The Red Sox were expected to be heavily involved at the trading deadline, and they did not disappoint. In one of the most exciting trade deadline days across the league in years, Boston was the most active of all teams, completing five trades in the 24 hours leading up to Thursday’s 4 p.m. deadline.
The biggest among them, though, was the deal to send Jon Lester to Oakland. Only slightly less significant was the trade that saw John Lackey shipped to St. Louis. Then there were the trades of Stephen Drew to the Yankees and Andrew Miller to the Orioles. Those followed the Felix Doubront-to-Chicago deal and the trade with the Giants for Jake Peavy a week earlier.
The haul Boston received in return was pretty impressive. Among the players heading east are Yoenis Cespedes, Allen Craig, and relief pitching prospect Eduardo Rodriguez. General manager Ben Cherington was able to bring in players who fill needs — like outfield power — and who will also form a solid core for the 2015 season, so Boston may be competitive again soon.
But the Red Sox’s trades have also done one other thing: fail to address the now-depleted starting rotation. The only Major League-ready starting pitcher heading to Boston from these trades is Joe Kelly, who has struggled and battled injury this year. Cherington traded away the top 80 percent of the team’s starting rotation, leaving Clay Buchholz as the last man standing.
Though the Red Sox are looking ahead at 2015, they still do need to finish out this year first. And that means finding starters for the last 54 games of the season. Chances are, many of those will be made by some of their young prospects, like Alan Webster and Rubby de la Rosa. But this situation provides the biggest opportunity for Anthony Ranaudo.
Ranaudo has long been one of the Red Sox’s top pitching prospects since he was drafted 39th overall in the 2010 draft. Boston got a steal in that draft because Ranaudo had top-5 pick talent, but elbow problems scared teams off, and he fell out of the first round. Ever since, he’s been proving 29 teams wrong for passing on him.
According to SoxProspects.com, Ranaudo ranks as the seventh-best prospect in Boston’s impressive minor league system. At 6-foot-7 and 245 pounds, he has a frame made for pitching in the big leagues. Their scouting report says:
Has frame to withstand the rigors of starting at the professional level. High 3/4 arm slot. Fastball sits 92-94 mph and tops out at 95 mph. Historically has been able to get up to 98 mph. Fringe-average-to-average fastball command. Can open shoulder early, which leads to reduced command in spells. Inconsistent downward leverage. Arm drag reduces velocity and ability to stay on top of the ball. Has struggled keeping delivery consistent. 78-82 mph hammer curveball grades as plus. Tight rotation and excellent depth through the strike zone. Able to bury out of the strike zone or drop it in for a strike. Outstanding feel for his curveball. Future swing-and-miss pitch at major league level. Fringe-average 81-83 mph changeup. Doesn’t always finish delivery on changeup leaving it up in the zone where it is very flat and hittable. Offering is improving, but still inconsistent from outing to outing. Changeup has average potential, but lack of development with pitch could push him to a bullpen role. Appears to over-think things. Needs to be more loose. Still learning to incorporate lower half into pitching mechanics. Historically has some rigidness in delivery, which has tended to wear him out after laboring. Third starter ceiling at major-league level.
The big righty is enjoying the best season of his professional career. In 21 starts with Triple-A Pawtucket, he is 12-4 with a 2.41 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, and 7.47 K/9 rate. His continued progress as he advanced through the minors earned him his shot in Boston.
Ranaudo will be making his Major League debut on Friday against the Yankees, which is fitting, as he grew up as a Yankees fan in New Jersey. But now he’ll be trying to shut them down as Boston gets its first true glimpse at one of the potential stars of the future.
And it could be the first opportunity of many. Rare is it in Boston when so many young players at once have a chance to develop at Fenway Park. But after the fire sale of 2015, it represents the perfect such time. And Ranaudo is the first player who could take advantage of it.