Gary Brown, 24, has been the Giants’ most hyped up prospect since they drafted him in 2010. And considering the success that San Francisco has found through the process of drafting and refining homegrown players, there is always elation when someone is tabbed as special.
Top prospects are generally expected to speed through the minor leagues and muster themselves into the middle of a starting lineup. Of course, that’s not always the case. The Giants have been down that road as well, and it’s a undoubtedly a painful one.
The world champions selected Emmanuel Burriss 33rd in the 2006 draft, and he never molded into the starting infielder they projected him to be . Instead, they cut him lose a few weeks ago, and he has quietly taken his talents to the Reds.
Perhaps a faded memory by now, but Jason Grilli, who the Giants selected fourth in the 1997 draft, never made it to the majors with the Giants. Though with six other teams, he has compiled a dreadful 4.34 earned run average (ERA) in ten years. So, a lost cause in that faulty pick.
However, it’s safe to say that the Giants have struck gold over the past decade, in terms of successful draft first round picks. All-star Matt Cain was selected in 2002, two-time Cy Young award winner Tim Lincecum in 2006, Madison Bumgarner in 2007, and 2012 National League MVP winner Buster Posey in 2008. You might as well forget the two World Series trophies if the Giants looked passed them in their respective drafts.
And while Brown looked to be well on his way to joining the “successful” group, his concerning 2012 campaign has offset that bold prediction.
If we were talking about dangling Brown last year, well, actually we wouldn’t be because he was the most coveted prospect in the Giants’ organization. His value was about as high as it could possibly be, and he was seemingly the future of San Francisco’s outfield. Not only did the speedy Brown triple slash for .336/.407/.519 with a .925 OPS, but he also tacked on a not so shabby 14 home runs and 80 RBIs. No, that line or those power numbers were not expected, to be sure, which makes his suspect 2012 season a tad more worrisome. The word “fluke” comes to mind.
To be specific, his overall stats in 2011 weren’t terrible thanks to a couple months of productive at-bats to end his season. Brown triple slashed for .279/.347/.385 with a .731 OPS. However, his home run output was sliced in half from a year ago, as was his RBI total of 42 (roughly). Plus, his dangerous speed endured a setback too, as Brown only stole 23 bases compared to his 53 total in 2011. Basically, he performed like the Giants expected him to perform a year earlier, except vice versa. Instead, he took a step back, which raises a crucial question.
Why is he so highly regarded?
Because his speed and defensive abilities are off the charts. The scouts love those two tools, don’t get me wrong. Now, anytime scouts hear speed and defense tagged to the same player, they instantly think Mike Trout. Except, Brown is no Mike Trout.
So, outside of those two traits, Brown is a mystery that’s yet to be fully solved. Or more simply, he is an “if he can hit” player. Generally speaking, hitters that fall into that category never pan out to be much because they aren’t a sure thing. Perhaps the most reasonable comparison would be Gregor Blanco, who falls into a similar category. You would have to think that the Giants are hoping for a little more from their first round pick, however.
Additionally, the Giants could run into trouble finding a place for him when he is ready to go.
Let’s assume that general manager Brian Sabean extends Angel Pagan for three more years, at least. That type of extension would instantly delay Brown’s progress. If the Giants really needed Brown, they could temporarily stick him in left field where he played a few games in the wake of Melky Cabrera’s suspension in August. Up to that point, though, Brown had no prior experience in left field which tells us that he’s is not a center fielder by nature .
In other words, Pagan’s status will likely determine Brown’s future with the Giants. If he signs elsewhere, then centerfield could be Brown’s job to lose as soon as spring training. That is , if the Giants don’t sign a stop-gap. Those are two big “if’s”, however.
And on the flip side, if the Giants do retain Pagan, then Brown will have a steep hill to climb to garner a permanent starting role, and the Giants would probably be better off dealing him while he is still young and his value is still relatively high.
Trading Brown so early in his hyped up career would certainly be a gamble. The hype has not left the building either. But the Giants would be better off dealing him if they are able to keep Pagan around for a few more years instead of running the risk of Brown becoming a career minor leaguer due to a lack of vacancies.