The Dodgers and Red Sox completed one of the more complicated trades in recent memory on Saturday, and it was after the trade deadline no less. Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez, Nick Punto, and Carl Crawford were sent to the Dodgers, while James Loney, Rubby De La Rosa, Ivan De Jesus, Jerry Sands, and Allen Webster all went to Boston. I have already written about Carl Crawford on this site (and elsewhere). The best article I have seen on Josh Beckett was written a couple of weeks ago by Dan Brooks. With the exception of Webster, all of them have played in the big leagues for at least a short time. So here, I will write about what I see in Webster.
Statistically, Webster doesn’t have an overpowering strikeout rate in AA, but it is better than average at 21.4%. This is counteracted by an above average walk rate at 10.4%. Despite giving up an above average line drive rate, his ground-ball rate is over 51% and only 1 of the 546 batters he has faced this year have hit a homer, which is a staggering number. This all leads to a decent 3.16 FIP and 3.79 SIERA. In 91 AA innings last year, he had a 3.98 FIP and 4.02 SIERA, so he has seen some slight improvement, and is probably ready for a jump to AAA statistically.
Webster was drafted in the 18th round in 2008 by the Dodgers. When I went back and watched Webster (on MiLB.TV I watched his final start in the Dodgers organization), he was keeping the fastball away from lefties, but was having all kinds of problems controlling it. It is a good fastball velocity wise, as he can throw it in the mid-90s (Fangraphs’ Mike Newman says he has thrown up to 98 MPH) and sink it as well (one of the reasons his GB % is so high). He also showcases a pretty good curve with late downward break along with a separate slider. You could see either of these pitches being swing and miss pitches, and he controls them pretty well, but they functioned more as ground-ball pitches when I saw him.
The real swing and miss pitch may be the change that he can throw in the dirt to lefties and righties. Webster does a great job keeping the ball low out of the zone with his off-speed pitches, but I don’t know if he will get enough hitters to chase it as he moves up the latter. The fastball command will be extremely important to set those pitches up, something he didn’t always have when I saw him. To me, it looks like he has the stuff to be a strikeout pitcher in the big leagues. With his different array of pitches, there isn’t much reason to think he will have big platoon splits (over the last two years, his walk rate is higher to lefties, but he is about as good against them as he is against righties. He actually gets a better GB % and gives up less homers to them. This is most likely because of the changeup). This, along with a good ground-ball rate, means that the Red Sox have a good pitcher that will be ready for the Majors rather quickly.