Among the weirdest parts of the 2020 season was that we didn’t get any minor-league season, and thus an entire season of development was lost for a whole lot of prospects. A few were able to participate in Pawtucket, but for the most part they were left on their own with just Zoom calls with coaches in the organization. Along with the lost development, players down on the farm have also fallen out of consciousness for some fans. That brings us to this series. Over the next two weeks, as we head into an offseason where the Red Sox may be looking to boost their farm system in some areas and trade out of it in others, we’re going to go position-by-position to reacclimate ourselves with the minor-leaguers all across the organization. Today, we look at the crop of right-handed pitchers.
Some external factors, specifically a military service commitment, plays into Mata getting the top billing among righties for me, but that’s not to say he isn’t deserving. Even if Noah Song were playing right now, I suspect there are still some who would have Mata in this top spot even if I likely would not. Mata was not a very highly touted prospect when he signed for $25,000 out of Venezuela, but he’s showed every step of the way that he has very real talent. The righty made his way to Double-A in 2019 as a 20-year-old and spent all of this past summer in Pawtucket with the rest of the Alternate Site players.
The positives here are evident as soon as you see him pitch. Mata packs some punch with his mid-90s fastball, and that is his best pitch. It’s really not particularly close. He works off of it early in counts and will often go to it as a put away offering as well. Along with the heat, he recently added a slider that has grown into a nice secondary, and he also throws a solid curveball and a changeup. He’s used this arsenal to put up solid strikeout rates throughout his minor-league career.
All of that said, there are still questions moving forward and it’s no sure thing he’s going to stick as a starter long-term. For one thing, the command on all of his pitches and his secondaries in particular need to be more consistent. On top of that, he’s had issues with repeating his mechanics and with health. The good news is there seems to be more optimism about his future as a starter after what he showed in Pawtucket this summer. He’s not a future ace, but a solid number four is realistic. And even if he does have to move to the bullpen, his stuff can translate to a late-inning role. Look for Mata to maybe make a late 2021 debut if all goes well, with 2022 being the time to really get excited.
A little bit of Br(a)yan bias so far on this list, and Joiner’s not even here! Anyway, Bello has sort of been my sleeper starting pitcher since early 2019, and I’m not off this train just yet. Like Mata, Bello was a low-key international signing, receiving $28,000 from the Dominican Republic. He was a little bit older when he signed, but he dominated in the DSL in his age-19 season. That was enough for him to go right to Greenville in 2019, and he had a pretty wild season there. The righty started out great, then struggled for a couple months before getting back on track and finishing well. He finished with a 5.43 ERA, but I don’t think that accurately portrays what he did in that season, particularly considering it was his first full season as a pro and his first full season in the United States.
Along with the performance, Bello has the arsenal to stick as a starter as well. He throws a fastball that can get up in velocity and sits in the mid-90s, and mixes in an impressive slider and a good changeup to boot. The issue is that he has shown some trouble with consistency in these pitches and with his command in general. On top of that, he probably needs a little more weight added on to feel comfortable with him taking on a starter’s workload. All of that said, he’ll start next season presumably in High-A and turning 22 in May. I’m looking at him as potentially the biggest jumper in the system in 2021.
Others of Note
- Tanner Houck graduated from prospect status in the minds of many at the end of this year, but not in practicality. The righty is still a prospect, and frankly still has some stuff to work on. I’m certainly more excited now than I was a couple months ago, but I still want to see the offspeed offering used more before I fully buy in.
- Connor Seabold was the prospect who came along with Nick Pivetta in the Brandon Workman/Heath Hembree trade. He’s not a big fastball pitcher, though it is solid, but rather one who relies more on a great changeup and solid breaking ball. The ceiling isn’t huge, but he’s close to the majors and should stick in the rotation.
- Noah Song, mentioned above, was not with the organization in 2020 due to a military commitment with the Navy. It’s still not clear how much of 2021 he’ll be out, either. But when he was able to pitch in 2019, both with Lowell and on the Team USA squad, he was dominant. Song has three good pitches and plus makeup, and without the military commitment for me personally he’d be in the conversation for top prospect in the organization.
- Thad Ward became a bit of a forgotten man this summer as he didn’t get the invite to Pawtucket after his breakout 2019. Get him back in your mind, though, because he was awesome a couple years ago thanks in large part to his new cutter, and he is a top ten prospect in this organization.
- Ryan Zeferjahn is probably a reliever long-term, but he is still a starter for now. He has a huge fastball but needs to sharpen up his secondaries a bit if he’s going to stick around as a starter. I wouldn’t be surprised if they move quickly to push him in the bullpen and have him rocket through the system from there.
- Yusniel Padron-Artilles made headlines in the postseason with Lowell in 2019, striking out 12 batters in a row. Don’t let that influence your hopes too much moving forward, but he can develop into a back-end type if all goes well.
- Aldo Ramirez got overshadowed a bit on a loaded Lowell team in 2019, but he’s got a solid future as a 19-year-old with a really good fastball and breaking ball as a base.
- Chih-Jung Liu was a big international signing out of Taiwan after the 2019 season, but he obviously hasn’t gotten a chance to play yet because of COVID. He was a two-way player before signing, but the Red Sox will have him focus on pitching.
- Wikelman Gonzalez got a $250,000 bonus out of Venezuela in 2018 and he had a solid pro debut in the DSL in 2019. There’s a long way to go here for the 18-year-old, but he’s a name to keep an eye on moving forward.
- Luis Perales was suddenly getting a ton of hype late in the winter last year and was turning into one of the more intriguing players to watch this summer. He wasn’t a highly-touted signing but was reportedly showing huge velocity out of nowhere. The shine has worn off a little bit, but that’s largely due to him simply having not been able to pitch.
- Durbin Feltman was supposed to be a quick-moving reliever, but he was a huge disappointment in 2019. He never found his footing in Double-A, struggling mightily with command. Next summer will be a big one for him.
- Jacob Wallace is another quick-moving recent draftee as a pure reliever. He was acquired from the Rockies in the Kevin Pillar deal, went to high school in Methuen, and has a big fastball/slider combo.
- Eduard Bazardo is another somewhat forgotten name. It was surprising to some that he wasn’t protected in last winter’s Rule 5 Draft, but he went unselected. There’s not a huge ceiling here, but I like his overall package and think there’s a solid middle reliever.
- Joan Martinez has been another personal favorite of mine for a few years. At some point he needs to sharpen things up a bit, but he has the traditional big stuff you want to see from a relief prospect.