Previewing Andrew Bellatti
Adam Sobsey checks in with what to expect from the Rays’ latest addition to the roster.
Andrew Bellatti is a shortish right-hander who is listed at 6-foot-1 and almost certainly isn’t. Put it this way: he’s taller than Steve Geltz. And, like Geltz, he throws about as hard and generates good hop on a trusty four-seamer, but that’s where the similarities end. He complements the fastball with a hard put-away slider and a workable changeup.
The Rays drafted Bellatti out of a San Diego-area high school in the 12th round in 2009, shortly before he turned 18. Until his call-up on Friday, he was best known for an off-the-field incident that occurred after his first pro season, when his reckless driving caused an accident that killed a man—the very worst outcome of the sort of immature misbehavior that teenage boys indulge in all the time. The mercy of the man’s widow helped allow Bellatti to spend very little time behind bars—the best outcome imaginable for Bellatti. (It’s likely the media would have been slower and quieter about reporting this story, of course, had it not been about a Tampa Bay Ray. See Joshes Lueke and Sale et al.)
After the 2011 season, which Bellatti spent with Low-A Hudson Valley, the Rays converted him to a reliever. He worked his way up the system, reaching Double-A in 2013 and spending all of 2014 at that level before being promoted to Triple-A Durham near the end of the 2014 playoffs, although he did not appear in a game with the Bulls. In 2015, Bellatti was invited to big-league spring training camp, where he so impressed the Rays that they let him know they wanted to put him in the Durham starting rotation.
Bellatti told me he had always preferred starting and was excited to have the opportunity to go back to starting. Reassigned to minor-league camp, he began to stretch himself out, getting a three-inning stint and a four-inning appearance under his belt (he hadn’t thrown more than an inning at a time in big-league camp). More importantly, as he described the process to me, he set about increasing his cardiovascular strength and endurance. He called himself a “fitness freak” (one of his teammates, who is not a fitness freak, was quick to agree, chuckling, with Bellatti’s self-assessment), and put himself on a regimen of both longer runs and shorter sprints in order to build the stamina he’d need as a starter. He threw 68 pitches in his first Triple-A start this season, and 66-76 in the subsequent three. (His other appearance was a long-relief three-inning gig necessitated by Alex Colome’s first rehab start in Durham.) He has lasted a season-high five innings in each of his last two outings. He has a 4:1 strikeout-to-walk rate (for his career it’s just under 3:1) and a 1.03 WHIP, with an excellent ERA and FIP.
Bellatti should be able to work in any capacity for the Rays, which is probably why they promoted him. He attacks the strike zone, is generally around the plate, and will be vulnerable to hard contact against big-league hitters, so fastball command and good sequencing with his secondaries will be essential. Bellatti works exclusively from the stretch now, even when starting and with no one on base. He told me it was just easier not to complicate things by trying to go back to his old windup. His delivery can be high-effort, but it’s well-contained and repeatable.
Chances are high that the Rays intended to give the 23-year-old Bellatti a full season in Triple-A, but with six of the organization’s top ten starters on the disabled list, two relievers out with injuries and another rehabbing, they didn’t have much choice but to bring Bellatti up now.
A final note: Enny Romero was reassigned to Triple-A today after two rehab starts with Port Charlotte, so he’s almost sure to join the Rays soon, too.