This week in the Fenway’s Future series we take a look at four players in the Red Sox system that have not really received the same attention as the players we covered last week. Two outfielders, a middle infielder, and a back-end rotation/reliever get a look here.
Triple-A Pawtucket: Bryce Brentz, LF
In the early going of the Pawtucket season, Bryce Brentz has been displaying the raw power described in every evaluation of him. He has three home runs and five doubles in his first 67 plate appearances, good for a .525 slugging, and .237 isolated power (ISO). If he keeps this home run rate up he should get to the 20-homer mark that is projected for him. However, coming with this power is the tendency to strikeout at a high rate. Brentz has gone down by way of the strikeout in 29.9% of his plate appearances this season, which is actively bad, and well up from the rate he posted last season at AAA (21.7%). With this said, it is not as though he does not have any command on the strikezone. He is walking in 10.4% of his plate appearances, which is solid. So it seems as though the higher strikeout rate is due to, at least to some extent, his selling out for power.
The story with Brentz is that he appears destined for a left-field platoon. He mashes left-handed pitching and has difficulty with right-handed pitching. Against lefties this season he has a 1.152 OPS, and a .713 OPS against righties. It should be noted that all three of his homers this season have come against a right-handed pitcher, but so have the majority of his strikeouts (12/20). His performance against lefties was also impressive last year at AAA, as he had a 1.039 OPS against LHP, and a .698 OPS against RHP. In 2014, his HR split was more in line with his skill set, as eight of his 12 HRs came against a lefty, and so was his strikeout split: 44 of his 58 strikeouts came against a righty. I could go on, but the evidence clearly suggests his primary skill is in hitting lefties.
Brentz has not been much of a defender, nor is he expected to be one. Minor league fielding statistics are of dubious value but Bretnz has posted only one season of more than 0.5 fielding runs above average (FRAA) in his minor league career. In the early going this year he is at 0.5 FRAA. The lack of advanced defense limits his advancement and places him behind teammates like Jackie Bradley Jr., and Rusney Castillo. But, if he keeps hitting left-handed pitching the way he has he could have a spot on a major league roster as a Jonny Gomes-like player, which, as the Red Sox know, is certainly a useful commodity to have on the bench.
Double-A Portland: Luis Diaz, RHP
Diaz, 22-years old, is in his second stint with AA-Portland. Last season, in 77.1 innings pitched he posted a 3.72 ERA, which is fine. But his 4.03 FIP suggests that he had some good fortune along the way. In his 14.0 IP thus far in 2015 he has had the opposite issue. His 5.14 ERA looks pretty bad, but his 3.23 FIP suggests he has been pitching fairly well. His three starts have run the full spectrum. One start was pretty good (5.2 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 0 HR, 1 BB, 6 SO), one was mediocre (4.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 0 HR, 1 BB, 2 SO), and one was pretty bad (4.2 IP, 9 H, 7 R, 1 HR, 2 BB, 6 SO). He has done well striking batters out (21.5 K%) and limiting walks (6.2 BB%), but as you can see he has had trouble getting much beyond four-plus innings. This could be by the organization’s design (limiting him to around 90 pitches per outing), or something that he really needs to improve if he intends on continuing as a starter.
High-A Salem: Wendell Rijo, 2B
In 2014 at low-A Greenville Rijo showed off his ability on offense, batting .254/.348/.416 in 473 plate appearances. His six triples, and 16 stolen bases (in 22 tries) demonstrated the speed that he has.
This year, moving up a level to high-A Salem, Rijo has continued to hit, posing a line of .244/.277/.489 in 47 PAs. He has one triple in the early going, but still stolen base attempts. He hit nine homers at low-A in 2014, and already has 2 this season for Salem, which is great. But, as you can see in the minimal difference between his batting average and on-base percentage, the issue for Rijo so far has been plate discipline. He has struck out in 27.7% of his PAs, and only walked twice. That walk rate is miserable, and is way down from his rate at the lower level in 2014 (11.8%). His scouting report suggests that he is an aggressive hitter, but this aggression may be getting the better of him so far this year. The good news is that Rijo is still just 19 years old (young for the level), so he has time to adjust to the advanced level of pitching, to learn to ease down his aggressiveness, and to get a better grasp on the strike zone. It is also nice that at this point there is no rush to get Rijo through the system.
Low-A Greenville: Nick Longhi, OF
Longhi, another 19-year-old in the Red Sox system, has started 2015 on a tear at the plate. In his first 14 games (59 PA) at low-A, Longhi is hitting .327/.362/.564. He has two home runs, five doubles, and a triple. He has not walked much, with just three free passes so far, but he has also fanned just six times; basically he has been making a lot of contact. Both his walk- and strikeout-rates are down from what they were at short-season Lowell in 2014. But it is still early, so it remains to be seen if things will continue as they have at the new level, or revert back to being closer to previous marks. Defensively, Longhi is listed as an outfielder but many have projected him to end up at first base, where it is thought that his work with the glove will be better suited.
Photos by Kelly O’Connor, sittingstill.smugmug.com