Despite entering the season as the 22nd-ranked prospect in the Boston Red Sox system, there’s something that sets Chandler Shepherd apart from some of his fellow prospects. Despite never playing in the major league level, the 26-year old pitcher is currently on the 40-man roster and thus is protected from the Rule Five Draft. What makes Shepherd so special where the Red Sox would rather protect him than somebody like Josh Ockimey?
Red Sox Prospects: Chandler Shepherd
Shepherd first joined the Red Sox organization as a 13th-round pick in the 2014 MLB Draft. The right-handed pitcher originally sprinted through the minor league system, starting the 2016 season with the Pawtucket Red Sox. However, he’s hit something of a roadblock since then, as Shepherd is still waiting to make his major league debut.
Most minor league pitchers tend to go to the bullpen if the whole starting thing doesn’t work out. Chandler Shepherd, however, did the exact opposite. After spending the majority of his minor league career as a reliever, Shepherd became a full-time starter with the Red Sox in 2018.
The results were somewhat mixed. Shepherd made 25 starts in Pawtucket, compiling a 3.89 ERA and a 3.91 FIP. His K/9 (7.43) and BB/9 (2.36) were both around league average and fairly unremarkable. Basically, he was the definition of a mediocre minor league pitcher.
Shepherd is a four-pitch pitcher, except none of his pitches are anything that spectacular. His fastball and cutter are his two best offerings, but even those leave something to be desired. His fastball typically sits in the low 90’s, but can reach 95 in shorter outings. His cutter, meanwhile, sits in the mid- to high-80’s and has a decent break to it.
Shepherd also throws a curveball and changeup, but neither pitch is truly major league worthy. Both offerings lack consistent movement and reliable location. Shepherd basically uses these two pitches as a change of pace so hitters can’t sit on his fastball or cutter.
What To Work On
Shepherd is a fairly boring prospect, as most of his profile is already figured out. He currently has just two consistent pitches in his arsenal, and neither projects as anthing more than an average offering.
If Shepherd is to make it in the majors, it would probably be as an emergency starter. As previously mentioned, none of his other offerings are strong enough for him to develop into a prominent bullpen arm. He can still see the mound in a Brian Johnson manner, but he’ll need to work on his secondary pitches.
Generally speaking, starting pitchers need three or four pitches in order to be effective. Shepherd’s fastball and cutter are borderline, but his changeup and curveball aren’t major
Shepherd will never be anything more than a fringe major league pitcher. He probably won’t ever have a home on a major league roster, but he could make a career as an up-and-down player on a 40-man roster.
The key to Shepherd finally making it out of Pawtucket starts with working on his secondary pitches. His fastball and cutter are fringe MLB-caliber pitches, but he’ll need more than that to make it in Boston. If he can get either his curveball or changeup working, he’ll earn his Red Sox debut. Don’t expect him to be a superstar, but he could make a few cameos on the Red Sox roster during 2019.