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April 6, 2023 at 12:00 PM

2023 SoxProspects Pre-Season All-Stars Pt. 2 - Pitchers


For part two of our look at the best the Red Sox system offers in 2023, we turn to the mound and honor the pitchers selected as SoxProspects.com Pre-Season All-Stars. The list is highlighted by four starters ranked in the top 15, and three hard-throwing relievers.

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Starting Pitcher: Bryan Mata, Worcester Red Sox
A top-five prospect in the system heading into 2023, Mata features a fastball that hits 100 mph, even after Tommy John surgery. Mata went under the knife in April of 2021 and returned to the mound in June 2022 in great shape. By the end of July, he was fully stretched out and threw around six innings per start. From July 31 through the end of the season, Mata pitched to a 2.72 ERA with 65 strikeouts in 53 innings. He still struggled with his command, walking over four batters per nine innings. Mata has an arsenal that could fit in a big-league rotation, but command and durability concerns make some scouts think he is a reliever long-term. He will open the 2023 season in Worcester's rotation, and he could play his way up to Boston with a strong start to the season. Mata was added to the 40-man roster at the end of 2020. 

Starting Pitcher: Brandon Walter, Worcester Red Sox
Coming in at number nine in the rankings, Walter got added to the 40-man roster this past offseason. He will look to pick up where he left off in June of 2022 before a bulging disc in his upper back ended his season. Walter had just earned a promotion to Worcester after posting an absurd 68-to-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 50 innings in Portland. After two starts with the WooSox, he got shut down for the rest of the year. The 6-foot-2 left-hander does not have Mata's high-octane stuff, but he has a couple of potential plus offspeed offerings in his changeup and slider. Walter's fastball command will be critical to his success, as the pitch typically sits in the low-90s. Walter is another piece of pitching depth for a Boston organization that has seen the major league arms struggle out of the gates. 
 
Starting Pitcher: Luis Perales, Salem Red Sox
Moving back into pitchers with electric fastballs, Perales has jumped Walter in the SoxProsepcts.com rankings. The eighth-ranked prospect in the system, Perales has touched 99 with his fastball while still 19 years old. As with any young pitcher, there is a large delta between Perales's ceiling and floor, but he is arguably the most exciting young pitcher in the system. The fastball and curveball combination gives him the potential for a pair of plus pitches, and his changeup has shown above-average potential. His biggest fans will see the ceiling of a number-two starter. He was limited to one start in 2021 due to injuries, and his workload got managed closely in 2022. He averaged about three innings per appearance over 13 games and pitched to a 1.77 ERA. If Perales can handle a full-season workload in 2023, he has the potential to rise up the rankings even more. 

Starting Pitcher: Wikelman Gonzalez, Greenville Drive
Gonzalez has a similar profile to Perales, with a bit less upside. Ranked 14th, Gonzalez had a successful 2022 season. In Salem and then Greenville, he held a 4.21 ERA with 121 strikeouts in 98 1/3 innings. While the swing-and-miss is impressive, the 54 walks and 12 hit-batters did limit his effectiveness. He walked or hit at least three batters in 14 of his 26 starts. If he can improve the command and control in 2023, his stock will rise. He has a potential plus fastball in the mid-90s and can touch 97, as well as a changeup and curveball that flash above-average potential. The 21-year-old will go to Greenville in 2023 after ending the season strong there in 2022. Over his last six starts of the season, his ERA sat at 1.93, and he walked just 2.5 batters per nine innings. In his previous 19 starts, he was walking nearly six batters per nine. That shows the potential he has if he can harness his stuff. 

Relief Pitcher: Luis Guerrero, Portland Sea Dogs
Guerrero is the most exciting pure relief arm entering the 2023 season. Moving up to number 25 in the updated rankings, Guerrero also has a fastball that can hit triple-digits. A 17th-round pick in 2021, Guerrero debuted in mid-2022 and struggled a bit over his first nine appearances. Something seemed to click after that, and he quickly earned a promotion from Salem to Greenville. Over his last 18 appearances between the two levels, he had an ERA of 2.22 with 42 strikeouts in just 28 1/3 innings. Command and control will be a focus for Guerrero in 2023. He walked about four batters per nine innings, even in his great stretch at the end of the year. In addition to his high-velocity fastball, a potential plus splitter allows Guerrero to miss so many bats. The 22-year-old will get his first taste of the upper minors this year as he heads to Portland. 

Relief Pitcher: Ryan Fernandez, Portland Sea Dogs
A 23rd-round pick in 2018, Fernandez put himself on the map in 2022. He had a significant increase in his stuff last season, with his fastball moving from the low-90s to the high-90s, touching 99. He also features a low-90s cutter that has impressive spin rates. Fernandez would be ranked higher than 32 if not for injury concerns. His 2022 season ended early due to right elbow inflammation, and he does have a jerky, stiff delivery. Like Guerrero, he started the 2022 season off slowly before finding his groove later in the year. His ERA was 6.75 through 15 games in Greenville, but over his next 10 appearances, he did not allow an earned run and struck out 19 over 11 innings. That earned him a promotion to Portland, where he had a 16-to-2 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 12 2/3 innings.

Relief Pitcher: Taylor Broadway, Worcester Red Sox
Acquired from the White Sox with Reese McGuire for Jake Diekman last season, Broadway had an impressive showing in his five appearances with Portland at the end of the year. He allowed only two baserunners and struck out 10 over six innings. In 2022, most of which he spent in Double-A, Broadway struck out 87 over 58 innings. His ERA of 4.66 is inflated by a .399 batting average on balls in play. He will open the season on the injured list for Worcester, but the hope is that it is not a long stay. Some positive regression on batted balls and continued bat-missing ability could make him a great asset out of Worcester's bullpen.

Photo Credit: All by Kelly O'Connor