SDI Prospect Rankings: #8 Lewis Brinson

Brinson
Introducing the stereotypical Texas Rangers prospect: Lewis Brinson. Texas’ MO with early round picks the last few years, has been toolsy position players with iffy hit tools. Lewis Brinson is the embodiment of this profile. He was drafted 29th overall in 2012 because of his raw athleticism that scouts, front office executives, and prospect romantics like me love to dream on.  Preliminary draft projections had Brinson coming off the board earlier but scouts concerns with his hit tool caused him to drop down in the Ranger’s lap. Lewis was drafted in front of Joey Gallo and Nick Williams, with those three earning the joint nickname of “the big three” in certain circles.

Baseball reference lists Brinson at 6’3” and 170 lbs. but should continue to fill out his frame as he progresses. The two most valuable assets in Lewis’ tool bag are his plus speed and his solid defense in center field. He reads the ball well off the bat and uses his speed well to close out and make catches. A plus arm rounds out his impressive defensive profile.

In terms of fielding, Brinson is a relatively safe bet. The main thing for Brinson to improve on defensively is to trust his reads as well as improve his routes. Hit tools really are the darndest things in this crazy game of baseball. Though it isn’t his hit tool that earns him BJ Upton comps, at least I pray not, it’s his potential for four plus tools at the major league level.

I’ve never seen Brinson in person nor have I had any lengthy discussions with a scout who has. What I have to go on for his hit tool is the numbers and a few MiLB TV games. What I’ve noticed in those two mediums is that Lewis can smack the daylights out of a fastball. Much of his plus power currently comes from his quick hands generating good bat speed. As he fills out Lewis’ power numbers should increase with the combination of bat speed and full body strength. Another thing that comes across seeing Brinson at the plate is that breaking stuff doesn’t often show off his best side. Good spin often puts him in the spin cycle but from what I’ve heard it is improved from a year ago.

Brinson’s first pro season he spent 54 games in Arizona. He put up solid numbers including an impressive .523 slugging percentage. What really caught my eye is the amount of extra base hits Lewis racked up in so few games. Hitting 22 doubles, seven triples, and seven homers is impressive even in a low level league.  2013 really put Brinson on the national prospect map.

Hickory’s 2013 team was full of free swingers that set South Atlantic League records in strikeouts and homers. Mr. Brinson led that team in strikeouts with 191. Important note: striking out that many times in 503 plate appearances at a low level league is bad. That is very bad. Many evaluators would completely write off a player with those numbers but remember that Brinson was 19 in his first full season and was 2.6 years younger than the average SAL player. That year wasn’t all gloom and doom for Lewis. He became the first Texas Ranger prospect to join the 20-20 homers and steals club since Ian Kinsler did so in 2004. His OBP was a manageable .322 since he drew 48 walks. Because of his inconsistent performance the front office decided to keep Brinson in Hickory to start 2014.

Their decision turned out to be a wise one. A new and improved Lewis proved to be too much for low A opponents. His slash line was a crazy .335/.405/.579. A blemish on a spectacular year was the quad injury he sustained early in the season that kept him out for almost a month. In 43 Hickory games Brinson hit 10 bombs, including seven in an eight game span. This demolition of the Crawdad opponents came July 4th amidst a 12 game hitting streak. Lewis didn’t light it up in 46 Myrtle Beach games like he did in Hickory. One reason for this might have been because he was 2.9 years younger than the average Carolina Leaguer. His on base percentage dropped 98 points paired with a 229 point drop in his slugging percentage. Even with this drop off his strikeout rate significantly decreased from the crazy 39% of 2013 to 25% for the year.

Though some value predictable prospect with high floors and slightly higher ceilings, high risk prospects are the most exciting to follow. Call me crazy but I prefer the Brinsons, Gallos, and Alfaros of the world to Nick Tepesch. It isn’t that I don’t like Nick, I’m sure he’s a good dude, it’s that I love the drama of following games every day to see if these guys can live their dreams. This might also be because I’m a hopeless romantic of a baseball fan, also of many other things. Lewis Brinson’s road to The Show has been intriguing so far and shows no sign of altering that pattern.

Adelanto, California is the likely place for Lewis to start 2015. The newly affiliated High A High Desert Mavericks reside in the California league about 3 hours north of San Diego. Cali league air is rather thin so expect long balls galore from the Maverick players including Brinson. In this league Brinson will be able to continue refining his swing mechanics. If he dominates this league as he did with the SAL last season look for a midseason promotion to the lone star state via Frisco.

If everything comes together for Brinson he will be an impact level at a premium position for many years. Hitting around .250 at the big league level would make him an above average player at the least. There aren’t many four plus tooled players in the bigs, which makes dreaming on what Brinson could do more fun. So I encourage you to get excited about potential. Don’t let all the times baseball has broken your heart make you stop dreaming. Allow Lewis Brinson to give you something about which to hope.

SDI Prospect Rankings: #10 Ryan Rua
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Brice Paterik
Brice is a Junior Journalism major at Texas Tech University in pursuit of a career in Sports Journalism. Growing up in Dallas his whole life, Brice has been a Rangers fan since before he batted against a machine. He's a sucker for a high ceiling athletic prospect without a hit tool or 20 year olds who throw 100 mph and can't hit the zone. He over values every prospect and is a hopeless romantic for baseball. She's broken his heart a million times but he will always come back for more.

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