Left hander Felix Doubront may be the Boston Red Sox fourth starter in 2012. If this is the case, it has been a long journey to this point. Coming into the 2011 season, Doubront was a highly promising prospect after moving through AA and AAA with strong numbers on his way to 3 starts and 25 innings with the big league club. Those 25 innings, and the above average results (4.32 ERA, 4.12 FIP) were enough to excite Red Sox fans and many in Boston had high expectations for Doubront in 2012. Doubront showed up to the 2011 spring training camp out of shape and was injured by the time the regular season began. The man many expected to provide critical depth for the starting rotation pitched just 10 innings in the major leagues last year after spending the majority of the year on the DL. When Boston desperately needed starters to help stem the tide of losses in September, Doubront was not yet ready.
After that disappopintment, it was fair to write off Doubront coming into 2012. However, the failures of 2011 seemed to mature the 24 year old pitcher. He showed up to this year’s camp in good shape. He has been the second best starting pitcher in Spring Training games, behind only Josh Beckett, throwing 16 innings with a 2.70 ERA and 10 strikeouts. He has done everything a player can do to earn his shot at a place in the rotation this spring and it appears he will get that chance.
Doubront throws a four seam fastball, a two seam fastball, a change and a curveball. His four-seamer averages around 92 mph and he throws the pitch 54.9% of the time thus far as a major leaguer, though he ahs moved toward a higher number of two-seamers, cutting into his four-seamer use. The pitch has tremendous rise and very little horizontal movement. He locates the pitch throughout the strike zone. His two-seamer is just a hair slower at 91 mph on average and features a sharp movement towards the catcher’s right hand side, or in towards lefties. He has used this pitch around 20% of the time but he may be favoring it a bit more in 2012. He throws it exclusively to the catcher’s right side, letting it run in on lefties and breaking away from righties.
Doubront features his change against both lefties and righties, though he does throw it more often against righties. It comes in 84 mph and has the same horizontal movement as his four-seamer, but a great deal less vertical movement. He throws it throughout the strike zone, using the similarity with his fastball to fool hitters. He throws this pitch less than his other pitches at just around 10%.
His final pitch is his curve ball, his main breaking pitch. It is a 12-6 hook that averages just 76.4 mph. Doubront gets his highest whiff rate, 11.4% on his curve and he throws it around 12-14% of the time. In the 77 curveball sample thus far, Doubront has throw the pitch throughout the zone, dropping it into the top of zone and letting it fall out of the bottom of the zone. He keeps the pitch away from righties for the most part, but otherwise he has not yet shown any major tendencies with his best out pitch.
As Doubront enters the rotation for what will be his first full season as major league pitcher he will need to do what he did in his first cup of coffee in 2010. Back then, he struck out over 8 batters per nine and walked a reasonable 3.60. He kept batted balls on the ground with 47.4% GB rate. These numbers are very similar to what Doubront was able to do in the minor leagues. Doing that would not make Doubront an ace, but it would establish him as a very good back-end starter and give Boston the dependable option they have been looking for all off-season.