The future of the outfield at Fenway Park is about to be in a state of flux. Carl Crawford and his 142 million dollar contract are here to stay. That locks up left field for at least the next six years. Besides from that, it’s hard to say exactly who will be patrolling the outfield after next season.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about Jacoby Ellsbury’s situation, and the increasing possibility that he will be lured away from Boston via a mega deal from a team looking for a franchise cornerstone in free agency after 2013. The odds of Scott Boras and Boston’s front office negotiating a deal that both sides deem fair seems unlikely, especially after seeing how frugal Boston has been this offseason. Will they really be willing to drop another 150 million on an outfielder after having to watch Crawford crash and burn this season?
Right field is an even more fluid position. It’s likely that whoever starts in right on opening day won’t be the same player that starts pivotal games for the Sox in September. At this point, it’s looking like a Cody Ross/Ryan Sweeney platoon, but depending on how productive they are, this will most likely be a position that Cherington looks to upgrade around the trade deadline. On top of that, with Ross only signed on for one year, and Sweeney only guaranteed two more years, these two certainly are not the long term solution in right.
With all that in mind, it’s easy to see how Bryce Brentz could contribute to this club. Drafted in the first round of the 2010 amateur draft (36th overall), the Middle Tennessee State alumni had a breakout year in single A last year.
Brentz struggled mightily in his 210 at bats in 2010, hitting .198 with an abysmal .598 OPS. Obviously, many questioned his skillset after such a disappointing season, but Brentz rebounded in a huge way. He hit .306, jacked 30 home runs and posted a solid .574 SLG between single A Greenville and single A Salem
While these numbers were enough to catch many glances, Brentz does have some holes in his swing. He is too eager to chase hard breaking balls and high fastballs. He strikes out too much in general (115 times in 507 plate appearances last season). On top of that, he doesn’t take nearly enough walks (only 40 in 507 plate appearances), and his eye at the plate does not project to get much better.
Brentz checked in at number 64 on Jonathan Mayo’s recently released list of the 100 top prospects in the game for MLB.com. Certainly high praise for a player that was hardly mentioned in Boston’s top 20 prospects, let alone the entire game. For Brentz, this coming season will be about proving that last year’s numbers were not a fluke. If he continues to put up power like the kind he displayed last season, he could certainly find a spot on the major league team in the years to come. Developing a solid eye at the plate would be even more helpful for his chances. It’s not unusual for a young player to struggle with strikeouts and a poor BB%, but even since his college days, Brentz has not been known for a sharp eye at the plate.
The thing that could prove to be detrimental to Brentz’s chances with the major league team is the outfield depth that Boston figures to have once Carl Crawford and Ryan Kalish regain their health in the early months of the season (we hope). There’s no question that Kalish will get a chance at the major league level before any of the other outfield prospects. On top of that, there are other talented outfield prospects in the system besides from Brentz and Kalish, mainly Brandon Jacobs, Che-Hsuan Lin, and Alex Hassan.
It’s naïve to assume that Boston will only stick with internal options though. They do have solid outfield prospects in the wings, but remember that next winter players like Josh Hamilton and Andre Ethier will be on the market. Boston should be in a perfect position to secure one of them if they so desire, and it’s hard to see why they wouldn’t, unless they plan to put their effort to one of the many elite starters who will also be on the market (Cole Hamels, Matt Cain, or Zack Greinke).
Bryce Brentz had a monster season, there’s no doubt about it. Now it comes down to showing the world that what he did wasn’t a fluke. There’s certainly a lot of factors standing in his way to making the big leagues, whether they be Boston’s outfield depth, Brentz’s poor plate discipline, or the strong free agent class of next Winter. No matter what, brentz deserves a closer look this coming season. If he can replicate his numbers from last season, then Boston will surely have some tough choices to make come next Winter, or even this September. After last season, the problem of having too much depth is quite refreshing.