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Tampa Bay Rays News and Links: Reid Brignac, shortstop of the future

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Texas Rangers v Tampa Bay Rays - Game 3 Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images

A Ji-Man Choi sighting,

Baseball stuff:

Ji-Man Choi is glad he went back to South Korea, even though he had to be quarantined for two weeks.

Former Rays coach Derek Shelton is now the Pirates manager, and his hometown newspaper reflects on his journey.

You know that crazy Cactus/Grapefruit League half season plan some folks are bandying about? Our friends at Fangraphs are giving it a serious look. Ben Clemens thinks about the scheduling issues, and his is one of the first pieces I’ve read that acknowledges the weather challenges posed by both states. I sometimes get the feeling that the folks who think that games could just be moved to spring training facilities have never been to Florida or Arizona other than for spring training. Because the idea of outdoor baseball in either place in August sounds, well, sounds like something only guys playing A ball would tolerate. I would imagine you’d need some combination of 8am starts and triple headers in the enclosed stadiums.

Dan Szymborski has already projected likely outcomes for those leagues. Rays have the misfortune of having both the Astros and Yankees in Florida, so finishing on top would be a challenge.

MLB.com looked at the most impactful postseason play for each franchise (based on cWPA). Not surprisingly, for the Rays that play came in 2008, as did the runner up.

Remembering stand out Rays players and seasons:

I’ll always be grateful to Reid Brignac. Although I had followed baseball with varying degrees of passion since I was nine years old, I didn’t really follow prospects or get up to speed on analytics until I joined the Devil Rays Republic around 2006-2007. I had always figured there were some really good players, and they were good in the minors and then they were good in the majors.

Reid Brignac is the guy who taught me the most valuable baseball lesson: Prospects will break your heart.

Because who could have been following the trajectory of Reid Brignac, drafted out of high school as a high second rounder in 2004, without getting excited? While reports had his defense as just OK, the lanky switch hitter could really hit, not only hit for average but even with some power (well a lot of that power was when he played for Hi-A Visalia, which taught me another valuable lesson: don’t trust power numbers out of the Pacific Coast League.)

Brignac was supposed to be the guy who would anchor the shortstop position well into the future. You know how we think about Willy Adames now? That’s the sort of buzz that travelled with Brignac some ten years earlier.

Even before he made his major league debut we knew he was supposed to be something special. How? Because the Rays were desperately looking for an impact bat at the 2008 trade deadline and we saw this report at Major League Trade Rumors:

2:11pm: MLB.com’s Bill Chastain with the scoop – the Rays have acquired Jason Bay for Reid Brignac and Jeff Niemann. The Rays haven’t confirmed it yet though, and Rosenthal says the Bucs want to replace Niemann with other prospects. I wonder if Bay would DH for the Rays.

Followed by this:

2:43pm: MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo says there is no done deal – the Rays might not make Brignac available.

Before the day came to a close, of course, Bay was a Red Sock, reportedly because the Rays were unwilling to part with the Shortstop of the Future for Bay, who would have become a free agent at the end of the year. A prospect so good that the Rays wouldn’t part with him to pick up a solid hitter like Bay for a pennant run? Clearly the team thought they had something special.

Brignac did well in a brief 2009 stint, and played regularly in 2010, when he slashed a respectable but not eye-popping .256/.207/.385 (wRC+ 90). Reports were that his defense had improved as well, which made it seem that he was indeed poised to be the starting shortstop in 2011, even if some of the luster of his prospect years had dulled.

But wow, 2011 was a bad one for him. Did you even know that a major leaguer could have an wRC+ of 24? His power was gone, he was swinging at everything as his walk rate plummeted and strikeout rate climbed. I can recall watching him bat - he always had a big upper cut swing — and wondering how that swing ever connected with any pitch at all. Looking through our archives, I found Bradley Woodrum writing in 2011 that Brignac should sit so that the Rays could give Elliott Johnson a look. From top prospect to playing second fiddle to Elliott Johnson! What a fall.

He was released after a 2012 spent largely in Durham; he would go on to play with the Rockies, Yankees, Nationals, Phillies, Marlins and Braves but never with much success. Clearly a true baseball lifer, he followed that up with a stint in the independent Atlantic League.

He was recently appointed manager of a Mets A affiliate; let’s hope baseball resumes at some point so Reid can get the next part of his career started.

Although Brignac did not have a particularly stellar career, I have a few fond memories of him. First, I cannot find any links to support this, but I clearly remember that every year during Spring Training, the entire Brignac clan would drive from Louisiana to wherever Reid was playing with a Cajun meal to feed everyone in camp. We’re talking probably 70 people. They brought the food, the pots, everything, and set up a full cafeteria style homecooked Louisiana meal.

And then there were some memorable plays, too. Because every so often that upper cut swing actually connected: