Good news, Boston fans! This year we actually have an ace that can take the ball every fifth day and consistently eat up innings. So, barring any setbacks, we won't have to see Clay Buchholz toe the rubber on Opening Day in Cleveland. But what can we expect from this Sox rotation in 2016?
Well, let's start with the big dog.
1. David Price
Here's the guy we've all been waiting for! David Price! An ace! What more can be said about this guy? Even if he's having an off-day, you know that he is going to be able to eat up enough innings to allow the offense to claw their way back into the game. Luckily, the offense looked really impressive towards the end of last season, hopefully we can see Hanley turn into the guy we thought we were getting when we signed him back in November of 2014.
Back to Price. His fastball can reach mid to upper-90s, he's got a devastating breaking ball and has dabbled at his changeup and cutter which could make him even more unhittable.
Last year between Detroit and Toronto, Price went 18-5 with a 2.45 ERA in his age 30 season. He also finished second in the AL Cy Young Award race. Not bad for a guy playing in his contract season. and he was rewarded for his efforts, getting a 7 yr/$217 million contract with the Sox.
How will Price do in his first season with Boston?
I see him going 18-8 with a 2.69 ERA with another 200+ strikeout season, helping the Sox get back to the postseason for the first time since 2013.
2. Clay Buchholz
Clay's 2015 wasn't too bad, he just wasn't ace material. He did show signs of the guy who won 17 games back in 2010 and the guy who dealt a below-2 ERA in 2013. But Buchholz definitely proved that he isn't capable of logging enough innings to be considered an ace. He finished the year 7-7 with a 3.26 ERA in an injury-plagued season where he made only 17 starts and didn't pitch after the All-Star Break.
With Price ahead of him, I see Buchholz's production increasing. I see him approaching the 200 IP mark that he and Farrell see him at, but I don't see him reaching 190. Hopefully being behind one of the best pitchers in the game will give Clay a source of comfort that he won't have to face the Masahiro Tanaka's, the Chris Archer's, the Felix Hernandez' of the AL.
I see Buchholz finishing right around the 15 win-mark, going 15-9 with a 3.10 ERA with roughly 200 Ks in about 190 IP.
3. Eduardo Rodriguez
E-Rod was certainly a bright spot in a quite dismal rotation in 2015. While he did come down to earth after only giving up one earned run in his first 20 2/3 innings after his call-up from Pawtucket in late-May, Rodriguez finished the season with a 10-6 record and a 3.85 ERA in 21 starts. E-Rod did struggle at times with tipping pitches, which I'm sure he's worked on during the offseason, so look for that to improve in 2016.
I expect him to be the Sox number 3 behind Price and Clay, but in order to do that, he needs to improve his day-game performances. Eduardo went 2-4 with a 7.88 ERA and 7 homers allowed in his 8 day starts. On the other side of the spectrum, Rodriguez was lights out, 8-2 with a 1.67 ERA and only 4 homers allowed in his 13 night starts. He needs to find some balance between night and day games if he's going to be an effective number 3 in a rotation ready to compete with anybody.
I expect Rodriguez to come into his own in 2016, in a full season in the bigs, E-Rod goes 12-7 with a 3.70 ERA.
4. Rick Porcello
Porcello was, to put it nicely, a disappointment in 2015. It made it really head-scratching that we would trade Yoenis Cespedes for this guy. But after a brief DL-stint after his start on July 29 against the White Sox, Porcello returned and really looked sharp as the Sox made a late push for October. Rick went 9-15 with a 4.92 ERA in 28 starts in his first season with the Sox.
I really liked what I saw out of Porcello in the second half. He made some adjustments and got a lot of help from Ryan Hanigan on what to fix and how to fix it, and it showed. I went to the game on September 2 when Porcello went 8 innings and struck out 13, he was lights out, and I would like to think that that could translate to 2016.
I'm not going to come out and say that Porcello is going to be vying for the Cy Young award next year, but I do expect improvements. I see Porcello going 11-9 with a 4.26 ERA, still not worth the big contract he got from Ben Cherington last March.
5. Joe Kelly
If you asked me last July where I thought Joe Kelly would be in 2016, I would've said either in AAA or on another team. But Joe Kelly was very sharp for the majority of August and then through September, winning his last 8 decisions before being shut down in late September due to fatigue.
He finished the season 10-6 with a 4.82 ERA in 25 starts.
All the tools are there for Kelly. He has a high-90s fastball and a devastating curveball, he could grow to be a very valuable pitcher for a contending team in the next few years. The problem with Joe Kelly is that he tends to fall in love with a particular pitch every start, which looked to not be the case when he went on his run late last season.
I see Kelly finishing 2016 with a record of 9-7 with a 4.54 ERA but could provide a valuable piece of the bullpen if the Sox play October baseball.