It's not every day that a Major League Baseball club signs a teenager, but when the Boston Red Sox inked Felix Doubront when he was just 16 years old they must have saw something special in him. As a byproduct of ex-Red Sox GM Theo Epstein's prevalence in the international free agent market, Doubront was signed out of Carabobo, Venezuela. A country that has become a baseball hot bed and is home to over 50 current MLB players. After signing with Boston, Doubront spent 5 years with the Red Sox developmental and minor league teams. His stops included Venezuelan summer and winter leagues as well as single A Lowell, double A Portland, and triple A Pawtucket. Along the way Doubront developed an exceptional repertoire of pitches which include a two and four seam fastball, in addition to a cutter, a change up, and a big curveball. Perhaps the culmination of Doubront's developmental period came in 2009 and 2010 seasons. Then a member of the Portland Sea Dogs, Doubront started 26 games and threw over 120 innings with 100 strike outs. During that year, Doubront also posted a .303 BABIP, which was the lowest of his entire minor league career. The next season, then just 22 years old, Doubront was promoted to triple A Pawtucket where he would start 9 games before the Red Sox finally decided he was ready to make his major league debut. Doubront saw his first major league action against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim as he pitched 5 innings, allowed two earned runs, and struck out and walked 2 batters each. Later that season, Doubront appeared in 12 games and was used as both a starter and reliever. After being in limbo between Boston and Pawtucket for the rest of the 2010 season, and then dealing with a shoulder injury in the 2011 season, Doubront was was given a shot at a rotation spot in 2012. Without letting the opportunity pass him by, Doubront cemented his role in the Red Sox rotation by starting 29 games and throwing over 160 innings; the most he's ever thrown. Additionally, Doubront posted a 4.86 ERA and a 1.44 WHIP, which grades normally for a pitcher in his freshman year. While last year showed the promise of Felix Doubront, it also showed area’s that needed improving. Pitch selection, for instance, was a facet of Doubront’s game that saw an overhaul. In 2012, Doubront tended to limit himself to 3 pitches; fastball, curveball, change up. Perhaps as a result, Doubront saw his FB% rise to 33% as well as his LD% raise to 24%. This season, Doubront has improved on mixing up his pitches more effectively. While he threw 16.2 % curveball’s last season, he has decreased that to 14%. In its place, Doubront has mixed in more cutters, throwing 9% this season, while throwing just 5.5% in 2012. Subsequently by mixing in 4 pitches instead of 3, Doubront now holds the 9th highest ground ball percentage, and the 9th lowest fly ball percentage in the American League.
Just as he’s improved on improving his batted ball statistics, Doubront has also taken a step forward on independent pitching stats. Granted he has kept a K% of 21.1 and BB% of 9.6, on a similar plane as last years, his FIP grades at 3.40 which is 13 in the American League; better than David Price, James Shields, and Justin Verlander. Contributing to his low FIP, while also considering his low FB%, it doesn’t come as a shock that Doubront holds a HR/9 of 0.58, which is the second best in the American League behind Anibal Sanchez.
Without having a real stand out starting pitcher this season, Doubront has been as close to the staff ace as any Sox pitcher has been. Across the board, Doubront has shown that he can be a legitimate middle of the rotation arm for a contending team. Since his last “stinker” of a start on May 16th in which he allowed 6 earned runs over 5 innings of work, Doubront has started 15 games and holds an ERA of 2.55 over 91 innings of work. While pitch count is still something Doubront needs to improve upon, throughout his 2 month span of dominance, he’s made it to at least the 5th inning in all but one of his starts. Perhaps most impressively though is that Doubront has allowed 3 runs or fewer in 15 straight starts, a feat that is second in Red Sox history to only Babe Ruth. Doubront will look to tie Ruth’s record of 16 consecutive starts on Saturday against the Kansas city Royals. For the Red Sox, it seems like Felix Doubront has exceeded their preseason expectations. Instead of being an arm to round out the rotation, Doubront has made himself a reliable, and sometimes dominate middle of the rotation starter. Not only has he grown through the Red Sox system, he has also grown as a starter. The transitions Doubront made from his rookie season to his sophomore season has proven his ability to learn and adapt to major league hitters. For now, it seems that Doubront will be an important part of the Red Sox rotation both now and in the future.