by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
According to Nick Piecoro of The Arizona Republic (click here for the article):
“At the very least, he is putting pressure on the presumptive left fielder, Yasmany Tomas, for the everyday job; some rival scouts believe Brito is already the better all-around player. The Diamondbacks say they are trying to reserve judgment until later in the spring.”
It’s certainly hard for the Diamondbacks to pass judgment, with Tomas currently sidelined with a knee injury. That said Brito appears determined to make the decision difficult as he’s opened the spring hitting .450 (9-20) with 1 HR, 5 RBI, 3 R and 1 SB.
Brito wasn’t necessarily a highly regarded prospect heading into camp, but he’s currently ranked as the team’s fourth best prospect by MLB.com after appearing in the 2015 Futures Game. They describe the left-handed hitter by saying:
“Brito’s hit tool keeps improving and he’s cut his strikeout rate three years in a row. He has strength and power to come as he continues to refine his approach. Brito has excellent speed which plays on both sides of the ball, and he hasn’t lost any of it as he’s gotten stronger. He covers a ton of ground and continues to get better on his reads and routes in center, while also having the plus arm teams covet for right field.”
As they noted the strikeout rate has improved as he’s moved up in levels:
- 2013 (Single-A) – 21.9%
- 2014 (High-A) – 19.4%
- 2015 (Double-A) – 16.1%
That’s a tremendous sign, but he’s continued to struggle to draw walks (5.6% in ’15). This spring he has yet to walk, so it’s something we’ll have to watch closely. In ranking him seventh, John Sickels of Minor League Ball noted that Brito was:
“still impatient but doing a better job making contact and getting to his power”
While it hasn’t hindered him yet, the potential is there for Major League pitchers to take advantage. He benefited from a .346 BABIP in ’15, a realistic mark given his speed but likely something he won’t sustain given his impatience and the potential for weaker contact against more advanced pitching.
MLB.com references the potential for more power, though he’s yet to show it. Last season he managed 41 extra base hits, with 17 doubles, 15 triples and 9 home runs. It’s possible that he does add some power, but expecting a significant jump in power would be a mistake. It would seem like 12-15 HR may be his ceiling, not something in the 20+ range.
There’s plus speed, with as many as 38 stolen bases in a season and his 15 triples in ’15, but will the Diamondbacks utilize an impatient bat at the top of their order? Not with A.J. Pollock already set to fill the spot, or a more experienced yet similarly impatient hitter in Jean Segura on the roster. Hitting lower in the order, as well as the potential risk in his OBP, should limit his stolen base potential.
It’s been a strong start for Brito and there’s upside, but there’s a long ways to go and it’s easy to imagine him fading this spring. It’s easy to write off Tomas, given his poor rookie campaign, but he actually has more upside than Brito and the team appears primed to give him an opportunity to show it once he’s healthy.
This is a situation to continue monitoring, but don’t be surprised to see Brito get exposure to Triple-A early in the season as opposed to breaking camp with the team.
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