When the Boston Red Sox are at their best, their starting rotation is one of their key strenghts. From the Lefty Groves of the past, to the Chris Sales of the modern era, Boston fans have been spoiled when it comes to rotation production. But what about the future for the Red Sox? Let’s take a look at who some of the future faces of the rotation could be.
Brayan Bello leads the way for Red Sox pitching prospects, coming in at number six overall. Bello, a 2017 international signing out of the Dominican Republic, has steadily worked his way up the minor league ladder since signing. He’s shown intriguing stuff combined with advanced level pitchability, which has steadily improved since signing.
Bello’s best pitch is his fastball, which sits around 95 but has touched up to 98. Bello can control it well but doesn’t feature much late life, and can be crushed if he doesn’t have the feel for it. Bello’s changeup sits in the mid 80s and dances around the zone well, and has plus-level upside. Bello’s slider also sits around the mid 80s but is a hair behind his changeup, but does have good potential.
Bello’s stuff on his own sits around average level, but he can throw strikes consistently and has plus athleticism, which leads to a good overall projection. He’s performed decently in 13 starts for Double-A Portland this season, with good peripherals putting some better light on his 4.53 ERA.
Bryan Mata finds himself one spot behind Bello on Boston’s top 30 list at number seven overall. Mata, a 2016 international signing out of Venezuela, has battled through a tough hand early in his career. When healthy, Mata has the best stuff in the system, but he has dealt with injuries and severe control issues in his time so far, including Tommy John surgery this April.
Mata’s two-seam fastball has some intriguing characteristics. It sits in the mid 90s, but generates more weak groundball contact than it does swings and misses. Mata does feature a four-seam fastball which can touch triple digits but features no life to it. Mata’s slider touches the upper 80s and is a good strikeout pitch, and his changeup features some potential but sits firmly behind the slider. Mata made good progress on cutting down walks during the 2019 season, but has gotten hit hard when his command begins to falter. Missing a second straight season isn’t helping Mata, but Boston still has big plans for him.
Jay Groome sits just one spot behind Mata at number eight overall. He was the number one overall prospect in the 2016 draft, but fell to Boston at 12th overall due to signability and maturity concerns. Injury has been a problem for Groome, as he only pitched 66 career innings entering the 2021 season.
When he has taken the mound, Groome’s natural feel for his pitches has shown. His fastball has increased in velocity from low 90s to around 95 and has shown good life to it. Groome’s curveball was considered the best of any prospect in the 2016 draft class, but has fallen back a step. It’s still a good offering, but Groome’s slider has stepped up a notch. It sits in the mid 80s and is becoming Groome’s go to strikeout pitch. He’s working on adding a changeup, which features good sink and could become an average pitch.
Groome desperately needed professional innings this year. Currently sitting at 86.2 innings this year, he’s already eclipsed his career total in just one year. Boston believes Groome still has the potential to be the starter they thought he would be when he was drafted. The stuff is there, all he needs is more seasoning.
Chris Murphy is a little bit behind the other three prospects on Boston’s top 30, slotting in at 12th overall. Murphy, a sixth round pick in the 2019 draft, has pitched well above expectations since being selected, and could be the first of the four to reach Fenway.
Murphy’s fastball has steadily improved since signing. Operating in the low 90s in college, he’s been able to bring up to 96 with decent life in the professional ranks. Murphy also brings a low 80s slider that has been sharpened by Boston’s coaching staff, but it can be argued his low 80s changeup is the better pitch. Murphy also brings a high 70s curveball that fools hitters consistently when he has the feel for it. While none of his offerings stand out, Murphy’s deceptive delivery and pitchability make up for any true plus offering. He’s performed well in 20 starts across two levels this season, and could be in Fenway by 2022.
Chris Sale is still in his prime, so these prospects don’t have to come up and contribute right away. But Boston is quite good at stashing pitching depth for the future and this seems to be yet another case. All four of Bello, Mata, Groome and Murphy have the potential for solid careers for the Red Sox, and could be headlining the rotation in just a few seasons.