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The Bryce Brentz question

Everyone has eyes on the Triple-A outfielder.

MLB: Spring Training-Boston Red Sox at Toronto Blue Jays Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

September is always a very strange month for baseball, what with the rosters expanding by up to (but not usually) 15 players and teams essentially playing by different rules in the season’s most important 30-day stretch. It is also a very exciting one for some teams, even those not in playoff contention, as some September call-ups can be top prospects for whom many have been waiting for years. That is not quite the case with the Red Sox this year, as most of the call-ups are solid role players who will help in one or two areas but aren’t expected to be long-term stars. The closest thing to a top prospect in Boston is Blake Swihart, and he hasn’t been one of those for a couple years now.

With the minor-league season still being a couple days away from ending, the call-ups aren’t done, either. There are still more players to join the Red Sox roster, and while none of them are expected to be top prospects (Jason Groome or Michael Chavis ain’t walkin’ through that door), there is one player that more and more fans seem to be excited about seeing. That would be Bryce Brentz, who has become one of the most unlikely sources of excitement I can remember. To be clear, this isn’t me saying I don’t think the Red Sox should call him up. I am in agreement that he may be able to help and it’s probably worth the maneuvering to give him a shot (more on that in a second). However, the excitement is taking me way off guard and it’s leading me to believe that the expectations are way too high around Pawtucket’s corner outfielder.

MLB: Spring Training-Boston Red Sox at Toronto Blue Jays Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

Before we get into that, though, let’s start with the positives. Like I said, I am pretty sure I agree with everyone that says he should be called up, and he has plenty going for him heading into the month of September. For one, and most simply, he’s been very good in Triple-A this year. In 485 plate appearances with Pawtucket this spring/summer, the righty has hit .272/.336/.528 in a season that has included 30 home runs. It is the second-highest OPS he’s put up in a minor-league season, with 2011 — a year in which he split time between Low-A and High-A — the only one being higher.

In addition to the simple numbers, his skillset is one that would fill a hole on the Red Sox roster, even if it’s just for a month. Boston has obviously had a lack of power for much of this season, and that has been particularly true both on the bench and from the right side. Chris Young has not performed to the level many expected him to reach, and the Red Sox have suffered against left-handed pitching for it. Sam Travis, meanwhile, could provide a solid right-handed bat off the bench, but even at his best he doesn’t provide a ton of power. Brentz can fill that role if he’s anywhere near as good as he was in Triple-A.

That being said, it seems as if many are a little too sure about him being a legitimate contributor to this team. While the numbers at Triple-A are great, there are a few things to consider before drooling over the line. For one thing, Brentz is 28 years old. He’s not exactly a prospect anymore, and in fact he’s the sixth-oldest of the 16 PawSox players to receive at least 100 plate appearances in 2017. It’s worth considering he is over a year older than the average International League hitter. Furthermore, if you look at similar hitters on the leaderboard, it’s not a very exciting group. Rhys Hoskins was the only player ahead of him in the IL in terms of wRC+, and if you pay attention to MLB as a whole you’ll know that Hoskins has been amazing since being called up. However, Hoskins was significantly better with the stick in Triple-A and is also four years younger than Brentz. He looked more like a legitimate prospect. If you’re looking for similar production at a similar age, Brandon Snyder would be the guy. I’d be surprised to hear if a lot of Nationals fans were clamoring for Snyder on the major-league roster.

There is also the matter of making room for Brentz on the 40-man roster. The team removed him this spring prior to the season as the outfielder was out of options, and now the 40-man is full. The Red Sox already have to remove one piece to make room for Carson Smith, and Brentz would make two. There are some pretty “meh” players on the Red Sox 40-man, but there aren’t a lot of no-brainer DFA’s. My guess would be that Kyle Martin is designated to make room for Smith, leaving guys like Henry Owens or Deven Marrero to make room for Brentz. In the end, I’d probably be okay with designated Owens for assignment to make room, though I suspect someone would be willing to claim him and hope they can unlock his potential. Such a move would have plenty of potential to backfire on the Red Sox, but it’s probably their best option if they want to get Brentz on the roster.

The more I think about it — and even, the further I get into this post — the less inclined I am to call-up Brentz if I’m running the Red Sox. I would probably still do it because the goal is winning the division and having Brentz on the bench in September probably helps that, but there’s a decent (probably good) chance that he’s incredible underwhelming with the Red Sox. Assuming that’s the case, the team could lose a really solid player making room for him. The numbers he has put up in Triple-A warrant another chance in the majors, just don’t get the expectations too high for what Brentz will do if/when he actually gets up to Boston.