The early stages of Reid Brignac‘s gig as a full-time shortstop have been less than pleasant at the plate for the 25-year-old. The left-handed hitting Brignac is only batting .195 with a.235 on-base percentage through his first 82 plate appearances despite being shielded from southpaw pitching. Still capable of slick-fielding, the Rays young shortstop is waiting for the day when his slugging percentage will deviate from his batting average as he continues the pursuit of his first extra-base hit.
The lack of power comes as a surprise as Brignac boasted an Isolated Power of .130 in over 300 major league plate appearances in 2010. Keep in mind the Rays carefully selected the majority of Brignac’s opportunities last year based not only on pitcher-handedness (442 OPS vs LHP), but also to steer clear of fly ball pitchers of which he has amassed an OPS of 519 against for his career (180 PA).
Brignac certainly should begin to accumulate a few extra-base hits soon enough, but with little ability in the ways of the walk the waiting game for power can be quite trying. Where does Brignac’s power outage to start the season fit in with recent baseball history? There are only 10 players since 2000 who had to wait more than Brignac’s 77 at-bats to come up with their first extra-base hit. Most of these players were reserves out of the gate, but there are three opening-day former prospects who grace the list or fell just short of the at-bat milestone.
Juan Pierre was the Marlins’ center fielder in 2002. Pierre waited 118 at-bats for his first extra-base hit, a feat surpassed only by his 2010 abstinence from extra-base ecstasy. Pierre was not underperforming by much as his ISO ended the season at .056, just shy of his career mark of .063. Fortunately for Pierre, his offensive game is not built on power, rather to get on base and terrorize opponents on the basepath.
In 2003, the Tigers penciled 26-year-old Brandon Inge into the lineup as their starting catcher. Inge struggled mightily with a .127 batting average over 71 plate appearances before achieving his first extra-base hit. Inge did manage to flash on-base skills with a .222 OBP over the same period. Inge was optioned to AAA in mid-June where he remained until August. Despite the early power outage Inge scrapped together an ISO of .136 over 330 plate appearances, ending the year with an OPS of 605.
Luis Rivas was a 25-year-old 2nd baseman with five Baseball America top 100 rankings to his name when he began the 2005 season as the second baseman for the Twins. Despite the young age, this was the sixth season Rivas was spending on the big league club. Rivas waited 99 at-bats for his first extra-base hit and finished the season with just 136 at-bats and an ISO of .059. Rivas was optioned to Triple-A around the all-star break. In addition to marginal pop, Rivas also never lived up to his defensive scouting reputation–finishing with a negative career UZR.
In 2007, the Yankees handed the keys to center field over to 22-year-old Melky Cabrera. Despite a 71 at-bat wait for his first extra-base hit, the Yankees exhibited patience and allowed Cabrera to hold the starting job for the duration of the season. Cabrera finished with an ISO of .118 and an OPS of 718.
Chris Coghlan, a 25-year-old left-fielder, got off to a brutal start last season going 102 at-bats without finding a way to eek out an extra base. Coghlan managed to turn things around rather quickly raising his OPS from 463 to 718 in just another 156 at-bats before his season was ended due to injury. He finished with an ISO of .115.
Most of the reserves and aging ballplayers on the list failed to improve on their dreadful starts, but these young starters are more representative of Brignac’s pedigree and where he is in his career and with the exception of Rivas, the power showed up. Here’s to the same occurring for Brignac.