With Opening Day just a week away, the Red Sox haven't traded for Cole Hamels and still don’t have a so-called “ace” in their rotation, but they certainly have pitchers in their rotation that have the stuff to potentially emerge as one -- none more than Rick Porcello.
Porcello was traded to the Red Sox from the Tigers as part of the Yoenis Cespedes trade this past offseason, and the 26-year-old is just entering the prime of his career.
A New England native was sometimes lost in the mix with the dominant pitchers in Detroit in Justin Verlander, Anibal Sanchez and Max Scherzer.
Porcello posted an ERA of 3.43 last year (the same as Sanchez) and that ERA would’ve been the best on the Red Sox’ staff last year, with the exception of Jon Lester before he was traded. Furthermore, it would’ve been the best over the last two years taking away Clay Buchholz’s 16 starts during an injury-plagued 2013 season.
His numbers are better than some may think. His three shutouts last year led the American League. His 1.8 walks per nine innings were eighth in the American League, and season could’ve been even better as he went 0–4 with a 6.20 ERA in September.
Most known for his ability to get ground balls, Porcello was third in all of baseball in 2013 getting grounders 58 percent of the time and then 51 percent last year. His two-seam sinker is his best pitch, and the pitch he relies on most to get ground balls.
"He’s been on a staff with a lot of big-name pitchers and really good starting pitchers, so he sort of gets buried in the names in Detroit because he’s been part of such a good rotation,” general manager Ben Cherington said of Porcello after the trade in December. “He’s been really good in his own right. Given his age, we feel there may be more upside. Even what he is right now we think is really going to help us.”
Porcello is entering his seventh big league season and there are signs showing his best years are coming up. He eclipsed the 200-inning mark for the first time last season, finishing with 204.2. And although his strikeout totals were down last year, he made up for it by having more control. His 1.8 walks per nine innings were the best of his career.
Finally, he’s also proven to be durable -- something an ace needs to be – pitching in 31 or 32 games in each of the last four seasons.
With there being so much talk of the Red Sox not having an ace in their rotation, don’t sleep on Porcello, as he is coming from one of the best rotations in all of baseball and entering the prime of his career.