Brayan Bello’s rapid ascent will hit a crescendo Wednesday night on the mound at Fenway Park.
The 23-year-old pitcher will make his major league debut when he takes the ball for the Boston Red Sox in the final game of a three-game series with the Tampa Bay Rays.
It’s a well-deserved honor for Bello, who has made the most of his opportunities since the minor league season was canceled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The right-hander has made 36 appearances since the start of 2021, posting a 17-7 record over three levels. In that time, he’s averaging more than 12 strikeouts per nine innings to go along with a 3.14 ERA. He’s been especially dominant this season, with a 10-4 record and a 2.44 ERA in 15 appearances split between Double-A Portland and Triple-A Worcester.
As for the repertoire, he has fastball velocity in the upper 90s, which is the standard for top prospects like himself, to go along with a solid slider and a changeup that has gotten, gulp, Pedro Martinez comparisons. If and when Bello puts it all together and irons out any kinks, he’s a clear big league starter.
What’s especially encouraging is how Bello has been able to adapt to a jump in competition at the Triple-A level. He was toying with Double-A hitters at the time of his promotion, and the organization sounds pleased with how he’s been able to adjust on the fly.
“You know, he doesn’t get away some of the pitches (he did in Double-A),” Red Sox director of player development Brian Abraham told The Athletic. “Maybe he misses outside the zone (but was) getting chases on some of those pitches (at Double-A). So, I think continue to be competitive within the strike zone, especially with his fastball and then his slider as well. ? Continuing to work on shape, movement, all those things, but he’s got three plus-pitches. The added two-seamer has really been a game-changer for him.”
Bello’s ability to have success at multiple levels, thanks in large to the improvements he continues to make, has started to open eyes across the sport. FanGraphs lead prospect writer Eric Longenhagen recently admitted to an evolving perspective on Bello as the pitcher cracked his top 100 list.
“I’ve long considered Bello to be a relief prospect due to the length of his arm action, but he’s never generated excessive or role-altering walk rates, and when you look at the clusters of his pitch locations, it’s clear this guy has feel for locating his stuff even though his delivery features a good bit of violence and effort,” Longenhagen wrote.
“He has three impact pitches — a mid-to-upper-90s sinking/tailing fastball, a plus slider and a plus changeup — and is on the doorstep of the big leagues, and I’m buying that he has the command to start.”
It’s going to be very interesting to see how Bello is used the rest of the year. The most likely short-term scenario is that his stay in Boston is, well, short-lived. The Red Sox have reinforcements on the way with Nathan Eovaldi getting closer to a return, and Chris Sale on the horizon, too. Michael Wacha doesn’t sound like he’s a long-term absence, either.
If he impresses, would the Red Sox be willing to move Bello to the bullpen in order to keep him at the big league level? It seems unlikely. It probably makes more sense for him to continue developing as a starter at the minor league level if he’s not going to do it in Boston. On the other hand, we have seen prospects contribute out of the bullpen down the stretch before eventually settling in as a starter the season after.
That’s getting ahead of things, though. First, let’s see what Bello can do in his first taste of the majors Wednesday night.
NESN’s coverage of Wednesday night’s Red Sox-Rays game begins at 6 p.m. ET, with first pitch from Fenway at 7:10 p.m.