Pitching prospect Allen Webster is one of the more enigmatic young pitchers in the Boston Red Sox minor league system. Acquired along with Rubby de la Rosa in the historic trade that sent Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez and Nick Punto to the Los Angeles Dodgers in August 2012, Webster was touted to be in the next line of elite starting pitchers for the Red Sox in the future.
However, after a problematic 2013 and a struggle-filled Spring Training, Webster needs more time to blossom in the Red Sox farm system before he can be considered for a full-time spot in the Red Sox starting rotation.
Webster, 24, is a solid ground ball pitcher with a lean, projectable frame. With a fastball that tops out at 98 mph as well as a solid slider and changeup, Webster has the tools to become a successful MLB pitcher. However, Webster’s major problem is putting it all together. In eight starts with the Red Sox in 2013, Webster went 1-2 with an 8.60 ERA and 23 strikeouts in 30.1 innings pitched.
The Red Sox called up Webster too quickly, tampering with his confidence and leading some to question his validity as a front-line starting pitcher.
That lack of confidence carried over to Spring Training, as Webster went 0-3 with a 6.11 ERA and 11 strikeouts in five starts. In his first start with the triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox, Webster could not make it out of the fourth inning, allowing three runs on seven hits. Webster, despite holding hitters to a .190 average with Pawtucket in 2013, needs time to regain his composure and focus on the things that are giving him trouble.
One such problem that Webster has is his over-dependence on his fastball. In a majority of his starts with Boston last season, Webster ran into trouble because his off-speed pitches were subpar, leading batters to zero in on his fastball. If Webster can develop stronger command on his off-speed pitches during his time with Pawtucket, then he could regain the confidence that was holding him back during the 2013 season.
In essence, Webster, despite having the arsenal of pitches that could make him a lethal major league pitcher in the future, is not ready to rejoin the Red Sox rotation. With a rotation that includes Jon Lester, John Lackey, Felix Doubront, Jake Peavy and Clay Buchholz, as well as spot-starters Brandon Workman and Chris Capuano, it would take many things to happen in order for Webster to even be considered to get called back up to Boston.
With two options remaining, the Red Sox should be more conservative with the way they handle Webster. Until the Red Sox decide on his 2014 fate, Webster needs to prove himself again with Pawtucket in order to be a successful pitcher in the future.