For relief, take Rolaids (2003 Minor League RP)

Relief pitching is becoming increasingly important in baseball. More and more relief pitchers are also becoming specialists. They are brought on to get lefties out. They are brought on to get power-hitting righties out. They are brought on to get a slap-hitting left hander to strike out with a man on second. While the amount of specialists is getting out of hand, it still remains that relief pitching is an important part of baseball. How else can leads be held down after the starter exits the game? The Red Sox boast an impressive variety of starting and relieving pitchers that should help us in the years to come. The only problem is that most of the relief pitchers that made the grade are too old for their level of play.
Note: Due to the enormous amount of pitching prospects, the list has been trimmed to a select 3-5 from each level. As always, credit to Baseball America for the statistics. Also, a reminder that I do not profess to have a PhD when it comes to Red Sox prospects. I make mistakes. I know my way around the organization, but mistakes happen. I would appreciate if you let me know of any errors so I may correct them. Also, the criteria to make the list ultimately was due to ERA and games/innings pitched. There are people on this list that have made spot starts, and there will be people on the starting pitching overview that have pitched in relief. Using my keen eye and the statistics as a tool, I have pared the list to those that are mostly relief pitchers. Enjoy. Oh, one other note. If they don’t really have a future with the Red Sox, I’m going to gloss them over. This organization review is not meant to tell you in depth of each and every player and their potential chances. It is simple to raise the awareness of the players in the minor league system that (a) performed well and (b) could help the Red Sox in the future.
Pawtucket boasts of Jamie Brown, Jason Shiell
Portland boasts of Jake Chapman, Eric Glaser, James Johnson, Juan Perez, Andy Shibilo
Sarasota boasts of Terry Byron, Elvis Dejesus, Jason Howell, Josh Reynolds, Shane Rhodes
Augusta boasts of Mike Garber, Thomas MacLane, Milton Tavarez, Justin Sturge
Lowell boasts of Zachary Basch, Tom Cochran, Chris Farley, Kevin Ool
GCL boasts of Curt Borland, Argimiro Guanchez, Elpidio Hilario
The soon-to-be 27 year old Brown pitched impressively for Pawtucket, as did 28-year old Shiell. Brown came over from the Buffalo Bisons (CLE affiliate), primarily a starter. However, with Pawtucket, he was a reliever and finished his AAA season with 113 IP and a 2.95 ERA. He is a very good alternate to the woes that will eventually strike one of the bullpen pitchers this season. It is quite possible he could win a job out of spring training. Shiell, however, has pitched in the majors for the Red Sox and did a solid job, posting a 4.63 ERA for the Red Sox in 23.1 IP, then in 26 IP for Pawtucket, had a 2.42 ERA. Two very good and able relief pitchers in Brown/Shiell, with Brown able to pinch-start in…well, a pinch.
Jake Chapman is getting up there in age. He is in his 30s, but pitched well for Portland, having a 3.45 ERA in 57.1 games. 25-year old Eric Glaser had a 4.10 ERA in 74.2 innings for Portland, with a cup of coffee in Pawtucket. He had 52 strikeouts with twenty-five walks, which is a rather low OBP. He looks to end up like Shiell and Brown. Yet another aging pitcher, James Johnson, had a solid season for Portland. Finally, a young player! Juan Perez, 23, hurled 24 Ks in 30.2 innings of solid work, turning in a 3.82 ERA after baffling players while on the Sarasota Red Sox. Andy Shibilo, who came over a couple of years ago from the Padres, was supposed to turn out to be a solid relief pitcher. He has, however, struggled and the years are ticking. He performed brilliantly for Portland, chucking 20.1 IP with a 1.33 ERA. For Pawtucket, however, he had a 4.76 ERA in 45.1 games. For Shibilo to don a Boston Red Sox uniform and play in Fenway, he needs to prove his worth in AAA.
In 41.1 IP for Sarasota, Terry Byron had a sub-3.00 ERA at 25. DeJesus is a poor-man’s Byron, with a sub-4.00 ERA at a year older. Jason Howell is cut in the mold of Byron, as is Reynolds. 24 year old Rhodes had a 3.39 ERA in 61 IP. He is wild, however, with 29 walks and 10 wild pitches. Ten! As a reliever!
Garber can find the plate just a touch more, could end up having a fine future for the Red Sox; MacLane and Tavarez seem cut from the same mold as Brown and Shiell. They don’t seem to have much promise of advancing. Hanging around Augusta at the ages they are isn’t very promising. A 22-year old Sturge impressed in limited play. He had a 0.56 ERA in 16 IP for August, and a 1.40 ERA in 25.2 innings for Lowell. If he continues pitching this way, we have a hell of a relief pitcher on our hands.
Basch, Cochran, and Farley all posted ERAs of 4-odd while working around 27 innings. Kevin Ool posted a 2.56 ERA in 38.2 IP and striking out 33 with no wild pitches and five walks! Ool is a guy to keep an eye on. Plus, the Fenway crowd will love Ool. “Oooool Ruuuuuuuuules!” They also all hover around the age of 22. Keep an eye on Ool.
Curt Borland posted a miniscule 0.83 ERA in 43.1 IP of work! This is incredible (that is, if his age is appropiate for the level. I could not find ages for Lowell and GCL.) Guanchez was just as good as Borland and Hilario posted a solid ERA of 3.76.
In conclusion, while there is a solid corps of relief pitching in the minors, most are too old for the level of play, so statistics must be taken with a grain of salt. For fans of the minor league teams, these players are great, and will help the team win. For fans of the Red Sox, however, the relief section for the Red Sox don’t exactly show much hope. Doing these little reviews have helped me realize that while Theo and Co. are making smart decisions during the draft, the farm system is not THAT much better. It seems they are doing what Duquette did – trading away the chips he can bargain for for major league help. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I would like to see some future. There IS future in the Red Sox organization; just not tons like they initally said there would be. The most important thing for Theo and Co. to do is not to fall in the trap that Duquette fell in – trying to win, and win now with a budget spiralling out of control. They need to batten the hatches, and go for it in 2004. Other than this season, they MUST not go above the luxury tax payroll again. After we win it in 2004 – yes, WHEN – we need to realize that there are a lot of free agents and we can’t possibly keep them all. Smart decisions are going to have to be made. We are going to have to ask ourselves, “Who is getting old? Will he be around by the time we get back to the World Series? Will he be important to get back to the Series with?” It is with this reasoning we could see Lowe and Millar depart. Nixon could hang around for a couple more years, and Varitek will certainly. Will Garciaparra? Who knows? But it’s up to Theo and Co. to decide if they’re gonna keep trying to ‘spend money to to make money’, or to tell themselves “Okay. We did it in 2004. Now we need to implement the vision we came with. We have to withstand the fan backlash.” Is it possible? Sure. Is it probable? Absolutely not, I have seen nothing to the contrary yet.
There are issues we will be faced with. Those issues must be dealt with. I would much rather concede first place to the Blue Jays and slip to possibly even third just for a couple of years to reload. The Yankees are about to become cellar-dwellers; the Jays are on the rise. The Orioles will become a wild-card team, the Devil Rays will be in the thick of the race for several more years before pulling ahead. I’d much rather go for it in 2004 and then see a three or four year plan implemented, and see us stick to the plan. Then by 2008, go after the Series again. I could suffer through the losing knowing it will all come to fruition.
But again, I have seen nothing to the contrary. There is not much difference between the new and old ownership WHEN it comes to SPENDING the money and TRADING the minor leaguers. There is a world of difference in everything else; personality, players money is spent on, smart drafting…but the cold hard reality is we are still SPENDING and still TRADING.