With their offseason trade for Chris Sale, the Boston Red Sox solidified the top of their starting rotation. Headed into 2017, the Red Sox have Sale, Rick Porcello, and David Price at leading their staff. No other staff in MLB has a better front three. However, as good as that trio is, the four and five spots in the rotation are lingering question marks heading into Spring Training.
Red Sox 2017 Rotation Preview
MLB.com projects that the 2016 Cy Young winner, Porcello, will be the number one, with Sale and Price slotting in behind him. Steven Wright is projected in the four spot, and Drew Pomeranz rounds out the rotation. FanGraphs’ projected rotation differs slightly, with Eduardo Rodriguez set as the fourth starter.
FanGraphs ZiPS projections have the Red Sox with the best starting rotation in recent years. The computer-based performance projections show it as a 20-win rotation. That means that when you add up the projected WAR of the five potential starters it equals 20. The top rotations in baseball the last three seasons had totals of 18, 19, and 18. Sale is projected at a six WAR, Price at five, Porcello at four, Pomeranz at three, and Rodriguez at two. If Wright wins one of the two final spots, he is projected to be a two-win pitcher. Having six pitchers for five spots isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It gives the Red Sox depth and security in case of an in season injury.
Tough Decisions Loom
Complicating the decision for the Red Sox are lingering injury issues for Wright and Pomeranz. According to reports, Wright is still dealing with the bursitis that he suffered in a base running injury last season. Pomeranz, according to the Boston Herald, got a stem cell injection in his left elbow in October. Neither Wright or Pomeranz, according to manager John Farrell, will throw off a mound at the start of camp.
Further muddying the potential outcomes of the Red Sox decision is a knee injury for Rodriguez. E-Rod dealt with leg issues last season and hurt it again this offseason. These injuries will give minor league starters Brian Johnson and Henry Owens opportunities to impress. If any of the three injuries are worse than diagnosed, either Owens or Johnson, or both, could start the season in the rotation.
Wright and Pomeranz were All-Stars last season, and Rodriguez is considered a very talented young pitcher. According to Rotochamp.com, Wright is projected at an ERA of 3.97 for 2017, with Pomeranz projected at 3.75 and Rodriguez at 4.10. Choosing between the three of them is really splitting hairs. It should be an easy decision for manager John Farrell if all three can get innings in the spring. Whichever two pitch the best will get the spots. The decision doesn’t have to be set in stone either. Farrell can periodically switch around the bottom two spots based on performance and matchups if he so chooses. Regardless of what Boston decides, its rotation will be one to watch in the upcoming season.