With increasing reports that the Boston Red Sox will not sign Craig Kimbrel, the bullpen is likely to look drastically different in 2019. Joe Kelly has departed for Los Angeles and the Red Sox have signed several relievers to minor-league contracts.
But the team still has two under-the-radar options waiting in the minor leagues. Let’s not forget that Boston’s most likely closer, Matt Barnes, is a homegrown player. The team also received great 2018 production from an unlikely source in Ryan Brasier.
In fact, Barnes’s road to the majors is a great standard of comparison and model for both Travis Lakins and Durbin Feltman. Barnes was drafted in 2011 and his impressive 3.67 ERA in the minors earned him his first major league appearance in 2014.
Lakins, drafted in the sixth round in 2015, is on a similar track to that of Barnes after turning in an impressive 2018. He posted an impressive 2.32 ERA over 36 appearances for Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket.
The 24-year-old out of Ohio State University had a shaky first two seasons in the minors, posting a 5.93 ERA in 2016 and a 4.21 mark in 2017. But he seems to have righted the ship and any continuation of his 2018 performance could spell majors at some point in 2019.
The Red Sox have another, less experienced option in 2018 third-round draft pick Durbin Feltman. Just 21, the Texas Christian University reliever posted a stunning 1.93 ERA in 2018. He split time between all three A-level clubs, appearing in a total of 22 games.
Feltman is likely too young and too far down in the minors to see action in 2019, but his numbers are definitely impressive. Therefore, he is likely to start 2019 in Portland and more impressive numbers could warrant a promotion to Pawtucket. If he is lights out there as well, the majors become a more likely proposition.
The Red Sox have been scolded this offseason for their lack of moves to improve a bullpen that finished behind the Yankees in the 2018 regular season. However, options like Lakins and Feltman give the team internal depth that if nothing else will push the major league players to be better in 2019.