Lone Star Dugout Q&A: Lewis Brinson

SURPRISE, Ariz. – Outfielder Lewis Brinson, the Texas Rangers' top pick in this summer's MLB Draft, is having a solid debut campaign in the rookie-level Arizona League. Through 38 games, he's hitting .298 with 17 doubles and seven triples. Lone Star Dugout interviewed the 18-year-old prospect.

The Texas Rangers selected outfielder Lewis Brinson with their first pick––the 29th overall selection––in this year's MLB Draft. The 18-year-old prospect signed less than a week after the draft––along with fellow top picks Joey Gallo, Collin Wiles, Jamie Jarmon, and Nick Williams––for a reported slot-level $1.625 million signing bonus.

Because Brinson and the other four picks signed at the same time, they traveled to Arlington to sign their contracts and attend an introductory press conference together. The group then shipped out to the Rangers' minor league complex in Surprise, Ariz., to begin their respective professional careers.

Brinson has performed well since arriving in Arizona. Playing with the rookie-level Surprise Rangers, the Florida native has posted a .298/.349/.515 slash line in 38 games. He has 17 doubles, seven triples, and two home runs to go along with 13 walks and 51 strikeouts. He's also stolen nine bases in 10 attempts.

Entering this year's draft, Brinson was regarded as a raw talent with a sky-high ceiling. While he leads the circuit in doubles and is tied with Gallo for the league-lead in extra-base hits, he also paces the AZL with 51 punchouts. Still, it's been a strong debut campaign for the prospect.

A more in-depth scouting report of Brinson will be posted in the coming days and will be linked in this story.

Video of Brinson from earlier this summer (late June) can be found at this link.

Lone Star Dugout caught up with the 6-foot-3, 170-pound outfielder after Wednesday's game against the Rangers' complex-mate Surprise Royals. Brinson went 1-for-3 with a double and a stolen base in the contest.

Jason Cole: Tell me about the experience of getting drafted by the Rangers in the first round. What was that like for you?

Lewis Brinson: It was great. It was really unexpected. I knew the Rangers were interested, but I really didn't expect to be their first pick. I thought they were going to pick me in the supplemental round. So it was really surprising. It was a thrill in my house. Everybody was real excited for me.

Cole: I assume you were watching the draft that night.

Brinson: Yeah.

Cole: Did they call you and let you know they were picking you before it came up on TV?

Brinson: My agent called me and said, ‘They're going to pick you at 29. They're not kidding. They want you. They don't want to miss out on anything. So they're going to pick you at 29.' That's when it all kind of sunk in. It was like, ‘Wow, the Rangers are about to pick me.'

Cole: Had it died down in your house by the time your name was called? Were you able to hear your name on TV?

Brinson: No, they heard "Lew" and the whole house went crazy. I was in my mom's room with my trainer, my mom, a couple really close friends, my uncle, and a couple really close family members. I told them what my agent had just called me and said. They all went crazy before my name even got picked. So as soon as my name was called, you couldn't hear the rest of what the guys said about me.

Cole: You and the other four guys will likely be linked for awhile now. You all signed quickly and made the trip to Arlington to sign your contract and do the introductory press conference. First of all, how important was it for you to sign quickly and get in a full summer of development?

Brinson: It was really important, and it was really hard at the same time. I was committed to the University of Florida, the number one school in the nation with that program. That program doesn't get any better than that in Division I baseball.

So it was really hard, but it was really easy because it's the Texas Rangers––the best organization in baseball right now. They know what they're doing, and they know what they're doing with us obviously because they picked five great guys. It's great to be picked by them. Just to spend a summer out here––even though it's really hot––to kind of get a feel of what pro ball is like and move up with these guys maybe.

Cole: A couple of the top picks like Collin Wiles weren't really big showcase circuit guys in high school. Did you know any of them as you entered the system?

Brinson: I knew who Joey Gallo was. I knew who Nick Williams was. I didn't know Jamie (Jarmon) and I didn't know Collin (Wiles). But once we met in Arlington, we kind of clicked. Once we saw the ballpark and everything and once we met Jon Daniels and saw kind of how everything works with the Texas Rangers––we kind of thought, ‘Alright, we're going to do this and we want to get up here together, move up, and stay boys for as long as we're down here.'

Cole: Tell me about the whole experience of traveling to Arlington, going to the Rangers game, and sitting in a suite––kind of getting the big league treatment for a day.

Brinson: That was great. We got to go in the locker room. We met Josh Hamilton and met everybody. They treated us like we were part of the team even though we were just drafted––a bunch of 17- and 18-year-old kids just seeing what it's like to be in the big leagues for a day.

And they treated us well. We got to sit in the suite and get interviewed by everybody. Just to shake Nolan Ryan's hand––that was ridiculous. That was a treat in itself. But that was great that they would do that for us––for all five of us just to kind of see how it's like to be in the big leagues and what we're aiming for.

Cole: In addition to your exposure to the big league lifestyle, you got to face the media for the first time in the press conference. You were also on the Rangers' telecast from the suite that night, and I noticed you guys all kind of turning and looking to see yourselves on TV.

Brinson: That was great. That was kind of a rush. It was kind of like, ‘Wow, this is it. I'm really signing with the Texas Rangers. It's the real deal now.' Just to see all the media out there and the cameras and everything––and seeing yourself on TV on the Rangers' television. That was great. All the guys really enjoyed that. That was a big-time kind of wake up call.

Cole: Obviously the goal for any prospect is to move up and reach the big leagues. But Jon Daniels recently said that he's going to keep this group together in Arizona for the remainder of the summer. Are you happy that you guys are staying together for now?

Brinson: Yeah, yeah. I'm happy. Like I said, we kind of bonded and we know each other a little bit, going through the summer together. I'm glad that he has decided to keep us all together––just to go up together. You go into maybe Low-A or High-A and you don't really know anybody. But you have these guys move up with you––just to know somebody makes you a little bit more comfortable and makes it more easy to get used to being in front of crowds and moving up.

Cole: Your area scout in South Florida was Frankie Thon. How much contact did you have with him during your high school season this year?

Brinson: To be honest, I only met him––the first time I met him, my mom said, ‘A Rangers scout wants you to come to a workout.' And I was like, ‘Okay.' So I go to the workout and I meet him for the first time. This was maybe right before the season. Then I hadn't talked to him at all during the season. I saw him at a couple of my games.

But I really didn't have contact with him until maybe a month before the draft. He told my mom, ‘I'm telling you. They really like him, and there's a chance we might pick him.' After I got picked, he texted my mom right after and said, ‘I told you.' So I really didn't have that much contact with him, but leading up to the draft it was kind of an ongoing relationship with him, me, my mom, and everybody.

Cole: It's probably safe to say that your coming out party as an amateur came at the Under Armour All-America Game in Chicago last year, when you won the home run derby at Wrigley Field. Tell me about the experience of playing in that ballpark.

Brinson: That was ridiculous. It was unbelievable to be there, where Babe Ruth and Ernie Banks––I got to meet Ernie Banks. Just to be in a historical park like that––Wrigley Field––it was great just to play on there and be in the locker room. It's the same locker room where all the greats have played and been. It was a real treat, and they treated us really well up there. And Chicago is probably the greatest city I've ever been to. That was unbelievable.

Cole: During your high school season this past spring, was there any point where you started to feel a little pressure? Being a first-round caliber guy, I'm sure there were lots of scouts coming in and out.

Brinson: I'm not going to lie. In the beginning of the year, a lot of scouts started coming to my games. It kind of got to me a little bit. I got a little––not shaken up, but kind of worried about what I had to do in front of the scouts and not worrying about my high school season and what we were trying to do as seniors.

So it kind of got to me a little bit. But I talked to my uncles and a couple of friends just to kind of settle down. They said, ‘You're already good. You already know that you're good. You already know you're going to get drafted. It's a matter of going out there and doing what you do best.'

Cole: Obviously I didn't see you play in high school this year. But you can see the way Joey Gallo gets pitched here. When you stand out in a lineup, pitchers tend to avoid throwing you fastballs in the strike zone. Was that happening to you in high school?

Brinson: Oh, yeah, a lot. I maybe saw––I could probably count how many fastballs I saw in high school. When I was struggling a little bit, they kind of started to go after me, and that's when I started hitting good. Then they started throwing changeups and sliders in the dirt and everything.

Like you said, it's the same treatment here. When you see a guy like that come up to the plate, you don't want to give him a fastball or something that he can drive. So yeah, it's kind of the same.

Cole: Is it difficult to keep from getting overaggressive and expanding the zone when that's happening?

Brinson: A little bit. But it's all about adjustments in this game. That's what this game is all about––making adjustments up there. It's kind of hard, but it's nothing that I can't do and won't do. It's just a matter of making adjustments and getting used to it.

Cole: I want to ask you about your impressions on what Gallo is doing out here power-wise.

Brinson: It's ridiculous. I saw videos and I saw how much torque he has in his swing and how big of a swing he has. I was like, ‘There's no way he can make contact every time and just hit balls as hard as he does.' But I've seen him out here. The first day he took BP, I was amazed. I was like, ‘There's no way an 18-year-old kid should be hitting balls over light towers and hitting them close to 480 feet.'

So wow––16 home runs, man. That's ridiculous. He's tied the record. That's ridiculous in itself. He's only going to get better, he's only going to hit more, and he's only going to hit them farther.

Cole: You've had a solid season out here, as well. How do you feel about your performance?

Brinson: I feel pretty good. I expected to have a pretty good season. I really didn't expect to maybe hit as well as I have. But I knew I could handle this, and I knew I had enough poise and enough experience, so to speak, with handling myself with struggles and everything.

Because I know I'm going to struggle. There are good guys and there are good pitchers out here, so I knew I was going to have my struggles. But I knew I can hit this kind of pitching, and I knew I can play at this kind of level.

Cole: When you work with your hitting coaches out here, what are some of the things you're focusing on and refining right now?

Brinson: Kind of staying on the ball––not being so much of a pull hitter. We're working on working the ball up the middle and pulling the ball when the ball is there––hitting the ball where it's pitched, kind of. We've just been working on not pulling my shoulder out and staying on the ball as long as I can.

Cole: The Rangers typically let newly drafted guys play for at least a month before stepping in and making some adjustments. How long did you go before they started tweaking that?

Brinson: Maybe three weeks or four weeks before they started really kind of tweaking everything and seeing what worked and what didn't. But at first they let me do my thing. They said I had really good hands. It's nothing real major. They said, ‘We don't need to change your whole stance. We don't need to change everything.' It's just a couple of hand movements and maybe a couple of adjustments that they needed to make. But nothing real major.

Cole: How do you feel it's coming along so far?

Brinson: I feel great. My legs are a little heavy. I'm not used to playing this many games, especially in this heat. But I feel great about myself, my performance, and how much I'm getting better. I've gotten better every day I've been out here.

These coaches are great. Just the Rangers are a great organization. They know what they're doing, and they know what they want to do with us five. So I feel great about my performance and everything I've done out here.

Cole: Have you played every game in center field?

Brinson: Pretty much. I've DHed a couple games, and I had one day off. But most of the games I've played center field.

Cole: How do you feel about your performance in center field so far?

Brinson: I feel good. Obviously the guys are a little stronger and a little bigger, and they hit the ball a little farther and a little harder. So it's a couple of adjustments here and there and kind of reading the ball a little better. It's not high school anymore, and the guys aren't as strong in high school as they are here obviously.

But I feel great. There's no doubt in my mind that I can catch anything that's hit out there all the way up to the big leagues. Right now, I feel that I can play center field in the big leagues.

I didn't know playing center field was so complicated, though. Donzell (McDonald) gave it to me a little bit––about trying to be a smart centerfielder instead of just being a guy that's fast out there. It's about being in the right places and knowing what's going on before the ball is hit to you. So I feel great about my performance out there.

Cole: About a week ago, you robbed a home run from Nick Williams during batting practice and covered quite a bit of ground in doing so. Had you done that before during BP?

Brinson: Yeah, a couple times in high school and at showcases in stuff. I kind of like to show off in BP. And that's when you get most of your work in in center field. But if a ball is hit out there, I want to go get it.

That's my dream one day––to be robbing a ball from maybe like Bryce Harper or Mike Trout or somebody like that. I'd rather rob a home run than hit a home run any day. I'd rather take a home run away, take a hit away, or take a game-winning hit away than hit a home run or get a game-winning hit any day.

Cole: Is there an area of your defensive game that you'd like to improve upon before this season is finished?

Brinson: Maybe going straight back on balls hit just straight over my head––I can kind of get turned around a little bit. But I've been working on that in practice really hard with Donzell. And I think we've got it down so far.

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