Bryce Brentz is being offered the fourth outfield position by the Boston Red Sox. Is late in baseball life success possible?
Can you be a success late in life? That, of course, depends on how you wish to quantify success. Harland Sanders started Kentucky Fried Chicken when he was 65-years-old. Sam Walton was 44-years-old when he founded – love it or hate it – the first Wal-Mart store in 1962. However, baseball has a different age criteria and careers are usually determined before a player reaches 25-years-old, but exceptions exist.
Dazzy Vance didn’t make it to the “The Show” full time until he was 31-years-old. Vance then led the National League in strikeouts for seven consecutive seasons and made it to the Baseball Hall of Fame. And let us not forget Red Sox great Ellis Kinder who became a 31-year-old rookie. “Old Folks” twice led the league in saves and once in complete games.
Sal Maglie is another with a Red Sox connection as pitching coach for the “Impossible Dream” squad in 1967. “The Barber” became a full-time starter at 33-years-old after serving a suspension for jumping to the Mexican League. “The Barber” went 18-4 and led the NL with a 2.71 ERA.
The Red Sox had Marco Scutaro for a few seasons and Scutaro didn’t become a regular until he was 28-years-old. Often it is circumstances that intervene to change a career dynamic – a trade, injury or just suddenly putting it all together and you make it. Will this be possible for Bryce Brentz?
Brentz is a former number one draft choice who certainly had some notoriety within the organization. Almost blowing his leg off in a gun accident, a litany of other injuries, poor performances and the final blow being dumped from the 40-man roster and going unwanted by 29 other organizations. But Brentz has a world of persistence and may become an integral part of the 2018 Red Sox.
In 2017 Brentz slammed 31 home runs for Pawtucket (AAA) to lead the organization in that department while hitting .270. The power once predicted for the right-hand slugger was on display during the season and by winning the Triple-A Home Run Derby. This is also not Brentz’s first MLB rodeo.
Brentz surfaced with the Red Sox in 2014 and 2016 hitting a quite respectable .287 in 34 games. A competent outfielder at the corners with an above average arm and accuracy you will not see a dreadful exhibition of hide and seek with fly balls and ground balls booted like an NFL punter. Watching Brentz at Pawtucket I am confident in his fielding agility and smarts.
Circumstances have again fallen in place for the 29-year-old to get that one final shot at the baseball brass ring. Chris Young has departed, and the Red Sox appear in no rush to take Young’s $6.5 MM contract and gift another far more experienced outfielder. A big thank you to competitive balance and the wonders of the luxury tax.
Brentz is a spare part and he knows it. The Red Sox outfield is one of youth, talent and a world of promise. Promise left Brentz about four years ago. If injury strikes Brentz can slide into either right or left field since center is no issue with Andrew Benintendi, Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley all capable – more than capable – of fulfilling that defensive slot. But can Brentz hit? Does Brentz need to hit?
My knee-jerk reaction is a yes to both those questions but hit must be defined. Brentz will not hit .300 but will give quality at-bats since you do not spend eight seasons and 716 games in the minors and be a blank sheet. Brentz knows his role.
Bad news could always surface for Brentz and that could be in the form of the Red Sox (1) springing for a more recognizable name for the outfield and (2) the potential signing of J.D. Martinez. The good news is it appears both are diming and Brentz has a legitimate path to the 25-man roster.
I don’t expect Brentz to be Jeff Bailey another long time “gamer” who plugged away in the minors before appearing in 56 games over three seasons, but Brentz could become Ed Charles who made it at 29-years-old and hit .263 in over 1,000 games.