Marlins looking for Brinson to break out in '19

March 24th, 2019

JUPITER, Fla. -- Progress has come in flashes for Marlins center fielder .

It surfaced early in Spring Training, on Feb. 27, when Brinson belted two home runs against the Mets. It was more of the same on March 4 against the Nationals, with another multi-home run game.

In terms of the bigger picture, the Marlins are looking to see if Brinson's vast skillset can produce results on a more consistent basis. Until it does, the 25-year-old remains a great unknown on Miami’s youthful roster.

“He's got capabilities of being a middle of the order guy,” manager Don Mattingly said. “He's got power. He's got speed. He can do a lot of things.”

The Marlins are hopeful that with a full big league season under his belt, Brinson is poised for a breakthrough season in 2019.

“We've got to get consistency before we can take the next step, and seeing where he goes,” Mattingly said. “If he can get consistent at-bats, getting him in the right position.”

Brinson is determined to push forward after a disappointing 2018, when he posted a slash line of .199/.240/.338 with 11 home runs and 42 RBIs.

The Marlins acquired Brinson from the Brewers for Christian Yelich in January 2018. Miami also landed outfielder Monte Harrison, second baseman Isan Diaz and right-hander Jordan Yamamoto in the blockbuster deal.

Because of his potential upside, Brinson is getting every opportunity to succeed.

Statistics alone don’t reflect the complete picture of his season. Brinson appeared in 108 games, and he spent about two months on the injured list due to right hip inflammation.

“Obviously, I had my struggles last year,” Brinson said. “I was trying to find my foundation. This offseason, I just kind of lived in the [batting] cage almost, just trying to be more consistent and find a good position for me to hit, to be more consistent, and consistently make hard contact. Not really worry about results or hits, just worry about hitting the ball hard, multiple times a game.”

When Brinson returned in September, he showed some promising signs. He hit .239/.263/.337 in his final 25 games. More than just numbers, the quality of Brinson's at-bats improved, as did his hard-hit metrics.

According to Statcast, Brinson’s exit velocity in September was 90.6 mph, up from 88.6 mph from Opening Day to Aug. 31.

“I talk about it a lot with him,” Mattingly said. “It's more about his bottom half staying in the right position. If he can stay in that right position, he's going to be more consistent. Once he becomes more consistent, he's going to have more success. When the success comes, you never know what happens with a guy. He may just take off, and go on to be a perennial All-Star-type guy.”

All the tools for being a standout performer are there for Brinson.

Defensively, he is a standout, covering plenty of ground in center field. In a spacious outfield like Marlins Park, that is essential. Per Fangraphs, he had three defensive runs saved last year.

In terms of sprint speed, according to Statcast, Brinson averages 29.3 feet per second, which is 31st among all MLB players.

Tools alone, however, aren’t how the Marlins are measuring Brinson’s development. They’ve seen improvement in Spring Training in his approach and pitch recognition.

“He had a rough year last year, but he has been a lot better this spring,” Mattingly said. “He had a pretty good spring last year, but his at-bats have been so much better this spring. That’s really what you look at, the quality of the at-bat. His takes, his swings, have just been better.”