1980s Nostalgia Prospect Retro: Tom Brunansky
Tom Brunansky was drafted by the California Angels in the first round in 1978, the 14th overall pick in the draft. A high school outfielder from West Covina, California, Brunansky was considered a very promising offensive prospect, possessing power, speed, and a strong outfield arm. The Angels assigned him to Idaho Falls in the Pioneer League after he signed, and his pro debut was very successful: he hit .332 with a .542 SLG, 17 steals, 45 walks, and 34 strikeouts in 190 at-bats. Lots of power, high walk rate, speed, fewer strikeouts than walks. At this point he'd be a Grade B+ prospect.
The Angels moved Brunansky to the California League in 1979, and he had a solid year for Salinas at age 19, hitting .270 with 23 doubles, 23 homers, 20 steals, 100 walks, and 116 strikeouts in 485 at-bats. Again, his combination of speed, power, and patience was impressive, and he did it at a young age relative to the competition. He'd be a Grade A- prospect, one of the top outfield prospects in the game.
Brunansky moved up to Double-A in 1980, taking advantage of the thin air and small parks in the Texas League to hit .323 with 24 homers, 23 steals, 75 walks, and 96 strikeouts in 495 at-bats. He went 11-for-32 (.344) in a nine-game trial for Triple-A Salt Lake City. Again, he'd be a Grade A- prospect.
The Angels sent Bruno to Triple-A in 1981. He hit .332 with a .633 SLG, with 17 doubles, 10 triples, and 22 homers in 96 games for Salt Lake City at age 21. He was starting to lose a bit of his speed at this point, although he remained an effective defensive outfielder. An 11-game trial with the Angels brought mixed results: he went just 5-for-33 (.152), but three of those five hits were homers. Still considered one of the top outfield prospects in the game, he'd have rated a Grade A- or B+ prospect. . .his Salt Lake numbers were good but not spectacular given the context of the PCL.
Brunansky began 1982 in Triple-A, but on May 11th he was traded to the rebuilding Minnesota Twins for closer Doug Corbett and infielder Rob Wilfong. The Twins immediately inserted Brunansky in the lineup. He did well, hitting .272.377/.471 with 30 doubles, 20 homers, and 71 walks in 127 games for the Twins. He drove in just 46 runs and seemed to press with runners on base, but his power was undeniable. Along with Kent Hrbek, Gary Gaetti, and Gary Ward, he made up the core of a promising Minnesota offense.
Brunansky manned right field in the Metrodome for the next six years, averaging 156 games a season. His batting average was generally in the .250 range, but he drew some walks, hit 25-30 homers a year, and provided solid defense. His speed left him, but he was a fan favorite and a major part of the core that one the 1987 World Series. His trade to St. Louis for Tommy Herr early in 1988 was a shock to Twins fans and Brunansky himself.
Bruno faded quickly after age 30; he lost bat speed (resulting in a "slider speed" bat) and no longer hammered fastballs, although he was still useful as a platoon bat and supplementary source of power. He finished with 1800 games, a .245/.327/.434 mark with 271 homers, 105 OPS+. He had a solid career, perhaps not quite living up to his early potential, but certainly nothing to really complain about.
Bill James theorized in 1983 that Brunansky might not age well, since he relied on "old player offensive skills" at a young age: power and walks.
Similar Players to Tom Brunansky:
Frank Thomas from the 1950s