The Situation: Though they entered the year with inscrutable expectations, the Brewers find themselves on top of the heap that is the NL Central. Recently, however, they’ve had several of their key hitters go down with injury (Ryan Braun, Jonathan Villar) leading to the promotion of one of their top prospects, Lewis Brinson. Luckily for the Brewers, Villar’s injury came right after the projected Super 2 deadline, meaning they’ll get to pay Brinson less when it comes to arbitration.
The Background: The Brewers acquired Brinson in 2016 from the Rangers in the Jonathan Lucroy trade, alongside pitcher Luis Ortiz and, later, outfielder Ryan Cordell. The Rangers drafted Brinson in their loaded 2012 class out of Coral Springs high school in Florida, taking the lanky outfielder with their first-round pick, 29th overall.
Brinson spent a good deal of his minor-league career as part of what was the set of Texas kids to dream on—Joey Gallo, Nick Williams, Nomar Mazara—and was conquering Double-A at the time of his trade. After the trade, Brinson blossomed in the hitter’s paradise that is the Colorado Springs home park, but so far in 2017 his home/away splits have been vaguely concerning. Brinson doesn’t need to hit .300 to be an asset, though, which was a big part of why he headlined the Lucroy trade.
Scouting Report: Like so many of that Texas 2012 class of bats, Brinson has struggled to hit at times, letting the big strike zone his 6-foot-3 frame provides get the better of him. He’ll have hot streaks where the natural bat speed works with his swing, and he’ll have streaks where he looks like he’s just guessing at the plate. He’s been putting up solid numbers in the PCL after his trade, but as mentioned above, an away slash line of .238/.333/.452 (over 22 games) isn’t exactly thrilling, and lines up with the issues he had with the hit tool in the lower levels. When he does connect with the ball, he can access a surprising amount of pop for a center fielder, with a potential average of 15 homers a season.
Brinson’s calling card has always been his defense in center field, where those long legs make quick work of the open grassy space between him and whatever ball he’s chasing. He has the ability to make the odd flashy play, but for the most part, the amount of ground he’s covered goes unnoticed because he’s made it look so easy. That speed doesn’t entirely transfer to the basepaths, with Brinson only stealing more than 20 bases once in his career. He will stretch singles into doubles, and the occasional double into a triple, but the early-career ideas that he would be a 20-20 guy are likely just above his ceiling.
Immediate Big League Future: Brinson may take a while to adjust to the big leagues, but while he’s adjusting he’ll be able to provide speedy defense, likely in center field. There’s always the chance that he takes to major-league pitching and forces the issue—particularly since he really only needs to beat out a struggling Keon Broxton—but barring any other injuries, he’ll possibly return to Triple-A when Braun returns. —Kate Morrison
Fantasy Impact: In terms of short-term fantasy upside, Brinson has the highest fantasy ceiling among prospects not named Yoan Moncada. The knock on Brinson throughout his minor-league career has been his batting average, but even if he is only a .240 hitter, there is plenty of fantasy goodness in this package. With Braun on the shelf and Broxton struggling, Brinson has an opportunity to establish himself as an everyday player in Milwaukee. While the average is a concern, there is four-category potential for Brinson if everything clicks.
He has over-the-fence power and a legitimate chance to steal 20 bases. In 204 plate appearance at Triple-A, Brinson was hitting .312/.397/.503, with six homers, seven steals, 41 runs, and 25 RBI. Brinson’s raw numbers have never been outstanding in the minors, but he is the kind of player where the raw numbers are less important than the athletic ability and the considerable ceiling. If you are bidding on Brinson, a $40-$50 bid in a mixed league (out of a $100 budget) is a reasonable starting point. Brinson should be speculated on everywhere except in the shallowest of mixed leagues. —Mike Gianella