November 25, 2015 at 7:00 AM
This week, we recap the next six players in the season-end Top 40, going from 34 to 29. All entries in this year's Top 40 Season in Review series can be found here.
#32 Kevin McAvoy, RHP
2015 Team: Salem Red Sox
Final Stats: 141 IP, 3.89 ERA, 1.47 WHIP, 82 K, 71 BB
2015 Peak Ranking: 28 (current)
Season in Review: A fourth-round pick in 2014 out of Bryant University, McAvoy made his professional debut in Lowell last year, and skipped straight to Salem to start the 2015 season. He initially proved up to the challenge, posting a 2.04 ERA over his first 39 2/3 innings, though his 25-to-21 strikeout-to-walk ratio and .234 batting average on balls in play hinted that he may not have been pitching as well as his ERA indicated. His numbers regressed significantly over the next two months, as he went on an 11-game skid that saw him pitch to a 6.59 ERA over 56 innings, while allowing 71 hits and 30 walks while striking out only 30.
Something seemed to click around the end of July, and McAvoy finished the season by going 6-1 in his last eight starts, with an ERA of 2.18 over 45 1/3 innings. He walked 20, struck out 27, and he was inducing ground outs almost twice as often as fly outs. While his low strikeout and high walk totals are concerning, his stretch at the end of the season shows that he can succeed with these numbers, as long as he is keeping the ball on the ground. His 2.87 groundball-to-flyball ratio was second in the system among pitchers with at least 25 innings pitched, and his 25 double plays induced was highest in the system by seven. - Jim Crowell
Scouting Report and 2016 Outlook: McAvoy has a study pitcher's frame with minimal projection remaining. He throws from a three-quarters arm slot with some effort in his delivery. His fastball works in the low-90s and shows sink and run down in the zone, leading to a lot of weak contact. He struggles with his command and control of the pitch, however, and it does not miss many bats. McAvoy’s best secondary pitch is a low-80s slider with 10-to-4 break that has flashed late bite and depth through the zone. The pitch has solid-average potential, but is inconsistent at present. McAvoy also will show a changeup in the mid-80s that is a work in progress. It is below-average at present, but with refinement could develop into an average pitch. McAvoy’s ceiling is as a back-end starter, but unless he takes a step forward with his third pitch and shows more bat-missing potential, he could be better suited out of the bullpen. McAvoy will start the 2016 season in Portland and will be tested by the more advanced hitters in the upper minors. - Ian Cundall
#31 Bryce Brentz, LF/RF
2015 Team: Pawtucket Red Sox
Final Stats: 250 PA, .232/.308/.382, 8 HR, 24 BB, 74 K
2015 Peak Ranking: 23 (April)
Season in Review: After getting a cup of coffee in the majors in 2014, the former first-round pick was certainly hoping to hit his way out of Pawtucket for good in 2015 and help out the Red Sox, who had major question marks in the outfield. It looked like Brentz had figured out International League pitching in the beginning of the season, as he hit .310/.388/.571 with three home runs over the first 10 games. He quickly cooled off, however, batting .197/.281/.318 with four home runs and 59 strikeouts over his next 44 games. He started to hit again, putting together a five-game hitting streak in the middle of June, but he injured his thumb diving head first into second base on June 17, and he ultimately underwent surgery that ended his season. As has been the case throughout his career, strikeouts and injuries continue to hold Brentz back. He struck out in almost 30 percent of his plate appearances in 2015, showing that any perceived progress he made in cutting that mark to 21 percent last season either was a mirage or has since been undone. Meanwhile, the thumb injury is his third significant stint on the DL in as many seasons. - Jim Crowell
Scouting Report and 2016 Outlook: On the SoxProspects.com Podcast, we recently discussed players in the system with the best tool in each of the standard five categories. Brentz's name came up for both his cannon arm in the field and light-tower power at the plate. Those tools allowed him to peak at fifth in the SoxProspects.com rankings in September 2012 after batting .296/.355/478 with 17 home runs in Portland. At the time, his ceiling of a middle-of-the-order power bat looked attainable, but he has been plagued since by a pair of problems: injuries and strikeouts. In 2012 he played 127 games, but has steadily decreased each season, to 88 in 2013, then 72, and finally just 59 this season. The thumb injury this season follows the infamous gun accident in spring of 2013, a knee injury that cost him most of July and August that same year, and a hamstring injury that lingered longer than expected in 2014 and cost him two months. His maladies have run the gamut, and while they could just represent a streak of bad luck with seemingly no common thread, his ability to stay on the field for a full season is justifiably in question.
If he can stay on the field, Brentz could still put it together to be at least a solid platoon player in the majors. Over his professional career, he has mashed lefties to the tune of .297/.364/.555, but has just a .250/.311/.426 career line against right-handers. In the field, he has probably a tick under average range, with a propensity for making highlight reel plays laying out for balls but then other times looking silly diving for balls that he does not have a chance to catch. If he can refine such inconsistencies, he could play a satisfactory right field due to his plus arm, but he is otherwise probably better suited for left field. Although he is going into his age-27 season, other power hitters have put it together later in their careers. Brentz will look to do so in Pawtucket once again to start the 2016 season, but assuming health, he has a chance to quickly work his way into a depth role for the major league team given how thin the outfield is in the upper minors after the trade of Manuel Margot. - Matt Huegel
Photo Credit: Kelly O'Connor