Featured image courtesy of Getty Images/Portland Press Herald
The Boston Red Sox farm organization doesn’t have many elite pitching prospects. However, they have several possible mid- to late-rotation arms in the minors, chief among them Mike Shawaryn. Shawaryn initially arrived in the Red Sox farm system back in 2016 and has already worked his way up to AAA Pawtucket.
Prospect Watch: Mike Shawaryn
Despite being just 23 years old, Shawaryn found himself in Pawtucket in just his second full season in the Red Sox organization. The right-handed hurler has impressed ever since joining the Red Sox farm system. Shawaryn impressed with the Portland Sea Dogs in 2018, pitching 112.2 innings while earning a 3.28 ERA, 3.23 FIP, and a middle of the road 7.91 K/9 rate.
This strong performance earned him a late promotion to Pawtucket, where he pitched adequately. The increase in talent clearly affected him, and his numbers dipped to a 3.93 ERA and a 4.64 FIP. Still, those are solid numbers for a 23-year old making his AAA debut.
Shawaryn throws a fastball which typically sits in the mid- to low-90’s, though his velocity has dipped as he goes late into the game. While his fastball is nothing to write home about, it’s certainly good enough to be a major league offering.
His fastball is complemented by his slider, which sits in the mid-80’s. Shawaryn has developed this pitch over the years, developing a harder break on the pitch as he climbed through the system. Entering 2019, this is probably Shawaryn’s best pitch.
What Needs Improvement
If Shawaryn wants to make it as a major league starter, he’ll need to develop a third pitch. His slider can be above average, and his fastball is serviceable, but that’s not enough at the major league level. He also throws a changeup on rare occasion, but that pitch is far from being major league ready.
Additionally, Shawaryn’s strikeout rate dropped in 2018. While his 2018 K/9 rate of 7.96 is still solid, it’s a far cry from his 11.29 K/9 in 2017. Granted, he faced stronger competition in 2018, so it’s natural for his strikeout rate to drop a little bit. That said, it’s a disappointing sign for a player’s K/9 to drop that drastically. However, he did improve his BB/9 from 3.21 in 2017 to 2.29, which is a very encouraging sign for Shawaryn moving forward.
The last major issue Shawaryn needs to address is what happens when batters put balls in play. Shawaryn had a 0.73 groundball to flyball ratio with the Pawtucket Sea Dogs, which is not a good thing. This continued an unfortunate trend in which Shawaryn’s ground ball percentage decreases as he climbs through the Red Sox farm system. Shawaryn doesn’t project as a strikeout pitcher, so it’s essential that he induces weak grounders if he is to succeed in the majors.
Shawaryn Moving Forward
Mike Shawaryn has climbed through the minor league system at a solid clip, arriving in Pawtucket in just his second full season with the organization. His fastball and slider combo have made him one of the better arms in the Red Sox farm system, even if his ceiling is a little low.
If everything breaks right for Shawaryn, he’ll end up as a mid-rotation starter for the Red Sox. However, if he’s to achieve that, he’ll need to find a way to keep his fastball from losing velocity later in starts. Additionally, if he can’t find his old strikeout form from 2017, he’ll need to find a way to induce ground balls at a higher clip.
Asking all those things to go right for Shawaryn is asking a lot. This isn’t reason enough to give up on Shawaryn as a starter, but just to temper expectations. Shawaryn should spend at least the beginning of 2019 in AAA, but he might not stay there for long. Shawaryn should be on the 40-man roster next season and, depending on injuries, could make his major league debut fairly early as a spot starter. At the very latest, Shawaryn should be in the majors by the time September call-ups come around.