Could Red Sox pitching prospect Bryan Mata make his MLB debut next season?

The Red Sox saw their top pitching prospect in Brayan Bello make his major-league debut this season. Could fellow right-hander Bryan Mata be next in line next year?

Bello, who appeared in 13 games and pitched 57 1/3 innings for the Red Sox in 2022, has graduated from his prospect status. Barring a major surprise, Mata will likely enter the 2023 season ranked by most publications as the top pitching prospect in Boston’s farm system.

Although he has yet to debut for the Sox, Mata has gotten a taste of the big-league lifestyle. The 23-year-old hurler travelled with the club to Toronto as a member of the taxi squad for their final road trip of the season. He threw a bullpen session at Rogers Centre prior to Friday’s game against the Blue Jays.

“His first big-league bullpen,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora told reporters, including MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith, last week.

As The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier previously reported, Mata was unlikely to be added to the 28-man roster since the Red Sox just wanted to familiarize him “with the big-league environment, including pregame pitchers’ meetings that take place in advance of series and games.”

Still, that the Red Sox elected to include Mata in such meetings shows that they think highly of him. Boston originally signed the native Venezuelan for just $25,000 in January 2016. He had already emerged as one of the more intriguing pitching prospects in the system before undergoing Tommy John surgery last April.

Upon returning from the procedure earlier this spring, Mata made one start for Low-A Salem and three starts for High-A Greenville before making the jump to Double-A Portland — the level he last pitched at in 2019 — in late June. With the Sea Dogs, he posted a 1.85 ERA in 10 appearances (nine starts) and strung together 18 consecutive scoreless frames before earning a promotion to Triple-A Worcester in late August.

In five starts with the WooSox, Mata pitched to 3.47 ERA and 3.12 FIP with 30 strikeouts to 15 walks over 23 1/3 innings of work. According to Speier, the 6-foot-3, 238-pound righty was operating with a high-90s sinker, a four-seam fastball that reached triple digits, an improving slider, and a whiff-inducing changeup.

While his arsenal is tantalizing, Mata does need to work on throwing more strikes and giving up fewer walks. Though his 29.4 percent strikeout rate remained constant between Portland and Worcester this year, he saw his walk rate rise from 11.7 percent to 14.7 percent after going from Double-A to Triple-A.

“I think the strike-throwing thing is the next step,” Cora said. “He had some good games and some OK games. The stuff will always play. And he’s come a long way since his injury. And we really like his season. He was able to get his innings. We’re really excited. It’s just a matter of we need to be patient. But as far as stuff, he’s really good.”

Mata, who turns 24 in May, is already a member of Boston’s 40-man roster. Because of that, he could be in a position to make his major-league debut at some point next season. There are still some things to iron out, though, and they could determine Mata’s role moving forward. Can he stick as a starter? Or is he better suited for the bullpen? The answer will be revealed soon enough.

(Picture of Bryan Mata: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Author: Brendan Campbell

Blogging about the Boston Red Sox since April '17. Also support Tottenham Hotspur.

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