Brayan Bello is the top pitching prospect in the Red Sox farm system
Chaim Bloom has done a remarkable job of rebuilding a Boston Red Sox farm system that was among the worst in baseball when he arrived. If there is one critique to make about the talent Bloom has assembled, it’s that the prospect pool is top-heavy with position players. While most prospect lists include several bats from the Red Sox system, one of their pitching prospects is gaining recognition.
Keith Law of The Athletic recently revealed his annual top 100 MLB prospect rankings. The usual suspects were all included – Marcelo Mayer (18), Nick Yorke (37) and Triston Casas (56) will appear on most top 100 prospect lists. What separates Law’s rankings from most is that he included Red Sox pitching prospect Brayan Bello.
The 22-year old was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2017. Bello split time between High-A Greenville and Double-A Portland last season, going 7-3 with a 3.87 ERA, 12.5 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9. He was named as the Red Sox minor league Pitcher of the Year and added to the 40-man roster in November.
Bello was unranked in the previous edition of Law’s rankings. He didn’t make the cut in the updated rankings released by Baseball America last month and he isn’t on the most recent version of MLB Pipeline’s list. Four Red Sox players made the top 100 on MLB Pipeline, all of whom are position players. Their top 30 list of Red Sox prospects has five position players at the top, with Bello falling to No. 6 in the organization.
While Law sees the value of prospects with a high floor, he states that he tends to favor upside over certainty. Perhaps that’s why Bello made his list while falling short in other top 100 rankings.
Bello’s fastball reaches triple-digits and he can sit comfortably in the 95-97 range with good movement. His hard slider has the potential to be a plus pitch. The fastball-slider combo could be lethal, which points to a high ceiling.
As enticing as his upside appears to be, Bello still has to develop better command with his fastball and work on his secondary pitches. Improving his changeup could be the key to preventing opposing hitters from sitting on his fastball and Law suggests he might try adding a splitter to his repertoire.
There is risk that Bello could be destined for the bullpen if he isn’t able to harness more than two reliable pitches. If he improves his command and the quality of his secondary pitches, he’s capable of developing into at least a mid-rotation starter.
Bello’s inclusion on Law’s list is notable because it’s been a while since a Red Sox pitching prospect appeared in any similar rankings. The last Red Sox pitcher to land in MLB Pipeline’s top 100 was when Jay Groome was ranked No. 85 in 2018. Groome was No. 35 on Law’s list that year when he wrote for ESPN.
The former first-round pick has been derailed by injuries, including Tommy John surgery in 2018, preventing him from climbing higher than Double-A since being selected 12th overall in 2016. Groome showed encouraging progress this year but not enough to rejoin the elite class of prospects.
Sandwiched between Bello and Groome on the list of Red Sox pitching prospects is Bryan Mata. The right-hander was well on his way to emerging as top prospect but his development stalled after missing last season while recovering from Tommy John surgery. He arguably has an even higher ceiling than Bello but he’ll need to prove he’s healthy this year to re-establish his value.
The big bats in the Red Sox farm system get all the attention but they have a few intriguing arms to monitor as well. The top tier of Red Sox pitching prospects begins with Bello and it’s encouraging to see him included on a top 100 list.