For the final installment of this look at the Sox farm system, I thought it would be best to close with guys who take the hill. As we have all seen this season, Sox pitchers have struggled. Actually, it is well beyond struggling at this point. Sox pitchers have posted an aggravating 4.60 ERA, so it seems only fitting that we take a look at some of the young talent that could potentially take the mound in the near future.
The first player that I wanted to highlight is the leftie, Henry Owens. Owens has been a product of the Sox system since 2012, and it often seems that his is the first name to be brought up when talking about young Sox pitching. Owens is an interesting case, as he dominated the competition in double-A ball, yet has had his fair share of struggles in triple-A Pawtucket.
This season, a year in which most thought Owens would take a step forward, has been, simply a disappointment. This is the last thing that Sox fans want to hear with regards to young pitching. Through 7 games, Owens has posted an ERA of 3.19 with 42.1 innings pitched. Now you may be thinking to yourself that these numbers don’t seem too bad, and hey he actually improved on his stats from last year. A season in which he pitched 38 innings with 4.03 ERA.
The problem that Owens is having this year is that he has 35 strike outs, to, are you sitting down, 30 walks. Not good. He has struggled to get outs at the plate, and in return it has caused his early departure in many of his starts.
I for one was very hopeful that Owens could take a giant step forward in his career this year, but now the best I see him being is an average, number three or four starter. Which means he’ll fit in perfectly with the sox current rotation. I mean he can’t do worse than Justin Masterson’s 6.37 ERA, right? I hope. At the very earliest, Owens could get a September call up, but if he keeps putting these mediocre numbers we might have to wait till 2016 to see the lanky leftie deal. Actually I don’t know what I’m saying, the Sox apparently love sub-par pitching, so who knows he could be starting tomorrow.
In all seriousness, a pitcher who will most likely see the mound this year is Eduardo Rodriguez. Rodriguez, unlike Owens, has improved his game this season as he entered his first year with triple-A Pawtucket. Last year in double-A Portland, Rodriguez pitched phenomenally posting a .96 ERA through 6 starts. So far in 2015 he has had seven starts posting a 3.05 ERA. Unlike Owens, Rodriguez has a much lower 38 strike outs to 8 walks .
Rodriguez is a fun pitcher to watch, and he has great command of both his fastball and changeup. His fastball has been known to touch 97 mph, which is a characteristic that has been rarely seen with Sox pitching over the past few years.
In any other system Rodriguez has the potential to be a definite four or a solid number three starter. However, in the Sox current rotation, Rodriguez has the ability to grasp a number two spot barring any changes that may occur over the next year with the current pitching staff.
The final pitcher that I wanted to touch upon is the Pawtucket starter, Brian Johnson. Johnson, like the other prospects mentioned, has the potential to be a piece in a major league rotation, but will never be dominant as a starter. So far this year he is 5-2 with a 2.55 ERA through 8 starts. At 24, the time for improving is passing, and a problem that Johnson often comes across is losing velocity as a season progresses.
I could see Johnson becoming a bullpen guy as his career progresses. He could end up coming out to be a middle reliever, or perhaps a lefty specialist. It would be really hard for him to be a consistent starter in the major leagues, as he has no dominant pitch in his arsenal.
Some final names to keep your eyes on are Matt Barnes, Trey Ball, and Michael Kopech. All of whom could see some action in one way or another over the next couple years.
Despite the fact the Sox pitching has looked up over the past week or so, this team is still in desperate need of consistent starts. It is important to know the youth who could see some time on the hill over the course of the next couple seasons. Hopefully, one of these guys could maybe provide a much needed spark to this team in the coming months.
By Jake Cianci