Scouting Lewis Brinson and the Rest of the Yelich Return

Thursday’s Christian Yelich deal with Milwaukee netted Miami four prospects: OF Lewis Brinson, 2B Isan Diaz, OF Monte Harrison, and RHP Jordan Yamamoto.¬†Full, deeper reports on each of these players is available on our Brewers pref list, but below are condensed summaries of each.

Lewis Brinson, CF (60 FV) – It’s important to note that Brinson opinions among scouts and executive vary pretty widely, especially for a player who has performed at the upper levels of the minors. Some people just don’t think he’s going to hit, but Brinson has made relevant swing adjustments multiple times as a pro and his strikeout rate has dropped every season. It’s been a very reasonable 20% over the last two years and he has monster complementary tools in plus power and plus speed.

If there’s anything to be worried about here, it’s Brinson’s medical history, which includes several soft-tissue lower-body injuries, like hamstring strains. If he’s ever forced to move to a corner-outfield spot (most scouts think the margin for error is pretty thin in this regard, as Brinson’s feel for center is just okay), then all aspects of Brinson’s offensive potential need to arrive if he’s going to be a star. But we know he’s a terrific athlete, we have visual evidence of him making adjustments that the data supports, and so we’re optimistic about Brinson.

Monte Harrison, CF (55 FV) – Harrison has elite physical ability. He’s a plus runner with a great chance to stay in center field, at least plus raw power, and elite arm strength. Injuries dashed his first three pro seasons but 2017 represented a breakout. Harrison both tweaked the way his hands set up pre-swing, unlocking more of power, and managed finally to sustain his health. He too often chases pitches out of the zone and probably still needs to make a few mechanical tweaks to get to all of that power so, like Brinson a few years ago, his profile is considered volatile.

Isan Diaz, 2B (50 FV) – Diaz has plus raw power and an extreme uppercut swing that magnifies other traits which make him strikeout-prone. He didn’t have a great 2017 and is a fringey defender at second base, but his gorgeous uphill swing is such that he projects to get to much of his raw power in games. Combined with his patient approach and ability to reach base, that should enable him to become a productive big leaguer.

Jordan Yamamoto, RHP (40 FV) – Yamamoto is a 6-foot righty whose high-spin fastball plays well at the letters, but it’s important for Yamamoto to live high in the zone with his heater and not allow it to loiter any further down because it’s only 89-92 and will get whacked. He also has a doozy of a curveball that projects to plus. Everything else is fringey, and we have him projected in the bullpen, where the fastball will tick up.

*****

There’s a common thread of concern that runs through each of these hitters — namely, regarding their ability to make contact. Hitters like this are invariably seen as riskier than their peers, as there’s always a chance that they can’t hit big-league pitching well enough to be any kind of big leaguer at all. We don’t truly know this until we see them hit big-league pitching (also known as the Brandon Wood allegory).

But the reasons each of them have struggled to hit — Brinson had breaking-ball recognition issues early in his career and is a long-levered guy, Harrison chases and has mediocre bat control, Diaz runs deep counts and has a steep bat path — are different, and it’s important that we know and think about that. People in player evaluation have different opinions about which of these traits can and can’t be addressed during the developmental process. It would take years of minor-league plate-discipline data to figure it out statistically, but perhaps teams already have.

The prospects Miami has gotten in return for their star big-league veterans this offseason seem to indicate a strategy that contrasts with the sort colleague Kiley McDaniel identified with regard to the Pirates. Pittsburgh has pursued near-ready, low-variance prospects who are likely to be competent big-league contributors during their pre-arb seasons. The hitters in this deal, meanwhile — and, I’d argue, most of the prospects Miami has acquired this offseason — have such loud complementary tools that they have a great chance to be effective major leaguers even if their bats don’t totally develop.

There’s a chance Sandy Alcantara and Jorge Guzman “only”¬†become late-inning relievers and that Magneuris Sierra maxes out as a dynamite defensive outfielder who can’t hit, etc. Even if the fate of most of these players is something short of what scouts project based on physical tools or athleticism, they are still 40 or 45 FV types of players. That’s not much worse than what we expect from the kind of package Kiley says small-market teams covet.

If one or two of these acquisitions puts everything together (Alcantara or Guzman become No. 2 starters or Monte Harrison does what Bo Jackson would have done if he’d have played only baseball), then the Marlins have a star that teams in their kind of market can’t attract or afford (if you believe their owners). I think that trade-off is worth considering. Independent of their bad-faith financial motivations, this was Miami’s best haul of talent so far this offseason.

Also of note is Miami’s 40-man roster, which currently has three outfielders: Brinson, Sierra and Braxton Lee, who was acquired via trade from Tampa Bay ahead of July’s deadline. All three can really fly (Lee and Sierra are 70 runners) and have a chance to see lots of playing time in 2018. Sierra and Brinson have already had a taste of the majors and Lee looked terrific in the Arizona Fall League.

We hoped you liked reading Scouting Lewis Brinson and the Rest of the Yelich Return by Eric Longenhagen!

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Eric Longenhagen is from Catasauqua, PA and currently lives in Tempe, AZ. He spent four years working for the Phillies Triple-A affiliate, two with Baseball Info Solutions and two contributing to prospect coverage at ESPN.com. Previous work can also be found at Sports On Earth, CrashburnAlley and Prospect Insider.

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sadtrombone
Member
sadtrombone

Ironically, it is also similar to what the Brewers tried to do, when they tried to stock up on toolsy outfielders with a possible power-speed combination. Now two of those guys are on their way to the Marlins.

It’s actually a pretty good strategy, as long as you double down on it enough that when a bunch of guys bust you have other guys with star talent who makes good. And guys with contact problems are going to bust, so the Marlins need a lot of the toolsy outfielders to make it work.

I’m with Eric…I like the value the Marlins are getting for this deal given that they’re not absorbing any salary, even if I didn’t like some of the earlier ones.

jerpink
Member
jerpink

Agreed. You can see the change in philosophy, in the types of hitters the Brewers (i.e. Stearns) is drafting: Keston Hiura, Corey Ray, Lucas Erceg, Trent Grisham (nee Clark). Their hit tool and pitch recognition are some of their most pronounced skills. Even Tristen Lutz, who has big power potential, is already showing a propensity for walking (at 19).

sadtrombone
Member
sadtrombone

Grisham (nee Clark) was drafted under Melvin, and Corey Ray fits the toolsy power-speed combo thing to a T.

Hiura is very different. I was pretty surprised to see the Brewers take him over Jo Adell, who fit their previous archetype to a T. But if both make it, Hiura is likely to debut 2-3 years earlier than Adell, so maybe that played a role.