A reader recently asked for an updated take on the impressive trio of pre-season Texas Rangers outfield prospects: Lewis Brinson, Nomar Mazara, and Nick Williams. Williams as you know was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies in the Cole Hamels deal but the reader asked where I would rank him now if Williams were still a Ranger.
Here is how I ranked them pre-season, with notes from the Rangers Top 20 Prospects list published last December. Mazara was ranked second among all Rangers prospects, Brinson eighth and Williams ninth.
2) Nomar Mazara, OF, Grade B+: Age 19, hit .264/.358/.470 in Low-A then .306/.381/.518 after moving up to Double-A for 24 games. Made real progress turning raw power into game power, defense also sharper. Downside would be Karim Garcia-like stagnation at higher levels, upside is .280, 30-homer hitter. This ranking is more aggressive than typical but Mazara was really impressive.
8) Lewis Brinson, OF, Grade B-: Age 20, superb athlete hit .335/.405/.579 in 164 at-bats in Low-A but just .246/.307/.350 in 183 at-bats in High-A, better pitching exposing the holes in his aggressive approach and swing mechanics. Impressive defensively so they will be patient with the bat. Could develop into an All-Star if the hitting comes along, or a fifth outfielder if it doesn’t.
9) Nick Williams, OF, Grade B-: Age 21, hit .292/.343/.491 with 13 homers, 19 walks, 117 strikeouts in 377 at-bats in High-A. Overmatched late in Double-A, .226/.250/.290 with 21 strikeouts, two walks in 62 at-bats. Solid or better tools, not as good with the glove as Brinson and older, suffers from similar and rather extreme approach issues. All-Star upside, Triple-A failure downside.
Here is the updated take:
Lewis Brinson: The best pure athlete of the trio, 21-year-old Brinson hit .337/.416/.628 in High-A. . .but that was at High Desert, where rational performance metrics go to die. The good news is that he continued hitting well after moving up to Double-A, batting .291/.328/.545 for Frisco and then .433/.541/.567 in eight games for Triple-A Round Rock. He hit 20 homers on the season, 31 doubles, stole 18 bases, and made substantial progress with pitch recognition and contact skills. Most scouting reports were little short of glowing although his strike zone judgment still needs some work. His defense has always been sharp and the improvement in his hitting moves him up into the elite category of outfield prospects. Grade B+ at present.
Nomar Mazara: Although Brinson garnered more accolades, 20-year-old Mazara had a good year too, hitting a combined .296/.366/.443 between Double-A and Triple-A with 14 homers, 52 walks and 102 strikeouts in 490 at-bats. Mazara does not have Brinson's speed and defense but Nomar is a more polished hitter than Lewis and is a full year younger. More home run power should develop in time and Texas League sources liked him a lot. He was a B+ pre-season and performed well enough to hold that grade.
Nick Williams: The oldest of the group at age 22, Williams had a breakout season in Double-A, hitting .299/.357/.479 for Frisco before the Hamels trade and .320/.340/.526 for Reading afterward. Like Brinson, Williams took a large step forward in his approach at the plate, reducing his strikeout rate while increasing his walks without any loss of power production. He even improved his defense enough to play competently in center field after struggling in left previously. He would also rate as a Grade B+ at this point.
So how do we rank them now since they are all in the B+ range? Since he is the oldest of the group I think it makes sense to rank Williams third, so it comes down to Brinson vs. Mazara in the top spot. Mazara has advantages with hitting polish and birthday; Brinson is the superior defender with broader tools. He is still a higher risk with the bat but did a lot to close up that gap over the summer.
Overall I think I would go with Brinson, but it will be very close and that decision won't be made until I do the Rangers rankings.
What do you think?