Trivia question: how old is Rick Porcello?
Twenty Seven. Porcello has been pitching in the majors since 2009 and seems like he should be at least 30. He is coming off of what is likely his worst year in the majors posting only 9 Wins, a 4.92 ERA, a 1.36 WHIP and 149 Ks. Pretty awful. However, he recorded the best K% of his career at 20.2% and the second lowest BB% at 5.2%, culminating in a 3.72 xFIP. Clearly he was unlucky last year but a 3.72 xFIP doesn’t exactly illicit the warm and fuzzies. What might? That Porcello is primed for a breakout and can likely be had at a major discount.
In 2015, Porcello posted his best K% and second best BB% marks at 20.2% and 5.2% respectively. His career BB% is 5.7% so that number seems pretty legitimate but his career K% is merely 15.2%. He was able to raise it by so much because he increased his whiffs per swing on virtually every pitch.
(Stats from Brooksbaseball)
His four seam fastball finally generated some swings and misses and in turn he threw it more than ever before, throwing it 35.5% of the time compared to a career number of 29%.
While Porcello’s K increase is nice, it still was not enough to overcome a bad defense. More trivia: guess the DRS for Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez combined? They combined for -30 DRS. Essentially there was no left side of the field last year outside of Xander Bogaerts. The good news is that Ramirez is moving to 1B, the least impactful defensive position on the IF. The better news is that Rusney Castilio, who looked like a wizard in the field last year, should be manning LF full time. Overall, the Sox have three great OFs in Castillo, Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr. Their OF looks to be one of the best defensive units in the AL if not the entire league. The IF figures to be improved if for no other reason than they can’t be that bad two years in a row. Bogaerts has shown he is an average at best SS and that is likely to continue. I honestly have no idea what to make of Ramirez at 1B but let’s say he won’t be an atrocity. That leaves Dustin Pedroia at 2B and Sandoval at 3B. Dustin Pedroia was worth -3 DRS in 800 injury riddled innings last year. Pedroia is getting older but he has failed to post over 10 DRS one other time since 2008. I am confident that he will return to a plus defender. Sandoval might not be great at the hot corner, but the -11 DRS was tied for his career worst and well below his typical level. Overall, Porcello figures to be pitching in front of an improved defense.
With improved ratios, an improved defense and a better overall team, Porcello has the makings of a breakout SP. Steamer has Porcello down for a 3.8 ERA, a 1.25 WHIP, 18.5 K% and 5.5 BB% with 13 Wins. Based on ESPN’s 2015 player rater that puts him somewhere in the 40s for SPs. However, I think there is upside here and I’ll give Porcello a 3.4 ERA, 1.2 WHIP, 20.1 K% and 5.3 BB%. I’ve seen Porcello ranked outside of the top 70 for SPs and he will be a massive bargain on draft day because of this.