Over the fall and winter months, ESPN High School will be spotlighting players that stood out over the summer baseball seasons, giving you an in-depth look at some of the best prospects of 2011 and beyond.
Raw athletic ability: every college coach dreams to mold it and every scout and front-office member prays to write it on his evaluation sheet. It can’t be taught, and even the most awkward swings or lackluster pitching mechanics will be put to the side – or all together ignored – with the simple thought that you can teach a kid to swing a bat, but you can’t teach a kid to run a 3.7 60-time. It’s a practice that often fails – especially at professional level – but the thought process that’s been in place for some time.
Lewis Brinson has those athletic abilities, so the fact that he knows what he’s doing with the bat and in the field makes him all the more desirable.
“The first thing you notice is his size and the impressive speed and the arm strength, but he’s a baseball player” said an assistant coach in the ACC. “There are some kids with those kind of gifts who just don’t ‘get it’, but (Brinson) isn’t a baseball player because of his gifts, it’s just an awful nice benefit.”
Brinson, a senior at Corals Spring (Tamarac, Fla.), put those gifts on display in 2011, putting up a healthy .423/.623/.873 line on the year with four homers and eleven stolen bases – without being caught – for good measure. Over the summer, Brinson was selected to play in the Under Armour All-American game, and was also selected to participate in the home-run derby. In a competition that featured power hitters like Stryker Trahan, Mikey White and Byron Buxton, Brinson took home the trophy – beating Buxton in the final – and impressing everyone in attendance at Wrigley Field that Saturday.
“I’m not even a tiny bit surprised he won it, but beating a field like this is notable” an NL Central scout said. “It’s not like these balls were just barely getting out of the stadium either, these were deep shots into the left-centerfield. He’s just going to get stronger, and if the swing gets fixed up a bit, we’re talking about a guy with 60-65 power. I think anyone would take that.”
The following month, Brinson once again had scouts talking at the East Coast Pro Showcase in Lakeland, Florida. Brinson posted the fifth fasted sixty time there – 6.60, just .22 seconds behind D.J. Davis – and put on another show in batting practice.
“He was outstanding in Lakeland” an AL front-office member told me. “We had sent a few people down to watch him this spring, and the showcase confirmed what he is: a guy with 70 speed (on the 20-80 scouting scale) with raw power that is only going to get better. Some might say he’s just a workout -warrior, those people don’t have a clue what they’re talking about. I think he’ll go early next June”
That might be bad news to the folks in Gainesville. Brinson is currently committed to the University of Florida, and while the Gators should stay loaded as long as coach Kevin O’Sullivan is there to recruit, Brinson would be a major loss to a program that will lost plenty of talent in the 2012 draft.
“Just a gut feeling, but I think he probably ends up signing” the same NL Central scout told me. “I’ve seen interviews where he’s talked about being excited to sign that big paycheck, and I don’t see him waiting three years.”
Whether he’s headed to the SEC or the minor-leagues, Brinson is a name that must be followed. Just don’t blink, your you might miss him.