In case you hadn’t noticed, the Boston Red Sox bullpen is something of a dumpster fire right now. While players like Matt Barnes have mostly answered the call, the back of the bullpen leaves a lot to be desired. Players like Tyler Thornburg, Colten Brewer, and Ryan Brasier can’t get batters out, and the Red Sox need to try something new. Fortunately, a fix may be on the way in 26-year old lefty Kyle Hart.
Nobody is claiming Hart is capable of coming up and immediately fixing the bullpen. However, he’s worth a shot at replacing a guy like Tyler Thornburg as an early-inning reliever. The Sox bullpen needs all the help it can get, and Hart’s recent development should earn him a chance sooner or later.
Kyle Hart Not Far From Major League Debut
Despite entering the season under the radar, Hart has always been a solid pitcher in the minors. While he doesn’t have the best stuff, Hart has always managed to maximize his pitch tool and be an effective starter. Hart was one of three minor league All-Stars on the 2018 Portland Sea Dogs and finished the year with a solid-if-unspectacular 3.57 ERA and a 4.20 FIP.
However, Hart stepped his game up a notch in 2019. The lefty started the year in Portland, pitching 55.2 innings to the tune of a 2.91 ERA and a 3.03 FIP. He struck out more than one batter per inning while issuing an acceptable 2.75 walks per nine innings. This success was encouraging but not entirely unexpected, as Hart was entering his second season in AA Portland. Players are notoriously more productive once repeating a level, and nobody was going to get too excited about Hart until they saw what he did at the next level.
After one start, Hart is very much on the Red Sox radar. During his AAA debut, the lefty tossed a complete game shutout, striking out eight batters without issuing a walk and allowing just five hits. This was a fantastic effort by every conceivable measure, and Hart’s ability to handle the increased competition should be applauded. It’s obviously a small sample, but this is an encouraging development for a player who consistently sailed under the radar.
Why Haven’t You Heard of Kyle Hart?
Unfortunately, there is a reason you haven’t heard of Kyle Hart. While Hart has performed well against every level thus far, his subpar pitch tool limits his major league potential. Nobody tracks minor league pitch velocity, but Sox Prospects says Hart’s fastball sits in the high 80’s and has a mid-70’s slider and a low 80’s changeup and curveball.
Hart’s a smart pitcher in that he knows how to mix his pitches and keep batters guessing. However, major league hitters will be able to pick up on this lack of pitch motion, especially if they see him multiple times. Because of this, Hart’s future probably lies in the bullpen.
Despite his impressive AAA debut, Kyle Hart still needs some time in Pawtucket before earning a spot in the major leagues. Hart needs to show that his smarts can consistently get AAA batters out in spite of the lack of pure stuff. If he can do that, he could earn an audition in the Red Sox bullpen. It’s anyone’s guess if he’ll succeed, but he can’t be much worse than what’s already there.