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Bryce Brentz: Number One with a Bullet

Red Sox outfield prospect Bryce Brentz made headlines recently when he accidentally shot himself in the leg while cleaning a gun. The injury wasn’t severe and he’s already returning to practice, but who knew cleaning a handgun could be as dangerous as standing in front of Robin Yount? Thankfully for dynasty owners “firearm handling” is not a category in most fantasy leagues. So what can Brentz do for your fantasy team?

The Breakdown

I was able to see Brentz a few times during the 2012 season. Defensively he is a prototypical corner outfielder and his strong arm makes right field a nice, cozy fit. The athleticism doesn’t stand out but he’s not a bad runner. The speed plays better in the outfield than it does on the base paths and his stolen base totals will likely be in the low single digits each season. As he ages his thick build does have the potential to become more of an issue and slow him down to some degree. I still expect Brentz is going to qualify in the outfield until he’s well into his 30’s.

While he’s no slouch in the outfield, the great appeal of Brentz is clearly his bat. We’re talking plus raw power to all fields. The ball comes off his bat really well and he doesn’t have to square pitches up to drive them. Twenty plus home runs a year is a fair expectation if he continues to made adjustments. I’m less excited the ability of Brentz to hit for average. He’s worked hard since becoming a pro to smooth out his swing but it can still get a little long and loopy at times. Much of his bat speed is driven by his hands and as a result he ends up having to start his swing early to get his hands out in front of him. This exacerbates his pitch recognition issues and the problem will only be further exploited by major league pitchers. I’ve also seen Brentz get pull happy, and when he does he becomes increasingly vulnerable to soft stuff. While he has a fairly selective eye at the plate there’s just too much swing and miss here for anyone to be expecting high batting averages from Brentz. He’s not going to be a mendoza line guy, but he won’t be competing for batting titles either without a whole lot of luck. Something in the .240-.260 range is a pretty reasonable expectation.

The Path to Playing Time

Brentz is expected to begin the season at triple-A Pawtucket. No member of the current Boston outfield is signed beyond 2015 (Shane Victorino). Jacoby Ellsbury is a free agent following the 2013 season and the Jonny Gomes/Daniel Nava/Mike Carp platoon appears to be a short term situation. So the only real long term outfield piece the Red Sox have is likely Jackie Bradley, Jr., and Bradley is a true centerfielder where Brentz is limited to a corner. The current group of starters is not exactly known for durability and that’s another way Brentz could see at bats this season. Bradley might get a look but Brentz is surely at or near the top of the depth chart. The opportunity will likely be there some time in the near future for Brentz, but right field in Fenway Park is spacious while footspeed and range are not strengths of his game. While a move to left field won’t change much for your fantasy team, it could affect how invested the team is in Brentz and what chances he gets.

What to Expect

We have a solid but unexciting, two-category (HRs & RBIs) outfielder as long as he hits near the middle of the order. A typical year for Brentz in his prime might be something like a .240-.260 AVG with 17-24 home runs and 0-5 stolen bases.

Fangraphs author Marc Hulet ranked Brentz 12th among the Boston Red Sox Top 15 Prospects this Winter