One has the ceiling of an All-Star and is considered the potential starting right fielder in Boston. The other projects as a fourth outfielder at the Major League level with an ability to play plus defense, provide power off the bench and steal bases.
Bryce Brentz and Jeremy Hazelbaker followed a similar path this season, starting at Double-A Portland in the Eastern League, getting a promotion to Triple-A Pawtucket and serving a role in the PawSox’ run in the International League playoffs
The 23-year-old Brentz, who gives the Red Sox a much-needed right-handed bat with power on the cusp of the majors, recorded a .296 average with 17 home runs, 76 RBI, 30 doubles and a .833 OPS in 456 at-bats at Portland. He was promoted to Pawtucket on August 30 and started 0-for-12 in his first taste of Triple-A and finished 2-for-17 (.118) but hit .429 with two home runs and two doubles in Pawtucket’s first round playoff series win over the Yankees’ Scranton/Wilkes-Barre affiliate.
Brentz, who was named Boston’s 2011 Minor League Co-Offensive Player of the Year (with catcher Ryan Lavarnway) when he belted 30 home runs in Single-A, projects as a right fielder in the majors because of his strong arm.
A fourth round pick out of Ball State University in 2009, the 25-year-old Hazelbaker has a rare combination of power and speed, but he has trouble consistently making contact, getting on base and hitting for average. Repeating at Portland after hitting .266 with 12 home runs, 41 RBI and 35 stolen bases in 2011, Hazelbaker had a .273 average with 19 home runs, 64 RBI and 33 stolen bases for the Sea Dogs this year and was promoted to Pawtucket three days before Brentz.
Unlike his higher-rated teammate, Hazelbaker immediately embraced Triple-A pitching, hitting .267 in 30 at-bats. He is only batting .154 in the postseason, though. Hazelbaker struck out 105 times in 354 at-bats in 2011 and then fanned 114 times in 436 at-bats at Portland this year. He struck out eight times in 30 at-bats for the PawSox. To thrive at the major league level, Hazelbaker will need to shorten his swing and make consistent contact to take advantage of his exceptional speed.
At the least, the left-handed hitting Hazelbaker can emerge as a useful extra outfielder at the Major League level. He will have to be added to Boston’s 40-man roster in time for December’s Rule 5 Draft if the Red Sox want to protect him.