Monday, December 17, 2012
DrB's 2013 Giants Top 50 Prospects #1: Gary Brown
Gary Brown OF. BD 9/28/1988. 6'1", 190 lbs. B-R, T-R.
2012 AA .279/.347/.385, 32 2B, 7 HR, 33 SB, 18 CS, 40 BB, 87 K.
2012 AFL .313/.357/.375.
Gary Brown was the Giants first round draft choice in 2010, #24 overall, out of CS Fullerton where he hit over .400 his junior season while stealing over 50 bases. He only got into 12 pro games that year hitting a meager .159, but blossomed in his first full pro season with high A San Jose in 2011 hitting .336/407/.519 with 14 HR and 53 SB.
The AA Eastern League has tended to be a huge challenge for Giants hitting prospects, and Brown was no exception hitting just .229 in April. He quickly got his feet on the ground, though, and hit .289 over the remainder of the season ending with the slash line listed above. This performance came as a disappointment to many analysts who perhaps had unrealistic expectations from his Cal League performance, despite many of them proclaiming that performance was due to the Cal League's extreme hitting environment.
I think Brown's performance last year was just fine, thank you. In addition to the obvious discounting of April for level adjustment and the notoriously poor Northeast spring weather, there is another factor that I have not seen mentioned before. I pulled up a list of Eastern League batting leaders and found Brown's name sitting at #22 for BA. I noticed that the 21 names listed above him did not exactly read as a who's who of baseball prospects, so I drilled down a bit. What I found was that all but 5 of those 21 names were either repeating the level, more than 1 year older or in most cases, both. In other words, when compared just to his peer group of first time AA players, Brown had the 6'th highest BA in the league.
In his recent Q/A for sjgiants.com, Fred Stanley reiterated that the jump from high A ball to AA is the toughest one in the minors. He also brought up an interesting point that Brown's reputation as a hitter and base-stealer preceded him to the EL and opposing teams spent extra time devising strategies to stop him. Seeing as how he was the only prospect of significance on the team, that would make some sense, although I've never seen that analysis before.
Brown went on to play in the AFL this fall, putting up respectable numbers. He will almost surely be assigned to AAA Fresno to begin the 2013 season and I expect him to do well there. He's had his trial by fire in AA and the PCL is much more like the Cal League in terms of hitting environment.
The one area I have a concern about is his CS rate. He had 19 in 2011 against the 53 SB's and then had 18 in 2012 against the 33 which is quite poor for someone who is supposed to be an elite basestealer. He is going to have to pick up that part of his game as it will have to be a big part of his value as a MLB'er.
The Giants are in full win-now mode and have their roster pretty much set with 4 veteran OF's already signed up. I would expect Brown to be available for a mid-season callup in case of injury or one of the veterans having a severely down season. Otherwise, expect a September cup of coffee and a chance to compete for a starting OF job in 2014.
My own projection for Brown is that he becomes a .270-.280 hitter with some gap power and some SB's with elite defense in CF which translated into a 3.5-4 WAR player. In other words, Dan Gladden with better defense, which is a pretty darn good return for a late first round draft pick. Anything more will be icing on the cake.