July 3, 2012 at 7:50 AM
-When trying to project Bryce Brentz it always comes back to his pitch selection and recognition. The hitting tools are there for Brentz. He shows the ability to keep his hands inside of the baseball and has plus batspeed. The above-average power potential is apparent with how he impacts a pitch. He has the power to hit 20-25 home runs at the major league level. The pieces that are going to tie it all together for Brentz is the progress he can make with honing his discipline and ability to pick up secondary offerings more quickly. This past scouting opportunity showed his two distinct areas of need. He over-expanded his strike zone with frequency against elevated fastballs. While he has the batspeed to get to heaters at the top of the strike zone and can drive them, his judgment for which offerings he can handle and whether they are in the strike zone is lacking. Major league caliber pitchers can easily work him up the ladder after getting ahead in the count and let Brentz get himself out. Without progression here, he may be left as an all-or-nothing hitter, more likely to take advantage of some mistakes and not hit enough to be a long-term regular. Sliders also presently give him a lot of trouble. Brentz gets fooled often as he has a tough time distinguishing even slurvy ones from fastballs, causing him to pull open early and wrap the head of the bat around the ball. I see him as capable of developing into an everyday right fielder on a first division team, who hits sixth in the lineup, but the rough edges still need work to make that a clearer projection.
-I hit on Jackie Bradley, Jr.’s overall package as a baseball player in this previous report, but wanted to expand upon the point I touched on about his baseball makeup. Talent is the name of the game. After indentifying the talent, it becomes about how that talent is developing and how it is rounding out. Makeup is a key ingredient as to whether a player maximizes those abilities. Bradley has a certain look to him when he is out on the field. He puts a lot of time into his craft as an outfielder during batting practice, treating the fly balls that come out to him as a game situation. Bradley also brings a high level of enthusiasm to the field and a constant focus. I have yet to see him give away an at-bat or lose his engagement during the flow of play despite the lulls in action that can sometimes happen for an outfielder. He is ready before each pitch is delivered, whether it results in a drive out to him or a ball fouled off into the stands. It is part of what goes into that he always seems to be in the right place and moving on the first instance of contact. In getting a chance to scout Bradley with frequency over the last month, I have gotten a good feel that he is a player who has a strong sense for the game and the mental understanding of what he needs to do to push to his ultimate level. I see him as one of those players than can maximize every ounce of his ability.
-Brock Huntzinger’s fastball has seen an uptick in velocity since moving to the bullpen. After clocking him 87-90 mph early in the season as a starter, he has worked 91-93 mph when seeing him in a relief role and topped out at 94 mph. Huntzinger’s heater also shows more glove-side run in the shorter stints. The combination of the fringe-average velocity and flat nature of the offering left it prone to a lot of hard contact when he was pitching out of the rotation. The move to the ‘pen has made it easier for him to repeat his delivery, enhancing the command of the offering and his ability to spot it in the lower tier of the strike zone more frequently as well. Huntzinger has primarily leaned on his slider in his new role as the featured secondary offering. It has been tighter at 84-86 mph, but the command can still come and go. After seeing him throw a couple of times as a reliever, he has more of a chance to get a shot to test his stuff out in Triple-A, which was not going to happen as a starter.
-Senior Columnist Jon Meoli covered Peter Hissey during spring training and when we saw him down there his strides were showing on the field. Unfortunately for Hissey, he took a fastball off the hand very early in the season and ended up missing a large chunk of the first half due to a broken bone. Back healthy, those strides have started to translate again, especially with how he is driving balls to the opposite field. Hissey has been much more fluid with his swing than last year and shown better ability to keep his hands back to produce backspin. In recent scouting opportunities, he has laced multiple balls hard into the left-centerfield gap. I have yet to see him really pull a ball well though, either rolling over offerings or getting jammed on pitches on the inner third. Turning on the ball is an area of need. After seeing Hissey last year, he fell down my radar and looked to be in a developmental stall. There has been a jump start for him this season and if he can begin to pull the ball with more authority, he may have trade value to a second division team with a lack of outfield depth that is willing to take a chance on him to develop in their system as a potential fourth or fifth outfielder.
Chris Mellen is Director of Scouting for SoxProspects.com. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisMellen