 2000 (Pedro Martinez). But is it likely?

My Take: I don’t think Porcello will repeat as AL Cy Young winner. That I think will be the only thing I get right in this whole article. Porcello will have a good season, but not in the terms of what he had this season. The Red Sox will have plenty of power to help him out, but Porcello and his 2016 campaign was some sort of anomaly that can’t be explained. He doesn’t overpower hitters (he probably tops out at 92-93), but hits his spots very well and threw strikes. He’s dependable. A guy that you can say will go 7IP and maybe get half a dozen strikeouts. A 2013 John Lackey type, only not as big of a clubhouse cancer.

My Prediction: A comfortable 13-10 3.55 ERA and just under 200.0 IP and in the 170-190 K’s range.

Apr 5, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher David Price (24) throws a pitch during the first inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Apr 5, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher David Price (24) throws a pitch during the first inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

David Price: A big move that had Sox fans on high hopes led to them being disappointed by David Price in 2016. Now, Price didn’t have a terrible season (17-9 3.99 ERA), but it was far from the ace material numbers that was expected. After signing a 30 million over 7 years, he was an early favorite to be one of the best pitchers in baseball – and he came up short. In fact, he wasn’t even the best in the rotation for most of the season. On a positive end, Price logged the most innings in baseball (230) for the second time in his career, showing that when he is healthy he can pitch late into games and be a dependable force in the starting rotation. But will he bounce back?

My Take: Pierce Dennis of BoSox Injection said something ridiculous earlier this offseason, and I am all about it. David Price will win the Cy Young in the 2017 season. With the focus going to be on Chris Sale, Price will not have all eyes on him to produce. It is speculated that his poor season was from him “trying too hard” to be the guy the Red Sox needed, which makes almost too much sense. With no pressure Price will flourish like he did in 2015 and 2012 where he finished second and won the Cy Young race, and he’ll take the 2017 Cy Young against expectations. And to add to it, in some of his career worst seasons, he bounced back with Cy Young contending numbers. Prepare yourselves people, it’s the return of David Price.

My Prediction: 20-7 2.73 ERA with 220.0 IP, 240 K’s. Back to being elite. 

Apr 17, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Steven Wright (35) pitches during the first inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Apr 17, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Steven Wright (35) pitches during the first inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Steven Wright: A breakout season for the knuckleballer, Wright became a crowd favorite after having a red hot first half of the season. The first half was so good that it prompted an All-Star Game appearance, having a mid-2.00 ERA for most of the season. A few bad starts in July and August brought him down to earth a little bit, but he showed to be arguably one of the best and most reliable pitchers in the starting rotation that was wearing a Red Sox uniform. At the age of 32, he’s not expected to put up the numbers of his younger counterparts, but he has the capability of being one of the better bottom half of the rotation pitchers in baseball.

My Take: The fall off from Wrights breakout season will not show much in the stat line. He showed his vulnerability in the second half, which luckily did not hurt the playoff chances but instead made him an uneasy option in the playoffs. He’ll hover around that .500 mark in his W/L percentage, and the ERA will be average but at the same time he will have those games where he makes teams look embarrassing against the knuckleball. It’s a stretch to say he will put up his blazing All Star worthy first half, but him doing that would add to his storybook tale on his journey to the Major League and also prove why I shouldn’t be paid to do this. If there’s anyone who is unpredictable in this rotation, Steven Wright might be it.

My Prediction: 12-11 4.00 ERA, maybe around 150.0 innings if he is lucky, and about 110 strikeouts.

Jul 23, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Clay Buchholz (11) pitches during the sixth inning against the Minnesota Twins at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Jul 23, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Clay Buchholz (11) pitches during the sixth inning against the Minnesota Twins at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Clay Buchholz: Nobody has had a rougher career in Boston than Clay Buchholz. The guy came up as a prospect with high expectations, was a Cy Young contender in 2010, and is now struggling to tread water in the Red Sox starting rotation. His season was anything but clean, going 8-10 with a mean 4.78 ERA. After being bumped to the bullpen, he found his way mechanically and started to look like a pitcher John Farrell could trust both in relief and to start.  I personally wouldn’t trust Buchholz as far as I could throw him, but he deserves just one more shot as a member of the rotation. Despite Eduardo Rodriguez, Joe Kelly, and Drew Pomeranz being other candidates for the role that may seem more attractive and approachable, I believe that Buchholz is so close to figuring it out and being back to how he was once before.

Plus, In his final season of his contact, he has more of an incentive to drive up his value before he either gets traded away or hits free agency because there is no chance the Red Sox sign him again. This season will be a better one for Clay. I swear.

My Take: Alright, I might of lied depending on how you look at it, but Clay will most likely produce mediocre numbers again. His win.loss will be similar, probably one of two games over or under .500 and his ERA will be in the mid 4.00 range. All of that is easy to assume just based off the fact that he is a mediocre at best pitcher. However, I do see him getting ample opportunity to be “the guy” for Boston, because if the Red Sox are tying to move him as badly as it has been rumored then they are going to keep giving him the chances to look as good as possible. His innings will jump to more than what he had in 2015 (139.1), but I have that feeling if he does end up looking like 2013 Clay Buchholz again then he will end up in a different uniform by July.  We hope.

My Prediction: 9-10 4.60 ERA, 100.0-120.0 mark if lucky, with about 100 K’s. 

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