A day after they called up lefthander Josh Hader, their No. 2 prospect, the Brewers brought their top talent up to join him. With second baseman Jonathan Villar on the DL, Milwaukee summoned elite outfielder Lewis Brinson to fill the vacant roster spot.
Brinson arrived in Arizona with the team on Saturday and is expected to be in the lineup on Sunday against the Diamondbacks.
Like Hader, Brinson was acquired via trade. He came over with righthander Luis Ortiz and outfielder Ryan Cordell in the deal that sent catcher Jonathan Lucroy and reliever Jeremy Jeffress to Texas. The Rangers took Brinson in the first round of the 2012 draft because of the enticing potential of his tool set.
Five years later, those tools have turned into skills, though not without some growing pains along the way. In his first full season as a pro, Brinson was part of a prodigiously talented team at low Class A Hickory. That Crawdads also included major leaguers Joey Gallo, Nomar Mazara, Jorge Alfaro, Ryan Rua, C.J. Edwards, Alex Claudio and Jose Leclerc, as well as outfielder Nick Williams, who has a shot to be a big leaguer sometime this season.
And while that squad boasted more tools than Home Depot and Black & Decker combined, it also lacked refinement or any semblance of an approach at the plate. The hitters were encouraged to hack at will, and Brinson was chief among them. He whiffed 191 times, the second-highest total in the minor leagues. He also employed a crouch at the plate that started out exaggerated and only got deeper with two strikes.
Despite all the whiffs, it was easy to see why he ranked among Baseball America’s Top 30 prospects in each of the past two seasons. He showed all the tools to remain in center field, including range, speed and a throwing arm that ranked as above-average. And when he did make contact at the plate, the ball jumped off the bat with power to all fields.
And as Brinson matured, so did his plate discipline. After whiffing in 38 percent of his plate appearances in 2013, he’s stayed below 25 percent in each of the three subsequent seasons. He hasn’t reached triple-figures in strikeouts in any minor league season since 2013. His walk rate this year so far at Triple-A Colorado Springs is 10.8 percent, a career-high.
Brinson has power to all fields, and he’s taken full advantage of his offensive oasis of a home park in Colorado Springs, where he was hitting a gaudy .382/.457/.551 before his callup. After parts of six seasons in the minors, Brinson’s tools have become skills, and he’s proved to his parent club that he’s ready for the big time.
WHAT TO EXPECT
While it’s unclear if Brinson will have an everyday role immediately, manager Craig Counsell told BA correspondent Tom Haudricourt that he wasn’t worried about finding time for Brinson.
“(Brinson) is a member of the position player unit and we’ll get him in there,” Counsell said. “We’ve had some injuries and guys out, so we’ll find a spot for him. We’ve got a bunch of games in a row after the off day on Monday and a doubleheader (in St. Louis) on Tuesday.”
When he does get into the lineup, expect a player who can contribute power and some speed to your fantasy squad.