Lewis Brinson Scouting Report: Lewis Brinson ranked #9 on the LSB Community Prospect Rankings.
In the days leading up to Opening Day, I'm going to offer write-ups on the 30 players who made the Rangers' LSB Community Prospect Rankings Top 32 list, and who didn't get traded. I've done this the last couple of years, and I don't want to re-invent the wheel, so some of this will be a repeat of what I've written before, particularly regarding draft history or performance pre-2014. Also, this is not based on my personal observations -- I'm not a scout, and haven't seen most of these guys. I'm just aggregating the numbers and what others say about these players.
So, with that out of the way, let's take a look at 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 pluses 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.
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.
Unfortunately, Brinson took a step backwards in 2013. Part of the collection of high-ceiling teens in Hickory, Brinson had huge contact issues all year, putting up a .237/.322/.427 slash line. On the plus side, he got good reviews for his defense in center field, and had 21 homers and 24 steals in 503 plate appearances, which is impressive. On the other hand, he struck out 191 times, a historically high K-rate. That's a huge red flag...there are virtually no players who had that sort of K rate in A ball who went on to have successful major league careers.
Still, Brinson showed enough to be the #11 prospect in the Sally League, per Baseball America's rankings, though he didn't make BA's top 10 Ranger prospect list, though Ben Badler (who did the Ranger list) said there was a wide range of opinions on him, and he was lower on Brinson than most at BA. Keith Law had Brinson 4th in the Ranger system, while Jason Parks ranked Brinson 9th among Rangers prospects.
2014 saw Brinson return to Hickory, and when he could stay on the field for the Crawdads, he was outstanding. In 186 plate appearances over 43 games, Brinson put up a .335/.405/.579 line in his second tour of the Sally League, with 46 Ks and 18 walks. The one downside was a couple of stints where he missed extended time because of quad issues...but when he was on the field, Brinson was terrific, and earned a promotion in July to high-A Myrtle Beach.
Things didn't go as smoothly for Brinson post-promotion. His K and walk rates were pretty similar to what he did in Hickory -- he fanned 50 times in 1999 plate appearances, against 15 walks -- but his BABIP and home runs dropped dramatically. The end result was a .246/.307/.350 line while in the Carolina League.
Despite his struggles at Myrtle Beach, he showed enough to be named the #15 prospect in the league by Baseball America after the season, with BA praising his defense and baserunning ability, as well as his ability to cut down on his astronomical 2013 strikeout rate. Brinson also finished 20th in the BA Sally League top 20 list.
There's a fair amount of variability in where Brinson ranks in the Rangers system right now. Keith Law has Brinson at #7, John Sickels has Brinson at #8, and Jamey Newberg and BP have him at #9. MLB Pipeline, on the other hand, has him at #10, behind Delino DeShields, Jr., of all people, and BA has Brinson ranked #14 in the Rangers system.
For 2015, Brinson will probably
return to Myrtle Beach be in High Desert to start the year, with the possibility of earning a mid-season promotion to AA Frisco if he performs well. If things progress for Brinson, he's someone who could potentially be in Arlington in 2017.
What sort of ceiling does Brinson have? Brinson is still a ways away, a work in progress, but his performance in Hickory at the start of the season gives you reason to believe he can make adjustments and potentially be 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. A more realistic expectation for Brinson -- should he get to the majors -- might be Drew Stubbs, another guy who gets high marks for his athleticism, who has been a terrific defender who can steal bases and hit for power, but who doesn't make enough contact to be an above-average regular.