May 21, 2012 at 7:30 AM
-The big thing that stuck out about Bryce Brentz in this scouting opportunity was his balance in the box. Brentz is presently staying back much better when attacking fastballs and also showing a lot of trust in his hands. Instead of trying to get the head of the bat out in front of the ball and yank it, he stayed smooth with his weight transfer and kept his hands back during his stride. This allowed Brentz to quickly explode inside of the ball and produce strong backspin when he squared offerings up. He showed extremely quick wrists when barreling up a 91 mph fastball on the inside third during game action on Sunday to line a hard double into the left field corner. Brentz stayed square to the pitcher to keep from opening his hips up too early, which had been plaguing him earlier in the season. I am wary on how he presently handles secondary offerings. He is slow at times picking them up out of opposing pitchers' hands, while lunging out at them. He can certainly improve with his handling of them, but as an aggressive hitter by nature Brentz is going to have to continue to push himself to stay back consistently.
-The last time I checked in on Chris Balcom-Miller he had solid feel of his sinking fastball. His start this weekend was the exact opposite. Balcom-Miller struggled considerably to control his fastball, often falling behind in counts and laboring through sequences. The 88-91 mph offering was consistently starting too low in the strike zone and the opposing hitters were laying off of it. Balcom-Miller leaned on his 80-83 mph changeup to get outs, but his lack of feel for his fastball made it tough for him to work cleanly through the outing. The root cause was an inconsistent release point. He had a lot of trouble finishing his delivery, missing to either side of the plate often and bouncing offerings in the dirt. I see a move into a bullpen role as the best use of Balcom-Miller’s stuff and one where he can be more effective. The strain of trying to go multiple times through lineups has been showing.
-Heiker Meneses is on the light side with the bat, but his defense is advanced. Each time seeing Meneses since last season he has looked beyond his age defensively and very fluid in the field. His quick feet and instincts allow him to range well to either his left or right. Meneses played second base this weekend and always was tuned into the game out at his position. This is an important aspect as often the younger players can zone out in the field from time to time. Meneses made one charging play on a slow roller over the mound where he showed solid control of his body to throw on the move and just nab the runner at first. He can also play shortstop, but his arm strength is better suited for second base. Although just 20 years of age, his small frame and relatively filled out body do not lend much for physical projection. While he can improve his approach and pitch recognition with experience, I see his offensive tools profiling him as a utility -type player down the line with continued development.
-I have had a chance to see righty reliever Aaron Kurcz throw each swing up to Portland so far this season and one thing is certain, he has a live fastball. Kurcz sat 93-94 mph with his heater and touched up to 96 mph in this appearance. The ball was exploding out of his hand. More importantly, Kurcz was staying on top of the ball and keeping it lower in the strike zone. He had struggled in a couple past scouting opportunities to keep the ball down and stay out of the upper tier of the strike zone. He can blow the ball past hitters in that area, but not when he is only throwing to that spot. In this appearance, Kurcz worked to both sides of the plate and moved his fastball around to change the eye level of hitters. He did not show much of his secondary stuff though, which needs development to project him as a major league arm.
-Kolbrin Vitek’s swing lacked fluidity during this scouting swing and has been messy the majority of the times I have seen him so far this season. Vitek’s timing has not been great as well. He has tended to get his hands too far out front during his stride, rolling over a lot of balls or getting jammed on the inner third. There was a lot of weak contact this weekend and he missed some balls he should have driven. Vitek’s offensive development since seeing him at Lowell after first signing has been flat for me. He has quick hands, but has yet to show consistency hitting inside of the baseball in my views at this level. Vitek works counts and does not look out of place in the box comfort-wise, but gets poor wood on balls or lacks strong backspin when squaring them up. There still is not much leverage and torque created with his swing as well. Given my hesitation on him sticking at third, it is getting tough to see his bat at the level of a regular should Vitek indeed have to move to a corner outfield spot.
Chris Mellen is Director of Scouting for SoxProspects.com. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisMellen