Good luck finding a player at any level of professional baseball who has had as tumultuous time in the last 16 months as Ryan Brett. In August of 2012, Brett was suspended for 50 games after he tested positive for a methamphetamine. Brett claimed he took a pill during a slump, but whatever the story truly was, his positive test put his future prospects in serious question. But it was only the start. In the intervening months between the suspension and the start of the 2013 season, Brett had surgery to remove a kidney and sports hernia surgery as well. Before the season was through, he also dealt with a shoulder injury. Brett experienced four disastrous events one after the other, and his career should have, in all probability, begun to fall apart. Instead, Brett was recently ranked by Baseball America as the Rays’ 9th-best prospect just one year after being ranked 22nd, and suddenly his future looks as bright as ever.
Brett, who turned 22 in October, is coming off a 2013 season that saw him hit to a .302/.356/.454 line with 17 doubles, 5 triples, 7 homers, 38 RBI, and 26 steals in 33 attempts in 77 games and 343 plate appearances between High-A Charlotte and Double-A Montgomery. Brett slipped in his 25 games after being promoted to the Biscuits (.689 OPS), but that was not enough to dampen the enthusiasm after his breakout year. Brett has always stood out for his great speed and solid line drive stroke, but in 2013 he improved in three key regards: his pitch recognition, his power, and his defense at second base. Brett always knew the strike zone, but in 2013 he did a better job recognizing breaking balls and finding pitches he could drive. In 2012, Brett managed 20 doubles, 3 triples, and 6 home runs in 456 plate appearances. The fact that he notched same amout of extra-base hits while making 113 less plate appearances speaks for itself. And while Brett’s hands have never been great, he has worked hard to keep improving at second base and should become at least an average defender. It was one thing that Brett made it back onto the field after all of his struggles. It was another thing entirely that his entire game came together when he returned.
In 2014, Ryan Brett will return to Montgomery and hope to overcome his next obstacle on his way to the major leagues. With a strong year, he could finish the year at Triple-A and be primed for a big league call-up as soon as 2015. One great season is nice, but it will mean nothing if Brett fails to back it up. Brett has earned himself some attention, and now it is up to him to make sure it never goes away. But with his positive test firmly in his review mirror and his health problems a thing of the past as well, simply heading onto the diamond and playing games should be an easy task.