November 6, 2012 at 8:00 AM
#4 Allen Webster, RHP
2012 Teams: Chattanooga Lookouts (Dodgers)/Portland Sea Dogs
2012 Stats: 6-9, 3.86 ERA, 1.485 WHIP, 129 K, 61 BB
Pre-2012: Though he was primarily a shortstop at McMichael High School in Madison, N.C., the Dodgers were impressed enough by Webster's pitching to take a shot on him in the 18th round of the 2008 draft and move him to the mound full time. Signing quickly, he was assigned to the Gulf Coast League, where he was used in a relief/piggyback role. Splitting 2009 between the Dodgers affiliates in the Pioneer and Arizona League, Webster moved to the rotation and began to show flashes of the upside that would soon make him a coveted prospect. The six-foot-three righthander had a 2.30 ERA in 68 2/3 innings across 16 appearances, striking out 77 while walking only 18.
Webster continued climbing the ladder, posting a solid season for Low A Great Lakes of the Midwest League in 2010, before putting his name on the prospect map the following year. Assigned to start 2011 at Rancho Cucamonga of the high-offense California League, Webster was dominant. While the league posted an ERA of 4.89, Webster had a 2.33 mark through nine starts, giving up less than a hit per inning and striking out 62 while walking only 21. This earned the 21-year old a June promotion to Chattanooga of the Double-A Southern League. While the more difficult competition challenged Webster, with a 5.05 ERA and 101 hits allowed in 91 innings, he struck out more than twice as many as he walked, and impressed scouts along the way with an excellent change-up. Following the season, he was ranked 95th on Baseball America's top 100 prospects list.
2012 Season in Review: Webster received a repeat assignment to Chattanooga to start 2012. His second stint at the Double-A level was met with continued steady improvement. He had a 3.55 ERA in 27 appearances, a high strikeout rate, and great ground ball rates. Most impressive was Webster's ability to keep the ball in the park. Always stingy with the long ball, he gave up only one home run in 121 1/3 innings with the Lookouts. After arguably becoming the Dodgers' top minor league prospect by early August, Webster found himself dealt to the Red Sox as a centerpiece of the eight-player blockbuster that saw Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, and Carl Crawford head west.
Following the deal, Webster was assigned to Portland, where SoxProspects.com Director of Scouting Chris Mellen was able to check out his Sea Dogs debut. This first-hand account confirmed Webster's top-notch change, as well as an advanced slider. His fastball topped out at 95, but his command graded out as average. This also bore out in his stats, as Webster struggled with his control at times in 2012, walking a career-high 4.2 batters per nine innings.
2013 Outlook: Webster is Rule 5 eligible, but is certain to be added to the 40-man roster before the November 19 deadline. With the roster spot comes a slot in the major league camp, where Webster will get a shot to impress new manager John Farrell and the rest of Red Sox management. With 47 Double-A appearances under his belt, Pawtucket is likely the destination for opening day for the 23-year-old. Once there, Webster's main developmental goals will be to improve his control and gain better command of his fastball. He stands an excellent chance of making his major league debut at some point in 2013, and he could be in line to compete for a full-time spot in the Boston rotation entering 2014, if not by the end of the season in the best possible case.
Photo credit: Allen Webster by Dave Letizi