Is Boston Red Sox pitcher Brayan Bello really the new Pedro Martinez?

Kenley Jansen has compared Red Sox youngster Brayan Bello to all-time great Pedro Martinez on multiple occasions in the past couple of weeks, so naturally I want to see if this comparison holds merit.
Texas Rangers v Boston Red Sox
Texas Rangers v Boston Red Sox / Nick Grace/GettyImages

There's a pet peeve that is shared between myself and my family, and it really applies only to sports: announcers prematurely anointing young players as all-time greats before they've grown any hair on their chest.

No matter how many times I continue to tell myself and everyone else that sports media works in the world of hyperbole and aims to rile up fanbases into new levels of super-fandom and protectiveness of their team's legends in the grand scheme of their sport's history than thought possible, it still annoys me to no end when one of the broadcasters waxes poetic about how Patrick Mahomes is already better than Tom Brady.

Even though these oft-ludicrous statements bother me to no end, it feels different when they're coming from within the player's organization. In the last couple of weeks, Red Sox closer (and all-time great in his own right) Kenley Jansen has brought up on multiple occasions a nickname he has for pitching phenom Brayan Bello: Pedro Martinez Junior.

Naturally, I choked on my water when I saw Jansen's comments for the first time. Sports and our fandoms are built upon the hype machine, I completely understand, but invoking the name of a first-ballot Hall of Famer and one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball history? Jansen is writing checks that he's relying on Bello to cash with those words.

However, after I wiped the water up off of the floor, I sat back and pondered over Jansen's nickname. Of course, the comparison between Bello and Martinez is easy to make: both are hard-throwing righties with nasty changeups, both hailed from the Dominican Republic, and neither impose hitters with massive frames (Bello stands at 6'1", 195, while Martinez stood at 5'11", 170).

Couple that with Martinez working out with Bello during the offseason in the Dominican, and Jansen's comparative nickname isn't quite so far-fetched. Still, Bello has a long way to go before he reaches Pedro's heights, but for the sake of conjecture, let's take a look at how Bello's first 25 career starts stand up to how Martinez started his career.

How does Brayan Bello compare to Pedro Martinez so far?

Pedro Martinez started his career with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1992, being called up at the end of a lost season for Tommy Lasorda, with the Dodgers finishing the season 63-99 and in dead last in the National League. While Martinez did make 2 appearances in 1992, I will be using his true rookie season of 1993 and his first full season as a starter, the strike-shortened 1994 season with the Montreal Expos. This gives us a snapshot of 25 starts, the same amount of starts that Brayan Bello has made up until this point in his career. We'll take a look at how they compare and contrast stat wise, look at key starts, and determine what this all really means for Bello moving forward.

Starting with Martinez, he spent 1993 primarily as a relief option for the Dodgers, making 65 appearances throughout the season, getting 2 starts for Los Angeles. In those two starts, Martinez went 0-2, giving up 6 earned runs across 7.1 innings pitched, striking out 6 while walking 4. Martinez was then dealt to Montreal, where he became a part of the rotation for the team unofficially known as the 1994 World Series champions. In his first year as a full time starter, Pedro really became a strikeout machine, going 11-5 in 23 starts, striking out 141 batters and walking 45 while giving up 55 earned runs in 144 innings pitched.

Pedro showed flashes of the dominance that we came to expect from him throughout 1994: an 8-inning, 1-run win against Cincinnati in April, a complete game shutout against the Mets in June, back to back 8+ shutout innings performances in August before the season came to an abrupt end (he also hit a triple and drove in 5 runs during the year, so he was basically Shohei Ohtani in 1994). It was clear that Martinez was going to be a really good arm moving forward, especially by gaining much more command over his pitches from '93 to '94 (Martinez's walk rate dropped from 12.8% in 1993 to 7.7% in 1994, marking the last time his walk rate surpassed double digits). The talent was evident, and Pedro more than delivered on the promise he showed.

Statline: 25 starts, 11 wins, 7 losses, 151.1 innings pitched, 3.63 ERA, 147 strikeouts, 49 walks, 3.0 K/BB

Now, turning the page to Brayan Bello. Of course, Bello was hyped up as a top pitching prospect for the Red Sox up until his promotion last season, and fans have already begun placing him as the ace of the future for the Red Sox. His stuff passes the eye test and has the data nerds believing in him (shoutout to this FanGraphs blog post about him), but are the Pedro comparisons a step too far?

In 2022, Bello came up to the Red Sox right around this time of the year, making his debut just over one year ago against the Rays. Bello was used primarily as a starter in 2022, with 11 of his 13 appearances coming as a starting pitcher. In those starts, Bello went 2-7, giving up 28 earned runs in 52.1 innings pitched, striking out 49 batters and walking 24. Obviously, the record was not anything to write home about, but Bello faced off primarily against division opponents, and it seems like being exposed to those high-emotion starts right away has helped Bello improve this season.

After a couple of rocky starts at the beginning of the year, Bello has really settled in and put together a string of great performances to help give Red Sox fans something to cheer about. Bello has ascended to the role of the Yankee Killer, he gave us 7 no-hit innings against a surprisingly strong Marlins team, and went 7 strong against the Texas Rangers in his most recent start. He currently sits at 6-5 on the year, giving up 27 earned runs in 80 innings so far, striking out 70 while walking 22 batters.

The stats show a lot of reasons for excitement, with Bello performing better in terms of opponent's batting average, slugging, and on base percentage, as well as dropping his walk rate from over 10% last season to 6.6% this year. Much like Martinez, Bello is showing early on that he has top-level stuff, it's just a matter now of Bello being able to keep up his performance moving forward.

Statline: 25 starts, 8 wins, 12 losses, 132.1 innings pitched, 3.75 ERA, 119 strikeouts, 46 walks, 2.59 K/BB

It's understandable, but we need to slow down

Upon looking at the starts of these two careers, it makes sense why the Pedro comparisons are being made to Bello. In terms of pitching style, pitch mix, and physical build, it does feel like Bello is doing his best Pedro Martinez impression every single time he steps on the mound. I think that, if Bello continues to apply the same amount of attention to improvement as he did this offseason moving forward, he could end up having an extremely good career (hopefully completely in Boston).

But, much like I talked about in my opening ramblings, I think we need to pump the brakes a little bit on these lofty comparisons we are placing on Brayan Bello's shoulders. Yes, he is showing improvement the same ways that Pedro did early on, but Pedro made his living in the middle of the Steroid Era, making his ability to completely shut down offenses that much more impressive.

If Pedro Martinez had played his career in today's offensive environment, his case for greatest pitcher of all time may be a bit more undisputed. Maybe we have the ability to see that in watching Brayan Bello develop, but let's just celebrate the fact that the Red Sox have seemingly finally developed a good starting pitcher again, and let's take this journey with Bello and see how close he can come.