Jon Lester, a left-handed starting pitcher from Tacoma, Washington, was a second round pick by the Boston Red Sox in the 2002 baseball amateur draft. Lester was drafted straight out of high school and signed his first professional contract with the Red Sox in August 2002. Lester features a four pitch arsenal including a plus cutter, a mid-90s fastball, and a curveball that serves as a great strikeout pitch. Now a member of Boston’s starting rotation, Jon Lester is one of the best pitchers in baseball and a perennial Cy Young Award candidate.
Jon Lester made his professional debut shortly after signing, pitching in one game for the Red Sox’s Gulf Coast League affiliate. His first meaningful minor league experience came in 2003 when he pitched a full season with the Augusta Greenjackets, then a single-A affiliate for Boston. In 106 innings, Lester posted a 3.65 ERA and 71 strikeouts as a 19-year old. Lester made a smooth transition through the lower minors and found himself pitching in AA by 2005.
With the AA Portland Sea Dogs, Jon Lester made his biggest leap as a prospect. With a 2.61 ERA and 163 strikeouts in 148.1 innings, the 21-year old was already knocking on the door to the Major Leagues. Less than 50 innings into his 2006 season, that’s exactly where he found himself. On June 10, 2006, Lester made his Major League debut for the Red Sox in a start against the Texas Rangers. He stuck in the Red Sox pitching rotation for two months before facing his biggest challenge.
After suffering a back injury and undergoing medical examinations, Jon Lester was diagnosed with a treatable form of lymphoma. Facing a great deal of adversity, Lester didn’t waver. Not only did he beat the disease, he returned to the Red Sox in time for spring training in 2007. Lester had to rehab his way back to form, throwing nearly 100 innings in the minors, but he finished the season as a starting pitcher for the Red Sox with 50 strikeouts and a 4.57 ERA in 63 innings. In the playoffs, Lester was not scheduled to start, but he replaced the injured Tim Wakefield and earned the win in the deciding game of the 2007 World Series to become a champion just 13 months after being diagnosed with cancer.
It took some time, but Jon Lester had finally returned to form as a high quality pitcher. 2008 was the first season in which he started the year in the Major Leagues. Lester surpassed every hurdle and had a brilliant season, finishing with 152 strikeouts and a 3.21 ERA in 210.1 innings. On May 19, 2008, Lester dazzled the Kansas City Royals with a no-hitter, the 18th ever thrown in Boston Red Sox history.
In 2009, Lester proved that his brilliant season wasn’t a fluke. Now a fully established All-Star caliber pitcher, Lester threw 203.2 innings with 225 strikeouts and a 3.41 ERA in 2009. Lester earned the role of number one starter for the Red Sox in the 2009 playoffs. Through the first two months of the 2010 season, Lester is continuing to step his game up, posting a 3.18 ERA and 89 strikeouts through 85 innings. He has taken the reigns as Boston’s top pitcher and one of the elite pitchers in baseball.