This season, the Rays may have the strongest lineup they have ever possessed. But there are two possible positional question marks: shortstop and catcher. Today we’ll address both positions, starting at shortstop, where the Rays have yet to announce the starter, who will be either Reid Brignac or Sean Rodriguez. Right now we’ll talk about Brignac.
Reid Brignac won the Rays’ starting shortstop job coming out of spring training in 2011. But once the season started, the results were disastrous and Sean Rodriguez and Elliot Johnson took the bulk of playing time away from Brignac from July to the end of the season. On the year, Brignac posted just a .193/.227/.221 line with just 4 doubles, 1 homer, 15 RBI, and 3 stolen bases in 92 games. His OPS+ was just 29, meaning that he was 71% worse than the league average adjusted to ballpark, and he was actually worth -1.3 wins above replacement from his offense. Were there any redeeming qualities from Brignac hidden in those execrable numbers? In fact, yes. He posted a 21% line drive percentage compared to the 18% league average. But I’ve talked about batted ball tendencies and BAbip by batted ball type in all these previews, and I even talked about them specifically relating to Brignac back in December (please see here). The big thing with Brignac is his upside. Brignac was frustrated in 2011 after getting off to an awful start, and that derailed his season. But he has shown in the past that he has the ability to be a well above-average big league shortstop.
Brignac was a top prospect in the Rays’ system for quite a while after being a second round pick back in 2004. In 2006 at age 20, his star shined brightest. In 128 games between High-A Visalia and Double-A Montgomery, Brignac had an unbelievable season, posting a .321/.376/.539 line with 32 doubles, 5 triples, 24 homers, 99 RBI, 100 runs, and 15 stolen bases in 21 attempts. Brignac was the High-A California League MVP, and he was also the Rays’ Minor League Player of the Year. Brignac followed his ridiculous season with a nice 2007 at Double-A, posting a .260/.328/.433 line with 30 doubles, 5 triples, 17 homers, 81 RBI, 91 runs, and 15 out of 20 in steals. Brignac struggled a little bit in 2008 at Triple-A, but he rebounded to a .282/.327/.417 line in 2009, and from then until 2011, he was in limbo as the Rays could not guarantee him a starting job in the big leagues. Then in 2011, he got his opportunity, but he started off in a slump and that marred his season. Brignac needs a mulligan for 2011 and he will be fine. With his career with the Rays on the line, Brignac knows he has to play well in 2012. With the motivation and the ability he possesses, Reid Brignac is primed to live up to his potential.
Reid Brignac is not about to blossom into a superstar. But he’s a good major league shortstop and he will show that in 2012. I predict that he will be named the Rays’ starting shortstop and post a .260/.330/.402 line with 30 doubles, 11 homers, and 15 stolen bases while playing stellar defense at shortstop. The potential is still there for Brignac. In 2012, Reid Brignac will put his talents on display.