Reid Brignac Transforms Like Optimus Prime | The Process Report

Reid Brignac Transforms Like Optimus Prime

Prospect analysts have considered Reid Brignac a star in the making since the Tampa Bay Rays drafted him in the second round of the 2004 draft. Then a lanky high school shortstop with a commitment to Louisiana State University, Brignac did not take long to ascend the numerous rankings.  Despite steady prospect status, the scouting reports and projections have changed in focus.

Offensive excellence became the theme following Brignc’s breakout season in 2006 as he hit .321/.376/.539 with 24 home runs as a 20-year-old in High and Double-A. After which, Kevin Goldstein ranked Brignac as the third-best prospect in the system (behind Delmon Young and Evan Longoria) praising his bat as one which could play up to All-Star levels. Brignac’s defense trailed behind his bat, although he possessed the size (6’3”) and arm necessary to play the position. His future position became a question mark, with a slide to second base or the corner outfield a distinct possibility.

In the seasons since, Brignac’s reputation has altered. Brignac worked tirelessly on improving his glove and added average offensive seasons to his newfound defensive chops. The efforts paid off and even resulted in Goldstein bestowing a defensive wizard proclamation upon Brignac in his 2010 write-up – completing the 180-turn from his earlier report.

Jason Bartlett’s presence and grasp on the primary shortstop position sentenced Brignac to a reserve role in 2010. Brignac still found a way to enter 113 games and accumulate more than 300 plate appearance. In the field, he displayed a strong and accurate arm with long strides, yet still showed graceful footwork at either middle infield position.

Brignac’s once stellar offense is now the work in progress as he hit .256/.307/.385 while failing to hide his occasionally disastrous plate discipline. Brignac’s ability to put a bat on most balls is encouraging, but he still struck out 25 percent of the time and needs to restrict the parameters on his zone – or, at least, tempter his willingness to swing in select situations. Brignac is hardly the first young player to struggle with his approach at the plate. Nine years ago, Tampa Bay had a similar left-handed hitter who showed an overaggressive trait at the dish while flashing dynamic leather.

Young Carl Crawford hit .259/.290/.371 in 2002 through nearly 280 plate appearances. Crawford fanned fewer times than Brignac, but took the free pass a smaller percentage of the time too. The biggest – and maybe the only – difference came in their ages. Crawford was not of legal drinking age, while Brignac turned 24 before his first Opening Day.

A parallel can be established between the two rookie campaigns. In present day, Crawford has improved is approach in the time since and his offensive outburst in 2010 matched his defensive precision. Brignac is not guaranteed a similar aging curve or production, but offensive positives still exist.  Brignac’s power, for instance, seems prodigious given his defensive contributions. Among American League shortstops (with at least 300 plate appearances) Brignac’s Isolated Power finished in the top five.

With Bartlett exiled to the place from which he came (drafted by the Padres), Brignac’s main competition for playing time includes utility players or those with already designated roles (Sean Rodriguez and Ben Zobrist). The young Cajun should set career highs in playing time and counting stats across the board this season. The team may have candidates for shortstop of the future in the pipeline, but for now, Brignac is the shortstop of the present – finally.

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