|Red Sox Minor League Roundup: Bryce Brentz has a milestone day; remembering Will Middlebrooks as a lamb||05.14.12 at 10:24 am ET|
It was one of the most impressive lines in the career of Bryce Brentz, the outfielder with as much middle-of-the-order power potential as virtually any prospect in the Red Sox system. The 23-year-old had his first professional five-hit game, going 5-for-5 with four singles, a double and an RBI.
Perhaps as impressive as the volume of the hits was their location. All of Brentz’s singles were up the middle. His double was to the opposite-field in right. It is evidence that, after struggling early in the year with a pull-happy approach, the 2010 supplemental first-round pick is once again doing a better job of staying back and reacting to pitches with an all-fields approach, confident that his tremendous bat speed and raw power can permit him to drive the ball wherever it’s pitched.
While his numbers (and even his results) did not show it, that is an approach that Brentz has maintained for almost all of the season with Double-A Portland, something that contributed to the impression in the Sox organization that his performance had been better than his numbers suggested.
“Very early on, he was probably a little pull-happy, but that was a quick adjustment from fairly early in the season,” said farm director Ben Crockett. “You’d see him fouling fastballs off to the right side that were well hit. He was just caught a little in between. But now he’s staying back, and even weeks ago, if you saw the at-bats, you saw him attempting to work on staying back, letting the ball get deep and driving it to the right side.”
He’s doing that — and, indeed, driving the ball to all fields — with impressive frequency right now. With the 5-for-5 Sunday, in his last 11 games since April 27, Brentz leads the Eastern League with a .439 average, ranks fourth with a .477 OBP, second with a .707 slugging mark and second with a 1.185 OPS. While he is not launching homers with the same frequency as he did a year ago (en route to a 30-homer year in Greenville and Salem), he’s now showing an ability to hold his own against more advanced competition in Double-A.
There are still raw components of his game. He’s walked just seven times in 130 plate appearances. He has three errors in 22 games in the outfield, after committing nine a year ago. On Sunday, he was caught stealing and picked off.
Nonetheless, his recent scorching stretch has served as a reminder that few in the Sox system can match his offensive ceiling, and the Sox believe that he has the defensive tools to become an impact corner outfielder at the major league level.
TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 5-4 WIN VS. COLUMBUS (INDIANS)
– Alex Hassan entered Sunday having gone 0-for-12 over his previous four games, though the quality of his at-bats had remained fine, as he walked twice and struck out once. He snapped out of that hitless spell in dramatic fashion, going 3-for-3 with a homer, double and sac fly while driving in a pair. On the year, he’s hitting .258 with a .386 OBP, .409 slugging mark and .795 OPS. Since April 13, Hassan has ranked among the best hitters in the International League, hitting .316 with a .411 OBP, .500 slugging mark and .911 OPS.
– Clayton Mortensen made his first appearance with Pawtucket since being sent down on Thursday in order to clear a roster spot for Daniel Nava. The right-hander tossed a pair of shutout innings, striking out two and walking one, and on the year, he has a 0.84 ERA in 21 1/3 innings between the majors and minors with 24 strikeouts and five walks.
– Daisuke Matsuzaka, who gave up five runs on seven hits in his rehab outing on Saturday, will make two more rehab starts according to Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine, who detailed some of the mechanical struggles that he saw from the right-hander in his most recent outing.
– Alex Wilson earned the victory out of the bullpen with a scoreless inning of relief in which he struck out two while allowing a hit and a walk. In seven relief appearances — all on at least two days of rest — he has a 3.60 ERA with 12 strikeouts and five walks in 10 innings. While opponents are hitting .297 against him, he has yet to permit a homer out of the bullpen.
– Lars Anderson, who led the International League last year with 80 walks, went 1-for-2 with a double and two walks on Sunday, giving him two straight games in which he walked multiple times. He has 16 walks this year in 26 games en route to a .351 OBP (despite a .250 average).
DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 7-4 LOSS AT TRENTON (YANKEES)
– Chris Balcom-Miller is a groundball pitcher, and so he can succeed without generating strikeouts in volume. Still, after he walked five batters (matching a season high), he now has issued as many free passes (22) as he has struck batters out (22) in 35 2/3 innings this season in Portland. He’s also given up five homers (including one on Sunday), tied for the fifth most in the Eastern League.
Groundball pitchers are notoriously difficult to evaluate for effectiveness while in the minors given the varying quality of infields and defenders. Still, from the “three true outcomes” standpoint of strikeout rate, walk rate and home run rate, Balcom-Miller has been inconsistent, particularly given the way in which his stuff is supposed to work.
– Shortstop Derrik Gibson went 2-for-3 with a walk, and is now 8-for-19 (.421) with three walks during a six-game hitting streak. It is his longest hitting streak since he had a seven-gamer at the start of 2011 with High-A Salem. That said, the shortstop has yet to collect an extra-base hit during his current run, and his .238 slugging percentage this season is the second lowest in the Eastern League.
HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: RAINED OUT
SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: RAINED OUT
– Paul Kenyon of the Providence Journal checked in with newly acquired outfielder Scott Podsednik, who collected a pair of hits on Sunday in his first game with the PawSox. Podsednik will play left and center in Pawtucket.
– Brentz discussed his improving approach with Aaron Bracy in the Portland Press-Herald.
– Also in the Portland Press-Herald from the weekend, Sea Dogs manager Kevin Boles told Kevin Thomas that third baseman Will Middlebrooks was known as “the meek little lamb” when he was in Single-A Greenville. For more on Middlebrooks’ struggles at that level, click here.
– Henry Owens received high praise from Augusta Green Jackets manager Lipso Nava, who told the Augusta Chronicle after the left-hander’s six shutout innings on Saturday that the 2011 supplemental first rounder features three big league pitches right now.
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