“the Red Sox are in a 14-year drought when it comes to drafting or signing and then developing a front-line, homegrown starter.”
Michael Silverman Monday, August 22, 2016
DETROIT — It’s more than OK to feel sorry for Henry Owens and the eight-run shellacking he received yesterday at the hands of a merciless Tigers lineup.
Sympathy is warranted in the case of a 24-year-old left-hander who has fallen from his perch as one of the top pitching prospects in the game back to a work in progress. Who knows, the 6-foot-6 southpaw might yet synchronize all those octopus-like limbs and take that next step as a starter.
We wish him well.
But let’s not let our compassion for Owens overshadow the ugly and uncomfortable truth that his start represented a stark reminder of how the Red Sox are in a 14-year drought when it comes to drafting or signing and then developing a front-line, homegrown starter.
Look at the lineup the Red Sox fielded and the rest of the pitching staff if you want to understand the stark difference between the club’s success in identifying positional players and its failure to find its own starters.
If you include Hanley Ramirez, seven of the nine lineup spots were occupied by homegrown Red Sox talents: Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr., Travis Shaw, Dustin Pedroia and the latest success, 2015 draft pick Andrew Benintendi, who collected the first triple and home run of his 18-game-old major league career.
Then look at the pitchers.
Besides Owens, there’s Clay Buchholz, the 2005 draft pick who certainly has had his sublime moments in his career but is never to be confused with a Grade-A, front-line starter. He has shown flashes of brilliance but rarely for more than half-seasons — so connecting his name with the word “ace” is unwarranted.
Matt Barnes? He’s a valued reliever now, but there are no plans for him to return to the rotation in the future.
Look at the rest of the staff. Look hard. Junichi Tazawa? Nobody else is there.
Everybody else is an import — via free agency or trade — and since we’re about to leave the Motor City, it’s OK to say there’s nothing wrong with living in a global economic system and making the best with what you don’t got.
Rick Porcello, David Price, Steven Wright, Eduardo Rodriguez, Drew Pomeranz — the Red Sox did well to snag those arms by any means and smarts necessary.
But again, had there been any semblance of balance within the farm system since 2002, many of the dollars and resources the team has allocated could have been put to other uses.
Red Sox principal owner John Henry is aware of the system’s failures.
“We are very concerned,” he said. “It’s been a problem. But some of the result of this has been acquiring so much young hitting talent. Nevertheless we have had a string of failures among starting pitchers and we are working hard to remedy this. We have to successfully draft and develop young pitching.”
It’s notable, to say the least, that today in Florida, Jay Groome, the Sox’ 17-year-old first-round draft pick, will make his professional debut for the Gulf Coast League Red Sox.
Considered to be one of the top pitching prospects available in the draft, Groome has some makeup concerns but not enough for the club to let him pass by when the time came.
Knowing he was in the system likely made it easier for the club to send its very best pitching prospect, 18-year-old Anderson Espinoza, to the Padres for Pomeranz.
It is truly wince-inducing to hear Henry confirm yesterday that Major League Baseball is investigating the Padres for perhaps not passing along all the medical information the Red Sox wanted when it came to giving up Espinoza for Pomeranz. The club might yet get some form of compensation on the deal; we’ll have to see what MLB discovers, but the club is not going to get back Espinoza.
There is still Michael Kopech in the system, and he or Groome might yet be the team’s next great pitcher.
That’s real tough to say for sure.
We know Owens used to be that guy.
And yesterday, that guy, in his 15th MLB start, allowed a career-high eight runs and walked five batters, one intentionally.
“I still work tirelessly trying to command the fastball. Been better lately, so I’m not going to be negative here,” said Owens. “I’m going to continue to be positive and work hard and try to find that consistency.”
As Owens tries harder, so too will the Red Sox in their search for the next Owens, the next Jon Lester.
As we know from Pedro Martinez, Curt Schilling and Josh Beckett, imports can work out just fine.
But it’s so much easier when you start from scratch
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