What a week it’s been for Brayan Bello. First the 22-year-old starting pitcher was included on Keith Law’s annual list of the top 100 prospects in baseball and today he finds himself as the number five prospect on our list of the top Red Sox prospects entering the 2022 season (if we even have one). While I can’t speak to how much of a difference getting on these types of lists makes to Bello himself, it at least serves as a strong indication of how much the right-hander has improved his game.
Clearly you all in the voting public are paying attention to that, as Bello was the clear choice for the number five prospect spot on our community list, gaining 61 percent of the votes and outpacing other contenders like Jeter Downs and Bryan Mata. That is quite the feat and speaks to how much better Boston’s system has gotten in the last year, as Downs and Mata were voted the number two and three prospects, respectively, on this list a year ago. Meanwhile, Bello was all the way down at number 16. This year, he got some help from other guys graduating out of prospect eligibility (Bobby Dalbec and Tanner Houck were No. 7 and No. 8 on last year’s list, respectively), but Bello’s more than 10-spot leap isn’t simply a symptom of less competition.
Originally signed as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic in the summer of 2017, Bello proved a quick study in High-A ball last year before eventually earning a promotion to Double-A with the Portland Sea Dogs. In High-A, he made six starts and produced a 2.27 ERA, 2.82 FIP and a 36.9 percent strikeout rate compared with a 5.7 percent walk rate. That’s exceptionally dominant stuff and was excellent to see considering he had a 5.43 ERA across 25 starts in Low-A in 2019 before having to sit out a year due to the cancelled minor league season in 2020. Prior to his shaky work in Low-A, Bello pitched in 14 games in rookie ball in 2018, producing a combined ERA of 1.60 and striking out 74 batters while walking 10 in 67 1⁄3 innings, with all but three of those innings taking place in the Dominican Summer League.
Getting back to his more recent work, after making High-A hitters look foolish in the batter’s box for a few weeks last year, Bello moved up to Portland in June. Bello was less effective in Portland, although he definitely had some gems, such as when he threw six innings of one-run ball while striking out nine batters in an August outing against the Somerset Patriots. Even in some of his clunkier starts, he still flashed brilliance, including when he struck out 11 batters on Aug. 8 against the Binghamton Rumble Ponies despite allowing four earned runs in 5 1/3 innings. Even before those starts, Bello was turning heads, which is why he made the cut for the American League in the 2021 MLB All-Star Futures Game.
In total, Bello made 15 starts for Portland in 2021, accumulating 63 2/3 innings and a 4.66 ERA, a mark that undervalues his real skill, as he also had a much more impressive 3.12 FIP. In addition, even if his run prevention didn’t exactly carry over from A-ball, Bello continued to be a guy who could miss bats at the Double-A level, as he had a 31.1 percent strikeout rate in Portland. Unfortunately, his walk rate crept up to 8.6% and he allowed a .381 batting average on balls in play, indicating he still has some work to do in locating and hitting his spots.
As a strikeout pitcher, Bello is developing a pitch mix to make his high strikeout rates relatively sustainable. He can put triple digits on a radar gun with his fastball, although it lives in the high 90s, according to SoxProspects. That fastball and his changeup are his two highest rated pitches, according to FanGraphs, which rates his third offering, a slider, closer to the middle of the pack.
Bello is now on the Red Sox’s 40-man roster, so the organization clearly has rising expectations for the right-hander, who could make his MLB debut as early as this year, although SoxProspects has him slated to do so in 2023. Just how high those expectations should be is up for debate, with SoxProspects giving him “a wide variation of potential outcomes.” While the same can be said for plenty of prospects, Bello’s recent trend points toward a starting pitcher who could be a key part of the Red Sox’s staff in the near(ish) future.
Now, you can head down into the comments and vote for the number six prospect. As a reminder, to do this you go down below and find the comment from me corresponding with the player for whom you’d like to vote. When you find said player, just click the “rec” button, and that will count your vote. To do this, you will need to be logged in as a member of the site. If you’d like to vote for a player who is not listed, just leave a comment saying “Vote for ___ here” and I’ll rec the comment to count your vote. We encourage discussion, of course, but please don’t comment under specific players’ names. Instead, scroll to the bottom to start a new comment thread in order to keep the players at the top of the comment section. Until next time...