MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers' top prospect, Lewis Brinson, is off to a great start at Triple-A, and you can almost hear the drumbeat beginning outside Miller Park. "When," fans are beginning to ask, "will we see this guy in Milwaukee?"Barring a sudden change in circumstances, not imminently, GM David Stearns
MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers' top prospect, Lewis Brinson, is off to a great start at Triple-A, and you can almost hear the drumbeat beginning outside Miller Park. "When," fans are beginning to ask, "will we see this guy in Milwaukee?"
Barring a sudden change in circumstances, not imminently, GM David Stearns said Saturday. He cited a number of factors which lead club officials to believe Brinson is best served -- for now -- by remaining in Colorado Springs, where he went 5-for-8, including his third home run, in a doubleheader Friday. The performance pushed his average to .410, highest in the Brewers' Minor League system, and his OPS to 1.196, third-best in the Pacific Coast League.
Meanwhile, in Milwaukee, second-year center fielder Keon Broxton was in an 0-for-18 funk before hitting a triple in Friday's loss to the Cardinals, and entered Saturday with a .133/.220/.267 slash line. Besides Broxton, the Brewers have no true center fielder on their roster.
So why isn't 22-year-old Brinson already on a plane?
Here are three factors:
1. What's the rush?
At the risk of discounting Brinson's scorching start, he has played all of 40 games at the Triple-A level, totaling 158 at-bats through Friday. He was in Double-A when the Brewers acquired Brinson last Aug. 1 from the Rangers as part of a prospect package for Jonathan Lucroy and Jeremy Jeffress.
Can some players handle the jump to the Majors without significant Triple-A time? Absolutely. Ryan Braun had just 117 at-bats at that level before a 2007 call-up. But most players stay there longer; even Prince Fielder amassed 378 at-bats at Triple-A before making it to Milwaukee.
"I think in general, it's tough to judge on such a small sample in Triple-A," Stearns said. "That's not to say we are never going to do that when there's the necessity. But in this case, we don't think we have the necessity. We believe in our outfielders that are here.
"Lewis continues to make progress. He knows what his developmental goals are. He knows that there is still some strike-zone awareness that he continues to work on, and he's making strides on that. Clearly, if he continues on this pace, he is going to give us a really good reason to bring him up here at some point this year, but we're not in any rush. I think he understands that. He understands that he has things to prove at Triple-A, and right now he's doing a really good job of proving them."
2. Counting on Keon
Braun isn't going anywhere at the moment, and a team would not summon a prospect the caliber of Brinson without intending to play him every day. So a promotion now would cut into the playing time of another young outfielder, most likely 26-year-old Broxton.
The Brewers, who are still in a rebuilding phase, are not willing to make that move yet. Broxton became a force last August after making a significant mechanical adjustment in the Minors with his hands. He posted a .937 OPS from the date he returned in late July through Sept. 16, when he broke his wrist crashing into the outfield wall at Wrigley Field.
That OPS, over 168 plate appearances, was good for ninth in the National League during that span, just ahead of Nolan Arenado and Corey Seager.
"We've got to put him out there and let him go through it," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said of Broxton. "The reason you do it is because when he does [find it], we all saw that it's a very impactful player.
"That's worth waiting for."
3. Service clock.
Stearns and Counsell can't mention this, but common sense says it is a factor. Promoting prospects at this time of year can come at a cost since it positions those players to accrue enough Major League service to qualify for an extra year of salary arbitration as a Super 2 player. That's the difference between making the Major League minimum in 2020 -- the precise figure is to be determined, but it will be $555,000 in 2019 and subject to a cost-of-living adjustment for 2020 and 2021 -- versus potentially making millions in arbitration.
If teams wait until late May or early June, they can clear the risk of making players a Super 2, and those players will not reach arbitration until after the 2020 season.
So, for all of those reasons, it will take some kind of need for Brinson to get to the Majors in the imminent future.
Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast