While the rest of Red Sox nation struggles to grapple with a tumultuous offseason that left more questions than answers, a few prospects within the system are flying under the radar. Specifically, starting pitcher Brayan Bello isn’t garnering enough attention, considering his second-half breakthrough in 2022. While Bello’s debut displayed signs of rookie growing pains, he quickly recovered and pitched a formidable second half. With throwing tools that mirror Red Sox great Pedro Martinez, Bello has an All-Star selection ceiling coming into 2023.
Signed as a free agent from the Dominican Republic in 2017, Bello quickly rose through the Red Sox minor league system; even with the 2020 season shortened due to COVID-19, he was ranked as a top 20 Red Sox prospect in 2022. Bello made his debut on July 6, 2022 against the Tampa Bay Rays, and looked slightly disorganized on the mound. Now, most rookies demonstrate a certain type of nervousness when making their first big league start — it’s natural. However, his struggles continued over his first four starts, in which he went 0–3 with an ERA of 8.91. In his following start against the Houston Astros, Bello only lasted two-thirds of an inning before injuring his left groin.
After his return to the mound just three weeks later, Bello settled nicely into the Red Sox rotation. Over his last eight starts, Bello struck out 40 batters and held a 3.46 ERA, a pleasant change compared to his debut. By reworking his change-up, Bello overpowered hitters with an average velocity of 88.3 mph; his changeup runs above average, or wCH, was 3.2. Although his fastball seemed deflated towards elite hitters, Bello suffered from bad luck as he induced hard contact on 27.7%of all pitches thrown.
Although his second-half numbers don’t display a hall-of-famer in the making, his poise and confidence grew following each start. Before his groin injury, Bello would grow visibly frustrated on the mound after a bloop hit or missed strike call; the frustration would boil over eventually and affect his composure throughout the start. Now, he seems less frantic on the mound and has recognized which pitches work for him (i.e. his deadly changeup).
Due to some forearm tightness that has sidelined Bello for the time being in spring training, FanGraphs slots Bello as the No. 1 starterat AAA Worcester. While this seems like the most likely option for Bello, I believe that he deserves a shot at the final rotation spot. In those last eight starts in 2022, he displayed a pitching potential that Red Sox fans haven’t witnessed in years. Once his batted ball percentages return to league average, Bello would be a No. 3 starter in the Red Sox rotation at the least. And, after his pitches and location continue to develop, there’s no reason to ignore the inevitable all-star hype that will surround Bello. He is that “diamond in the rough” pitching prospect that this Red Sox system was searching for; hopefully us Red Sox fans can finally cherish another all-time pitching great.