Brayan Bello is already establishing himself in the big leagues, but on Monday, he received recognition for his excellence in getting there, as the Red Sox announced their minor league award winners.
It has been a year of remarkable growth for Bello, the organization’s Starting Pitcher of the Year. The 23-year-old righthander developed a high-90s sinker that became his go-to offering, then kept building throughout the season to emerge as the team’s best young starting pitching prospect since Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester.
Niko Kavadas, the organization’s Offensive Player of the Year, moved up from Single A Salem to High A Greenville before finishing the year in Double A Portland. He hit .280 with a .443 OBP (second-highest among minor leaguers at a full-season level), .547 slugging mark, and .990 OPS (sixth-highest) while crushing 26 homers and 52 extra-base hits.
Kavadas, an 11th-round pick, tried to use every plate appearance to defy doubters.
Ceddanne Rafaela, who turned 22 last week, showed Gold Glove potential in center field as well as excellent defense at shortstop, en route to recognition as Defensive Player of the Year. He is the Red Sox’ best defensive player in the minors since Jackie Bradley Jr. and Mookie Betts.
While Rafaela spent this year in Greenville and Portland, he could emerge as a big league depth option as soon as next year, particularly given that he’ll be added to the 40-man roster this winter.
Late in 2021, righthander Franklin German moved from the rotation in Portland to the bullpen. He took to the new role, with his velocity regularly in the 97-99 range as well as a slider and splitter that missed bats. German, who was called up to the big leagues this month, had a 2.72 ERA with a 32.4 percent strikeout rate between Portland and Triple A Worcester to earn Relief Pitcher of the Year honors.
David Hamilton, acquired from the Brewers in the offseason, set a Red Sox minor league record by stealing 70 bases in Portland to earn Baserunner of the Year.
In the Dominican Summer League, 18-year-old Andy Lugo hit .318/.368/.414 while bouncing mostly between center and left while also seeing time at second and third. His bat-to-ball skills and some projected power with physical development, along with speed (21 for 23 in stolen base attempts), garnered him Latin Program Position Player of the Year honors.
Also in the DSL, righthander Eybersson Polanco (who turned 19 this month) emerged as an All-Star while going 2-1 with a 1.78 ERA and 25.8 percent strikeout rate in 50⅔ innings. He showed the ability to attack the strike zone with his four-seam fastball (which tops out at 95-96) while also showing unusual feel for his curveball and changeup to claim Latin Program Pitcher of the Year honors.
Finally, Zack Kelly received the organization’s Lou Gorman Award, given to the minor leaguer who demonstrates dedication and perseverance in overcoming obstacles. Kelly was undrafted out of Division 2 Newberry College, signed with the A’s for $500, and pitched his way past his lack of profile.
His strong performance with Worcester (34.4 percent strikeout rate) earned him a big league callup, and the 27-year-old has a 2.79 ERA with 8 strikeouts in 9⅔ big league innings.