While the Red Sox were in the process of falling to the Phillies by a final score of 5-4 at Fenway Park on Sunday afternoon, two of the brightest prospects in Boston’s farm system were showcasing their talent nearly 2,000 miles away at Coors Field in Denver.
Infielder Jeter Downs and right-hander Brayan Bello both represented the Red Sox while playing for the American League in Sunday’s All-Star Futures Game, and both prospects were able to get into the game.
Bello, who is regarded by Baseball America as the No. 9 pitching prospect in the Red Sox farm system, came on in relief of Rangers prospect Cole Ragans with one out in the bottom of third inning.
Inheriting a situation in which the American League was already trailing 3-0 and the National League had a runner on first base, Bello’s first pitch — a 97.7 mph fastball — was sent flying off the bat of Cardinals prospect Nolan Gorman, who reached second base on a hard-hit double before advancing to third on a wild pitch.
With that potential run just 90 feet away from scoring, Bello proceeded to give up a sacrifice fly to Padres catcher Luis Campusano that plated Gorman, but then rebounded by getting the Braves’ Michael Harris to line out to second to put an end to an inning as well as his outing.
Of the 11 pitches the 22-year-old hurler threw on Sunday, seven went for strikes, though he only induced one swing-and-miss, which came on an 0-0 changeup to Campusano.
Besides that, Bello averaged 97.9 mph with the four four-seam fastballs he threw while topping out at 98.1 mph with his well-regarded heater. He also threw five sliders and three changeups in total.
Bello, who originally signed with the Sox out of the Dominican Republic for $28,000 back in 2017, is enjoying a breakout season in 2021.
Opening the year with High-A Greenville, the 6-foot-1, 170 pound righty went 5-0 while posting a 2.27 ERA and 2.62 xFIP with 45 strikeouts to just seven walks over six starts spanning 31 2/3 innings of work before earning a promotion to Double-A Portland on June 8.
Since then, Bello has produced an ERA of 3.06 and xFIP of 3.81 to go along with 22 strikeouts and eight walks in five starts (17 2/3 innings pitched) with the Sea Dogs.
Downs, meanwhile, came off the bench in the fifth inning of Sunday’s seven-inning exhibition, as he took over at second base for Rays prospect Xavier Edwards.
Facing off against Nationals 2020 first-round pick Cade Cavalli in his first trip to the plate, Downs was bombarded by a barrage of high-octane fastballs that ranged between 98.4 mph and 100.4 mph.
The talented right-handed hitter was able foul off five of the first seven pitches he saw from Cavalli, but ultimately went down swinging on a 2-2, 91 mph changeup in the dirt that caught him off-balance.
In the seventh inning, however, Downs bounced back against Brewers left-hander Ethan Small.
With one out and runners on first and second, Downs took an 0-1, 92 mph fastball up and on the inner half of the plate and ripped a two-run double to deep left field that left his bat at a scorching 107.7 mph, making it the fourth hardest-hit ball of the day between both sides.
Downs was responsible for two of the three runs the American League scored, as the National League went on to take the showcase by a final score of 8-3.
The soon-to-be 23-year-old — one of three players acquired from the Dodgers in the Mookie Betts/David Price trade — is regarded by Baseball America as the No. 2 prospect in Boston’s farm system and trails only fellow infielder Triston Casas for the top spot.
2021 has marked Downs’ first exposure to the Triple-A level, and the first half of the minor-league season has proven to be an adjustment period for the native of Colombia.
Through 44 games (188 plate appearances) with Triple-A Worcester this year, Downs is boasting a .234/.309/.377 slash line (83 wRC+) to go along with three doubles, seven home runs, 17 RBI, 22 runs scored, 17 walks, and 55 strikeouts.
That said, Downs will look to get back on track after a decent showing in Denver, as the WooSox open up a seven-game series against the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders at Polar Park on Tuesday night.
(Picture of Brayan Bello: Rob Tringali/MLB Photos via Getty Images)