Red Sox promote pitching prospect Brian Van Belle to Double-A Portland

The Red Sox have promoted pitching prospect Brian Van Belle from High-A Greenville to Double-A Portland, per his agent Gavin Kahn of EnterSports Management.

Van Belle, 25, has made 12 appearances (9 starts) for the Drive this season, posting a 6.14 ERA and 6.03 FIP with 55 strikeouts to eight walks over 58 2/3 innings pitched.

While those numbers may not seem all that encouraging, Van Belle has pitched better as of late. Going back to May 18, the right-hander has pitched to a 2.77 ERA to go along with 24 strikeouts to just three walks over his last five outings (2 starts) that span 26 total innings of work.

Among qualified South Atlantic League pitchers, Van Belle ranks first in walks per nine innings (1.23), first in walk rate (3.1%), and eighth in xFIP (3.90), per FanGraphs.

After not being selected in the pandemic-shortened 2020 draft, Van Belle signed with the Red Sox as an undrafted free agent that June. The University of Miami product had been viewed as one of the top college seniors who was passed over in that draft and ultimately signed with Boston for $20,000.

Listed at 6-foot-3 and 185 pounds, Van Belle — a Miami-area native himself — is equipped with a repeatable delivery and a three-pitch mix that consists of a 90-92 mph fastball that tops out at 93 mph, an 82-85 mph changeup, and a 77-80 mph curveball that is labeled as a “work in progress,” according to his SoxProspects.com scouting report.

Van Belle, who turns 26 in September, will presumably join a Sea Dogs’ starting rotation that has seen two of its top starters in Brayan Bello and Brandon Walter earn promotions to Triple-A Worcester within the last month.

Since he last pitched for Greenville on Friday, it feels safe to assume that Van Belle will make his Double-A debut on the road in Portland’s upcoming series against the Reading Fightin Phils.

(Picture of Brian Van Belle: Gwinn Davis/Greenville Drive)

Who is Brian Van Belle? Red Sox pitching prospect walked just 3.9% of the batters he faced with High-A Greenville in 2021

Brian Van Belle was one of the top college seniors who did not hear his name called in the pandemic-shortened 2020 amateur draft, so it did not take long for the University of Miami right-hander to land with a Major League Baseball team.

Just five days after the conclusion of the 2020 draft, Van Belle officially signed with the Red Sox as an undrafted free agent. The Pembroke Pines, Fla. native received a modest $20,000 signing bonus that summer and proceeded to impress the club at fall instructors in Fort Myers.

Following his first minor-league spring training, Van Belle broke camp and spent the entirety of the 2021 season with High-A Greenville. In 18 starts for the Drive, the 25-year-old posted a 4.10 ERA and 4.23 FIP to go along with 82 strikeouts to just 13 walks over 79 innings pitched. It should be mentioned that he missed three weeks of action while on the injured list from August 19 through September 9.

On paper, a 4.10 ERA might not exactly jump off the page. In Van Belle’s case, however, there was a stretch over the summer when the righty was arguably one of the best starting pitchers in the lower-minors.

In four outings last July, Van Belle went 3-0 while not allowing a single run. He struck out 24 of the 84 batters he faced and walked just four of them across 22 innings of work en route to being named the High-A East Pitcher of the Month and the Red Sox’ Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Month.

All told, Van Belle was one of 32 hurlers in the High-A East who accrued at least 70 innings on the mound last year. Among that group, the former Hurricane ranked 10th in ERA, 12th in FIP, second in walks per nine innings (1.48), and second in walk rate (3.9%), per FanGraphs.

Listed at 6-foot-3 and 185 pounds, Van Belle has a repeatable delivery and operates with a three-pitch mix that consists of a 90-92 mph fastball that tops out at 93 mph, an 82-85 mph changeup, and a 77-80 mph curveball that is considered to be a “work in progress,” according to his SoxProspects.com scouting report. As indicated by his low walk rate, his command is what makes him stick out.

Van Belle, who turns 26 in September, is not regarded by any major publication as one of the top pitching prospects in Boston’s farm system. That said, he is projected by SoxProspects.com to begin the 2022 season in Double-A Portland’s starting rotation and should get more exposure there as he looks to build off a solid debut campaign.

(Picture of Brian Van Belle via the Greenville Drive’s Twitter)

Brian Van Belle a Red Sox pitching prospect to watch as minor-league season begins this week

Of the 16 undrafted free agents the Red Sox signed following last June’s draft, none might stick out more than right-handed pitching prospect Brian Van Belle.

Van Belle was reportedly one of the most sought-after seniors in the 2020 unsigned free agent class before inking his first professional contract with the Sox in June.

Regarded at the time by Baseball America as the 16th-ranked draft-eligible senior, the 6-foot-2, 187 pound hurler had just put the finishing touches on a successful college career at the University of Miami.

In two seasons with the Hurricanes (2019-2020) after transferring from Broward College, Van Belle emerged as Miami’s Friday night ace while posting a 2.74 ERA, a 1.11 WHIP, and a 122:28 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 20 starts and 121 2/3 total innings pitched.

Because of the 2020 minor-league season being cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the southern Florida native really did not get the chance to work under the Red Sox’ watchful eye until the team began their fall instructional league in Fort Myers.

There, according to SoxProspects.com’s director of scouting Ian Cundall, Van Belle showed why he was highly sought-after as an undrafted free agent.

“Van Belle’s bread and butter is his changeup, a plus offering and a potential difference maker,” Cundall wrote back in November. “Van Belle also showed an average fastball at 89-93 mph and below-average curveball at 77-80 mph. The changeup separated him from a lot of the younger arms who are still refining their secondary pitches and gives him a high floor of at least an organizational arm, especially with his command profile.”

Coming off that impressive showing at fall instructs, the 24-year-old came into the 2021 minor-league season ranked as the No. 53 prospect in Boston’s farm system, per SoxProspects.com.

Cundall recently updated Van Belle’s SoxProspects.com scouting report, writing that the righty “always competes [and is] used to pitching in big spots. [Possesses] strong pitchability and feel on the mound.”

As this highly-anticipated minor-league season is set to begin on Tuesday, Van Belle will start the year in High-A Greenville’s starting rotation.

The fact that Van Belle was assigned to Greenville makes him the only member of Boston’s 2020 undrafted free-agent class to begin the 2021 season at a level as high as High-A. The other 15 members are either starting at Low-A Salem or extended spring training.

(Picture of Brian Van Belle: Al Diaz/Miami Herald)

Red Sox Sign University of Miami Ace Brian Van Belle

Since the window to sign undrafted free agents opened on Sunday morning, the Red Sox have signed 10 undrafted free agents, the most among all clubs, according to Baseball America.

The most notable of these additions to this point, at least in terms of BA’s draft-eligible prospect rankings, was made earlier Monday in the form of University of Miami (Fla.) right-hander Brian Van Belle.

Van Belle, 23, was regarded by Baseball America as the 16th-ranked senior in this year’s draft class.

The former JuCo product out of Pembroke Pines posted a 0.68 ERA and .168 batting average against over four starts and 26 1/3 innings of work as the Hurricanes’ ace in 2020 before the college baseball season was shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Listed at 6’2″ and 187 lbs., Van Belle underwent Tommy John surgery in 2015 while a freshman in junior college and wound up missing his entire sophomore season because of it.

He transferred to Miami from Broward College in October 2017, and emerged as the Hurricanes’ Friday night starter on a team that featured two 2020 early-round draft picks in the form of Slade Cecconi and Chris McMahon.

Per SoxProspects‘ Ian Cundall, Van Belle’s pitching arsenal includes a fastball that can top out at 93 MPH as well as a quality circle changeup.

As is the case with all undrafted free agents, the most the Red Sox can sign Van Belle for is $20,0000.

Here are the other nine undrafted prospects the Red Sox have signed since Sunday.