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April 16, 2012 at 11:14 AM

The Book: Bryce Brentz

OF Bryce Brentz
Date: April 12-13, 2012
Team: Portland Sea Dogs

1 for 4, single, 2 strikeouts, flyout; 1 for 2, home run, strikeout

Approach/Pitch Selection: Brentz was ultra-aggressive during his plate appearances, seeing a high of five pitches, while not getting deeper than three pitches in any other of his at-bats. He came up to the plate geared up to swing at fastballs early in sequences. This worked for Brentz twice as he attacked first pitch heaters on both of his hits during this scouting opportunity. He lined a fastball middle-away hard back up the box for a single the first night. This pitch came in at about the top of Brentz’s thighs and he was able to put an easy swing on the ball to create solid contact. He again jumped all over a first pitch heater the second night, driving a long home run to right-center field. The pitch grabbed more of the fat part of the plate than the previous one and was again just about at the top of his thighs. However, Brentz struggled to lay off high fastballs and breaking balls away in his other plate appearances. He over-expanded the strike zone twice to get beat by fastballs at the letters, striking out swinging in both instances. He also chased an elevated heater up-and-away when ahead in the count 1-0 to sky a high flyball out to medium depth right field the first night. Brentz was able to differentiate from the fastball and take two-plane curveballs in both games, but had a tough time handling sliders. In his first at-bat of the second game, he saw four straight sliders, wrapping the head of the bat around the ball when swinging and missing at three of them. Brentz appeared to have a lot of trouble picking up the break and recognizing that they were not fastballs, resulting in off-balance swings due to his lower half and head pulling off towards third base.

Power: Brentz’s raw power grades right around plus. He is capable of putting a charge into fastballs, especially ones out and over the plate as demonstrated when hitting his home run. Brentz creates solid leverage with his swing and extends well with his arms to get full extension when driving the ball. He hits the ball the hardest against offerings that come in from the bottom to the top of his thighs. When keeping his weight back and body square, he produces excellent backspin. His home run was a rising shot to the opposite field, which cleared the fence with plenty of room to spare. It looked very easy for him to generate the type of batspeed needed to impact the ball with force. Brentz’s power plays up well to all fields and can translate to 20 or more home runs at the major league level. More of a mistake hitter, he does not get great wood on offerings spotted on either side of the plate. He ties himself up on the inside third to fight these pitches off or foul them back. Brentz twice fouled back inside fastballs that he over-extended his hands against and could have done more damage with by pulling his hands inside of the baseball better.

Take: Brentz’s approach and pitch selection are presently raw for Double-A. He is willing to use the whole field, but cannot lay off pitches out of the zone to consistently stay ahead in the count. The opposing pitchers picked up on this quickly. After lining his single up the middle in his first plate appearance of the first game, Brentz did not see a fastball in the strike zone the rest of the night. Unable to take elevated heaters, he was easy to pitch to and was retired relatively easily. Until Brentz demonstrates that he can be selective and force Eastern League pitchers to come into the zone, it is going to be tough for him to find himself in situations to work against offerings in his hot zones. This adjustment is important for him. During this look, Brentz pretty much got himself out. He is a dangerous hitter, but his lack of patience led to mixed results and put him in a defensive position often. His over-aggressiveness leaves him vulnerable against hard breaking balls as well. Brentz was fooled badly by the spin of sliders. He could not keep from pulling off of them and appeared in each instance to be guessing fastball rather than trusting his batting eye.

Brentz did show what he is capable of when not trying to do too much and staying relaxed in the batter’s box. He did not miss either of the fastballs in his hitting zones. The home run was an impressive display of power, but his single was a flash of his hitting skills. Brentz was very short to the point of contact and used his hands well to square up the pitch. I liked how he did not try to pull the ball, instead going with where the pitch was located. He was content with staying simple and not trying to swing out of his shoes as he did in other plate appearances. It is that type of mindset that will allow Brentz to show consistency at this level and take a step forward with his offensive development. If he can tighten things up and evolve from an “all-or-nothing” hitter, he will project as an everyday right fielder at the major league level. The tools and talent are there. While things are likely going to be a struggle while he adjusts to the level of competition and is forced to reel his pitch selection in, Brentz can make strides over the course of the summer. The initial look showed the rough spots, with controlling more at-bats being the main area of focus.

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