Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
It is no secret that the Red Sox have a ton of outfield depth. As slated right now, Shane Victorino will be the starting right fielder, Jackie Bradley Jr. or Grady Sizemore will occupy center, and Daniel Nava and Jonny Gomes will be platooning in left field. Five quality options with only four spots up for grabs.
The clash for the last spot will be hard-fought this spring between Bradley Jr. and Sizemore. One of these guys, along with a plethora of other candidates will just miss the cut and will either be released or sent back down to Pawtucket. Corey Brown and Scott Cousins will certainly be starting in Pawtucket and so will outfield prospect Bryce Brentz.
Brentz was expected to be a fierce competitor last season in spring training, but an unfortunate injury sustained from an accidental discharge from the gun that he was cleaning, dismantled any chance of Brentz being on the roster come Opening Day. So he missed almost half of the season, but did perform well in the 82 games that he did play in, hitting for a strong .264/.312/.475 slash line. He is now entering his age 25 season, and the highly touted prospect should be on the roster come Opening Day 2014.
Without an unforeseen injury occurring in camp there will be no chance of this happening, but it should.
Early on this spring, he has already showcased flashes of excellence. Brentz hit a bomb against the Twins and a RBI single today against the Orioles. He looks strong on the defensive side of the ball too, displaying good range and quick feet. He seems unfazed being the lone member on the Red Sox spring “A-team” not to have any MLB experience. In fact, if you have never watched baseball in your life, you would probably say that Brentz would be one of the seasoned veterans in the lineup.
His statistics in the minor leagues demonstrate a MLB-ready prospect. Below are his statistics in which a decent sample size can be judged.
2010 (A-): 286 PA- .198/.240/.340
2011 (A): 186 PA- .359/.414/.647
2011 (A+): 321 PA- .274/.336/.531
2012 (AA): 504 PA- .296/.355/.478
2013 (AAA): 349 PA- .264/.312/.475
The power is clearly the focal point of the package that Brentz brings to the table. He also gets on base at a solid rate, albeit not a great percentage. The right-handed hitter has more pop in his bat then any of the Red Sox current outfielders.
Nava is strictly an on base guy and the power surge he had last season will not carry over into 2014, indicated by his very high .352 BABIP (batting average on balls in play). Victorino, obviously, is the Red Sox best outfielder but power is not necessarily something that he has made a career off of. Lastly, Gomes, who has shown a lot of raw power in the past, struggled last season in the power department, mustering a low .426 slugging percentage.
Brentz’s bat being penciled in the lineup everyday, could be a huge asset for the Red Sox — especially with power hitting catcher Jarrod Saltalmacchia departing from the club. Even as the fourth outfielder on the team, he could be utilized as a potent pinch-hitter and quality defensive spot starter, unlike Mike Carp.
Brentz deserves a chance to play in the Major Leagues. He has worked very hard and has paid his dues in his lengthy minor league career. If the Red Sox decide that they are content with the question marks surrounding their outfield — with the exception of Victorino, then it might be the proper time to trade Brentz for a quality utility infielder who could play the part of a safety net for the erratic Will Middlebrooks. The Red Sox achieve nothing by sticking him back down in the minors. It is time to get something back for Bryce Brentz.