Not unlike their counterparts in the increasingly competitive American League East, the Boston Red Sox have completed numerous roster-altering transactions this offseason.
From the first day of the season until the last game on the schedule, it appears every game may matter. More than ever, roster depth and flexibility could become crucial.
Among pitchers new to the team are starter Ryan Dempster and relievers Joel Hanrahan and Koji Uehara. Starter John Lackey is scheduled to return from surgery. Catcher David Ross, shortstop Stephen Drew and middle infielder Brock Holt add to the team's depth at critical positions. Shane Victorino and Jonny Gomes are capable veterans new to the outfield.
Despite the numerous changes, the Red Sox have some quality prospects waiting to offer important depth for the Major League club.
Right-handed-hitting outfielder Bryce Brentz is among the top young players in the organization.
Following his graduation from South-Doyle High School in Knoxville, Tenn., the Cleveland Indians selected Brentz in the 30th round of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft. Although he was both an outfielder and a pitcher in high school, he was drafted exclusively to be a pitcher.
Instead of signing a contract, though, Brentz chose to attend Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro. He had an outstanding career, having been named an All-America and winning a host of honors. While Brentz did some pitching at Middle Tennessee, it was his bat that really became an attraction to scouts.
Brentz hit .329 with 18 home runs and 69 RBIs in his freshman year. He followed that with a season of .465/28/73 as a sophomore. Then, as a junior, Brentz hit .348/15/49 in a reduced number of at-bats. There was no doubt Brentz showed a promising power bat.
The Boston Red Sox made Brentz a supplemental first-round selection as the 36th player chosen in the 2010 Draft. This time, he was chosen to be an outfielder.
After having played only two full seasons and parts of another in the Red Sox organization, Brentz has become the No. 4 prospect on the club's MLB.com prospect rankings.
In 2011, he was named the organization's co-Minor League Offensive Player of the Year along with catcher Ryan Lavarnway. That season, Brentz hit a combined .306/30/94 at Class A Greenville and high Class A Salem.
This past year, Brentz again played at two classifications. He hit .296/17/76 at Double-A Portland. The only real hiccup was his 130 strikeouts in 504 plate appearances. Brentz walked 40 times. His performance earned him a stop at Triple-A Pawtucket, where he scuffled a bit, hitting .118 in five games.
I was able to see Brentz play in the recently completed Arizona Fall League, where he hit .297/2/11 in 64 at-bats for the Surprise Saguaros. Brentz played exclusively as a right fielder.
There were times I saw a very good Brentz at the plate. Then, there were times I saw a hitter with some flawed mechanics.
Having recently celebrated a birthday, Brentz is only 24. He is, like many young power hitters, still discovering his swing and searching for correct mechanical answers. He is a work in progress, and he's making outstanding strides.
Brentz is solidly built at 6-foot, 190 pounds. He has a strong upper body that provides the focal point for a wealth of power. At this point, I would suggest power is Brentz's best tool. Ultimately, if he gets regular Major League at-bats, I think he is capable of being about a 25-homer hitter.
Some seasons I think he'll hit more. Some seasons perhaps fewer. And that's one of my issues with Brentz. I'm not sure his hitting mechanics will be consistent.
At his best, Brentz has a well-controlled, measured swing. He finishes the stroke with good follow-through. Using a slight uppercut, Brentz gets sufficient loft on the ball to carry the fence in any park. When he's going well, his bat speed is outstanding, allowing him to drive the ball to far-away places.
There are other times, however, when I have seen a slight hitch in his swing that impedes the speed with which the barrel of the bat clears the hitting zone. The hitch is slight, but it prohibits Brentz from getting a clean, quick extension, which robs him of bat speed and loft.
When he's going well, Brentz is a patient hitter, capable of quickly recognizing pitches. He knows the strike zone and looks for pitches he can drive. Like most power hitters, Brentz can feast on fastballs within the strike zone.
When Brentz struggles, it is usually due to impatience.
Brentz hits best when he's appropriately aggressive. He scuffles when he becomes overaggressive and swings at the pitcher's pitch. In fact, the strikeouts mount when Brentz helps the pitcher by chasing pitches outside the strike zone. He tries to do too much. Ultimately, he leaves his own comfort zone, tipping the outcome in favor of the pitcher.
As indicated, Brentz is a former pitcher with a powerful arm. He projects best to continue playing right field, the position he has played since signing with Boston.
Brentz has enough speed and reads balls well enough off the bat, taking proper routes on fly balls. If there is any real concern about his defense, it rests with Brentz not always making accurate throws or making the correct choice of where to throw the ball.
The adjustments Brentz has to make to realize consistent offensive success are relatively minor. He has to rein in a bit of aggressive behavior at the plate and repeat his shorter, more-measured, powerful swing.
Brentz offers the Red Sox depth in the outfield as a power hitter capable of driving the ball over the Green Monster in left field.
Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners. Follow @BerniePleskoff on Twitter.