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Lewis Brinson is lighting up the Sally League

Texas Ranger outfielder Lewis Brinson is having a breakout season, and is currently leading South Atlantic League hitters in OPS

Rick Yeatts

Texas Rangers outfielder Lewis Brinson was the Rangers' first selection in their much-talked-about 2012 MLB draft class.  Going #29 overall, Brinson was part of the much-ballyhooed group of high-ceiling Hickory hitters that the Rangers sent to low-A in 2013.  And while he had a nice season there for a 19 year old with his skill set -- he put up a .237/.322/.427 line with 24 steals -- he was overshadowed by Joey Gallo's light tower power and Nick Williams' transcendent bat-to-ball ability.  Gallo and Williams moved on to high-A Myrtle Beach to start the season, but Brinson returned to Hickory for a repeat performance at low-A.

Brinson wasn't getting a lot of attention early on this season, having a decent month of April before missing most of May with a quad injury that also sidelined him for a chunk of June.  At the end of May, Brinson was sitting at a .274/.324/.400 slash line, with 30 Ks in 103 plate appearances.  There were some encouraging signs, particularly with his K rate dropping from where it was in 2013, but given some of the other performances in the Rangers' farm system this season, it wasn't going to garner him much notice.

June saw Brinson get hot, though...he had put up a .393/.514/.571 line in 37 plate appearances in the month before his quad problem flared up again, disappointing those of us hoping he was getting in a groove.  Brinson wasn't d.l.'d but did miss two weeks before returning to action on June 23, and upon his return, he picked up right where he had left off -- after going 3 for 4 with a double on June 9, his last game before being sidelined, he went 3 for 4 with a double on June 23, his first game back.  In the 10 games since returning to action the second time, Brinson has been insane, putting up a .436/.500/1026 line with 7 homers, 2 steals, and 5 walks against 11 Ks in 44 plate appearances.

Overall this season, Brinson is now sporting a .333/.404/.580 slash line, and his 984 OPS is the highest for any Sally League player with at least 100 at bats.  Brinson is putting up these sorts of numbers despite still being relatively young for the league -- 87.5% of his plate appearances this year have come against older pitchers -- and while playing center field.  Brinson has also shown significant improvement in his plate discipline...he had an ugly 191/48 K/BB ratio last season, whiffing in 38% of his plate appearances.  This year, his K/BB ratio is down to 2.5/1 from 4/1, and he's only fanning in 24.5% of his plate appearances.

The scouting report on Brinson when the Rangers drafted him was that he had incredible tools -- he profiled as a potential five-tool player who could give you quality defense in center field.  The questions were about his hit tool, and whether he'd ever hit enough to make use of his raw tools.  There was some buzz about his hitting ability looking better in the AZL after he was drafted, but the contact issues he had in 2013 raised major alarms.

We're seeing significant progress so far this year for Brinson, though...and if he can continue to make contact and show that his hit tool is viable, he's someone whose ceiling makes him very intriguing.  You'd feel better about what Brinson is doing if he'd not missed the six weeks with the injury, and were showing this sort of progress for a full three months rather than over just 42 games...however, given his speed, defense, arm and power, I'm happy enough to take what he's done so far this year.  And I'm definitely going to be keeping a close eye on how he does over the final two months of the year, whether he spends that time all in Hickory, or whether he earns a late-season promotion to Myrtle Beach.