Coming into this season, many Marlins fans—myself included—were very excited to see what Lewis Brinson was capable of on the field and in the batter’s box. Even after an initial slump, I assumed he would excel at the plate when given enough at-bats to get a feel for Major League pitching. The “Lewis Brinson is finally turning it around” article has been on hold for over a month.
But now, it is time to face reality and have a more uncomfortable discussion on what the next step is for Brinson, so that he can be a productive major leaguer long term.
For those of you not aware of who Brinson is or how well-regarded he was as a prospect, here is some background. He grew up in Fort Lauderdale, FL, and as a kid, he dreamed of one day playing for the Marlins (h/t Bill Chastain, MLB.com). That dream has obviously come true. The Fish didn’t draft Brinson directly out of high school, but acquired him this past winter from the Brewers as the centerpiece of the Christian Yelich trade package. His original organization, the Rangers, dealt him to the Brewers in 2016 for major leaguers Jonathan Lucroy and Jeremy Jeffress.
Coming into the 2018 season, Lewis Brinson was ranked as the 13th-best MLB prospect by FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen. The industry consensus had him somewhere inside the top 50. That means that expectations were very high for Brinson, especially with his ability to hit the ball extremely hard, which leads to massive power.
There is no way to sugarcoat it: Lewis Brinson has been abysmal this season. He is slashing .162/.210/.283 through 211 plate appearances. No other player in the past 100 years has fared so poorly in all those categories during a qualified season, according to Baseball-Reference.
However, at times, Brinson has flashed the star potential that was advertised. He connects on some towering home runs, including this one crushed with 113.5 mph exit velocity.
As you can see, Brinson is the real deal when he makes contact with the ball—his problem has been making contact to begin with. Until this past weekend against the Diamondbacks, the 24-year-old didn’t have back-to-back games with extra-base hits all season.
Brinson ranks fourth-worst among qualifiers in strikeout percentage at 32.7%, third-worst in swinging strike percentage at 17.3% and 20th-worst in chase percentage at 38.2%. If Brinson wants to improve, he needs to start either hitting pitches in the zone—which yields the best contact—or start laying off the bad pitches and working more walks (currently a 4.2% walk rate).
The Diamondbacks series aside, Brinson plays great defense in center field. He has produced 10 Defensive Runs Saved in 2018, one of the top figures for anybody at his position. Although that is very valuable to the team, it’s not in his best interest to continue sending him to the plate if he’s not able to make more contact and improve his pitch recognition.
The Marlins must decide soon on whether Brinson can overcome these issues in the major leagues. Sending him down to Triple-A might relieve some of the stress and allow him to focus on adjustments over results.
In my opinion, a quick stop at New Orleans could actually benefit Brinson moving forward by building up his confidence again. The mental part of the game is often overlooked with new stats available to quantify (almost) everything else. But if you’ve been watching Brinson closely, his body language alone signals frustration that shouldn’t be ignored.
Brinson needs to make a change in some way, shape, or form, and hopefully we see that in the coming weeks.