Lewis Brinson (OF, Hickory Crawdads)
Though Brinson missed nearly a month of time with a quad injury, the center fielder has hit like he had to make up those at-bats across the last few weeks’ games. The 20-year-old currently has a .333/.404/.580 line for the whole season, but in his last 14 games, Brinson is hitting .451/.541/.941 with seven homers and four doubles. Though it’s not likely that he keeps this burning pace up, the numbers are impressive. Brinson’s also only struck out 13 times in those 14 games, while earning nine walks. In 2013, Brinson hit 21 homers, and is on pace to hit a similar number this year in what could be a few fewer games.
Defensively, Brinson receives good reviews from those who’ve seen him, and his athletic frame and quick reflexes should allow him to man the outfield for years to come. He’s been described as smooth, gliding in CF with the experience to not try to make plays that he can’t. He’s also quick on the bases, and his power could make him an extremely valuable piece on a good team in the future - a fast, good defensively, hopefully hitting centerfielder who can also put more than one or two balls over the fence is something many teams would love to have in their system.
The bad news, though: The strikeouts that were so concerning in 2013 haven’t drastically changed in 2014, with Brinson striking out 45 times in only 42 games. This number, as surprising as it may be, actually does represent some improvement, as currently Brinson is striking out at only 24.5 percent of the time, as opposed to the 38 percent of the time last season, but neither one of those numbers is fun to attempt to project up the levels. Brinson does have his incredible bat speed and quick hands that he can rely on right now, but he’ll need to make adjustments to both current and future pitching if he’s going to succeed. Brinson might see a promotion to Myrtle Beach later this season, but working on his patience and pitch recognition in Hickory could only help him, especially with the time he missed early in the season.
Note: Brinson left Thursday’s game after having his ankle looked at, according to the Newberg Report’s Scott Lucas.
Jon Edwards (RHP, Round Rock Express)
A former draft pick as an outfielder out of local Keller, TX, Edwards failed to hit in his four-and-a-bit years in the St. Louis Cardinals system, ending up in the Pecos and North American independent leagues. Though many baseball careers end there, the Rangers saw something they liked in the 6’5” right-hander, signing him in 2012 with the chance to reinvent himself as a pitcher. Edwards’ two pitches are a fastball that usually sits 92-95 and a hard slider, which shows sharp break when it is at its best.
Since then, Edwards has pitched well enough to keep a job, but not particularly spectacularly until about six weeks ago when something seemed to click for the reliever. In previous assignments, Edwards always struggled with his command, walking nearly as many batters as innings pitched, though he racked up the strikeouts as well. Early in 2014, Edwards was struggling with the advanced hitters in Double A, walking 19 batters in the 16.2 innings he pitched before May 22. In fact, his problems were such that some suggested he could be a potential candidate for a roster-freeing release or demotion.
Though Edwards put together a 5.13 ERA in Double A this year, he put together a run of 16.2 innings with only three runs allowed during a 10-game stretch beginning with a one-batter appearance against Tulsa on May 22. During that time, he also only walked four batters while striking out 22. This marked improvement was enough to earn Edwards a promotion to Triple A at the end of June, and he should make his debut in the Express’ next few games.
Christopher Garia (OF, Myrtle Beach Pelicans)
One of the few players on the Rangers’ farm with truly game-changing speed, Chris Garia seems to have found his bat between 2013 and 2014. Garia batted a truly abysmal .156/.198/.193 in his 26 games with the Crawdads at the end of 2013, but started 2014 with the Pelicans despite these struggles.
So far in 2014, Garia is batting .288/.357/.412 in 62 games with Myrtle Beach, 56 of those games in center field. Some of his slugging percentage comes from his blistering speed, as Garia leads the league in triples, with 10 on the season. As one would expect for so fast a runner, Garia also is fourth in the league for stolen bases, going 26-for-34. The single homer Garia has to his name isn’t, as one might think, an inside-the-parker, but that is surely in the future.
Unlike Lewis Brinson, Garia isn’t yet a confident defender, but reports have him adjusting to the position. If this sudden offensive development is more than a mirage, having that kind of disruptive speed both on the basepaths and in the outfield could be exciting to watch. If this isn’t a mirage, Garia likely spends all of 2014 with the Pelicans, and could move up to Frisco in his age 22 season.