Reese Kaplan -- Bookends With a Common Thread


While covering the 51s last weekend there was a constant in right field for the team, Zach Borenstein, a lefty hitter who started all four games for Las Vegas.  Originally a 23rd round choice of the Los Angeles Angels in 2011, Borenstein was expected to be a leadoff type of hitter who had shown good speed, a good eye and some power en route to a .353 average for Eastern Illinois.  He demonstrated great athleticism and was tried all around the diamond.  A lefty hitter with some pop, he was successful in his junior year in 12/15 stolen base attempts in 207 ABs. 

Borenstein actually thought he’d be drafted much higher than he was, and by 2013 he was starting to make some folks think he might have been right.  In High A ball he started off with a bang that kept up throughout the season, finishing with a very impressive .337 batting average in a pitcher’s home ballpark to along with 28 HRs and 95 RBIs.  For those of you keeping score at home, his OPS was an eye popping 1.034.  In fact, the only offensive area where he was a little disappointing was in baserunning where he tallied just 5 thefts and was also caught 5 times.  At age 23 the future certainly looked bright for the Illinois native.

Apparently others noticed young Mr. Borenstein as well.  Midway through 2014 he became the centerpiece of a trade that sent speedster Tony Campana and veteran reliever Joe Thatcher from the Diamondbacks to the Angels.  He joined the Arizona organization along with converted infielder now pitcher Joey Krehbiel.   

In his first full year for his new team he split between AA and AAA, providing a .289 average to go along with 10 HRs and 60 RBIs in about a half season’s worth of ABs.  In 2016 he seemed to hit a bit of a wall as the power was done as was the batting average while the strikeouts went up.  Overall it was a .272/9/57 year.  The one bright spot was he stole 15 bases and was only caught once.  Was this the limit for Borenstein?

Apparently not.  In 2017 after helping Team Israel (along with future 51s teammate Ty Kelly) achieve a 4-2 record before losing to Japan in the World Baseball Classic, Borenstein returned to Reno and he slammed 24 HRs, drove in 91 to go along with a .279 AVG in just 384 ABs.  It appeared he had a future ahead of him in Arizona though there was a pretty good ballplayer by the name of J.D. Martinez occupying right field.  All Martinez did in 2017 was hit .303 with 45 HRs and 103 RBIs.  Can you say “blocked”?

Declaring himself a minor league free agent, Borenstein took to the open market and found himself a job with the New York Mets who assigned him to play in Las Vegas.  On the young season it looks as if the Mets might have found a winner.  He’s off to a .321 start with 4 HRs and 12 RBIs over 53 ABs.  Extrapolated over the course of a full season that's 40 HRs and 120 RBIs.  Nice.

Borenstein is tied at the hip with his mirror image now patrolling left field for the Las Vegas 51s.  Bryce Brentz was a late addition to the Mets organization.  A former 1st round draft choice of the Red Sox in 2010, he struggled in his first short season stint in pro ball, batting just .198, but a year later he made the Boston braintrust look brilliant when he delivered 30 HRs and 94 RBIs while hitting .306 in his first full season in the minors.  In 2012 he ascended as high as AAA and delivered another solid year hitting .290 with 17 HRs and 76 RBIs. 

Unfortunately in 2013 Brentz did his Plaxico Burress impression, shooting himself in the leg in the off-season.  Later that year he also suffered a torn meniscus, but despite the health issues still managed to club 19 HRs and drive in 64 in just 364 ABs. 

In 2014 Brentz had a few major milestones.  He was added to the Red Sox 40 man roster.  His Pawtucket team won the AAA World Series and he made his major league debut, slamming a double off Francisco Liriano for his first big league hit. 

Unfortunately much of 2015 and 2016 were missed first due to a severe hamstring strain and then later to an oblique injury.  When you’re trying to make the majors to stick and you’re having trouble staying on the field it can cost you big time.   In 2017 the Red Sox outrighted him off the 40-man roster and he accepted an assignment back to Pawtucket. 

Healthy for the first time in a long time, Brentz rebounded to have a great year in AAA.  He was Player of the Week, an All-Star and won the minor league home run derby.  He finished with an impressive 30 HRs, 85 RBIs and a .271 batting average.  Although he was out of options and no longer on the 40-man roster, numbers like that meant he was likely going to get a shot to crack the opening day roster for Boston who was in need either a DH or an outfielder. 

Unfortunately it was not to be as the Red Sox sold him to the Pirates for cash considerations.  He spent the beginning of spring training with in Bradenton, Florida but by late March he was cut loose.  The Mets picked him up and assigned him to Las Vegas where he is the right handed hitting counterpart to Zach Borenstein, playing left field.

Ironically, Boston did make a roster addition that might have been Brentz had they opted to keep him around.  Who was it?  J.D. Martinez!

Brentz has not gotten off to a good start with the bat for the 51s, thought this week he's finally started heating up.  He sits at .220 with 2 HRs and 9 RBIs.  That may not sound like much but he was in the .120s to start last weekend in El Paso.  Over that weekend he appeared in all four games, starting three of them.  Twice he made some very flashy plays in deep left center field. 

While the prospect window may have closed on both of these non-roster players, the fact is that the Mets have secured themselves two formidable bats who may prove naysayers wrong and become late bloomer role players.  After all, no one could have predicted that the Mets would lose two catchers to injury on the same day, so opportunities sometimes arise when you least expect them. 


Tom Brennan said...

Two long shots unless the Mets' outfield starts getting hurt. They both seem in the Kirk Nieuwenhuis/Andrew Brown talent category. Kirk, due to his timing (arriving when the Mets had weak outfield quality), got lots of playing time in the big leagues.

I guess their only real minors OF competition is Matt den Dekker, who is hitting like trap but thrown 2 scoreless innings for the 51s. Maybe Matt is our (very lite) version of 2-way Shohei Ohtani.

But watch out below, Tim Tebow reached base 3 times for a .201 hitting Binghamton squad. Seven hits and 3 walks in the last 7 games for Timmy T.

Zozo said...

Wow i didn’t know that about Borenstein but i am real happy they got Brentz.

Mike Freire said...

I liken players like Brentz and Borenstein to "lottery tickets".......very little risk and you never know when one may pay off.

I am trying to imagine who would be playing in the Vegas outfield if these two weren't signed for the year?

Reese Kaplan said...

Considering Matt den Dekker's greatest attribute lately has been his pitching arm, the 51s have to be mighty glad to have a couple of sticks in the lineup.

Mack's Mets © 2012