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SoxProspects News

February 16, 2011 at 2:07 PM

2011 Prospect Previews: Bryce Brentz and David Renfroe

Today's installment of Prospect Previews takes a look at one of the 2010 draftees beginning his first full season with the organization and another one of the young hitters within the low minors looking to round out his rough edges in 2011.

Bryce Brentz
Position: Outfield
2010 Team: Lowell Spinners
2011 Projected Team: Greenville Drive
Opening Day Age: 22

Strengths: Well filled out and possessing solid upper body strength, Brentz’ power ceiling highlights his offensive game. Short and compact with his stroke, he quickly brings the head of the bat through the hitting zone with natural lift and the ability to drive balls with authority when he squares them up. Coming out of the college ranks, Brentz is more advanced with incorporating his lower half into his swing mechanics and fluidly uses his hips to add drive behind his swing. An excellent fastball hitter, he’s extremely dangerous on ones left over the plate and can quickly turn on heaters on the insider corner, effectively using his hands to clean out higher velocity offerings in this area. His power projects to play well to all fields and he will not have to rely on pulling the ball to produce hard contact. Not a hitter with a long swing path and big arm extension, Brentz should be able to generate higher rates of contact as he gets going in his career and be a multi-dimensional hitter who doesn’t just lean on his power. Featuring a plus arm in the outfield, runners will have to be wary of challenging him when trying to take an extra base or during plays at the plate. Brentz displays excellent accuracy and is adept at charging balls to put himself in good position to get everything behind his throws, while cutting down his transfer time. With solid-average speed, Brentz profiles as a rightfielder in the professional ranks and over time has the potential to round into an above-average fielder as he continues to make strides with his route-taking and judgment on balls.

Development Needs: Brentz struggled with the conversion to wood bats during his summer with the Lowell Spinners and displayed some mechanical kinks with his swing, especially with how he wraps the head of the bat around breaking balls moving down and away from him. Given the improvement in secondary offerings he will now see, he’ll have to work on leading more with his hands on balls on the outer corner and won’t be able to hook pitches in this area like he did in college hitting with an aluminum bat. Brentz can also over commit with his hands during his stride and will need to improve on the separation with his hands if he is going to fully tap into his power potential as he moves up the ranks. By keeping his hands back more during his stride, he’ll be able to handle breaking balls better and not hit so much out in the front of his body. An aggressive hitter, he needs work with his selectiveness on which pitches to attack, as he currently displays more of a “grip it and rip it” approach at the plate. With further experience seeing advanced pitching, Brentz should start to develop strong pitch recognition, but he is going to have to fully focus on developing more of a relaxed approach at the plate. He does not profile to produce high walk totals as he reaches his advanced development stages, but in order to create strong rates of solid contact he must cut down considerably on the instances he gets himself out due to chasing any offering close to the plate or not in an area he can handle effectively.

2011 Outlook: After getting his feet wet in professional baseball with the Lowell Spinners upon signing with the Red Sox organization in 2010, Brentz is slated to break camp with the Greenville Drive and begin his career in full-season baseball. With the feeling-out process behind him and his first Spring Training under his belt, his placement in this level and upcoming season will be a better indication of where he currently stands in his development. As the year gets going and Brentz feels more comfortable hitting with wood, expect to see the flashes of power and consistent contact produced. The leading drivers behind improvement in these areas are the beginnings of developing a more relaxed approach at the plate and the cleaning up of his mechanical issues. Strong strides in these areas can lead to high home run totals at this level and an overall strong offensive season. By the end of the season, Brentz has the potential to display that he has pushed ahead of the curve and ready for a placement in the next level. 2011 is a season for him to prove that he is not long for a stay in the low minors and to work on some specific improvements with his offensive game, which can go a long way to pushing him towards a future as an everyday outfielder at the major league level.

David Renfroe
Position: Third Base
2010 Team: Lowell Spinners
2011 Projected Team: Greenville Drive
Opening Day Age: 20

Strengths: Naturally strong and with an ideal frame for a hitter who produces above-average power, Renfroe features the type of offensive tools that can be polished into the skills of a middle-of-the-order hitter as he matures. With a strong base and powerful hands, he can drive balls a long way with relative ease and produces a lot of backspin to all fields. Renfroe creates good extension with his swing and when fluid shows the type of batspeed that can allow him to handle all offerings as he continues to settle into his career. He already has a lot of loft in his swing path and possesses about average power at this stage, with a very high ceiling in this area. A good athlete and former shortstop, Renfroe has the reactions and overall defensive skill set to round into a more than adequate defender down at the hot corner. He’s showed an improving first step during his transition to the position and flashed better reads on his angles with more game experience. His plus arm allows him to make long throws from deep behind the bag on the fly or ones on the run quicker to first base. Renfroe has the overall baseball talent to round into an above-average player as he begins to learn to tap into his skills, slow the game down, and dictate how things come to him.

Development Needs: Renfroe proved to be extremely raw in his initial experience in professional baseball and has a lot of rough edges to be ironed out. The root causes of his offensive struggles, and biggest areas for future improvement, rests within his pitch recognition and lack of a developed approach, which hinders how he attacks balls and the amount of contact he currently produces. Because he is so raw with his recognition of pitches coming out him, he hesitates when beginning his load and can get himself so far out in front of the ball that he can do little with it when making contact. Renfroe also gets caught between pitches, starting to commit to what he thinks is a fastball, only for it to be a breaking ball and either makes weak contact or waves over the offering. His plus batspeed is zapped by the lack of fluidity the hesitation creates and the instances of solid contact are few and far between. Still young and with the potential for a strong learning curve as things start to click in front of him, Renfroe can make bigger strides in these areas with continued focus and experience. However, he’s got a long road in front of him towards becoming a polished hitter and will need to come up to speed quickly to close the gap between himself and opposing pitchers. In order for him to tap into his offensive potential, especially his power, the initial strides will come when he can push pitch recognition and bring a plan to the plate.

2011 Outlook: Spring Training is going to be a key time for Renfroe to show that he’s beginning to make bigger positive strides and is ready for an assignment the Greenville Drive. While statistically his 2010 season looked poor and he experienced a lot of failure, exposure of key flaws is the first steps for young hitters to get a grasp on what it takes to round out their tools. Renfroe will continue to be tested with his approach in 2011. Signs of improvement to look for first include an increased amount of contact and then an increased amount of solid contact. These are good tells that he is getting more comfortable with recognizing pitches and able to attack more offerings. Big gains should not be expected, especially with a placement in full-season baseball to start the year as it will take Renfroe some time to further adjust to advanced pitching. Followers should look for more subtle improvement and a gradual increase in contact rates over the course of the summer, along with a spike in the amount of extra-base hits. The tools are there for him to round into a prospect pushing towards the upper levels of the organization in the coming seasons with further development. 2011 is a season focused on polishing and putting teachings into practice during game action. With more of a push, adding up all of those parts throughout the year can lead to a young player hitting his development stride.