Rangers in AFL: Brinson built off big year
The Rangers long have had one of the toolsiest farm systems in baseball, and from the day Lewis Brinson signed for $1,625,000 as the 29th overall pick in the 2012 Draft, he has been one of their toolsiest prospects. Maybe even the toolsiest.
Brinson has one of the best combinations of power and speed in the Minors, not to mention solid center-field skills and arm strength. But he learned early in his pro career that a prospect can't survive on tools alone.
In his first full pro season in 2013, Brinson batted just .237 and struck out 191 times, one off the Minor League lead. He has worked diligently since to add balance and discipline at the plate, and his efforts have translated into results.
After fanning in 38 percent of his plate appearances in 2013, Brinson cut that to 25 percent and then 21 percent in the last two years. His OPS has risen from .427 to .812 to 1.004, and he ranked third in the Minors in that category in 2015. He batted .332/.403/.601 with 20 homers and 18 steals in 100 games at three levels (mostly at Class A Advanced) and might have made a run at a 30-30 season if a hamstring injury hadn't sidelined him for all of May.
Brinson attributes his success to his newfound patience.
"Having a plan up there this year, it's been 100 percent of my success," he said. "I have a book that I write in after my at-bats and I have little notes on pitchers I face, so I really took pride in that this year and really stayed disciplined up there. I'm really patient up there, trying not to be too aggressive early in the count, just work in the at-bat and get a pitch I like and make the pitcher pitch to me."
The 21-year-old Brinson continued to excel in the first three weeks of the Arizona Fall League season with the Surprise Saguaros. He went 12-for-40 (.300) in 11 games before the Rangers replaced him on Nov. 2, with six extra-base hits (including a league-best three triples) and five steals (tied for third in the AFL). He continued to maintain his plate discipline, walking nearly as many times (seven) as he struck out (nine).
"I'm out here just trying to get better, like everybody else," Brinson said. "I want to work on my hitting approach a little bit more. Defensively, my arm, I want to work on throwing guys out. But mostly just trying to build on the year I had. I had a pretty good year, a pretty solid year, a pretty consistent year, so I just want to keep that going here."
Rangers hitters in the Fall League
• Ronald Guzman, 1B: Signed for $3.45 million out of the Dominican Republic in 2011, he's a pure hitter with decent power potential. He batted .283/.324/.434 with 12 homers in 131 games between two Class A stops in 2015.
• Jurickson Profar, 2B/SS: Ranked as baseball's consensus top prospect entering 2013, he graduated to Texas that season at age 20. But he tore a muscle in his throwing shoulder, costing him all of the 2014 and limiting him to 12 games in the Minors at the end of this summer.
• Jose Trevino, C: His average power and arm strength make him a viable catcher, and he also has the versatility to fill in all over the infield. A 2014 sixth-round pick from Oral Roberts, he hit .262/.291/.415 with 14 homers in 112 games in low Class A this year. He went 5-for-23 (.217) in six games before leaving the AFL on Nov. 2.
• Evan Van Hoosier, 2B/OF: The 2013 eighth-rounder from the JC of Southern Nevada had his best pro season yet, hitting .331/.374/.494 in high Class A, but was limited to 61 games there by injuries. His plus speed is his standout tool, and he's a versatile player who can do a little bit of everything.
Rangers pitchers in the Fall League
• Luis Ortiz, RHP: Drafted 30th overall in 2014, he had a 1.80 ERA and a 46/9 K/BB ratio in 50 low Class A innings during his first full pro season, which was truncated by a strained flexor muscle. The California high school product has a 92-97 mph, a low-80s slider and a developing changeup.
• Adam Parks, RHP: Despite having Tommy John surgery as a freshman at Liberty and recording an 8.67 ERA over the next two years, he showed enough to get drafted in the 33rd round in 2014. Armed with a low-90s slider and a sharp slider, he posted a 3.19 ERA and an 86/19 K/BB ratio in 73 1/3 innings in his first full pro season while reaching Double-A. He had a 9.82 ERA in three AFL relief appearances before departing on Nov. 2.
• Connor Sadzeck, RHP: An 11th-rounder out of Howard Junior College (Texas) in 2011, he had established himself as one of the Rangers' better starting pitching prospects at the lower levels before needing Tommy John surgery and missing all of 2014. Though he had a 5.82 ERA between Class A Advanced and Double-A this year, he did strike out 64 in 60 1/3 innings and has hit 101 mph with his fastball in the AFL.
• Ryne Slack, LHP: A finesse lefty whose best pitch is his changeup, he signed as a nondrafted free agent out of Spartanburg Methodist (S.C.) JC in 2012. He had a 3.73 ERA and 70 whiffs in as many innings this season between Class A Advanced and Double-A.
• Sam Wolff, RHP: The 2013 sixth-rounder from New Mexico missed this entire season after tearing his Achilles tendon during Spring Training. He touched 98 mph with his fastball and had a solid cutter/slider before he got hurt.