#1 Starting Pitcher: Clay Buchholz
Sort of the ace by default, Buchholz was anything but in 2014. The 30 year old Buchholz was surprisingly healthy, but pitched to a 5.34 ERA and was one of the major contributing factors in Boston’s first to worst slide. But in 2013, Buchholz was only able to make 16 starts due to injuries, but was able to compile a 12-1 record with a 1.74 ERA. Those look like ace numbers to me.
But should he falter, Buchholz will likely be held on a short leash. He will have to prove his mettle to the club, or else they will almost certainly buy out his $13 million option for 2016. And if he really struggles? It wouldn’t surprise me if they got him out of town before then to provide one of their three left handed pitching prospects with a chance to audition for a spot in the 2016 rotation.
#2 Starting Pitcher: Rick Porcello
The big fish Cherington reeled in for the rotation is surely the 26 year-old Porcello. Acquired from Detroit for Yoenis Cespedes, Porcello experienced something of a breakout year in 2014. His career best 3.43 ERA pitching in front of a finally adequate Tigers defense showed the Red Sox what Porcello was truly capable of.
Drafted as a high school pitcher, Porcello was actually projected to be a future ace and began his big league career at the young age of 19. Porcello too will be a free agent after the year but look for the club to get a big extension done with him sometime this year. This is a player who could stick around awhile.
#3 Starting Pitcher: Justin Masterson
Cherington clearly picked out his pitchers based on two criteria: ground ball specialists (like Porcello), and those likely to bounce back after a season of bad luck or injuries. Masterson falls into the latter category, signed to a one year make good contract worth $9.5 million with the organization that drafted and groomed him.
Masterson was an ace for years with the Indians and Cherington is hoping that Farrell and pitching coach Juan Nieves will be able to work out whatever kinks hindered the 29-year-old in 2014. If he can return to form, Masterson has as good a shot as any to ultimately be the ace of the bunch.
#4 Starting Pitcher: Wade Miley
An All Star and runner up to the Rookie of the Year (Bryce Harper) in 2012, Miley is another ground ball pitcher with a history of significant success. Acquired from Arizona for Allen Webster and Rubby De La Rosa, Miley’s 3.15 ERA in 2012 ballooned to 3.98 in 2013 and 2014. The Red Sox are hoping to find a middle ground, having just extended the lefty on a three year, $19.25 million deal.
#5 Starting Pitcher: Joe Kelly
Kelly is a hard throwing 26-year-old who could very well wind up in the bullpen. He’s got a nasty sinker that he relies upon heavily, but will have to further develop his repertoire of pitches to stick in the rotation. He’s got the power for it, and as one of the main pieces returned in the John Lackey trade, the Red Sox are counting on it.