The Boston Red Sox have had good luck in recent years developing their own homegrown starting pitchers, with current starters Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz and Felix Doubront amongst those who have pitched well in their rotation. Allen Webster is working to become the next Boston prospect to find similar success in the majors.
The right-handed Webster was originally drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 18th round of the 2008 draft out of high school in North Carolina.
He progressed steadily through the minors—compiling a 34-24 record and 3.34 ERA—while reaching as high as Double-A last season.
In late August of 2012, his career took a major turn, as he was the centerpiece traded to Boston in the mega-deal that sent Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford to Los Angeles.
Because it was near the end of the season, Webster made just two starts for Boston’s Double-A affiliate, going 0-1 with a 8.00 ERA in nine innings before being shut down for the year. Needless to say, fans are extremely curious about what the Red Sox may have with this young pitcher.
Webster’s star has shined brightly for quite a while. Prior to last season, Baseball America’s Jim Shonerd ranked him as Los Angeles’ second-best prospect.
Going to a slightly deeper system, Webster was still ranked by Baseball America’s Jim Callis as Boston’s fourth-best prospect entering this season.
What will Webster's ultimate role be in Boston?
The Boston Globe’s Craig Forde recently wrote about the similarities between Webster and former Boston starter, Derek Lowe, citing the prospect’s heavy mid-90s sinker, tight slider and disinclination to allow home runs (just 19 in 494 professional innings). However, Webster differs from Lowe because of his ability to pile up strikeouts, as he has averaged 8.5 per nine innings during his career.
While the Red Sox currently have Webster slotted as a starter, others aren’t sure of where he might fit on a major league pitching staff. FanGraphs.com’s Marc Hulet wrote that he “has the ceiling of a number two or three starter, or could strip down on his repertoire to become a dominating high-leverage reliever."
The Providence Journal’s Brian MacPherson reported that Webster—who will turn 23 the day before pitchers and catchers report for spring training—will likely start the season in the rotation for Triple-A Pawtucket.
There are two things Webster needs to work on before he is ready for a full slate of work at the major league level.
He has never thrown more than 145 innings in any professional season. To prepare for the rigors of a typical major league campaign, he will need to continue building arm strength and endurance. While it’s possible he may be called up at some point this season, it’s a near certainty that he would be on an innings count until he gets stretched out more.
Webster also needs to improve his command, which SoxProspects.com described as “fringe-average.” He has walked 3.8 batters per nine innings and allowed a 1.37 WHIP during his career, so tightening up his stuff will be a must to succeed at the next level.
Even Webster acknowledges his struggles with command, as he told Forde:
[I have to] be more consistent, cut down on the walks...[I’m trying to] just repeat my delivery better and not drift forward. When I drift I let the ball sail up and I miss my spot.
Webster told CSNNE.com’s Maureen Mullen how he immediately embraced coming to Boston:
It was exciting. It was really cool finally getting to see my name go across ESPN. I thought that was shocking. But it was good. I think it’s going to be a really great opportunity for me. Just a better chance, more eyes getting to see me. And to trade for me they must have wanted me. So I think it’s going to be great.
There doesn’t seem to be a consensus on what type of pitcher Webster will be in the majors. However, it seems clear that he has a world of potential and is nearly ready to debut, allowing him to show the Red Sox and their fans for himself.
Statistics via BaseballReference