Rick Porcello has had a target on his back before he ever threw a pitch in MLB.
Of course, that is understandable with all of the praise and accolades he received while still pitching at Seton Hall Prep in New Jersey. Not only was Porcello named the 2007 Gatorade National Baseball Player of the Year as a senior in high school, but he was also the highest paid high schooler ever when he signed an $11.1 million contract with the Detroit Tigers.
Needless to say, the expectations were extremely high when Porcello made his first start in the Majors on Apr. 9, 2009 (a game which he ultimately lost), and those expectations still remain unmet.
Porcello has shown instances of being a solid, end of the rotation type of pitcher, but that can be seen as disappointing since he was projected to be a top starter for any MLB team. He has never finished a season more than five games over .500, and the only time his ERA was under a 4.00 was in his rookie season when he posted a 3.96 mark.
However, if there was ever a time for Porcello to break out onto the baseball scene it would be this year. The 6-foot-5 pitcher enjoyed arguably the best season of his career in 2013. His eight losses were the fewest of his career and his WHIP of 1.28 was a career-low as well. Also, his 142 strikeouts were 35 more than his previous high, and he threw his first complete game last season.
Porcello is now 25 years old and is no longer the new kid on the block, which is obviously a good thing as he will continue to adjust to Major League hitters and gain more experience. Also helping Porcello’s cause is the fact that his home field of Comerica Park is one of the most pitcher-friendly ballparks in the league; only Minute Maid Park, home of the Houston Astros, has a deeper center field. Take into account that Porcello is part of a pitching rotation that boasts players like Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and Anibal Sanchez, so he does not have to deal with the extra pressure of being the ace of a staff. He should also benefit from facing guys on the bottom end of opposing pitching rotations.
Even though Porcello has had the large ballpark dimensions and solid pitching staff around him for most of his career, there is no doubt that he showed significant improvement in 2013. If he can carry that momentum into 2014 then it could be a great year for the Tiger pitcher.