Featured image courtesy of Zimbio.com (March 29, 2016 – Source: Leon Halip/Getty Images North America)
The Boston Red Sox needed a starter for Saturday’s game against the Baltimore Orioles and didn’t have a clear answer. Brian Johnson, Drew Pomeranz, and Hector Velazquez all recently pitched, and the Red Sox traded away Jalen Beeks for Nathan Eovaldi at the trade deadline. With no better options, Boston announced William Cuevas will start Saturday’s matchup. Cuevas has minimal major league experience, so what should the Red Sox expect out of their right-handed spot starter?
What to Expect From William Cuevas
Cuevas made his major league debut back in 2016 for the Boston Red Sox but has only accrued five innings of major league time in his career. With a sample size that small, there’s no point in looking at his major league numbers.
Instead, let’s examine how the righty has done in his minor league appearances. In 2018, Cuevas has thrown 117.1 innings with the Pawtucket Red Sox, earning a respectable 3.45 ERA and a less impressive 4.20 FIP. These numbers aren’t elite by any means, but he’s been a solid presence in Pawtucket’s starting rotation.
Cuevas isn’t a strikeout pitcher, as evidenced by his pedestrian 7.82 K/9 ratio. However, the 27-year old has solid command and is able to put the ball basically wherever he wants to. He’s not Greg Maddux, but his 2.45 BB/9 rate is an above average mark at the minor league level.
Cuevas doesn’t have the best peripherals in terms of contact allowed. So far through 2018, Cuevas is inducing ground balls just 31.3% of the time, and allowing fly balls 45.1% of the time. This isn’t good, as pitchers should always try to force batters to hit ground balls. Over his career, Cuevas has allowed a 32.0% ground ball rate, so this season isn’t an aberration, it’s just who he is.
Much like his statistics, Cuevas’ pitches aren’t anything remarkable. His main offering is his fastball, which typically sits in the low 90’s. When he really needs to, he can reach 94. However, as games go on, he tends to lose a little bit of his velocity.
Cuevas also throws a curveball, slider, and changeup, but none of these offerings are anything special. All three pitches lack elite movement, but none are outwardly terrible. As previously mentioned, Cuevas gets batters out by painting the corners and controlling his pitch location. He needs to do this to succeed, and his “stuff” alone isn’t good enough to get batters out.
What happens when an easily stoppable force runs into a highly movable object? We’ll find out when Cuevas takes the mound against the hapless Baltimore Orioles. Baltimore’s season has been an absolute nightmare, and their offense has been anemic all season long. Baltimore’s offense ranks 26th in runs, 27th in average, 22nd in slugging, and 25th in OPS.
Keep in mind that these ugly numbers also include Manny Machado’s early-season production. Machado is a borderline top-10 player in baseball, and his bat alone carried the Baltimore offense for months on end. Now that he’s on the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Orioles offense is arguably the worst in the league.
Put simply, Cuevas is not an ideal major league starter. His stuff is underwhelming, he doesn’t strike batters out, and he doesn’t induce ground balls. However, he has solid command, and that might just be enough against this weak Orioles squad.
It will be interesting to watch Cuevas make his first professional start on Saturday. While anything could happen, it’s hard to imagine him getting completely shelled by a team as bad as the Orioles. That said, he also won’t pitch a perfect game by any stretch. Look for a four-inning, two-run performance with manager Alex Cora turning to the bullpen at the first sign of trouble.