TAMPA, Fla. – Jake Brentz’s demeanour remains refreshingly earthbound even after the discovery of his rocket-powered arm.
Currently in his third year in the minors, the 20-year-old has distinguished himself from the pack due to a rare gift – he is a left-handed pitcher who can hit 97 mph on the radar gun.
Appropriately enough, this otherworldly talent was discovered in a place called Jupiter.
“I thought I was going in for the whole inning, but I didn’t,” Brentz said, recalling his appearance at the end of a World Wood Bat Association World Championship tournament game in Florida. “I got out there, there were two outs and I just threw as hard as I can. I wasn’t really a pitcher, I was just trying to impress people and it worked out to my advantage so it was pretty nice.”
Referring to his ability to manufacture southpaw fire as “pretty nice” is typical of the air of understatement that surrounds the Missouri native.
That modesty carries over to whom he studies in the ongoing quest to refine his craft.
“I’ve been watching Billy Wagner,” he said, foregoing the obvious comparisons to Hall of Fame pitcher Randy Johnson. “Slowing his mechanics down, his ‘off-slide’…I used to watch Jaime Garcia. Any left-handed pitcher, I love just trying to break down what they have and to break down what I have and see what relates.”
Pouring over hours and hours of wind-ups and release points is a far cry from his days as a top outfield prospect in Missouri who idolized St. Louis Cardinals star Jim Edmonds.
“The hustle, the plays he made – that’s what I tried to do,” Brentz said when Edmonds’ name was mentioned. “I loved how he swung the bat and how competitive he was.”
Transitioning from outfielder to pitcher in high school put Brentz on the fast track to professional baseball, but concerns about signability dropped him to the 11th round of the 2013 draft where Toronto scooped him up.
The thought of Brentz putting it all together and becoming a dominant force – after posting a 4.08 ERA over 12 appearances and 39 2/3 innings with the Gulf Coast League Blue Jays last season – should have Jays fans salivating, as the most effective left-handed starters of recent years have been Ricky Romero and Mark Buehrle.
Brentz is well aware of the opportunity that lay before him.
“My goal is not to be in [the minor leagues in] Lansing or Dunedin or New Hampshire,” he said. “My goal is to be in Toronto someday so that’s what I’m planning on doing.”
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