Brian Van Belle signed with the Boston Red Sox as an undrafted free agent in 2020. Due to the pandemic, there was no MiLB season that year, so the pitcher didn't debut until 2021.
Van Belle was entering the minor leagues coming out of the University of Miami. Because of his College experience, he started immediately in High-A.
Year one was a success. The right-handed pitcher posted a 4.10 ERA over 79 innings (18 starts). His .276 BAA was pretty high, but he had a solid 1.25 WHIP, thanks to a minuscule 13 walks.
Van Belle appeared in 28 games (25 starts) in 2022, throwing 137 1/3 innings between High-A and Double-A. The numbers took a bit of a hit, with his ERA at 5.31 and his BAA at an alarming .302. Again though, only 20 walks kept his WHIP to a manageable 1.39.
Van Belle is a strike thrower. He will give you innings because he's not walking anyone. On top of that, we saw flashes of a really good pitcher. In each of his first two years, Van Belle had stretches of phenomenal play. A series of starts saw him give up barely any runs and consistently pushing five-plus innings.
BVB had four straight starts (22 innings) without allowing a run in 2021. He couldn't replica that in 2022, but he managed a stretch where he threw five-plus innings in 10-of-11 starts. There were quite a few phenomenal starts in there.
So through two years, the stats weren't going to excite anyone. But if you watched Van Belle pitch, you knew he was more than numbers. And in 2023, is he hitting his stride?
Red Sox prospect Brian Van Belle is hitting his stride in 2023
Van Belle has made three starts for a combined 17 innings this season. The righty has allowed one earned run (two total runs) on nine hits and three walks in that time. For those of you doing the math at home, Van Belle has a 0.53 ERA, .161 BAA, and 0.71 WHIP.
He won't keep up those absurd numbers, but he's doing something we've always known he can do. As I said earlier, Van Belle is a strike thrower. He's thrown 3,596 pitches in his career. A very nice 69% of those have been for strikes. Someone with that command has the ability to succeed, and we're seeing that this season.
I've said that he's not the "sexiest" pitching prospect. That's because he doesn't throw gas and won't get you a ton of strikeouts (nine this year). But the pitch mix is still fun. Van Belle has a low-90s fastball. Usually, that's nothing special in today's game. But his ability to pinpoint it gives it a boost. His high-70s curveball is decent and has a nice vertical drop. Finally, he has a fantastic changeup (and boy, do I love changeups) in the low 80s.
And this is where it gets interesting. Van Belle is 26 and will be Rule-5 eligible this offseason. Some teams will be interested in him, even if the numbers don't stay this low. An experienced College arm who can throw strikes will be on a few team's radars.
Can the Red Sox afford to let him go? If he continues to pitch well, that will be hard to explain.
We talk about "ceilings" a lot when prospects come up. Brian Van Belle is different, though. In a perfect world, his ceiling is an ace. Technically anyone in the minor leagues could have a great MLB career. What makes Van Belle special is he has a clear "floor" higher than most.
Brian Van Belle is a strike thrower. I've said that a lot because it bears repeating. At the very least, he could go out there tomorrow in a Major League game, and you know he's not going to take your team out of a game with wild command. He won't walk in runs. Van Belle can get you five innings, even if they aren't perfect.
There's insane value in that. The Boston Red Sox knew Brian Van Belle brought that to the table. In 2023, he's showing them he's not just a pitcher with a high floor. He might have a higher ceiling than they thought as well.