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October 4, 2023 at 10:00 AM

2023 SoxProspects.com Awards: Graduate, Homegrown and Ex-Prospect

We continue our SoxProspects.com Awards coverage with the 2023 Graduate, Homegrown Player, and Ex-Prospect of the Year. The Graduate and Homegrown honorees both made significant contributions to the big-league club this year, while the Ex-Prospect Award recipient is someone who made his highly-anticipated return to Boston over the summer. 

Graduate of the Year: Triston Casas
Casas' (pictured, left) first full season in the majors did not get off to the best of starts. After debuting and showing signs of promise last September, the 23-year-old broke camp this spring as Boston's Opening Day first baseman. He then struggled out of the gate, batting just .133/.283/.293 with three home runs and eight RBIs in his first 25 games (92 plate appearances) of the year.

Upon graduating from his prospect status, though, Casas began to turn a corner offensively. The left-handed hitter posted a respectable .766 OPS in May, then slashed a stout .313/.405/.600 with nine doubles, two triples, 10 home runs, 24 RBIs, and 23 runs scored over 46 games (173 plate appearances) from June 1 to July 31. Casas' body of work in July (1.199 OPS in 21 games) was particularly impressive, earning him American League Rookie of the Month honors. From August 1 on, Casas hit .284/.389/.508 with eight home runs and 25 RBIs in 39 games (157 plate appearances) before being shut down with right shoulder inflammation in mid-September.

All told, Casas batted .263/.367/.490 with 21 doubles, two triples, 24 homers, 65 runs driven in, 66 runs scored, 70 walks, and 126 strikeouts across 132 games (502 plate appearances) for the Red Sox in 2023. The former first-round draft selection consistently hit the ball hard and employed a sound approach at the plate. As such, he should finish as one of the top runner-ups in AL Rookie of the Year voting behind Baltimore's Gunnar Henderson.

Casas, who turns 24 in January, is in line to enter 2024 as Boston's top option at first base. With that being said, there is room for improvement when it comes to how he handles the defensive responsibilities that come with the position.

Homegrown Player of the Year: Brayan Bello

Like Casas, 2023 marked Bello's (pictured, right) first full season in the majors after initially debuting last year. Unlike Casas, Bello was not ready for Opening Day after dealing with right forearm tightness in spring training. The righty instead opened the year on the injured list and did not make his season debut until April 17, when he got rocked for five runs over 2 2/3 innings in a 5-4 loss to the Angels at Fenway Park.

Bello made two more starts in April but really didn't show signs of improvement until after the calendar flipped to May. From May 4 through the All-Star break, the 24-year-old righty emerged as one of Boston's top starters, posting a 2.39 ERA and 3.40 FIP with 56 strikeouts to 17 walks over 11 outings (67 2/3 innings). During that stretch, he most notably flirted with a no-hitter against the Marlins in late June.

The second half of Bello's season was a bit of a rollercoaster. He carried with him a 3.57 ERA going into September and then struggled to a 7.62 ERA (4.19 FIP) in his last five starts of the year. More specifically, after racking up a career-high 10 strikeouts against the Blue Jays on Sept. 15, Bello surrendered 13 runs over nine innings in his final two starts against the Rangers and Rays to end an otherwise solid season on a sour note.

Overall, Bello went 12-11 with a 4.24 ERA (4.54 FIP) and 132 strikeouts to 45 walks across a team-leading 28 starts (157 innings pitched) in 2023. Interestingly enough, the 6-foot-1 hurler proved to be far more effective pitching at night (3.06 ERA in 18 starts) than in the daytime (6.94 ERA in 10 starts). That may be something worth monitoring moving forward as Bello looks to further establish himself. 

Bello, who turns 25 in May, originally signed with Boston for just $28,000 as an international free agent coming out of the Dominican Republic in July 2017. To go along with plenty of other SoxProspects.com accolades, the Samana native was recognized as our Graduate of the Year last October.

Ex-Prospect of the Year: Mookie Betts
Another year, another Ex-Prospect of the Year award for Betts (pictured, right). Now a three-time winner, the former Red Sox star is coming off a 2023 campaign in which he slashed .307/.408/.579 with 40 doubles, one triple, 39 home runs, 107 RBIs, 126 runs scored, 14 stolen bases, 96 walks, and 107 strikeouts in 152 games (693 plate appearances) for the National League West-winning Dodgers. He made his return to Fenway Park in late August and went 7 for 15 (.467) with one home run and four RBIs in three games against his old team. 

On the other side of the ball, Betts also showed off his versatility by making 77 starts in right field, 62 starts at second base, and 12 starts at shortstop. Altogether, it was another extremely productive season for Betts in Los Angeles and arguably his best since being traded by Boston in February 2020. Taking that into consideration, the soon-to-be 31-year-old will likely split first-place votes with the Braves' Ronald Acuna Jr. when it comes to NL MVP honors this fall.

Photo Credit: Triston Casas, Brayan Bello, and Mookie Betts by Kelly O'Connor