Amid the four Bowling Green Hot Rods players who were suspended for methamphetamine, two of them were top prospects: outfielder Josh Sale and second baseman Ryan Brett. As soon as the allegations surfaced, both players’ abilities were immediately pulled into question. The positive tests and increased scrutiny wasn’t all that Sale and Brett had in common, though. Both were selected by the Rays in the 2010 MLB Draft, Sale in the first round and Brett in the third, out of high schools in Washington State, Sale from Bishop Blanchet High School in Seattle and Brett From Highline High School in Burien. But since the positive tests, Brett’s path has diverged quite significantly from Sale. While Sale compounded his positive test by getting suspended for misconduct, Brett has managed to fight through the positive test and more to regain his place among the Rays’ top prospects.
The positive test was only the start of several tough months for Brett. As Brett told Guy Curtright of MiLB.com, Brett’s August suspension was followed by a surgery to have a kidney removed in November. Then a complication from the surgery led to hernia surgery in January. Brett was not only suspended but recovering from two serious procedures, and the stage was set for his disastrous 2012 to be followed by little improvement in 2013. But while he was on the sidelines, Brett didn’t just think about how sorry his story had become but gained perspective. Brett realized all the mistakes he made and how lucky he was to still have a chance to put the pieces back together. He came into 2013 as motivated as ever to prove his doubters wrong and prove to himself that he was capable of so much more. And since his season debut on May 17th, Brett has done exactly that.
On the year for High-A Charlotte, Brett has a .344/.400/.481 line with 8 doubles, 4 triples, 3 homers, 19 RBI, and 21 stolen bases in 200 plate appearances. A shoulder injury sidelined him for two weeks in mid-June, but he shrugged it off to come back as strong as ever. In fact, he upped his batting average from .342 pre-injury to .346 after. At 5’9″, 180, Brett was automatically labeled a scrappy player who would do whatever he could to help his team win. Now it’s finally true. Brett is using his great speed not just to steal bases but hustle down the line every time he makes contact. He has even laced four triples after managing just 3 in 456 plate appearances in 2013. The triples are not just a sign of his speed but his commitment to drive the ball more and hit for a little more power. Brett has upped his ISO (SLG minus batting average) from .108 last year to a solid .137 in 2013, doing a better job recognizing the pitches he can drive, and he has done that while lowering his strikeout rate from 16% of his plate appearances to 12%. But the most interesting thing for Brett has been his defense at second base. Brett never had the arm for shortstop so he has been a second baseman since the start of his pro career, but despite the ability to be an above-average defender thanks to good range and nice hands, his glovework just never came along. But this season, Brett has set career highs in both fielding percentage and range factor by noticeable margins, and while those stats can be misleading, it’s clear that he has made major strides to get his defense up to par. Everything is coming together for Brett and one season after his career looked as bleak as ever, he has turned everything completely around.
Brett called the positive test a “wakeup call” and it’s looking now like it might be the turning point for his career. Instead of sulking at what he had turned into, Brett used it to motivate him and has elevated his game to another gear. While his current hot streak will end eventually and it certainly will not be all smooth sailing from here, the lessons Brett has learned from this will drive to be the best that he can moving forward. After overcoming a suspension, a kidney removal, a hernia surgery, and a shoulder injury as he has enjoyed his breakout season, there may be nothing that can stop Ryan Brett.