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SoxProspects News

April 20, 2011 at 7:25 AM

The Ladder: 4.20.11

OF Bryce Brentz

The Line:
Off to a strong start with Greenville, Brentz has posted a .377/.421/.585 triple slash in his first 12 games, good for an OPS of 1.006. Riding an eight game hitting streak to start 2011, he turned in a 3 for 4 performance against Augusta on April 9, with 2 triples and a double. He followed that up with back-to-back 2-hit games against Charleston, highlighted by a 3-run blast on April 12. After ending his hitting streak against Savannah on April 16, Brentz bounced back with two multi-hit games to close out the series.

The View: After struggling considerably during his summer with the Lowell Spinners in 2010, especially with his approach and adjusting to life as a professional baseball player, Brentz has begun to turn the corner and flash some of the power that he was known for prior to being drafted by the organization. His turnaround appeared to begin while participating in the team’s Fall Instructional League heading into the off-season. Brentz looked much more relaxed in the box down in Florida and was making an effort to lead more with his hands in order to go with pitches on the outer third, while also working to keep his hands back during his stride. He has a tendency to bring his hands too far forward along his body when striding, which saps his power and also causes him to wrap over breaking balls darting across the plate. Carrying his efforts from the fall into Spring Training, Brentz looked like a much different hitter during minor league camp, using the whole field to drive balls and barreling up pitches with authority consistently. Still a “grip-it-and-rip-it” hitter, most of his work going forward in 2011 centers on improving his patience and discipline at the plate. While he doesn’t project to be a hitter that draws a lot of walks, minimizing the instances of getting himself out will allow him to continue to hit at a solid clip in A-Ball and prove he is ready for the next level within the Red Sox minor league system. The more Brentz is able to find the line between being over-aggressive and singling out offerings he is able to handle, the more his solid-average-to-better power is likely to play up as he rises through the ranks of the organization. When staying back and mindful of using the whole field, he can be a dangerous hitter that is going to make pitchers pay for mistakes with their fastball. Improving how he hits secondary offerings will be a need down the line, but for now Brentz appears to be making strides with dictating at-bats and pushing his approach in the right direction.

RHP Kyle Weiland

The Line: After getting touched up in his Triple-A debut on April 8 against Rochester for 4 earned runs and 7 hits in 3.0 innings, Weiland bounced back nicely in his next start to fan 10 hitters in 4.2 innings against Syracuse, allowing 1 earned run on 4 hits. He followed that performance up with another solid outing on April 19, firing 5.0 innings of 1-run baseball with 4 strikeouts, picking up his first win of the season in the process. Weiland has logged an impressive 18 strikeouts in 12.2 innings of work on the young season.

The View: A notorious slow starter and a pitcher that has needed some time to adjust with each promotion up the ranks Red Sox system, Weiland has started to gain some traction early after a rocky debut outing to the season. Featuring a plus two-seam fastball with considerable movement in on right-handed batters' hands, he’s used this offering effectively at every stop of his career thus far with the organization. When Weiland is on with this pitch, he’s typically very tough to make solid contact against and is able to then spot across the plate with his 92-93 MPH four-seam fastball, which can touch 94 MPH when he reaches back for a little extra. Working hard on developing more consistency with his curveball since his time in High-A, he has begun to use this pitch more to finish off hitters later in counts and also to show a different look early in sequences to keep them from sitting on his fastball. On occasion, Weiland struggles controlling his two-seam fastball which often causes him to have a tough time throwing it on the inside third of the plate to righties. This forces him to come into the zone more with his four-seam fastball, which is straighter and can be squared up when batters are looking for it. The development of his curveball has given him another option to work with and battle through outings when he does not have his best fastball. Despite being projected as a reliever since signing with the organization, Weiland has been able to stick as a starter all the way up to Triple-A, giving him a good chance to sharpen his overall arsenal. Bringing a cutter back into his repertoire this spring, he’s been showing a varying mix of pitches to help sustain the amount of swings and misses he picked up last season in Double-A. While a move to the bullpen down the road seems likely as his stuff, especially his fastball, is likely to play up well in 1-2 inning stints, Weiland will look to build his consistency as a starter against upper level hitters and potentially offer the major league team another contributing arm in the mix as the season reaches July and August.

Trending Up

Greenville left fielder Brandon Jacobs has gotten out of the gate quickly, posting an impressive 1.098 OPS in his first 13 games of 2011. Possessing plus power potential and excellent raw strength, he has clubbed 9 extra-base hits, including 3 home runs to help pace the Drive’s offense in the early going. Making a concerted effort to work more counts to pick out better pitches to drive, Jacobs has been continuing his push towards building a more patient approach and been going deeper into pitch sequences in 2011. How his strikeout rate trends bears watching in A-Ball this season as he can extend too early and get beaten on elevated fastballs. With continued focus on keeping himself back and honing his understanding of what he can handle, he has the potential to put up nice power numbers over the course of the season…Making the transition to Double-A this season, left fielder Alex Hassan has been generating a lot of contact with Portland, getting off to a strong 18 for 38 start. While his extra-base power has not yet begun to show, Hassan has been doing an excellent job with keeping his swing short to barrel up the baseball, accented by only striking out 4 times in the early going. Much improved with pulling his hands inside the ball to clean out fastballs running on the inner third of the plate, pitchers have had a tough time finding a way to get him out consistently in his first 10 games…Acquired for relief pitcher Manny Delcarmen last August, Salem Red Sox right-handed starter Chris Balcom-Miller has not given up an earned run in his 10.0 innings of work thus far. Featuring a heavy 88-90 MPH sinker, late breaking low-80s slider, and improving changeup, Balcom-Miller induces a high rate of groundballs, while also showing the ability to generate swings and misses…After feeling his way through his first start of the season, Portland right-handed starter Alex Wilson fired 6.0 shutout innings and picked up 5 strikeouts on April 12 against Trenton. Wilson has been working to fine tune his two-seam fastball to start 2011 and the improvement has been showing with sharper run, along with better overall fastball command.

Trending Down

2010 first round pick Kolbrin Vitek has had a tough time finding his footing to begin the season in High-A. The Salem third baseman is 9 for 36, with 4 extra-base hits and 12 strikeouts in his first 10 games. After looking pretty good in Spring Training and using his hands often to go with balls, it seems like only a matter of time before Vitek starts to find his comfort zone in the Carolina League. Still making an effort to work counts and trying to find his pitch to drive, he has posted a .357 OBP despite the low batting average. However, hard contact has been few and far between for Vitek to start the season partially due to the fact that he’s been rolling over a lot of fastballs…Greenville righty Brandon Workman has been slow out of the gate and looks to be experiencing an adjustment to pitching as a professional. Workman has been tagged for 7 hits in 6.0 innings, including 2 home runs, while laboring through innings. Featuring a 92-93 MPH fastball, mid-80s cutter, and mid-70s curveball, his stuff has not been overly sharp in his first two outings of 2011. As he becomes more comfortable with pitching on a five-day schedule expect him to start putting up more positive results…Getting his first taste in Double-A, second baseman Oscar Tejeda is experiencing an adjustment to the advanced level of competition and is off to a 8 for 36 start to the season. Facing pitchers with much better command and secondary offerings than in High-A last season, he has fanned 9 times while only drawing 1 walk in 9 games on the season. Tejeda has been making an effort to keep his weight and hands back during his stride, but has found himself behind early in a lot of counts and protecting rather than attacking. As he continues to settle in and have his approach pushed, look for him to start producing more solid contact, which should show with a gradual rise in his extra-base hits.