Miami Marlins: Lewis Brinson Entering Spring Training as Underdog for CF

MIAMI, FL - AUGUST 10: Lewis Brinson #9 of the Miami Marlins looks on before the game against the Atlanta Braves at Marlins Park on August 10, 2019 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - AUGUST 10: Lewis Brinson #9 of the Miami Marlins looks on before the game against the Atlanta Braves at Marlins Park on August 10, 2019 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images) /

The Miami Marlins currently have 65 players on the roster for the first Spring Training game, coming this Saturday against the New York Mets in Port St. Lucie, FL.

Lewis Brinson is entering his third season with the Miami Marlins, and is hoping to make a better splash this time around than in his first two seasons. Initially envisioned as the centerpiece of the Christian Yelich deal with the Milwaukee Brewers, Brinson has underwhelmed in his major league career since joining the organization. Also acquired in the deal were Monte Harrison, Isan Diaz, and Jordan Yamamoto, all also on the 40-man roster.

Brinson is a six-foot-three, 195 lb. former first-round pick out of Coral Gables High School, by the Texas Rangers in the 2012 draft 29th off the board overall. Four years later, he was traded with Luis Ortiz and Ryan Cordell to the Brewers for Jeremy Jeffress and Jonathan Lucroy. He joined the Marlins system prior to 2018 Spring Training after going five-for-47 in a 21-game look for the Brewers in his first major league look.

In 2018, Brinson appeared in 109 games for the Marlins, and hit .199/.240/.338 with 11 home runs and 42 RBI. This line resulted in a 58 OPS+, and he struck out 120 times in 406 plate appearances, a 29.6 percent strikeout rate. He also drew walks only 4.2 percent of the time. Defensively, he was worth four DRS per 1200 innings in 889 1/3 actual innings of work in center field, despite leading the National League with nine outfield errors.

Miami Marlins
SAN FRANCISCO, CA – SEPTEMBER 14: Lewis Brinson #9 of the Miami Marlins. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images) /

When coupled up, Brinson’s offense and defense came out to -0.2 bWAR, not great, but at least somewhat salvageable. Brinson appears to be a true five-tool prospect, based on his obvious physical ability. It just didn’t come together for him as we (and he) would have liked.

In 27 games to start the 2019 campaign, Brinson figured to rebound for a better showing, but instead went just 15-for-76 from the plate with no home runs, two walks, and 28 strikeouts.

A midseason relegation to the Triple-A level, with the New Orleans Baby Cakes in the Pacific Coast League, seemed to rejuvenate Brinson. In 81 games, he clocked 16 home runs and stole 16 bases while hitting .270/.361/.510.

Miami Marlins
MIAMI, FL – SEPTEMBER 12: Lewis Brinson #9 of the Miami Marlins. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images) /

Brinson and the Marlins figured to parlay that high-minors success into a solid second-half, but instead watched his slashline slip even further. In 48 games after rejoining the club, he went just 24-for-150, with 11 walks, no home runs, and 46 strikeouts. He slashed .160/.230/.200 during that time.

Brinson totaled a .173/.236/.221 line in 75 contests overall, with no homers and 15 RBI for a 24 OPS+, minus-2.2 bWAR, and a .457 OPS. His walk rate increased marginally, to 5.2 percent, while his strikeout rate remained essentially unchanged, at 29.8 percent. In 60 games in center, plus 11 more in right field, Brinson was worth minus-6 DRS over 1200, in 556 2/3 innings. Over his two seasons in the Marlins outfield, he has twice as many errors (14) as assists (seven).

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As I stated, Brinson actually has all five tools, but we just haven’t seen him put it all together at the major league level for the Miami Marlins. Advanced stats at Statcast suggest the possibility remains for Brinson to come through. His 29.5 FPS sprint speed is in the top three percent of the majors, and he covers a lot of ground in the outfield. He’s reworked his swing several times in an effort to make better contact, but he’s likely about to see his last chance with Miami.

According to Joe Frisaro of MLB.COM, Brinson is not guaranteed a spot this season, and will need to play himself into a job. It’s really too bad, as Brinson seems to embody everything the Marlins are hoping to grow into over the next several seasons. Like the Marlins, he’s had a rough two seasons, maybe the team goes as he goes? Time will tell. In the meantime, he has one minor league option available, and the Miami Marlins may exercise it for one more chance if Brinson doesn’t break camp with the club.

Thanks for reading. Check back tomorrow for a read on possible future-ace Edward Cabrera.

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