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The Future Looks Bright for Felix Doubront

Felix Doubront (Matthew West/Boston Herald)

Felix Doubront is going to have a great 2013. Actually, he needs to have a great 2013. All the Red Sox do. But, if he doesn’t, I can guarantee he won’t make it to the All-Star break in the starting rotation. He’ll be in the bullpen where many believe he’s best suited. I don’t want that to happen. I’m set on him being in the rotation- working, learning and building on what would eventually lead to a great season and career.

I like Doubront. He has a ton of potential. I wrote about this at the beginning of 2012. He almost made me look like I knew what I was talking about when he started the season off with a 5-2 record in his first ten starts. I felt that he had all the makings of a good pitcher, maybe even an all-star. And during the season (even after his record started to even out) he still showed, many times, those flashes of brilliance that really made you think that maybe, just maybe, we have a star in the making here.

But then, the very next start, he’d get lit up for a huge loss. It always seemed to happen in one particular inning. He’d get “k” after “k” and then all of a sudden, a walk, a double, another double, a home run and then if that wasn’t enough a few more walks. It would always happen in the span of one or two innings.

Teams would really get to the 24-year-old lefty at times. He showed his young age and his naivety many times during the season. There’s no question about that, but at the same time, the American League East is a tough place to learn how to pitch. He can be a great asset to the Red Sox for many years to come, but he’s going to have to learn a few things this winter and next summer. It’s going to be all about focus and good coaching for Doubront next season.

More Than Enough Potential

Doubront has the ability to be one of the top strikeout pitchers in baseball over the next couple of years. I think the addition of John Farrell as coach and his new staff that will be hired in the upcoming months will certainly help Doubront. He’s too talented to not pay close attention to. They’ll certainly do all they can to help him transform into an elite pitcher. Farrell, as we all know, had done a great job with the Sox staff years ago and has a high recommendation from everyone from Lester to Beckett. It’ll be a situation next season that Doubront really needs to take advantage of.

As things look right now, he’ll be the Sox third starter in 2013. Does he deserve it? Well, considering the two alternatives I say he certainly does. Many would feel a lot more comfortable if he’s in the four spot come next season, but unless the Sox sigh a free agent arm, he’s the three guy. He has the right stuff, however. Four great pitches, a lot of speed and a lot of movement. You have to remember it was his rookie season. It seems like Boston players don’t have rookie years. As fans we already know so much about everyone who comes up from Pawtucket we already have them pegged and surveyed a thousand times over. It always seems like every new player has already been around Fenway for a few years. We’re a knowledgeable bunch, but sometimes it gets in the way of rational thinking. He’s only had one full season under his belt and he’s had to learn how to pitch in effectively while facing the Yankees, Rays and Orioles.

From what I’ve seen, I think he’s only going to get better with age, and at age 24, he has a long way ahead of him. I think he did a good enough job where it left me wanting to see how he turns out next year. Hey, we need something to be excited about around year. Why not make it a young pitcher, who has a knack strikeouts?

The Power Pitcher’s Dilemma

He was able to do some pretty interesting things in his first full year as a big league starter, too. At age 24, he finished the season with 167 strikeouts. That’s the most strikeouts by a Sox lefty that young since Babe Ruth in 1916, by the way. He had a 9.3 strikeout per nine innings ratio too. He was only the thirteenth pitcher in 111 years to do this. That’s also good for sixth best in the entire major leagues.

You’re probably wondering, “how does any of this translate to winning?” Well, strikeouts are a tool, a weapon. He will learn how to use them, not only to get out of jams, but to use his reputation as a strikeout guy to get into players heads before they even step into the batter’s box. That’s what strikeout pitchers have been doing for hundreds of years. It’s a commodity to have and it’s fun to watch. He had some great games this past season. There would be some nights where he would get into grooves of six, seven strikeouts in a row. How can you not root for that? As a fan how could you not want to see that type of pitcher grow and become something special right before your very eyes?

Historically, strikeout pitchers are very, very complicated. You have some guys like Tom Seaver and Walter Johnson who from day one where great and then you have guys like Nolan Ryan and Pedro who needed a little more time to learn how to harness their power. This might be the same case with Doubront. He wasn’t as wild as some of these guys, but he did give up a lot of runs in 2012. There’s still plenty for him to learn and if the Red Sox value the future they’ll take a moment to try and help him figure out what ever it is he needs to figure out to help him get to that next level.

He gave up a lot of runs because he threw a ton of strikes. He throws a lot of fastballs and that resulted in Doubront giving up 24 homeruns this season, only five at the hands of left-handed hitters. This is the typical issue when discussing young pitchers who are strikeout guys. It’s certainly one of the issues that the Sox and Doubront should pay attention to and work on. That equates to nineteen homeruns hit from right handed batters. That is a huge percentage. It’s good to know that the lefty-lefty matchup still works in this case, but the right handed American Leaguers have loved getting this guy for the long ball. Thirteen of those homers have come at Fenway Park. As mentioned before, he had a lot of big inning against him and the long ball had a lot to do with that. No pitcher, no Red Sox pitcher is going to have much success with an issue like that, but this is an issue that can certainly be worked on.

Like I said before, the keys to next season are concentration and good coaching. He just needs to try pitching lower in the zone or try getting hitter to chase by throwing away from them.

Looking Ahead to 2013

Doubront will not be traded or end up back in the bullpen in 2013. I’m not entirely certain that the Sox will begin ’13 with Doubront as the third starter, but for right now I’m seeing it as a possibility. The winter market sees Peavy, Marcum, Dempster and so many other well-rounded pitchers. Without a free-agent sighing, Doubront is Boston’s three guy, with a free agent signing, he’s fourth.

I can see his ERA still being a little high, maybe near four, four and a half. His win total will be much more respectable, however, as I can seriously see he getting to 15 wins. He’ll finish in the top five in the American League in strikeouts too. He’ll undoubtedly emerge as an elite strikeout pitcher in 2013. I think that goes without saying. Will it be a Cy Young year for Felix Doubront? No. It doesn’t have to be either. It just has to be about concentration and good coaching. Really, 2013 should about concentration and good coaching for everyone.

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