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March 28, 2012 at 7:45 AM

2012 Prospect Previews: Bryce Brentz and Brandon Jacobs

Bryce Brentz
Position: Outfield
2011 Teams: Greenville Drive/Salem Red Sox
2012 Projected Team: Portland Sea Dogs
Opening Day Age: 23

Strengths: Brentz incorporates his whole body into his swing, which enables him to create strong torque and leverage. His strong hands drive the head of the bat on an upward plane through the hitting zone with force. Brentz’s batspeed grades as plus. He extends well post-contact to drive offerings he squares up with lift and backspin. An excellent fastball hitter, Brentz is capable of turning around higher velocity ones on the inner third by pulling his hands in quickly to clean them out and extending on heaters middle-to-away to drive them hard to the opposite field. He has improved reducing the wrap in his swing that he showed after first signing with the organization. Brentz has the type of power to produce 20 or more home runs at the major league level and in his peak hit sixth in a first division team’s lineup. With an improving approach and showing more willingness to use the whole field last season, his hit tool can carry him to average-to-better batting averages with further honing of his selectiveness at the plate. Defensively, Brentz has improved his routes and judgment of flyballs in the outfield. He drifts less when tracking balls. His plus arm is a weapon against advancing baserunners and he does a good job getting his weight behind throws when charging balls. Brentz profiles as a right fielder, with the ceiling of an everyday player on a contending team.

Development Needs: Brentz’s aggressive pitch selection is an area that needs improvement as he gets going in the upper minors. He tends to chase too many elevated fastballs and rarely cuts down his swing with two strikes. Brentz excels at hitting fastballs, but has to learn the strike zone better to hit consistently against upper level pitching. Over-expansion of the zone with his eyes leads to wild swings at balls out of the strike zone and the chasing of poor pitches in hitter’s counts. With fewer mistake pitches to hit, it is important for him to learn to be disciplined at the plate. Brentz does not project as a high walk player, but must show he is willing to take pitches out of his hitting zone so he does not get himself out on a consistent basis. He will also be challenged by advanced secondary offerings. More advanced pitchers will mix them in at any point in the count and Brentz’s recognition has to be quicker to prevent him from over-committing his weight. At times, he does not see breaking balls well and opens his hips up too early. This leads him to pulling his head off the ball to wrap the bat around sliders or weakly chop curveballs into play. Without improvement managing the strike zone against secondary offerings and refining his selection, it is tough to project Brentz as maintaining enough solid contact to profile as a regular at the major league level.

2012 Outlook: Brentz is set for an assignment in Double-A when the teams head north to start the season. The Eastern League is going to be a test of his strike zone management skills. A tough pitching league, Brentz is likely to be pushed early in the season to adjust and see much more polished secondary offerings than in the lower minors. I feel Brentz is a candidate to take a step back during the first half of the season as he is forced to adjust at the plate. While he can show power against mistake pitches, his evolution into a more polished overall hitter is the key to being successful and proving he can be disciplined enough to develop into a consistent major league hitter. This type of resistance is good for his development. Experience is necessary to drive the process of becoming more selective at the plate. The application of what he learns can lead to him showing more and more consistency as he gets deeper into play during the Double-A season. Brentz has the skills to be a productive big league hitter. 2012 is a year to work on the finer points of hitting and prove his projection is coming to fruition in the near future.

Brandon Jacobs
Position: Outfield
2011 Team: Greenville Drive
2012 Projected Team: Salem Red Sox
Opening Day Age: 21

With an ideal power hitter’s frame, Jacobs’ body has been developing into that of a baseball player’s over the course of the last 18 months. He has dropped a lot of his football bulk in the shoulders and chest. Jacobs is very muscular, especially in the lower body, but the development of more lean muscle in his upper body has lead to less restriction with his actions. He unleashes a swing with strong leverage that has fluid hip rotation. Jacobs creates plus batspeed. He barrels up fastballs out and over the plate well, producing solid backspin and carry. When extending with his arms and driving with his lower body, he is capable of hitting the ball a long way. Jacobs has plus raw power and the type of power to produce 25 home runs in his peak. He covers the plate well with his swing to get the fat part of the bat on tough offerings. Even when not fully squaring an offering up, he has the strength to still hit the ball relatively hard or muscle hits into the outfield. Jacobs has taken well to developing patience at the plate and going deeper into counts during his early career. He has shown dedication to learning the strike zone and a strong desire to get better at his craft. Jacobs possesses a level demeanor in handling the ups and downs of a baseball season. A good athlete for his size, he moves well once he gets going and can range well both to his right or left in the outfield. Jacobs has the ceiling of a power hitting outfielder at the major league level on a contending team.

Development Needs: Jacobs is rough defensively with his reads and routes in the outfield. He tends to freeze on contact and take angles that are too flat when tracking flyballs down. Balls hit over his head can be an adventure at times as well. Jacobs needs to become more comfortable judging balls hit out his way. His arm strength has been improving with the loss of extra bulk, but it fits best in left field. His defense projects to be average. Without much versatility, his future major league value is tied into his offensive production. This puts a strong emphasis on his development at the plate and polishing off his areas of need. Jacobs’ swing can get too long, which makes it tough for him to consistently clean out pitches on the inner third. Learning to pull his hands in against these offerings is a must to close this hole. Jacobs has shown to be improving in this area with experience though. He also produces too much yank and upper-cut to swing through pitches when over-aggressive against fastballs above the belt. He sits back better against secondary offerings than when he first signed, but is still fooled by sharp breaking balls and hits out on his front foot against them. Further progress picking the spin up out of opposing pitchers’ hands is necessary in higher levels or his hitting is at risk to plateau. Jacobs will be prone to striking out as a power hitter, but must learn to cut his swing down in certain counts to develop into more than a fringe-average hitter for batting average.

2012 Outlook: Jacobs was one of the most improved players in the system last season and made strides sharpening his initial rough edges during 2011. He will look to carry things forward in High A this season. This placement will continue to push Jacobs against secondary offerings and the more polished pitchers of the Carolina League will force him to stay back consistently to be successful. A good fastball hitter between the knees and tops of the thighs, he is likely to drive a lot of these offerings when being selective working counts. I do not see Jacobs being over-matched or exposed at this level, but he will have to make adjustments to consistently display hard contact. Becoming more proficient hitting breaking balls and capable of turning on inside fastballs to produce hard contact are keys in showing that he is trending towards becoming more of a complete hitter. By taking these steps, Jacobs should be trending towards being ready for Double-A and make the jump in 2013.

Chris Mellen is Director of Scouting for SoxProspects.com. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisMellen