Brinson's mom, Susie, urged Lewis to keep his options open and not just settle on the University of Miami, which is close to their Coral Gables, Florida home.
"I had a visit with Florida,” Brinson said. “As soon as I walked on campus it was done. It was Gators this and Gators that. There was a Gators gas station right when we got off the interstate. I fell in love with the school. Coach (Kevin) O’Sullivan is the nicest guy I know. He’s serious about winning and that was my main goal in finding a school.”
Lewis graduated from Coral Gables (Florida) High School in 2012 with a 3.3 grade point average. He also hit .394 with four doubles, four triples, four home runs, 21 RBIs and 11 stolen bases as a senior for Coral Springs.
Brinson says baseball motivates him in the classroom, because he knows if he doesn’t have the grades, he can’t play. He’s interested in sports business and journalism and wants to be a baseball analyst one day, but for now he’ll concentrate on honing his game to be like Torii Hunter in his prime or Andrew McCutchen—two center fielders he admires. “When (Hunter) was with the Twins, nothing dropped,” he said. “McCutchen makes it look so easy out there.” (Nathan Rode-Baseball America-5/14/12)
Lewis was a Marlins fan growing up.
Brinson says, "Juan Pierre was always my favorite player and continues to be my favorite player — his speed and his leadoff mentality of just getting on base and making things happen for the team. He really took heart in making things happen and scoring runs for his team, and that's what I try to do."
- The only thing bigger than Brinson’s love for baseball is his relationship with his mother. Susie Brinson first got her son into baseball when he was 4 years old, signing him up for Little League. They have always been close, and they have relied on each other more since Brinson’s father, Lewis Jr., died of lung cancer just after Lewis III turned 11.
“She’s been the biggest help in my life,” Brinson said. “When I lost my dad, she stepped in. She’s taken time off of work to travel with me. She’s taken phone calls for me. She’s probably taking one right now. She’s been everything. I hope one day I can repay her.”
- Lewis looks like Cameron Maybin or Dexter Fowler, with a tapered frame and plenty of room to add strength. (May, 2012)
- In 2012, Brinson got drafted by the Rangers (see below).
Lewis excelled for the Arizona Rookie League-champion Rangers from the leadoff position all summer. He topped the league in runs (54), doubles (22), extra-base hits (36), total bases (124)—as well as strikeouts (74)—while showing off extreme athleticism.
In 2013, the Baseball America Prospect Handbook rated Brinson as the 12th-best prospect in the Rangers organization. He was at #15 in the winter before 2014 spring training, and #14 in the spring of 2015. He was moved up to #2 early in 2016, behind only power-hitter Joey Gallo in the Rangers organization.
After the Brewers acquired Lewis in 2016, he was rated as the #1 prospect in their farm system in both 2017 and 2018.
Lewis is intelligent and works hard. He has very good makeup. He has that fire and he wants to be a really good player.
Brinson says, "I don't like being babied in anything. You throw me into the fire and I'll find a way to fend for myself."
When Lewis got the phone call on June 10, 2017, that the Brewers wanted him in the Majors, he was taking a nap at the apartment in Colorado Springs he had only recently shared with fellow prospects Josh Hader and Brett Phillips.
"My Triple-A manager, Rick Sweet, called me and told me to pack my bags, I was going to the big leagues," Brinson said after the Brewers lost 11-1 to the D-backs at Chase Field in his debut. "I thought I was dreaming for a second. Obviously I wasn't, and I just started packing my stuff.
"I thought it was a joke. It’s already hard to breathe in Colorado Springs, being (6,000) feet above sea level, but I couldn’t breathe for a second . . . I took like five seconds to myself to catch my breath, called my mom immediately, and we had a nice emotional time. That’s a dream come true. My mom—single mom growing up, my dad passed away when I was 11, so she’s had to raise me up through the rankings, and I had to grow up real fast—and it was really emotional talking to her. She was screaming. I was crying. She was crying. It was a very special moment for me and her. “
Brinson had a whirlwind travel day. He arrived in the middle of a June 10 3-2 loss. And as a member of the active roster, he immediately pulled on his uniform and headed to the bench.
Brewers manager Craig Counsell didn't waste any time putting Brinson in the starting lineup. When Brinson arrived at the ballpark June 11, he was listed at the leadoff spot, playing left field. "I wanted to find a spot for him today. That's what I like to do," Counsell said. "I think it's important to do that, and it's best for the player to do that. So it fit well for us today."
Brinson went 0-for-2 with a pair of walks and was credited with his first steal on the back end of a double-steal in the third inning. In his first at-bat against lefthander Robbie Ray, D-backs shortstop Nick Ahmed made a diving stop, barely nabbing the speedy Brinson at first. (Bloom - mlb.co - 6/11/17)
In 2017, Brinson represented the Brewers in the All-Star Futures game.
In 2017, Brinson was named the Brewers minor league player of the year.
Dec 6, 2018: In November 2018, the Marlins debuted new team colors, moving toward a teal and pinkish-red scheme that evokes images of Miami's vibrant nightlife. Of course, they revealed new logos and uniforms to reflect those changes, leaving everyone in need of some wardrobe updates.
As a result, outfielder Lewis Brinson did his part to make sure that Miami's best was properly outfitted with the latest in Marlins fashion by bringing a new jersey to three-time NBA champion Dwyane Wade. Now that Wade is up to date with the latest fashion, the only thing left to do is decide who gets to deliver a new jersey to Miami's other G.O.A.T., Pitbull. (E Chesterton - MLB.com - Dec 6, 2018)
Nov 5, 2019: The time is now for Marlins outfielder Lewis Brinson. Two years removed from being one of the top prospects in baseball, Brinson will be on a short leash when the Marlins open Spring Training in mid-February, 2020. The 25-year-old has labored in his first two seasons with Miami, and the organization is looking for some results. If they don’t see them, the Marlins have several outfield prospects knocking on the door ready to take over in center field.
For Brinson, the numbers in 2019 weren’t pretty. In 75 big league games, he had a slash line of .173/.236/.221 with no home runs and 15 RBIs. He had a minus 1.7 WAR, according to Fangraphs. And that followed up a 2018 campaign, when he hit .199 with 11 homers and 42 RBIs.
Brinson, of course, was the centerpiece in the Marlins’ 2018 trade that sent Christian Yelich to the Brewers. In return, Miami received Brinson, Monte Harrison, Isan Díaz and Jordan Yamamoto.
But entering his third season with the Marlins, the organization is looking for more than just potential for Brinson.
“He’s going to have to produce,” manager Don Mattingly said at the end of the 2019 season. "I think he’s had a lot of opportunity. He’s going to have to produce.”
What went right
Not much at the big league level, but when Brinson was optioned to Triple-A New Orleans at the end of April, he showed signs of why he was a top prospect. In the Minors, he started to figure things out, and hit .270/.361/.510 with 16 home runs and 56 RBIs.
At Triple-A, Brinson was able to work with hitting coach Justin Mashore. The two have history together -- they once were both in the Rangers’ system at the same time.
“When you look at Lewis' abilities, there's bat speed, there's athleticism,” Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill said. “There's hand speed, there's power, there's foot speed. There's a lot of things that you like.”
What went wrong
Brinson just never was consistent with his swing. Mechanically, he was out of sorts, with his lower half and upper often not working together. Pitchers exploited his weaknesses by feeding him plenty of offspeed pitches. He hit .080 against breaking pitches, according to Statcast.
“When we talk about Lewis, he had all of 2018 to figure things out in the big leagues,” Hill said. “In 2019, he spent time in the Minor Leagues. Consistency is what you search for with him.”
Brinson showcased his athletic ability in center field on Aug. 17 in an 11-4 loss at the Rockies. Tony Wolters blistered a long drive off Hector Noesi that sent the speedy Brinson to the warning track. The Marlins outfielder sacrificed his body by making a leaping grab before crashing into the wall. Shaken up for a moment, Brinson recovered and turned in one of the top defensive plays of the season. According to Statcast, Brinson covered 93 feet to make the play.
“To be honest, I could always get better jumps to where I don’t have to make those plays look so hard,” Brinson said after the game. “I could get there more easily.”
Brinson will head into Spring Training with every opportunity to be the Marlins' everyday center fielder. But since he has an option, he could start off at Triple-A, if he struggles.
“There's still a belief that he's going to be a very productive Major League player,” Hill said.
Now he has to show it. In two seasons with the Marlins, Brinson has appeared in 184 games, and he has a combined slash line of .189/.238/.294 with 11 home runs and 57 RBIs.
“It's just up to him to put it all together,” Hill said. “What we've all been working on with him is becoming more of a consistent player, and taking care of the swing mechanics so that all of that ability can show up on the field, every day.” (J Frisaro - MLB.com - Nov 5, 2019)
Dec 23, 2019: South Florida born and raised, Lewis Brinson has enjoyed holiday seasons that are usually sunny and bright, and through the years, included playing baseball. Brinson grew up in Coral Springs, Fla., and due to the favorable weather, he took part in plenty of baseball tournaments, from Thanksgiving to Christmas. He wouldn’t necessarily play games on those special holidays, but there was no shortage of tournaments this time of year.
“There was always Christmas tournaments and Thanksgiving tournaments,” Brinson said. “I was always playing baseball, just not on those days. But there were a lot of tournaments.”
With so much baseball going on, it was common for Brinson to receive baseball bats, balls, gloves, cleats, pants and whatever gear was necessary on Christmas Day.
Now entering his third season with the Marlins, Brinson gets to play professionally in his hometown, and for the team he was a fan of as a child. The reason he wears No. 9 is because of Juan Pierre, his favorite player growing up.
Brinson has a place in Miami these days, and his mother, Susie, still lives in Coral Springs. The biggest holiday tradition he has is simply spending time with his mother, and whoever else shows up at the house on Christmas Day.
“Obviously we don’t have the change of seasons,” Brinson said. “So it doesn’t really feel like Christmas. But Christmas means a lot to me. I get to spend it with my mom. She just retired.”
On a typical Christmas morning, Brinson shows up to his mother’s house early, and she makes him breakfast. For dinner, the only thing Brinson demands is ham.
“There has to be a Christmas ham,” he said. “And some cookies. Homemade Christmas cookies. She makes them, or my uncle makes them. They have to be home-baked.”
A standard gift he always gives his mom, along with other gifts, is a pair of slippers. He’s done it since he was about five. In 2016, when Brinson was in the Brewers’ system, he surprised his mother with a more lasting gift -- a new car.
"She cried," Brinson said. "She still drives it. She takes very good care of it.”
Another Christmas, Brinson gave his mother a new TV.
“She needed a new TV,” the outfielder said. “I like to give back to the people that helped me get here. She has no idea what to get me every year.”
One of the most memorable gifts Brinson received as a kid was a bicycle.
“I rode that thing until the wheels fell off,” he said.
Under the Christmas tree a few years later, Brinson woke to the rage of video games at the time -- a Wii.
“When the Wii first came out, I played it from morning until night,” Brinson said. “And the next day, I couldn’t move, because I was moving [around playing Wii]. I was so sore the next day.”
For the holidays, he’s taken a little breather to be with family, and to give back to those who helped him throughout his career.
“Christmas time is for family, and giving back,” Brinson said. “Receiving gifts, but ultimately giving back. It just means a lot to be around family that day.” (J Frisaro - MLB.com - Dec 23, 2019)
June 2012: The Rangers chose Brinson in the first round, out of Coral Springs High School in Coral Springs, FL. Scout Frankie Thon signed Lewis for $1.6 million.
August 1, 2016: Jonathan Lucroy was acquired by the Rangers, along with reliever Jeremy Jeffress from Milwaukee; with Texas sending Brinson, pitcher Luis Ortiz, and a player to be named later.
- January 25, 2018: The Brewers sent Brinson, SS Isan Diaz, OF Monte Harrison, and RHP Jordan Yamamoto to the Marlins; acquiring OF Christian Yelich.