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Andrew Bellatti: Ready to contribute, but not in long relief

Andrew Bellatti probably has two pretty good pitches, but the third lags way behind.

Andrew Bellatti holds a baseball in an awkward position.
Andrew Bellatti holds a baseball in an awkward position.
Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Andrew Bellatti made his major league debut for the Tampa Bay Rays in 2015 after being drafted out of California's Steele Canyon High School  in the twelfth round of the 2009 draft.

The right-handed relief pitcher was up and down between the minors and majors as one of the busiest pieces of Kevin Cash's bullpen of moving parts, riding the shuttle seven times during the season. It's difficult to glean much from 95 batters faced over 23.1 IP, but the 346 pitches are enough to get an idea of his stuff from the PITCHf/x.

The following numbers use the MLBAM pitch classifications (scatter charts from Brooks Baseball are, obviously, from Brooks Baseball).

The Fastball

Pitch Horizontal Movement Vertical Movement Velocity
Bellatti Fastball -5.8 in. 10.9 in. 92.8 mph
Average MLB Fastball -4.2 8.9 92.4

An almost 93 mph fastball is just a tick faster than average, but the well-above average 11'' of rise and almost 6" of run are what make this pitch special. It's not Jake McGee movement, but it is really good. The fact that it generated less than 5% swinging strikes is probably an issue of small sample size, though it does seem like a pitch made to induce weak flyball contact. Either way, this pitch looks better on the spreadsheet than the results so far indicate. Batters teed off for a 14.3% HR/FB ratio on the pitch, and that should regress closer to the league average of ~10% over a larger sample size.

Andrew Bellatt's Fastball Heatmap vs RHH

Andrew Bellati's Fastball Heatmap vs LHH

Bellatti preferred to keep the pitch low and/or away from both RHH and LHH. I wouldn't be surprised to see the Rays encourage Bellatti to spot the pitch higher in and above the zone to take advantage of its rise. That strategy has been successful for many Rays pitchers in the past, and will be an easy way for Bellatti pick up a few more swinging strikes and possibly some weak contact.

Rays Pitch Comp: There are pitchers that have more rise on their fastball, and pitchers with more run, but I didn't come across a single Ray that had both beat (McGee came pretty close). The closest all-around comp I could find was Joaquin Benoit. After watching Bird clobber Bellatti's changeup, you see a good shot of his running fastball at about 0:45 into this video.

The Slider

Pitch Horizontal Movement Vertical Movement Velocity
Bellatti Slider 4.6 in. 0.7 in. 81.8 mph
Average MLB Slider 2.8 1.2 84.3

Andrew Bellatti's Slider Heatmap

Bellatti's slider is pretty sweet. It runs and drops a lot. The movement comes late. It can be really slow. The pitch was almost untouchable in 2015. Over 73 offerings, hitters managed a -3 wRC+ on the pitch while striking out more than 30% of the time. He tries to keep it down and out vs righties and down and in against lefties.

There are currently no easily-embedded videos of Bellatti using his slider. H/t to ZBW for catching a mislabeled video. We'll keep looking.

Rays Pitch Comp: The pitch has Archer Slider movement, but Bellatti's is much slower. It could be something like Kyle Farnsworth's really good slider. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Andy Sonnanstine threw 109 things that resembled sliders in 2011 with disastrous results. Those pitches were remarkably similar in velocity and movement to Bellatti's. The problem for Sonnanstine was not having other speeds to keep hitters off balance. That shouldn't be an issue here as this pitch should play off the 93 mph heater with far better results.

The Changeup

Pitch Horizontal Movement Vertical Movement Velocity
Bellatti Changeup -4.0 in. 8.5 in. 84.7 mph
Average MLB Changeup -6.7 4.1 83.7
Average MLB Fastball -4.2 8.9 92.4

The Rays typically prefer their relief pitchers have a gap of at least 10 mph between their fastball and changeup, but Bellatti appears to work with an average of 8 mph between the two which is, well, average. The pitch would need to be exceptional in some other way to make up for the lack of velocity difference, but it looks like the "drop" and run are below average as well. At 8.5 inches of rise, the pitch barely drops at all. The movement on this pitch is almost identical to the average fastball. So on paper it's an 85 mph average moving fastball. That doesn't sound like a quality pitch at all, at least as of right now. Maybe I'm wrong.

Andrew Bellati's Changeup Heatmap

It's a clear third pitch that he doesn't use very often. When he does throw it, it's almost always down and in to RHH and down and out to LHH. Here's a video of Bellatti getting some positive results from the changeup in his spot:

Pitch Comp: I had a hard time finding a close comp for this pitch in the Rays staff. I think that's because its not really a major league offering right now. With fastball movement and change-up velocity, it's going to get crushed unless he tweaks it. Chris Tillman's change-up is almost identical in shape. He made it work for the first 4 years of his career, when it was roughly 10.5 mph slower than his fastball. It's been getting hit around for the last 3 years though, maybe because that gap has dropped to ~9 mph. That does not bode well for Bellatti.

Without looking too far into his command or control, it looks like Bellatti has two above average pitches to work with in his fastball and slider. The rising fastball has the velocity and movement to be effective all around the plate. The slider has the movement and velocity difference to keep hitters swinging out of their shoes.

The lack of an average third pitch is probably the reason he is a reliever rather than a starter. He can still be a successful reliever with this repertoire, and could even be converted back to a starter or swingman if the change-up improves, but as it stands, Bellatti does not look ideal for the long relief role he found himself in at times last season.

Maybe he pulls an Odorizzi and learns Thing Three in spring training. That would give him a true third pitch to work with. Either way, it looks like he has major league stuff that can contribute to winning games for the Tampa Bay Rays.