Red Sox Bryce Brentz Binges On A-Ball Pitching

Boston Red Sox top prospect Bryce Brentz rebounded from a difficult short season debut in 2010 to explode for 30 home runs across two single-A levels during the 2011 season. His outburst has left prospect followers envisioning an answer to the Red Sox right field problem by as early as 2013. In scouting Brentz, the concept of age-versus-level is an important consideration as 22-year old high round college picks are generally expected to devour that level of competition. In Brentz’ case, the video game power numbers make it quite difficult to assess his true skill level and if/how his bat will play at the game’s highest level.

With this being keeper and dynasty league draft season, January/February of each year is really the only time I’ll binge on prospect lists to gain an edge come draft time. For the past few weeks, seeing Bryce Brentz listed on Red Sox top-10 lists was certainly not unexpected, but the number of overall top-100 rankings Brentz has achieved is borderline shocking. Is Brentz a “guy”? Sure, but the next contact I speak to who views him as an impact bat will be the first.

Listed at 6-foot-1, 190 pounds, Brentz is well-proportioned and appears close to fully developed. As an athlete, the phrase “solid, but unspectacular” comes to mind as Brentz looks the part of future big leaguer, but nothing really struck me as exciting or worth mentioning in depth from a physical standpoint. Quite honestly, once the first pitch was thrown, teammate Brandon Jacobs stood out as a physical presence while Brentz faded into the background.

At the plate, Brentz showed patience and did not chase fringe breaking balls out of the strike zone. On a few occasions, he offered at fastballs up and displayed a hit tool with more swing-and-miss than I was expecting to see. Additional length was noticeable in the back of his swing leading to more drag than wrist snap through the strike zone. Brentz’ hips also appeared to open early which contributes to the perceived drag and swing length. The sum total of swing parts raised red flags for me as more advanced pitching will exploit Brentz’ swing forcing him to cheat on better velocity to compensate. Those precious hundredths of a second will also negatively effect his ability to sit back on breaking pitches leaving Brentz little more than a guess hitter.

After a promotion to high-A, Brentz’ strikeout totals spiked to nearly 25% hinting at this coming to fruition considering he struck out as a sub-19% clip in Greenville. Small sample size aside, another 6% increase in double-A would be a crushing blow to his prospect status and is in the realm of possibility. Of course the beauty of off-season instructs is that these issues are addressed during that time and Brentz may very well present as an improved hitter this spring.

A good comparison in this case would be Diamondbacks Paul Goldschmidt who posted eerily similar peripherals at 22 in high-A leading to the same types of question marks surfacing during the off-season. The Diamondback player development staff overhauled Goldschmidt’s swing mechanics drastically simplifying his approach to spectacular results. His walk rates jumped, his strike out rates plummeted, and the shortened swing path allowed him to better identify pitches without losing much, if any power production.

On defense, Brentz simply was not tested, but his lack of game speed may eventually lead to a move to left field. For now, right field is a comfortable home, but one where he projects as more average than plus at the position based on my perception of his tools. A scouting contact agrees stating, “nothing really stood out, but he showed confidence in tracking balls towards the wall. As a 45ish runner, he should be okay, but not above average in right.”

In terms of speed, Brentz simply doesn’t have any real usable game speed which presently rates as below average. Based on his body type, he’s likely to slow down with age and his legs may become a liability which will need to be offset by base running skill and defensive positioning/strong route running.

Ultimately, Bryce Brentz is a good, but not great prospect who does not scout as well as the numbers would indicate. Beating up on inferior pitching, 30 home runs looks awfully impressive on paper, but loses much of it’s luster in context. This leaves Brentz being viewed more as a player with a ceiling falling somewhere between fourth outfielder and average regular depending on how much one believes in his ability to adjust at the upper levels and tweak his hitting mechanics.

Fortunately for Brentz and the Red Sox, the aforementioned Goldschmidt has laid out a strong blueprint for success as a player who took many of the same knocks as a prospect, but overcame and developed into a viable big leaguer much more quickly than was first envisioned.

With lofty rankings already being assigned to the young right fielder, it appears as if prospect analysts are more bullish on Brentz than Goldschmidt at the same point in time. However, drastic improvements like those Goldschmidt attained in the areas of strikeout and walk rates are rare and Brentz’ path to Boston may have more potholes along the way than prospect followers expect.



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Mike Newman is the Owner/Managing Editor ofROTOscouting, a subscription site focused on baseball scouting, baseball prospects and fantasy baseball. Follow me onTwitter. Likeus on Facebook.Subscribeto my YouTube Channel.


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Carlcrawfordisawesome
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Carlcrawfordisawesome
4 years 4 months ago

His power is totally legit though, he hit 19 homers in the Carolina League which seriously suppresses power. Had a 157 wRC+ on the year and scouts agree he has amazing raw power. I don’t think average regular is his ceiling, and I also have heard that he has a plus arm.

baty
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baty
4 years 4 months ago

19 homers in the Carolina league at the age of 22 doesn’t mean tooooo much.

BoSoxFan
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BoSoxFan
4 years 4 months ago

well,that’s under the league average, and it was in 341 PAs. He had a .257 ISO when the league was .129, that’s almost twice as much. Yea, I’d say that’s pretty impressive.

BoSoxFan
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BoSoxFan
4 years 4 months ago

also, I’d say this is pretty impressive

baty
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baty
4 years 4 months ago

I still say he was 22 putting up those impressive numbers. Wayyyyyy too hard to tell what that means for him as a prospect…

BoSoxFan
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BoSoxFan
4 years 4 months ago

what I was saying is he was basically at the league average age.

baty
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baty
4 years 4 months ago

Sure… League average ages are misleading. You still have plenty of oldies hanging around to fill roster spots with no intention of making it much further… Still moderate competition, but not enough of the kind of competition that a guy like Brentz needs to face. Coming out of the NCAA, a guy like Berntz should do well, and no matter how well he does do, the first real test will be in Portland.

Mr Punch
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Mr Punch
4 years 4 months ago

He’s bigger than Yaz, and the fences haven’t been moved out.

James
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James
4 years 4 months ago

Julio Lugo is also taller than Yaz and the fences haven’t been moved out

James
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James
4 years 4 months ago

Thank for this write-up. He’s definitely a guy Sox fans are over-hyping right now. One of the more well known Red Sox blogs has Xander Boegarts the 3rd best prospect right now behind Middlebrooks and Lavarnway which is ridiculous in my mind. Though this same site did vote Westmoreland onto the list prior to last season…

Cory
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Cory
4 years 4 months ago

Xander deserves that ranking. At age 18 he hit 16 home runs in 260 at bats. He will most likely still fill out and still has time to learn the strike zone better. Oh, and he is a short stop.

James
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James
4 years 4 months ago

Mike is right. I meant Xander should be #1 and it isn’t close.

BoSoxFan
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BoSoxFan
4 years 4 months ago

I don’t think he’s that overhyped. One person I might compare him to is Mike Napoli’s bat in RF. And when they were both in A+, Brentz muchput up better numbers, while being a year younger, and playing in a much tougher league than Napoli. They both have the crazy raw power and the 30 HRs in the minors.

Joe
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Joe
4 years 4 months ago

Mike – very good write up.

Your ability to put some perspective on tools and potential issues is great as I think many fans start getting way too caught up in the slash lines at low A and high A ball.

It seems like it’s pretty similar with pitching… a pitcher with great command and good but not great stuff can dominate the league and exploit the wide talent level, but get somewhat exposed when they jump to AA.

I think the strikeout rate is a major red flag and if that trend continues in AA, I think your analysis is spot on.

JB Knox
Guest
4 years 4 months ago

Great article Mike. I have just started taking some scouting courses and was a college SS albeit in D3 but I agree with your assessments especially when I watch the video. Looks like he moves his head a bit as well, especially on that breaking ball low and away.

As of now it seems he is a pure fastball hitter who lacks pitch recognition so I do hope to see some change in his approach and mechanics. I happen to live in Portland, Maine now so I may be able to send in some videos during the season if he gets the nod to AA, which I would expect he will for some portion of teh season if nothing else.

Again really enjoyed the write up

outfieldallday
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outfieldallday
4 years 4 months ago

Great job. I’m surprised you could write that whole article without mentioning MLB.com’s top 100 prospects rankings. I remember sending you a tweet about that about a week ago. It is crazy to think that they would have Brentz (significantly) ahead of Bogaerts. Bogaerts is just so impressive.

reillocity
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reillocity
4 years 4 months ago

A lot of the “plus arm” comments probably are a carryover from his pitching 100+ innings in college (and pretty capably so). So far in his minor league career he’s posted 17 assists, 8 double plays, and 21 errors (he tallied a whopping 17 errors in 108 games in 2011) in 170 or so games (152 in RF) which would translate from a purely numerical standpoint into his having slightly better than average arm strength without much accuracy. Reviewing his MILB boxscores showed that 7 of his seventeen 2011 errors were attributed to throwing, with the the other 10 chalked up to fielding. While he almost certainly has enough arm for RF, the rest of his defensive shortcomings probably will push him to LF (if not DH or 1B).

All that said, posting 30 HR is a pretty impressive feat, particularly in so much as he did it while missing about 20 games. I’d put him inside the Top 150 prospects, but probably not quite in the Top 100 range.

Jim
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Jim
4 years 4 months ago

“Beating up on inferior pitching, 30 home runs looks awfully impressive on paper, but loses much of it’s luster in context”

This sentence starts with a dangling participle (it’s Brentz and not the home runs that are facing inferior pitching), then gets the apostrophe wrong on “it’s” (no apostrophe for the possessive of pronouns).

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