(Photo credit: MLBTR)
By Nathan Lynch – @natorMVP
We’ve all seen the amazing start to 2018 the Red sox have gotten off to. Their 8-1 record is best in majors leading the World Series champ Astros (8-2) and the NL-best Mets (7-1), 8-1 is also the best start the Red Sox have had in franchise history.
There are certainly many bright points to the season, Sale, Price, and Porcello looking like the best front three starters in the game, Hanley playing like he cares about the game, and both Bogaerts & Betts looking more like their 2016 versions than they did in 2017. However, one unexpected star to rise out of the Sox’s meteoric start is an unassuming 25 year old rookie named Bobby Poyner. Poyner was the Red Sox’s 14th round pick in the 2015 amateur draft and has played at various A and AA levels for the past three years. Poyner got his MLB debut on March 31st in a hold situation vs. the Rays. Even though he gave up a solo homerun to Carlos Gomez he converted the hold on route to a Sox 3-2 victory. Since his first outing he has been nothing shy of amazing giving up four hits, zero walks, seven Ks, and two holds in 5.0 innings pitched. His pitching line is eerily similar to one Craig Kimbrel who has two hits, four walks, six Ks, and three saves in 5.0 innings pitched. Now certainly I’m not suggesting that Poyner should replace Kimbrel this season (barring injury of course), but the initial optics on Poyner suggest he might be a solid replacement for Kimbrel should the need arise.
The most important fact here is that Kimbrel is a free agent after this season, coming off of his 5-year $54 million contract and pitching just as good as forever he could easily fetch a high price in the free agent market, likely more than the Red Sox would be willing to pay if they have a solid replacement waiting in the wings. Poyner is currently making $545,000 and would be significantly cheaper than Kimbrel, especially if Kimbrel repeats his 2017 stat line. Poyner has closing experience in the minor leagues already with 40 saves in 87 games played between the A and AA level, certainly not as high-pressure as closing the majors but mentally he’s been in the position to shut the opposing team down. Poyner is a 4-pitch pitcher (Fastball, Slider, Changeup, and a Curveball) with his Curve being the least used in his arsenal. His fastball so far has topped out between 91 to 92 mph and the changeup is about 10mph slower. Poyner isn’t going to blow anyone away with 100mph heat, but his minor league career stats show that he’s very effective at getting a K with a 10.1 career K/9 ratio and a 5.6 K/BB ratio.
If Poyner can prove that he can keep missing bats and getting Ks he will be a valuable lefty that could earn the 8th inning role to set up Kimbrel. Without blazing speed though Poyner will have to live on his accuracy or we could see a decline in his numbers once more teams get his pitches and preferences on tape. With such a small sample size it’s unlikely that these numbers will translate to his multi-year career numbers, but in a season that has been nothing short of amazing it’s great to jump on the Poyner hype.
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