Lewis Brinson’s Continued Struggles for the Miami Marlins

MIAMI, FL - MARCH 29: Lewis Brinson #9 of the Miami Marlins reacts to missing a home run in the eighth inning during the game against the Colorado Rockies at Marlins Park on March 29, 2019 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - MARCH 29: Lewis Brinson #9 of the Miami Marlins reacts to missing a home run in the eighth inning during the game against the Colorado Rockies at Marlins Park on March 29, 2019 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images) /
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The Miami Marlins may soon have a tough decision to make regarding former top prospect Lewis Brinson.

Initially considered the cornerstone of the Christian Yelich deal, it’s now looking like Lewis Brinson may not pan out the way that we would all like him to. The Miami Marlins were certainly hoping for something more from the possible slugger.

Brinson, back with the club since the doubleheader against the New York Mets, hasn’t fared much better than when he was sent down earlier this season. I know it’s a small sample size, but Brinson is four-for-23 with no extra-base hits, no walks, one RBI, and seven strikeouts through his six games.

For the season, he’s struck out 35 times now and walked twice, while hitting .192/.231/.242. I understand sometimes players take a while to get in the swing of things once they hit the big leagues, but there has to be a limit to how much leeway the Miami Marlins can afford Brinson. This is going to become even more true when the flux of minor league talent in the outfield starts to encroach on the current roster.

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PHILADELPHIA, PA – APRIL 26: Lewis Brinson #9 of the Miami Marlins reacts to striking out against the Philadelphia Phillies during the third inning at Citizens Bank Park on April 26, 2019 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Corey Perrine/Getty Images) /

Brinson, “Sweet Lew” to some, played in 109 games last year for the Miami Marlins, and hit just .199/.240/.338 with 11 homers and 42 RBI. The power is there, but plate discipline is proving to be his undoing. His 2018 StatCast figures bear this out. His 4.2 percent walk rate ranked in the bottom five percent of baseball, and his 29.6 percent strikeout rate in the bottom six percent.

Meanwhile, hard hit balls were aplenty for Brinson, with an 8.7 barrel rate and an average exit velocity of 89.2 MPH, but an inordinate amount of them seemed to get hit straight to fielders. His 2018 XWOBA of .290 was nearly 50 points above his actual WOBA figure of .242, the worst in baseball, suggesting that, on average, a player who hit the ball the way Brinson did last year should have been able to expect a batting average a commensurate amount higher than the .199 he registered.

But bad luck has a way of evening out at some point, and that’s what the Miami Marlins are no doubt holding out for in Brinson’s case. When he was dropped back to the triple-A level with the New Orleans Baby Cakes for over three months this season, he hit .270/.361/.510 with 16 round trippers in 81 games.

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The talent level at triple-A is, literally, just one step below major league level. Brinson’s strikeout rate, however, at 29.5 percent, was right in line with what he’s doing in the majors. Whether Brinson breaks out or not, and whether he plays for two more weeks or 15 more seasons, he’s going to strike out right about 30 percent of the time – and that’s alright – if he can generate meaningful contact with enough regularity to make a difference in the Miami Marlins win column. Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened yet, and it isn’t certain that it someday will.

For now though, the Miami Marlins can still afford to be patient, for just a little bit longer. Right now the club is playing for the experience – with the playoffs a dream for another day. Brinson could be part of the surge we’re all expecting and hoping for – but only he if can break himself out.

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