The Boston Red Sox farm system is filled with talent, but that does not guarantee success for the minor league affiliates. In Brandon Magee‘s Greenville Drive pitching review, he details the ups and downs of the Class A team’s 2015 season.
The Drive barely missed the South Atlantic League playoffs in both halves of the season. With a young and explosive offense, the team led the league in scoring. Was it the pitching that let the team down or just the random luck of individual baseball games?
While the Drive’s pitching staff was not quite as young as their regular lineup, their average age of 21.5 years ranked fourth youngest in the South Atlantic League, a half a year younger than the median. The youth was particularly apparent in the rotation, where 78 of the starts were by pitchers aged 21 or younger and 49 of the starts were by teenagers.
The team landed just on the wrong side of the midpoint in the league in ERA at 3.93 and WHIP at 1.34. The Drive allowed the most hits in the league (1306 in 1241 innings) and allowed the most home runs (98). However, the team allowed the third fewest walks (352), the fewest HBPs (55) and the fewest wild pitches (76). Greenville struck out 940 batters on the season, the fifth fewest in the league.
While the overall team numbers show a decent staff, when looking at the individual numbers, it becomes apparent that the starting rotation was problematic. The top five pitchers by innings pitched all started multiple games and all had ERAs above 4. Which makes the decision on the Most Valuable Pitcher a debate between a reliever, a swingman and a young starter whose season ended too soon.
Most Valuable Pitcher
While both Michael Kopech and Jake Drehoff can make a case for this title, Kuehl McEachern gets our nod. The reliever saw action in 34 games, compiling 82 innings of work with a 2.52 ERA and a 1.23 WHIP. Where McEachern succeeded the most was keeping the ball in the park, allowing a single ball over the fence. McEachern, who went 7-4 with nine saves, pitched at least an inning in every appearance for the Drive and and went three or more innings out of the pen on eleven occasions – an extraordinarily large number for a pitcher who was the final man standing in 27 of his outings.
19-year-old Michael Kopech was certainly in position for the MVP before his suspension for a banned stimulant. In sixteen appearances, Kopech went 4-5 with a 2.63 ERA and a 1.23 WHIP, striking out 70 in 65 innings. On the downside, Kopech only pitched into the sixth inning once during the season. He also faced batters for a third time in the same game only five times.
In his first full season of professional baseball, Jalen Beeks showed promise. Starting a team high 26 times and throwing a team high 145 2/3 innings, Beeks went 9-7 with a 4.32 ERA and a 1.26 WHIP. Beeks showed consistency in his innings per game, going at least five in 22 of his 26 starts, at least six innings in half of his starts and at least seven innings on five different occasions. Beeks walked only 28 while whiffing 100, but did allow a team high 17 home runs.
In his third professional season, 19-year-old Dedgar Jimenez made his full-season debut for Greenville in May. Jimenez would go on to start 23 games for the Drive, going 9-9 with a 4.43 ERA and a 1.44 WHIP. Over 126 innings, Jimenez gave up a team high 160 hits but only six home runs. Jimenez also walked 21 while striking out 66. Jimenez went at least five innings in 18 of his starts while completing at least six on ten occasions.
Jeffrey Fernandez had a rough go in his 23 starts, going 3-9 with a 6.18 ERA and a 1.50 WHIP in his 110 2/3 innings. Fernandez, who ended his season with two bullpen appearances, only hit the five inning mark a dozen times while going more than five innings four times. While he showed potential on occasion (throwing scoreless appearances in April, June and July), he often gave up a large number of runs, allowing six or more runs on eight occasions. Fernandez led the team in walks allowed with 46 and tied Beeks with 17 dingers given up.
Reed Reilly started the year in the Greenville bullpen, with six of his first seven appearances coming in relief. Installed as a full time starter in May, Reilly completed the season with 14 starts, going 4-3 with a 4.24 ERA and a 1.28 WHIP. Reilly failed to go at least five innings in only two of his starts – one by virtue of the weather – and pitched 6+ innings eight times. Reilly’s season ended in late July due to injury.
Ben Taylor was the first of the 2015 draftees to make it to full-season ball, being placed in the Drive starting rotation after four relief appearances for Lowell in July. Taylor, a college reliever, made ten starts for Greenville, going five or more innings in six of his starts. Taylor went 0-2 with a 3.40 ERA and a 1.29 WHIP over 45 innings, striking out 37.
Luis Ramos took over for Reed Reilly in August and September, seeing seven starts for Greenville after beginning the season in Lowell. Ramos has two very good starts but four very to extremely poor starts, going 3-3 with a 7.12 ERA and a 1.62 WHIP.
Mario Alcantara went 4-2 with three saves and a 3.51 ERA in a team-high 35 appearances for the Drive. Alcantara, who earned a spot in the mid-season All-Star game, was brilliant during the first half, posting a 1.93 ERA in 19 appearances, striking out 36 in 37 1/3 innings. His first nine games coming back from the all-star break were disastrous, allowing 23 hits and 17 walks in 18 2/3 innings and putting up a 9.64 ERA. Alcantara ended on a high note, allowing a single earned run in his final 19 innings of the season.
Jamie Callahan started his second season in Greenville in the starting rotation, but after six horrific starts (9.14 ERA, 2.08 WHIP), he was placed into the Drive pen. He was much better as a reliever, going 7-3 with a 3.06 ERA and a 1.21 WHIP over 67 2/3 innings while striking out 75. In his final eight appearances of the season, Callahan allowed only two runs (both on solo home runs) over 25 innings of work, posting a 0.72 ERA.
Ryan Harris did not start his first full season until May, but he soon became the late inning reliever for Greenville. In his 30 relief appearances, 24 of which he was the final Drive pitcher, Harris went 4-4 with 4 saves and a 2.72 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP. In 19 of his relief appearances, Harris did not allow a run.
Carlos Pinales saw 30 multi-inning appearances out of the Drive bullpen, throwing 74 innings with a 4.14 ERA and a 1.26 WHIP. Pinales had 13 appearances out of the pen that lasted three innings or longer and allowed no runs in five of these lengthy appearances.
Jake Drehoff pitched 71 2/3 innings in 24 games for the Drive, seven of which were starts, putting up a 3-2 record with a 2.89 ERA. Drehoff went 1-1 as a starter, putting up a 2.73 ERA and a 1.12 WHIP in 33 innings. In his 17 relief appearances, Drehoff logged 38 2/3 innings, putting up a 3.03 ERA and a 1.40 WHIP. Drehoff struck out 40 while walking 12 in his relief appearances and whiffed 25 while allowing three base on balls in his starts.
Michael Gunn had a topsy-turvy year. In May, Gunn allowed a single earned run in 8 innings (including one appearance for Salem). It would be his last good month of the season. In his final 16 appearances for Greenville, Gunn put up a 7.09 ERA, allowing 39 hits and 27 walks in 33 innings. His was demoted to Lowell for his final three appearances of the season.
Williams Jerez rise to AA this season started in Greenville, where he pitched 14 times in the first two months. Jerez went 3-1 with 3 saves for the Drive, putting up a 2.06 ERA over 39 1/3 innings. Jerez, who struck out 43, was a consistent fulcrum for the Drive, with only a single one inning appearance (picking up a win in the 14th inning) breaking up the string of thirteen 2 2/3 and 3 innings appearances.