On the morning of May 11, Red Sox pitching prospect Brendan Cellucci woke up with an 11.70 ERA through his first nine appearances (10 innings) of the season for High-A Greenville.
Since being selected by the Sox in the 12th round of the 2019 amateur draft out of Tulane University, Cellucci had always been used as a reliever. But the left-hander was struggling mightily while repeating High-A to begin the 2022 campaign.
So, after the first week of May, the Drive decided to switch things up with their pitching staff. Cellucci would become an opener and make his first professional start on Wednesday, May 11, against the Asheville Tourists.
In two scoreless innings of work at McCormick Field that night, the 23-year-old faced the minimum while walking one and striking out four on 26 pitches — 19 of which were strikes.
Since then, Cellucci has thrived as an opener who pitches exclusively on Wednesdays and Sundays. In 10 starts for the Drive, the lefty has posted a miniscule 1.83 ERA and 2.82 FIP with 30 strikeouts to 14 walks over his last 19 2/3 innings of work.
As a reliever to start off the year, Cellucci produced an 18.2% strikeout rate, 18.2% walk rate, .317 batting average against, and a 2.30 WHIP. As a quote-unquote starter, he has produced a 38% strikeout rate, 17.7% walk rate, .138 batting average against, and a 1.17 WHIP, per FanGraphs.
Walks do remain an issue for Cellucci, though the Philadelphia-area native has been able to cut down on the free passes just a bit since moving to Greenville’s starting rotation.
Listed at 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds, Cellucci operates with a three-pitch mix that consists of a 93-95 mph fastball that tops out at 97 mph, an 83-86 mph curveball, and an 85-87 mph changeup, per his SoxProspects.com scouting report.
Cellucci, who turns 24 at the end of the month, is currently regarded by FanGraphs as the 39th-ranked prospect in Boston’s farm system. Back in March, FanGraphs’ Kevin Goldstein and Tess Taruskin described Cellucci as a southpaw with a solid foundation who “just needs to work on his ability to locate his three offerings in order to actualize his potential role as an impact reliever.”
With that being said, Cellucci can become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft for the first time in his career this winter. The Red Sox, of course, would need to add him to their 40-man roster by the November deadline if they intend to prevent that from happening.
In the meantime, it certainly seems as though Cellucci could be on his way to earning a midsummer promotion to Double-A Portland given that he has already logged 67 innings in Greenville dating back to the start of last season.
(Picture of Brendan Cellucci: Gwinn Davis/Greenville Drive)