Should Red Sox view pitching prospect Wyatt Olds as starter or reliever moving forward?

Over the summer, the Red Sox selected 20 players in the revamped version of the 2021 amateur draft.

Of the 16 draftees Boston wound up signing, eight were pitchers. This piece in particular will focus on University of Oklahoma right-hander Wyatt Olds and the year he put together.

Taken in the seventh round (and with the 196th overall pick) in the draft, Olds signed with the Sox for $239,000 in late July and was promptly sent out to the club’s spring training complex in Fort Myers.

After making just one appearance for the rookie-level Florida Complex League Red Sox, Olds was promoted to Low-A Salem on August 20. The 22-year-old closed out his first professional season by posting a 2.45 ERA and 2.52 FIP to go along with 20 strikeouts to six walks over five outings (three starts) spanning 11 innings of work.

Among the 334 pitchers who accrued at least 10 innings on the mound last season, Olds ranked 11th in strikeouts per nine innings (16.4), 23rd in strikeout rate (40%), 26th in FIP, and 43rd in xFIP (3.26), per FanGraphs.

Olds, who was signed out of college by area scout Lane Decker, was used as both a starter and reliever in his three seasons with the Sooners. Most recently, the Oklahoma native opened the 2021 campaign in the team’s starting rotation, but he was moved back to the bullpen in mid-April.

Coming into the draft, Olds was regarded by Baseball America as the 422nd-ranked draft-eligible prospect. According to his Baseball America scouting report from that time, the righty’s “lower arm slot can make it hard for hitters to pick up the ball, and he misses bats, but he also misses the strike zone. He has a long arm action that he has struggled to repeat consistently, especially in longer stints. His fastball picked up a tick after his move to the bullpen, as he went from sitting 91-94 mph to sitting 93-96 mph and touching 97 mph.

In addition to his high-octane fastball, SoxProspects.com’s director of scouting Ian Cundall writes that Olds works with an 85-88 mph slider and a changeup that still has room for improvement.

Listed at 6-foot and 183 pounds, Olds does not turn 23 until August. He “has definite major-league potential” as a reliever, per Cundall. But he needs “to improve his changeup and show he can stay healthy over a full season as a starter to be considered in that role.”

On that note, Olds is projected by SoxProspects.com to begin the 2022 minor-league season in Salem’s starting rotation. Cundall suggests that this would force the young hurler “to use all of his pitches and refine his fastball command.”

(Picture of Wyatt Olds: Edward Reali/OU Daily)

Red Sox select University of Oklahoma right-hander Wyatt Olds with No. 196 pick in 2021 MLB Draft

The Red Sox have selected University of Oklahoma right-hander Wyatt Olds with their seventh-round pick in the 2021 MLB first-year player draft at No. 196 overall.

Olds, who turns 22 next month, was regarded by Baseball America as the No. 420 prospect coming into the draft. He is the first and only college pitcher the Red Sox have selected so far.

Listed at 6-foot and 183 pounds, the Oklahoma native just wrapped up a junior season with the Sooners in which he posted a 5.23 ERA and 1.36 WHIP while recording 101 strikeouts and 37 walks over 19 appearances (11 starts) spanning 75 2/3 innings of work this spring.

Per his Baseball America scouting report, Olds — who was not drafted out of high school — began the 2021 campaign in Oklahoma’s starting rotation, but ultimately moved to the bullpen on account of prolonged struggles.

“Olds’ lower arm slot can make it hard for hitters to pick up the ball, and he misses bats, but he also misses the strike zone,” his scouting report reads. “He has a long arm action that he has struggled to repeat consistently, especially in longer stints. His fastball picked up a tick after his move to the bullpen, as he went from sitting 91-94 mph to sitting 93-96 and touching 97.

“Evaluators already saw Olds as a likely reliever in pro ball and his 2021 season only further confirmed that suspicion. As a reliever, Olds can rely on his fastball/slider pairing, both of which play as above-average offerings in shorter stints. His slider is a power pitch (85-88 mph) with some tilt. As a reliever, he doesn’t have to use his well below-average changeup that he threw as a starter.”

While it certainly appears as though Olds projects to be a reliever at the pro level as opposed to a starter, the young righty does have the option to return to campus if he so chooses.

That said, the recommended slot value for the 196th overall selection in this year’s draft is $239,000, so perhaps he and the Red Sox can get a deal done based off that figure.

(Picture of Wyatt Olds: Paxson Haws/The Daily)

Jaxx Groshans evaluates some of the top pitching prospects in the Red Sox farm system

He’s caught them. He’s hit against them. When it comes to some of the more intriguing pitching prospects in the Red Sox organization, there aren’t many better people to ask about them than catching prospect Jaxx Groshans.

When speaking with BloggingtheRedSox.com earlier this week, the 22-year-old backstop shared his thoughts on the likes of Jay Groome, Noah Song, and Ryan Zeferjahn, all of whom are regarded by SoxProspects.com as top-15 pitching prospects within Boston’s farm system.

Here are those thoughts put into writing.

LHP Jay Groome (SoxProspects’ No. 7 pitching prospect)

“I’ve faced off against Groomy multiple times and I got to catch him when I was in Lowell and at fall instructs both years (2019 and 2020). His stuff has grown a long way, man. He’s got big-league caliber shit, and I think that’s going to carry him for a while.”

RHP Noah Song (SoxProspects’ No. 6 pitching prospect)

“I caught Noah in his debut in Aberdeen… As far as Songy is concerned, that’s some of the best pure stuff I think I’ve ever seen. I applaud him for going back and serving [in the Navy] like he was supposed to, but that’s a damn shame because that kid probably could have been in the big-leagues this coming year. He probably could have made an appearance in the league out of the ‘pen last year to be honest with you, because his stuff is that good.”

RHP Ryan Zeferjahn (SoxProspects’ No. 11 pitching prospect)

“Zef’s a good dude, man. He’s got some electric stuff, too. I’m very, very excited to see how his career pans out because I think he can be a successful big-leaguer for a long time, especially if he figures out control of all his pitches and finetunes them. We’ll just have to wait and see from here. Like I said, he’s got a lot of special stuff and he’s very blessed with the arm he has.”

Groshans and Zeferjahn both played college baseball together at the University of Kansas. They were both selected by the Red Sox within hours of each other during Day 2 of the 2019 MLB first-year player draft.

“Before we got drafted, we were in Bricktown (Oklahoma City) playing Kansas State in the Big-12 tournament,” Groshans recalled. “Me and Zef were sitting on the bench, and Zef was like ‘Man, how cool would it be if the both of us got drafted by the same team? It would be sick because I’d get to throw to you and we’d be teammates again.’

“And I was like ‘Yeah, dude. That would be sick. That would be awesome,'” continued Groshans. “Then I saw Zef got picked by the Sox in the third [round], and I was like ‘Damn, okay. What’s going to happen? How’s this going to go?’ Then my agent texted me and he was like ‘Red Sox.’ So, I kind of kept it in for a second and as soon as my name got called, Zef was one of the first people to text me. He was like ‘Let’s freaking go! That’s awesome, man!’ I was like ‘Yeah, meet me in Florida and let’s have some fun.'”

BONUS: Former University of Oklahoma outfielder and Oakland Athletics first-round draft pick Kyler Murray, who is currently the starting quarterback for the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals

“I know Kyler. I grew up around the same area — before I moved to Houston — that he was from. So I was from Plano, he was from Allen (Texas). I met him off and on the field, too. He’s a freak athlete, man.

“I saw something the other day where they were putting out on SportsCenter: Who of these NFL athletes would be successful in the minor-leagues if they played?’ It’s Kyler 100% hands down,” Groshans said. “He’s said it before. I don’t believe his time in baseball is done yet. I think if at any point he decides to come back, he could definitely do it. 100%.”

(Picture of Jaxx Groshans: Kelly O’Connor/ sittingstill.smugmug.com)