Clay Buchholz’s injury and underperformance as well as Felix Doubront’s stint on the disabled list have left the Red Sox with rotation spots to fill. One of the candidates is Triple-A Pawtucket’s Allen Webster, the hard-throwing righthander acquired from the Dodgers in the August 2012 trade that essentially hit the reset button for the Red Sox.
In his time in the minors, Webster has shown mid- to high-90s velocity and the ability to get swings and misses with his slider and, particularly, his changeup. Those factors, combined with his previous major league experience, make him a solid bet for promotion.
That previous major league experience, however, went poorly. Unable to command his two-seam fastball, Webster relied on a four-seamer that caught too much of the zone.
He had an 8.60 ERA in eight appearances (seven starts) in 2013 and perhaps more troubling, walked 18 (against 23 strikeouts) in just 30 innings. His command has never been pinpoint, but for purposes of comparison, he walked 43 in 105 innings at Pawtucket in 2013.
Most frustrating for the Red Sox is that Webster has outrageously good, top-of-the-rotation stuff that belies his inconsistent performance. He features a 93-98 mph fastball with sink that induces poor contact and a swing-and-miss change.
But his inability to harness his fastball make it uncertain whether he’ll reach the ceiling forecast for him.
In his last eight minor league starts spanning 48 innings, he’s averaging 2.6 walks per nine innings (along with 7.4 strikeouts).
What To Expect
It does not appear that the injuries to Buchholz or Doubront are long-term issues, so Webster, if he does arrive in Boston, might not stay long. He was passed up for a major league start this weekend in favor of Rubby De La Rosa, who was dominant.
Webster, of late, has been going more aggressively toward the pitch-to-contact route in an effort to improve efficiency. He has gotten better control of his two-seamer, which has led to fewer walks and hit by pitches, but also means fewer strikeouts, which could make him less attractive to fantasy players.
He has not been getting as many situational swings-and-misses, which prompts concerns his secondary offerings have not been as sharp. As his brief major league career has shown, Webster requires a period of adjustment once he reaches a new level. If he can combine the strikeouts with a higher groundball rate, he could be effective.
So while Webster has incredible arm strength, his struggle to control baserunners, especially when pitching at Fenway, make him someone fantasy players might want to stash rather than start, at least for now.