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July 1, 2022 at 1:06 PM

June Players of the Month: Niko Kavadas and Brayan Bello

Punctuated by a promotion to High-A Greenville for the last week of the month, Niko Kavadas (pictured, top) has been named the SoxProspects.com player of the month for June. The Notre Dame product was not challenged by pitching in the Carolina League, as he hit .286/.453/.609 across 192 at-bats this season, drilling 14 home runs. He also finished with multiple hits in four of his last five games with Salem.

It seems as though the arms in the South Atlantic League have not proved to be an issue for him, either. Though it is a small, 19 at-bat sample size, the first baseman is 474/.583/1.211 since moving to High-A, including a hit in his first six games, extending a hitting streak between the two levels to 13 games. He's added four home runs and eight RBI in that span, walking four times against five strikeouts.

This kind of production has led to some monster statistics in June, some of which the organization has not seen in 15 years or more, according to our own Chris Hatfield.

Kavadas saw Nick Yorke's 1.316 OPS from last August and raised it, with a .400/.538/1.013 line over 80 at-bats between Salem and Greenville, delivering a 1.550 OPS for the month of June. While some other hitters in the organization were able to match his still impressive batting average and on-base percentage figures, it was the mammoth slugging percentage that set him apart. Salem's Phillip Sikes finished with a slugging percentage .189 points lower than Kavadas, and he was the only one within .300 points.

These power numbers were due to his insane 14 home runs, going deep on five consecutive days between June 21 and June 25, and going more than two games without a deep fly once. No other hitter hit more than seven this month. This performance has also helped push Kavadas into the top 30 in the SoxProspects rankings, as he was slotted No. 29 in the July 1 update.

On the mound, Brayan Bello (pictured, bottom) will reprise his role for pitcher of the month for June after also earning the nod in May. The 23-year-old was less dominant than May, in which he split time between Double-A Portland and Triple-A Worcester, but edged out a few others, including Chris Murphy, in an extremely close race that went down to the final day of the month.

Bello made five appearances, four traditional starts and one additional outing following Josh Taylor, who was in Worcester as part of his rehab assignment. He pitched to a 3.10 ERA across 29 innings over those five appearances, with 38 strikeouts against 10 walks. His ERA and walk totals are just ahead of Murphy, while he is a touch behind in strikeouts and innings, though Murphy did get an extra start.

The best appearance came June 21 against Charlotte, in which Bello followed Taylor's clean inning with seven shutout frames of his own, scattering five hits and a walk, with seven strikeouts. In that outing, he faced a rehabbing Eloy Jimenez and struck him out with an impressive sequence.

The top pitching prospect in the system, Bello is currently ranked No. 3 in the SoxProspects rankings and has put up 106 strikeouts over 79 2/3 innings so far this season, pitching to a 2.49 ERA and 1.04 WHIP. His three above-average pitches provide a starter's mix and he has done much better holding his velocity deeper into outings over 2022, encouraging the possibility that he can remain a starter.

Photo credit: Niko Kavadas and Brayan Bello by Kelly O'Connor