CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – In what was the most striking “worst-to-first” turnarounds between the 2015 and 2016 Major League Baseball Seasons, Boston Red Sox right-handed pitcher Rick Porcello received the American League Cy Young Award Wednesday night, the result of balloting conducted by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
An alumnus of the 2006 Perfect Game All-American Classic and 2006 PG National Showcase, the 27-year-old Porcello rebounded from a nine-win season in 2015 to win a major-league high 22 this season for the AL East Division Champion Red Sox.
He finished 22-4 with a 3.15 ERA and a 5.906 strikeout-to-walk ratio bolstered by a career-high 189 strikeouts and a career-low 32 walks. He was particularly impressive down the stretch, finishing 3-1 with a 2.72 ERA in 36 1/3 innings over his last five starts.
Also noteworthy is that Porcello totaled 33 starts and 223 innings pitched in 2016 – both career highs – and worked at least six innings in 30 of those starts, including his last 18.
“I knew I was going to have a good year pretty much right after the All-Star break,” Porcello told MLB.com. “I honestly don’t remember what start it was. I felt like I had the weapons this year and the command to get out just about anybody I’d encounter, and any lineup. It was one of those things where I had nothing to worry about going into a start. It was just about staying consistent, controlling the tempo of the game and attacking guys.
Porcello won the award in close and controversial balloting with the Detroit Tigers’ Justin Verlander, a former teammate with the Tigers. Verlander had six more first-place votes than Porcello, 14-8, but Porcello received 18 second-place votes and 22 down-ballot votes (2nd through 5th) opposed to Verlander’s two second-place votes and 14 down-ballot votes. Porcello out-pointed Verlander 137-132; two BBWAA voters left Verlander off their ballots entirely.
Cleveland Indians right-hander Corey Kluber, an alumnus of three PG events in 2002-03, finished third in the balloting with three first-place votes and 98 points. Verlander previously won the award in 2011 while Kluber won in 2014. Porcello becomes the fourth PG alumnus to win an AL Cy Young Award, joining the Royals’ Zack Greinke (2009), the Rays’ David Price (2012) and Kluber.
A 2007 graduate of New Jersey’s Seton Hall Prep, Porcello made his Perfect Game debut at the PG/BA World Championship in Jupiter, Fla., in November, 2005, as a hard-throwing, 6-foot-5, 195-pound, 16-year-old; his fastball was gunned at 94 mph at the event.
It touched 96 at all three of his 2006 events – the PG National Showcase, the PG All-American Classic and the PG WWBA World Championship – and by the time he graduated he was PG’s No. 1-ranked national prospect in his class.
After watching him pitch at the National Showcase, a PG scout wrote:
“(Porcello) has a plus body, the type you would draw up for a young pitching prospect. He is long, lean, lanky and has … as much raw ability as anyone in this high school draft class. … Porcello pitches from an over-the-top slot and has a clean and loose arm stroke.”
Porcello shared the field at the 2006 PG All-American Classic played at Tony Gwynn Stadium on the campus of San Diego State University with current big-league standouts Madison Bumgarner, Matt Harvey, Jason Heyward, DJ LeMahieu and Freddie Freeman.
The Detroit Tigers used the 27th pick of the first-round in the 2007 MLB June Amateur Draft to snag Porcello; he signed that August and spent only one full season (2008) in the minor leagues. He made his big-league debut on April 9, 2009, with the Tigers – a little over three months after his 20th birthday – a and went on to win 14 games and finish third in the American League Rookie of the Year Award balloting.
Porcello posted double-digit wins in each of the next five seasons, including 14 in 2011 and a career high 15 in 2014, before being shipped to the Boston Red Sox that December as part of a four-player deal that brought Yoenis Cespedes and two others to Detroit.
His first season in Boston was anything but memorable. He finished 9-15 with a 4.92 ERA in 2015 and his struggles carried over to the spring when he posted a 12.00 ERA and broke camp as the No. 4 starter in the Red Sox’s rotation. He righted the ship quickly, going 5-0 with a 2.76 ERA in April, and was seemingly on cruise control the rest of the 2016 season.