Giants fans desperate for a cure-all to the team’s offensive woes have started to murmur about fast-tracking top prospect Gary Brown to the big leagues this season.
Since Brown has yet to play a game above the advanced-A level, such a promotion seems unlikely until next spring at the earliest. But all indications are that the slick-hitting center fielder will be well worth the wait.
Meanwhile, a tantalizing appetizer is currently being served an hour to the south, where Brown is turning heads nearly every game as a member of the San Jose Giants, the organization’s high-A affiliate.
The 2010 first-round draft pick out of Cal State-Fullerton has laid wreckage to California League pitching throughout his first full season as a pro. After going 3 for 5 with two triples and three RBIs in an 18-4 home win over the High Desert Mavericks on Monday night, Brown is batting .323. He leads the league with 161 hits and 12 triples, and ranks second in runs (97).
As a leadoff batter, Brown features impressive pop; he’s also in the top 10 in total bases (242) and on-base-plus-slugging (.879).
“He’s a very smart, intelligent hitter—knows his limitations,” said San Jose hitting coach Gary Davenport, who highlighted Brown’s mental makeup in several phases of the game. “He knows when he’s getting into a bad habit. He’s one of those guys who can make at-bat adjustments.”
Brown (47 steals) also makes the most of his exceptional speed on the bases and as a game-changing defensive player. “He does a delayed steal as good as anyone I’ve ever seen,” Davenport said.
“(His) defense in the outfield is plus-plus because he has so much range,” said San Jose second baseman Ryan Cavan, who lauded his teammate as “an amazing player.” “He’s able to run down balls ordinary outfielders don’t get to. He takes away hits from players, and it’s really fun to watch.”
Brown’s superior play has fans and talking heads buzzing about when the organization will next promote him and when he might get the call to AT&T Park. The top Giants hitting prospects of the last few years—Pablo Sandoval, Buster Posey and Brandon Belt—all needed at least 35 games at Double- or Triple-A before making their major league debut, suggesting Brown is ticketed for San Francisco at some point in the 2012 season.
But Brown, 22, wants no part of that discussion, preferring instead to hone his craft to “be a good baseball player” in earnest.
“I have no idea,” he said when asked if he has heard how club officials view his development and path through the minors. “That’s not for them to communicate to me. So we don’t talk about that.”
Brown, who boasts a .394 on-base percentage, was particularly pleased he has improved in “seeing pitches” and walking this season, although he is quick to add, “Obviously I’m a hitter. I don’t go up there to walk.”
“I feel good,” Brown said in assessing a season that includes three hitting streaks of at least 12 games. “I’m making my adjustments, and I have a bad game and I feel I can pick it up and turn it into a good game the next game quicker. And that’s what I want out of this year, that’s what I want out of every year, is just for me to be able to make adjustments and continue to get better.”
When asked what aspect of the game he enjoys most, Brown didn’t even wait for the end of a reporter’s question before interjecting, “Winning. Winning.”
“The ‘W,’” he added with a laugh.
From that standpoint, Brown had a particularly keen eye on the parent club’s World Series run last fall.
“It was exciting. I want to be in a winning organization. I want to be able to compete and I want to be a part of a city and a movement like San Francisco,” he said. “Obviously you can’t help but dream about being there soon. And those are the things you look forward to. But that was definitely, definitely fun to watch.”
Davenport, who played an important role in the rapid ascensions of Sandoval, Posey and Belt, leaves no doubt that he feels Brown is well on his way to fulfilling his promise as the organization’s latest elite hitting prospect.
“We’ve had a lot of movement from this team. And I think Gary Brown is a very polished player,” the hitting coach said. “It really would not surprise me if he’s in the starting outfield with our big club in the next couple years.”