Fourth of July weekend is a time for celebration – of family, of friends, of America. So for one day, we're not going to kill the Red Sox, no matter how much they might deserve it.
Instead, on this festive weekend, let's highlight a couple of youngsters who may indeed be a part of the next great Red Sox team, which at this rate could even arrive by 2030.
The first is Brayan Bello, who took a no-hitter into the eighth inning on Thursday before suffering the hard-luck 2-0 loss vs. the Marlins. The other is hulking first baseman Triston Casas, who has very quietly emerged since an abysmal start.
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Bello's exploits speak for themselves. He is now without qualifier the best pitching prospect the Red Sox have developed since Clay Buchholz and maybe even Jon Lester. On Thursday, he was masterful, dominating the Marlins in the strike zone and earning swings and misses not only on his tremendous changeup, but his sinker and fastball, too.
Bello pitches with an infectious confidence and showmanship that's only going to grow as he matures. There's a reason his teammates love playing behind him, with Kiké Hernández invoking a Red Sox legend.
"I'm not saying he's Pedro," Hernández said earlier this year. "But there's a lot of Pedro in him."
Bello's most telling moment on Thursday actually came after he allowed his first hit, an infield single that Hernández gloved with a brilliant all-out diving stop that unfortunately left him in no position to throw. As the shortstop stared at the dirt on his hands and knees, Bello waited to make eye contact before flashing a sort of hang-10 sign to acknowledge Hernández's effort. Hernández gratefully returned the gesture, the youngster picking up the veteran.
Bello may only be 5-5, but his 3.08 ERA speaks to his dominance, which has only increased since a couple of rough starts in April and a quick return to Triple-A Worcester, a city he will never see again unless he's rehabbing.
Bello owns a 2.37 ERA in 10 starts since the beginning of May, with opponents hitting just .206. In his last start, against the White Sox, he dominated into the seventh inning despite shelving his up-and-down slider for a cutter he had never thrown in a game. He's making adjustments on the fly, he's standing tall on the mound, and he's a reason to feel good about the future.
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Casas' path has been rockier. He hit just .133 in April, his at-bats marked by a patience that bordered on passivity. But the trend lines have very quietly pointed up ever since. He hit .257 with a .766 OPS in May, and is at .288-.868 in June as he hones his approach and more aggressively attacks his pitches in the zone.
Outside of All-Star Rafael Devers, no one on the roster barrels more balls or makes consistently harder contact than Casas. His 419-foot missile off a changeup low and in vs. the Twins last week demonstrated his continuing evolution and previewed the hitter we can expect as he continues to grow. While Casas likes to use the whole field, his power is dead pull, with eight of his nine homers to right field and the other to straightaway center. Down and in to a lefty is the nitro zone and Casas didn't miss. We should expect more of that moving forward.
Chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom has vowed to build a sustainable winner, and the fruits of the farm are beginning to ripen. Whether there's enough talent coming to contend in the brutal American League East is a story for another day, but for this Fourth of July weekend, let's celebrate the pieces of the future that are already here.