Rangers' Brinson rolling in offseason leagues
Apparently there's no challenge Lewis Brinson can't handle.
The Rangers' No. 4 prospect (No. 65 overall) had his stock take off this past season thanks to his success at Class A Advanced High Desert, Double-A Frisco and, ultimately, Triple-A Round Rock. In 100 games across the three levels, Brinson batted .332/.403/.601 with a career-best 20 home runs, 31 doubles, 74 runs scored and 69 RBIs.
After the season, Brinson was selected by the Rangers to participate in the Arizona Fall League, where he subsequently emerged as was one of its top prospects during the first half, batting .300 with a .983 OPS, six extra-base hits, eight runs scored and five stolen bases in 11 games for the Surprise Saguaros.
All signs pointed to Brinson earning a spot in the AFL's annual Fall Stars Game this past Saturday until, just a few days before the Fall Stars Game rosters were unveiled, it was announced that the 21-year-old outfielder would be shifting his offseason work to the Puerto Rico Winter League.
Brinson hasn't skipped a beat since arriving in the Caribbean, batting .313 with at least one hit in each of the first three games he's played for Indios de Mayaguez. His lone extra-base hit in that span was a home run, which came in his first game with the club.
Here's a look at some of the other top prospects currently making waves in the offseason winter leagues.
• Rafael Bautista, OF, Nationals - A broken finger during the opening week of the regular season cost the Nats' No. 15 prospect most of the first half, although he did return to bat .291/.332/.352 in 45 games at Class A Advanced Potomac after the All-Star break. The 22-year-old outfielder has been making up for the lost time in a big way, batting a robust .367/.415/.467 with 22 hits and 10 runs scored in 17 games for Leones del Escogido.
• Rafael Devers, 3B, Red Sox - One of the more exciting young hitters in the Minor Leagues, Devers, Boston's No. 2 prospect and No. 13 overall, is hitting .259 with a pair of doubles in nine games for Leones del Escogido. During the regular season, the 19-year-old third baseman posted a .288/.329/.443 batting line with 11 home runs, 38 doubles and 70 RBIs in 115 games for Class A Greenville.
• Jandel Gustave, RHP, Astros - After a breakout year as Double-A Corpus Christi's closer (20 saves, 2.15 ERA in 58 2/3 IP), the Astros' No. 28 prospect has not allowed an earned run in 9 1/3 innings (eight appearances) for Gigantes del Cibao. The 23-year-old right-hander also has nine strikeouts in that span.
• Jorge Polanco, SS, Twins - After spending most of the regular season between the Double- and Triple-A levels -- though he did appear in four big league games -- the Twins' No. 4 prospect (No. 75 overall) is off to a hot start this offseason, batting .258/.338/.364 through 18 games for Leones del Escogido.
• Tyler White, 3B/1B, Astros - The Astros' No. 30 prospect mashed his way up the ladder this year, batting .325/.442/.496 with 40 extra-base hits and 99 RBIs in 116 games between Corpus Christi and Triple-A Fresno. The 25-year-old hasn't skipped a beat this offseason, as evidenced by his .991 OPS, ten extra-base hits and 13 RBIs in 18 games for Estrellas de Oriente. On top of that, White has collected 12 hits over his last ten games, five of which have been for extra bases.
• Christian Villanueva, 3B, Cubs - Villanueva, the Cubs' No. 22 prospect, fared much better this past season in his second tour of the Pacific Coast League, batting .259/.313/.437 with 18 home runs and 88 RBIs in 123 games for Triple-A Iowa. The 24-year-old still lacks a path to the big leagues but provides the Cubs with organizational depth in the event of an injury to one of its young corner players. This offseason, Villanueva is hitting .340/.427/.543 with five home runs, four doubles and 12 RBIs in 27 games for Yaquis de Obregon.
• Yohander Mendez, LHP, Rangers - Mendez, the Rangers' No. 10 prospect, is coming off of a breakout full-season debut at Class A Hickory in which he posted a 2.44 ERA with 74 strikeouts in 66 1/3 innings. He's now pitching for Navegantes del Magallanes in Venezuela, where the 20-year-old left-hander owns a 2.25 ERA in 12 innings across his first four starts.
• Danry Vasquez, OF, Astros - The Astros' No. 20 prospect reached Double-A Corpus Christi for the first time this year but mustered just a .594 OPS with no home runs in 73 games for the Hooks. He's picked up in the pace in the Venezuela Winter League, where he already has four home runs and is coming off a monstrous weekend series in which he went 6-for-11 with a home run and four runs scored, raising his season line to .315/.361/.494 through 24 games for Leones del Caracas.
• Jesmuel Valentin, 2B, Phillies - The No. 51 overall pick in the 2012 Draft, Valentin missed all but 31 games at Class A Advanced Clearwater during the regular season. However, the Phillies' prospect has gotten off to a hot start for Indios de Mayaguez in Puerto Rico, batting .321 (9-for-28) in his first seven games.
• Alex Balog, RHP, Rockies - Selected by the Rockies with the No. 70 overall pick in the 2013 Draft, Balog, the club's No. 25 prospect, held his own this past season in the hitter-friendly California League, pitching to a 3.71 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and 72 strikeouts in 97 innings (16 starts) for Class A Advanced Modesto. The 6-foot-5, 210-pound right-hander has been excellent for the Sydney Blue Sox of the ABL, going 2-0 with a 0.61 ERA in his first three starts.
• Justin Williams, OF, Rays - The Rays' No. 22 prospect showed more consistent power this past season, tallying a career-best seven home runs and 30 doubles in 122 games between Class A Bowling Green and Class A Advanced Charlotte. Williams, 20, has reached base safely in each of his 11 games for the Brisbane Bandits, and he's batting .415 with two home runs, three doubles and eight RBIs in that span.