Player: Bryce Brentz
Team: Portland Sea Dogs
The Skinny: Brentz was taken 36th overall in the 2010 draft by the Boston Red Sox. After struggling in his first professional season with Short Season A-Lowell, he hit 30 home runs between Low-A and High-A last year, and is making his Double-A debut with Portland this season.
Mike Ashmore, Thunder Thoughts: Draft day back in 2010 to be a pretty exciting time for you, take me back to that day…
Bryce Brentz: “It was a lot of fun. We had a lot of friends and family that drove from Knoxville to where my school was in Murfreesboro. And we just sat there, and we just waited. I did a workout the Red Sox before draft day, so that was a team I kind of had a feeling would call my name, or hope so. I hoped I didn’t come out there for nothing. I did the workout, and Boston ended up calling my name, and the place erupted. I was like, ‘OK, this is what we’re doing now.'”
MA: Were you expecting to go in the first round?
BB: “I had a good idea because of what people were saying and what my agent told me. It was still…you never know. Some people said I could be a top 20 pick, and I wound up being 36th. Some people said I’d be a second round pick, and I ended up going first round supplemental. So, I had some expectations, but I really didn’t care. I just wanted to hear my name called and continue playing.”
MA: Did you expect Lowell to be as big of a struggle as it was?
BB: “Not really, no. Coming in from college, it was a different adjustment seeing that many fastballs. I always saw more offspeed. Lowell was, by far, the best thing that ever happened to be as far as baseball goes. I’d never struggled that bad, and I learned a lot about myself and my swing and what kind of plan you need to have going up to the plate. So, it taught me a lot, it helped me get where I’m at right now.
MA: Had to be nice, then, to start off the next year with a 26-game hitting streak…
BB: “Yeah, it was good. I mean, we left spring training and I had a lot of confidence going into the season. I started off the night with a bang, and it was really good to get off to that start. I was like, ‘OK, this is not going to be like the year before.’ It was a good feeling.”
MA: You played at two levels last year and ended up at High-A…first off, did you expect to move that quickly through the system? Did you expect to be here already?
BB: “Yeah. I knew it was there, I think everybody knew it was there. I think just part of it was me staying with my approach at the plate and not trying to do too much. I still do that too much sometimes; I caught myself last series doing that sometimes. I paid the price for it. I felt like I was ready last year to come up here, but obviously it was my first full season. To jump three levels, probably that would have been too much, too early. I was ready for it. But this year is a different league with new challenges, so it’s going to be fun.”
MA: You had 30 bombs last year…is power easy for you? Something that kind of just comes naturally?
BB: “I think I just try to find the barrel. Some people, it’s just how they’re blessed. Some people are blessed with power, some people are not. I happen to be the one of those guys — I’m not overly big — but I do have some pop in my bat, and I was lucky enough to have that. I’ve never really thought of myself as a power hitter, but I guess I’ve always been put that way because of how I hit. I’m just blessed with it, I guess.”
MA: Reading a scouting report on you, it said you “toned down an all or nothing approach.” How did you do that, and what does that mean to you?
BB: “All or nothing, you see it in my swing sometimes, and it’s like, ‘Man, if he would have connected on that one, where that ball would have gone.’ And I think that means, ‘Hey, let’s try to tone that 125 percent effort swing down to maybe a 90 percent swing.’ Just get the barrel on it and it’ll still go. It’s easier said than done when you’re sitting in a 2-0 count and you know a fastball is coming. That’s when you want to just gear up and just hit it nine miles. It’s what, 330 (feet) down the line? 333 will do it. That’s just kind of how I’ve been. Boston’s been really good with me with not taking away my aggressiveness. They basically say, ‘We love it, just try to be more selective.’ You know, being I guess a power guy, I strike out. That’s part of the game.
MA: Does that piss you off, though? The strikeouts? Especially given your role as kind of a power bat…
BB: “Yeah, yeah. I know there’s a couple times where I’ve been like, ‘Man, if I maybe hadn’t swung as hard as I did on a couple of those balls and fouled them off like I did, then I could have made some contact.’ It’s a 2-for-4 night instead of an 0-for-4 night. So, it’s a give and take thing, but for me I’m not going to try to change the type of player that I am or the aggressiveness that I have. I’m just going to try to keep it more selectively aggressive. There’s time to cut it loose and there’s time to just get the ball in play hard somewhere and run.”
MA: How big of a jump has it been to Double-A for you so far?
BB: “The first series, I saw some things that I still struggled with. I didn’t struggle as much as I did last year in A-Ball, because they didn’t throw in particular spots as often or as consistent, but I happened to go off that high fastball a couple times this past series deep in the count and struck out on it. They just kept feeding it to me, and I kept going after it. Last year, if you laid off it, they would have come back with something in the strike zone. But this time, they just came back to it again to see if I’d go after it again. It’s a game of adjustments. It was our first series, they figured out some stuff about me, but I figured out some stuff about their pitchers. When we play them again, we’ll see who made a bigger adjustment and go from there.”
MA: Last thing I have for you…goals for this season?
BB: “Goals, I don’t really set too high of goals. Last year, if I said I wanted to hit .300 with 30 home runs, it would have been tough halfway through the season trying to do that. So, I call them ‘stupid goals.’ I swear to God, this year I said I’m going to try to hit like .200, maybe have five home runs and 30 RBI. Once you get those out of the way, those little stupid goals, you just relax and play ball. That’s the thing, you don’t want to put pressure on yourself, because that just makes the game hard, and it’s already hard enough. To me, I don’t even worry about goals. I’ll just what happens with what the numbers are at the end of the season, and sometimes those goals are met and sometimes they’re not. I know in Lowell, I didn’t meet them. But, I also learned a lot. Either way, you can take from it what you want, but you’ll learn about yourself and goals are just something that you look at the end of the season and it’s, ‘That’s what I did, that’s what I accomplished. I’m glad I know I did that, but now it’s time to work on what I can do differently.'”
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com // Twitter: Mashmore98