In the aftermath of the community prospect rankings wrapping up last year, I figured I'd do write-ups for each Ranger prospect who finished in the top 25, in the order that they were selected. It was something that seemed to go well, and so I’ve decided to do this again.
Two caveats about this: First, I have no first-hand information about most of these guys, and for the hard-core prospect-philes out there, you probably already know everything that I'll be writing about these players.
Secondly, since I did this last season, a lot of the material is going to be a repeat from last year. I’m going to cut-and-paste certain things from last year, simply because I don’t see the need to completely re-invent the wheel in terms of talking about what Martin Perez did in 2008 or something like that. So don’t complain about that.
Moving right along, today we are looking at the #7 player in the community prospect rankings, Lewis Brinson.
At the #29 spot in the 2012 MLB Draft, the Rangers selected 6'4", 180 lb. outfielder Lewis Brinson, a righthanded hitter and thrower out of Coral Springs High School in Florida. One of the things multiple reports said when Brinson was drafted was that Brinson has as high a ceiling as any high school outfielder in the draft. He gets high grades for tools and makeup, but got dinged significantly for his actual performance in high school, which is why both Baseball America and Keith Law had Brinson ranked in the 50s on their draft prospect lists.
The plusses on Brinson when he was selected was that he's an above-average runner, thrower, and defender, someone who can stay in centerfield in the majors, although his arm apparently is such that it was thought it could also play in right field. He also was viewed as having impressive power potential. The minus was that he has major questions on his hit tool, with ESPN giving him a 20 on his current hit tool at draft time, which is as low as it gets. At least one report I saw pre-draft indicated that some teams were not even considering Brinson in the first two rounds because of his poor hit tool.
Here’s what I said when the Rangers drafted Brinson:
He is, like many of the position players the Rangers have targeted of late, a high-risk, high-reward player, a guy who could, if everything clicks, turn into a star, but who is much more likely to never hit and to end up not panning out. In this regard, he falls in the same category as recent Ranger draftees Zach Cone and Jordan Akins, as well as Ranger trade targets Greg Golson and Engel Beltre. Targeting players like this requires a level of confidence in your player development people's ability to teach the great athlete how to hit, as well as a level of confidence that you'll be able to produce some other useful players with non-premium picks, since you're likely to end up with fewer major league contributors going this route.
Brinson was a pleasant surprise in Rookie Ball after he was drafted, putting up a .283/.345/.523 line, much better than was expected for someone who was viewed as a toolsy project. His 74/21 K/BB ratio in 265 plate appearances wasn’t great, but again, its better than you would have expected, given the questions about Brinson’s hit tool and how raw he is. Brinson also stole 14 bases in 16 attempts in the complex league. The performance was good enough to get Brinson ranked at #6 in the Baseball America post-season Top 20 prospect list for the Arizona Rookie League.
Brinson’s performance in the Instructional League, meanwhile, really turned some heads, and helped shoot him up a lot of people’s top prospect lists. While BA didn’t have Brinson in their Top 10 on the Rangers list, Jamey Newberg and Jason Cole each had him at #4 on their respective lists, while Keith Law had him #5, and praised the work that Brinson had done on his swing since being drafted.
Brinson could be part of that incredible collection of talent that will be at Hickory to start the 2013 season, or the Rangers could hold him back and have him start the 2013 season at short-season Spokane when it kicks off mid-summer. My guess is that, given the strides Brinson reportedly made in instructs, he gets challenged with an assignment in Hickory, where he would be the team’s starting centerfielder.
What sort of ceiling does Brinson have? Well, again, he’s miles away…but if you want to dream, he’s a guy whose ceiling is as a righty hitting centerfielder with plus defense, speed, and power. My old favorite wish-he-were-a-Ranger, Mike Cameron, might be a decent comp if it all comes together and Brinson reaches his ceiling.