March 23, 2012 at 5:35 PM
With the fourth day on the field complete from Fort Myers, here are today's scouting notes. SoxProspects.com will be bringing coverage from the backfields of the complex all week so keep an eye out for these daily player notes.
-Bryce Brentz has been hitting balls hard during game action all week. Brentz crushed a fastball out and over the plate deep to left field for a long home run during today's Double-A game. He unleashed a powerful swing, highlighted by strong separation with his hands to transfer his weight smoothly. Brentz has been on fastballs, but I have not seen him tested much by breaking balls. An assignment this season with Portland will be a challenge for him to consistently keep his weight back and also pick up the spin of secondary offerings quickly. It is not out of the question for Brentz to go through an adjustment period during the early stages of his time in the upper minors, especially if he is not fine tuning his pitch selection.
-Oscar Tejeda has looked more relaxed in the plate this week and is having good at-bats. This was lacking last season in Double-A. Tejeda lined a hard single into centerfield against a fastball at the thighs and on the outer-third of the plate. This was a pitch he would typically try to yank into left field last year. So far, he has been bringing a plan to the plate and working to the entire field. The keys to taking development strides forward this season rests with his ability to expand his approach and keep his focus consistent. Tejeda has the hit tool to produce solid contact, but needs to unlock the mental side of hitting to be more than a fringe-average hitter.
-Williams Jerez has a solid foundation of tools. His swing is fluid from the left-side and he shows solid rotation with his hips when driving the ball. Jerez's body is lean, but he has the frame to pack on muscle as he matures into his early twenties. I have been impressed with how he carries himself during hitting sessions. He pulls the ball well and has leverage in his swing to create backspin. He has some rough edges that will need polish though. Jerez is in the early learning stages, especially with his pitch recognition and how to hit to the opposite field. He is not there yet with pulling his hands inside of the ball to go the other way and instead extends out at the ball.
-Christian Vazquez's defensive game has come a long way from when he first entered the system. He has become a more polished catcher and shows improved technique blocking balls. Vazquez's body has also gone from being on the pudgy side to more solid muscle. His quickness moving around behind the plate has improved and it helps him react quickly. I see him rounding towards being a major league caliber defender and a potential backup at the big league level. Vazquez still has learning to do handling a pitching staff, but has shown strong improvement as he has gained more experience at the position.
-Kolbrin Vitek has looked less rough down at third, but still tends to get happy with his feet and try to pull up on the ball too quickly. He is more sure making plays, with improved reactions, but things just do not look natural for Vitek at the position. His throwing accuracy is spotty as well. At the plate today, Vitek continued to use the whole field and drove a double deep to right field off the base of the wall. He rebounded nicely from the previous plate appearance, where his swing was tangled and he jammed himself in grounding out to the shortstop.
-Will Middlebrooks had a tough day staying balanced and with his timing in the Triple-A game. This was on display in his first plate appearance of the game. Middlebrooks could not time fastballs early in the count, swinging through two heaters to get behind in the count. He then saw a curveball with two strikes and was too far out on front of the ball, which resulted in a weak one-handed swing to chop it to third base. Middlebrooks was also opening his hips up early as well to get the head of the bat too far forward in later plate appearances.
-Che-Hsuan Lin grinded through his plate appearances today in typical fashion, seeing a lot of pitches and going deep into counts. Lin came up empty though, putting the ball into play weakly outside of his third at-bat. He waited nicely on a hanging slider in this instance to drive the ball with some lift to leftfield, but the ball died out on the warning track due to a lack of backspin. Lin still is having trouble creating enough leverage in his swing to get balls to carry off his bat. He had a good batting practice session with lifting the ball, but the translation to game action is lacking.
Northeast Scout Ian Cundall contributed to this report. Follow him on Twitter @IanCundall. Chris Mellen is Director of Scouting for SoxProspects.com. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisMellen.