What would someone answer if you asked them “What type of player is Reid Brignac?” They would probably tell you that he’s an all-field, no-hit shortstop. If you got lucky and were talking to someone knowledgeable, they might tell you that he used to be a big prospect for the Rays but never was able to live up to that potential. Looking at the stats, the person you asked would be exactly right. Brignac hit 15 or more homers in his first three full seasons in the minor leagues from 2005 to 2007, including a 2006 season where he won the High-A California League MVP award after hitting .321 with 24 homers, 99 RBI, and 15 stolen bases, but he has managed just a .227/.268/.317 line in 716 major league plate appearances over the last five years. Those numbers beg an obvious question about Brignac’s career: what happened?
The simple truth is that most top prospects never pan out. Some flame out long before they make an impact in the major leagues, so in a sense the Rays were lucky that Brignac was able to provide a modest contribution to their big league time for while. But we can go into more detail as to exactly why his Brignac’s power and hitting prowess never came into fruition at higher levels. Anyone who has seen Brignac long enough knows that his major flaw at the plate the last several years has been a lack of plate discipline- he has swung at far too many fastballs up and out of the zone and breaking balls in the dirt to lead to a scary 170-35 strikeout to walk ratio during his time in the majors. It is extremely hard to be a successful major league hitter for prolonged stretches without good plate discipline, and that is unfortunately the case with Brignac. But plate discipline was not the only factor. Listen to this comment from Baseball America about Brignac from after the 2004 season.
Though scouts project Brignac to eventually outgrow shortstop and move to third base, the Rays believe he can stick at short.
Wait a second- you’re telling me that a player who is known now for his slick fielding at shortstop and just about nothing else was projected by scouts to move off of shortstop? Sure, scouts can be wrong, but what’s going on here? What stands out when you see Brignac or look at his bio is that he’s a pretty big guy at 6’3″. He is, though, a skinny guy at 190 pounds and that’s where the problem lies. Brignac has bulked up since his high school days, but not by all that much. He’s always been very lean and athletic, but scouts expected Brignac to end up weighing 205 or 210 pounds when it was all said and done, filling a similar physical profile to Chipper Jones (not that Brignac was ever expected to be as talented as Jones was for so many years). Adding an additional 20 or 25 pounds of muscle would have cost Brignac some speed and athleticism but also provided him with additional strength that would potentially allow the flashes of power he showed in the minor leagues to surface more often. Instead, Brignac remains 190 pounds, playing like your typical smaller, athletic shortstop even though he could have potentially been a completely different player.
There are a variety of reasons why Reid Brignac never became the player scouts knew he had the ability to become. Most interesting among them, though, is that Brignac never wound up with the physical profile scouts expected him to grow into given his skill-set on the baseball diamond. At this point in time, what’s done is done, and Brignac still has a chance to carve out a solid big league career for himself as a defense-minded shortstop or utility player if he can improve his plate discipline and become a more consistent hitter. However, after looking at those comments Baseball America made back in 2004, you have wonder how things could have been different for Brignac if he had filled out like evaluators thought he would.