Thoughts On A Few Young Pitchers
Brayan Bello’s swinging strike rate has dropped from 19.3% in his 33 Double-A innings to 16.2% in 40 Triple-A innings, but that’s still a monster number. In fact, it’s the best rate by any AAA pitcher that has thrown more than 40 innings this season. He also holds the highest AAA ground ball rate among those pitchers, as his relatively new sinker has exploded into a dominant offering. He holds his upper-90s velocity deep into starts and generates lots of poor contact. It was fairly recently that his only fastball offering was straight and hittable, which was a cause for lower ceiling or even bullpen concerns.
The repertoire he’s showing now, a plus sinker (2-seamer) and changeup, and average sliders and fastballs (4-seamer), is that of a guy that could pitch in the middle of a rotation. However, given how raw he is, and his rapid development, this could be a top of the rotation pitcher with continued incremental improvements.
Bello has already thrown 74 innings in 2022 after only throwing 95 in 2021 and zero in 2020. His career high is 117 innings in 2019. It’s impossible to know what the ultimate inning cap / pitch count the Red Sox have on him, but at his current pace, you’d guess he’d blow through it sometime in August. It wouldn’t be surprising if he’s skipped a start soon, and possibly transitioned to the bullpen in July if the teams thinks he could be a difference maker in the major leagues, possibly as a scheduled bridge guy.
Josh Winckowski has made three major league starts now, including back to back good performances against the A’s and Tigers. In those two starts, he’s pitched the way he’ll need to in order to be a major league starter, a lot of strikes (65%) and ground balls (54%), while not giving up loud contact. In his last two starts, only Miguel Cabrera and Jonathan Schoop fly balls in the vicinity of the triangle were really squared up among the 39 batted balls against.
The ceiling limiter here, which has been noted throughout his Double-A and Triple-A performances, is that lack of clear swing and miss, putaway pitch type stuff at the moment. Through his first 14.2 innings, Winckowski has 9 strikeouts and whiffs on 20.6% of swings, which would place him around 125th/155 starting pitchers. While not a death sentence – that swing and miss rate is a tick above both Rich Hill and Michael Wacha – that area is generally occupied with guys that are fighting to stay above water, are working with smoke and mirrors, or pitchers that people are saying “what’s wrong with their stuff?”
The best hope right now seems to be his downward breaking slider, which has shown average swing and miss ability thus far.
Jay Groome has a 3.61 ERA and 1.25 WHIP with 62 strikeouts in 62.1 IP this season. In June, he’s had a 1.96 ERA and .552 OPS allowed. And yet, it feels like his standing as a prospect is backsliding a bit in the public sphere. Baseball America has him rated the Red Sox #10 prospect, MLB #11, and SoxProspects #15 (after opening the year #6).
While still being a good prospect, reports on him this season sound like his really elite stuff has not returned, even as we get further out from his Tommy John. His mix is reportedly now more like 4 average-ish pitches, rather than the high velocity fastball and plus-plus curve he showed years ago. That sounds like a back end guy, and it’s not clear if his stuff would be able to play-up out of the bullpen as a fallback option.
Among 115 Double-A pitchers with more than 40 innings pitched:
Strike Rate: 59.9%, 103rd/115
Swing and Miss Rate: 9.9%, 107th/115
Strikeout Rate: 23.7%, 64th/115
Walk Rate: 11.1%, 90th/115
3.61 ERA, 4.89 FIP, 4.68 xFIP