Allen Webster (RHP – Boston Red Sox)
Pawtucket Red Sox vs. Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, April 5th, 2013 in Moosic Pennsylvania
5.0 IP, 2 hits, 3 BB, 5K’s and no earned runs
As I’m typing my notes on Allen Webster’s Friday night pitching performance, I’m watching John Lackey’s exceptional return to baseball when disaster hits in the fourth inning. Unfortunately, it looks like Lackey has re-injured his arm and the scene on MLB.TV is just plain sad. I start typing faster as Webster, while not the logical first call-up, might just be the best alternative for the Red Sox.
I’ve long been a fan of Webster. A converted shortstop, Webster has only been pitching for a few years and while the stuff has always had plus potential, the command has lagged behind. With the positive reports coming out of Spring Training, I was anxious to see Webster pitch and had the opportunity to catch his game against the Yankees Triple-AAA affiliate on Friday, April 5th.
First, the stuff was better than what I had seen in previous outings. The fastball was sitting 94-96 MPH and touching 97 in the first couple of innings. Clearly he was pumped. However, as in previous outings, the command was a bit off as he walked two in the first and threw a wild-pitch in the second. However, he dialed it down slightly in the third and started rolling. He ended his five inning performance by striking three of the final four batters by setting each up with 93 MPH sinking fastball and wiping them out with a flat-out nasty hard slider with a biting two-plane break.
The slider I saw was a true plus-pitch with swing-and-miss potential. It’s a hard slider that had the Yankee farm-hands reaching. Once he was able to throw his fastball for strikes, he also was able to spot his change-up, which is another plus-pitch. However, it was the slider that had improved and with that, Webster now has three plus-pitches in his arsenal. The thing that is holding him back is his inconsistent command, but even that was improved once he dialed back the velocity and got under-control. I was really impressed.
With three plus-pitches, it’s easy to see what all the excitement during Spring Training was about. There are few pitchers that have three plus-pitches in their arsenal and with the movement that Webster gets on his sinking fastball, you can argue that his fastball is actually a plus-plus offering.
The command is still inconsistent but Webster is a very good athlete with clean mechanics, good posture and balance. Sinker-ballers do take longer to command their arsenal and this is what we are probably seeing with Webster. However, I was struck by what happened when he took a little off the fastball – he threw strikes. Was that just the result of a small sample size or is there something there?
Most players need an opportunity and let’s face it, Webster just might have gotten his. I know that the Red Sox are very high on him but Rubby De La Rosa is the more logical callup if Lackey needs to hit the DL. However in my opinion, Webster is the better pitcher and with his improved slider, he’s going to be able to get major league batters out. If the command improves, he has the front-of-the-rotation potential.