Rangers secure Arizona League crown

First-round pick Brinson sparks Texas' Rookie-level affiliate

By Andrew Pentis / Special to MLB.com | August 31, 2012 10:25 PM ET

To each of the Latin American hurlers on his own team this season, Arizona League Rangers center fielder -- and first-round Draft pick -- Lewis Brinson had one message:

Pitch strikes, and if they hit it, I will go get it.

"They understood me," he said.

On Friday night, Brinson was more often standing still on the outfield grass. That is, until he was jumping up and down, celebrating.

Aliangel Lopez combined with reliever Alexander Claudio to strike out 14 batters and hold down the Athletics as the Rangers captured the AZL championship with a 3-1 victory.

Texas' Rookie-level affiliate bested the Dodgers, 7-3, in the semifinals on Thursday. It lost in last season's one-and-done opening round.

At the forefront was Brinson, who hit a leadoff single and scored in the Rangers' three-run sixth against A's starter Gregory Paulino.

"This was great, once in a lifetime," he said. "Maybe I'll get that chance once or twice more in my career. [Winning the title] was talked amongst us all, but we had no idea we'd get rings. We knew we had good talent, and when we got closer to playoffs, we started to focus on winning. It all came together -- all our talent kind of meshed together."

Each of Texas' top five 2012 Draft picks -- Brinson (29th overall), third baseman Joey Gallo (39th) and pitcher Collin Wiles (53rd) as well as outfielders Jamie Jarmon (83rd) and Nick Williams (93rd) -- spent most of their first pro seasons in Arizona. In fact, only Gallo, the AZL's Most Valuable Player and home run record-holder, didn't finish the 10-week campaign with the club.

"The No. 1 goal is development, but we as an organization have a view that we want to develop winning players as well," said victorious skipper Corey Ragsdale, who led the team to a 36-22 regular-season record and the West Division crown. "We had some high Draft picks and they knew they were Draft picks, but they didn't come in with [presuppositions]. They came to play, they worked hard every day, they wanted to be the best. For a first-year manager, they made my life a lot easier."

Brinson had few difficult days. In 54 regular-season games, the 18-year-old Florida native, led his AZL peers in runs scored (54) and doubles (22) and finished second in hits (67), triples (seven) and RBIs (42).

"I expected myself to do good, but I didn't expect myself to break out like I did," said Brinson, who also stole 14 bases. "I knew I had talent -- I know I can play up there with those guys -- and I am confident, but it's just a matter of believing in myself."

He's not the only one.

"The kid oozes with talent," Ragsdale said. "He has a chance to be a truly special player. He is young, has some things to work on, but he doesn't take anything for granted. He was a big part of our success."

Lopez (1-0) gave up three hits over five scoreless innings, fanning nine. Claudio was credited with the save after giving up a run on three knocks over the final four frames.

Paulino (0-1) was charged with three runs on six hits, exiting with one out in the sixth. He struck out seven.


Andrew Pentis is a contributor to MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at AndrewMiLB. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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