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Monday, 10 March 2014 16:48

Boston Red Sox Prospect Analysis: Bryce Brentz

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No argument can be made against the fact that the Boston Red Sox are a team with a ton of depth all over the field. They have a plethora of pitchers, advanced catching prospects, a prodigy shortstop prospect, four men projected to make the opening day roster who can play first base, not to mention they won a World Series last year. Boston seems to have a ton of depth except for outfielders in the minor leagues. Sure Boston has six men that can play the position well at the major league level, but what if something were to happen to one of those men causing them to miss playing time. On the 40-man roster, there are only two outfielders not projected to make the active roster. These men are Alex Hassan and Bryce Brentz, neither of which has a day of MLB experience. Let’s take a look at Bryce Brentz. As a baseball player, Brentz being a middle linebacker in football in high school brings that football mentality onto the baseball diamond. He is a very strong guy with a ton of power at the plate and a strong throwing arm in the field. In college, he was clocked at 93mph throwing from the outfield which shows really how strong his arm is. He is a bit aggressive at the plate, however his pitch recognition is improving and he has become a little more patient as of recent. In the 2010 MLB draft, the Boston Red Sox picked Kolbrin Vitek, Bryce Brentz, and Anthony Ranaudo in the first round. Vitek was known for his contact hitting, Ranaudo his dominance on the mound, and Brentz for being a big time power hitter. In 2009 Brentz clipped 28 homeruns with 19 doubles and two triples for Middle Tennessee State over the course of 60 games while boasting a .465 batting average and a .541 OBP. His junior year, his numbers slipped a bit but still managed to hit 15 homeruns in 46 games so nonetheless the power was still there. That summer Brentz struggled for the first time in his career. He played in all but five game for the Lowell Spinners in short-season A ball, batting .198 with a .259 OBP striking out 76 times in 69 games while hitting just five homeruns. In an interview held in 2012 Brentz said that he had trouble transitioning to the pros and that he was too aggressive at the plate. He went on and said "In Lowell, I was swinging at everything that came out of the pitcher's hand. When I slowed everything down, I made progress." The following year in 2011, Brentz got it together and had a breakout season. Combined between low-A Greenville and high-A Salem, Brentz was able to club 30 bombs in 115 games while boasting a .306 batting average and a .365 OBP. These numbers along with decent play in the outfield were good enough get him ranked 64th on MLB.com’s top 100 prospect list before the 2012 season. In 2012 expectations were certainly high for Brentz, and he did not disappoint. Although his power slipped a bit, he still managed to hit 17 homeruns, 30 doubles, and a triple along with a .296 batting average and a .355 OBP in AA Portland. These numbers were certainly impressive and earned Brentz a promotion to AAA Pawtucket for the last five games of the season. Although Brentz went two for 17 in his brief time there, he fared better in the playoffs. During the PawSox run at the Governor’s Cup where they made it all the way to the championship game where they lost to the Reno Aces, Brentz hit two homeruns with six extra base hits while batting .333 in seven games. Although it was a small sample size, it gave the PawSox high hopes for Brentz to do well during the 2013 season. It is also interesting to point out that in 2012, Brentz batted .315 with a .372 OBP and 11 homeruns versus lefties which makes me fascinated to think he could be a platoon partner for Daniel Nava in the big leagues someday. Before the start of the 2013 season, Brentz was injured in a gun accident. What happened was Brentz was cleaning out his gun which he uses for hunting and he forgot to turn the safety off so he accidentally shot himself in the leg. He ended up fine after this injury, but it prevented him from being a non-roster invitee last season since he was still rehabbing the injury during Spring Training. However, he did see time in a few games with the Red Sox in Spring Training of 2013, and was ready to start the year in AAA Pawtucket. Last year, Brentz battled the injury bug and was limited to just 82 games with the AAA Pawtucket Red Sox. He did manage to slug 17 homeruns along with 16 doubles and a triple all while batting .264. Although .264 is not exactly impressive, 39.53% of Brentz’ hits were for extra bases showing the power that the Red Sox loved so much is still there. His OBP could have been higher than the .312 that is was, and that is one thing Brentz needs to improve on to make it to the next level. In the winter, Brentz played in the Dominican Winter League. He really struggled batting just .105 with a .190 OBP in 57 at-bats with just one homerun. This is really something I tend to ignore, as he was really playing outside his comfort zone. He was in a country he had never been to, playing and living in conditions he had never experienced, facing teams with a mix of Major League veterans and Minor Leaguers alike. Baseball is a game of short-term memory, and at the PawSox hot stove league party, Brentz said he had already moved on from that experience.

Brentz certainly must have a short-term memory, as his experience in the Dominican seems to have no effect on him. So far this Spring, Brentz has been turning heads boasting a .400 batting average in 20 at-bats along with three homeruns, six RBI’s and a pair of walks. His three homeruns put him tied for the lead along with Jose Bautista, and Mike Moustakas among others. Although eight games is a small sample size, it is encouraging to see Brentz succeed against Major Leaguers since his stock on prospect lists has slipped as of recent. For this season, expect Brentz to hit upwards of 30 homeruns. This is because he should be seeing plenty of playing time in Pawtucket with him being the Red Sox top outfield prospect at the moment above low-A (sorry Manuel Margot). He has also hit 30 homeruns in the past (in 2012) and could have hit 30 homeruns a year ago if he was healthy the entire season. If history repeats itself, which it does, he should be able to do so no problem. His average should also improve since he has been making more contact in big league camp than he did in years past. With this being said, Brentz hitting around .290 this year in Pawtucket should not come as a surprise for anyone. For OBP, Brentz ability to get on base should be improved because he is making more contact and has a slightly better approach at the plate. Do not be surprised if he OBP is 65 points higher than his batting average putting it around the .355 mark like it was in 2012. On the basepaths, Brentz is not someone who should be relied upon for steals. He did swipe one bag for Pawtucket last season, but his lack of speed should make it clear that he will never be Ricky Henderson on the basepaths. So to put it simply, do not expect Brentz to steal more than five bases at most.

On defense, he is not the best player or the worst player. He will be about average for a AAA corner outfielder as far as fielding goes, but he should get a fair amount of assists because of his strong throwing arm. It is not at the level of Josh Reddick, but he certainly does have the arm of a Major League right fielder. In 2014, expect Brentz to see playing time in both the Pawtucket and Boston Red Sox. This is assuming he starts the season off in AAA Pawtucket which he is almost bound to do. There is though however an outside chance that he could start the year in the big leagues no matter how remote that chance is. Last season, Jackie Bradley Jr who had proven less than Brentz professionally, earned a spot on the opening day roster after a very hot spring training. His numbers included a .419 average in 28 games, a pair of steals, a pair of homeruns, ten walks to ten strikeouts, and a .507 OBP. Although Bradley initially failed in the Majors, he did prove that Spring Training that one day he would be a great MLB player. For this to happen to Brentz, he would have to not only keep up what he has been doing but actually perform even better. Last year, the Red Sox were unsure if they wanted Daniel Nava to start and David Ortiz started the year injured so Bradley earned a spot in the Majors. Now, the Red Sox are sure they want Nava in left field and are set for their Major League outfield so unless there is an injury, this most likely will not happen. He will however definitely see playing time in the Majors at some point during the year, whether it be due to an injury, playing well, or as a September call up.

Looking past this year, Bryce definitely has a shot at making the big league roster for the Red Sox in the future. With Jonny Gomes as a free agent after this season, a big year in Pawtucket like Brentz is set to have may just be enough to help him win a 4th or 5th outfield job for the Red Sox. In the Majors, Brentz’ biggest problem would be his plate discipline. Plate discipline is much more important against the elite Major League pitching that Brentz would face, which is why it is tough to ever see him as a starting outfielder for the Boston Red Sox. With this being said, he certainly has what it takes to be a good major league player and a good bat off the bench for the Red Sox, and a platoon player who specializes in hitting against lefties. However, on a team that is always top five in all of baseball in OBP, it is tough to imagine they would break the trend to get more power in an already power-packed lineup. It will definitely be interesting to see though, and as his career progresses how much playing time he ends up receiving.

To recap, Bryce Brentz is a very strong guy who has the potential to hit some serious homeruns and get some assists in the outfield. Although his plate discipline could use some work, he is proving that he is almost ready for the big leagues and should be there at some point this year. The Boston Red Sox do have a lot of outfield depth in the Majors, but some of those players will be gone after this season. With this being said, a spot could potentially open up and if Bryce Brentz does as well as he should, there is no doubt that he will be a Major League player for the Boston Red Sox. Follow me Twitter @CLNS_Tom and thanks for reading.