Cove Chatter 100: #16

Gary Brown | CF, 25 yo, 6-1, 190, BR, TR | 2010 Draft – 1 (24) | (AAA) 137 G, 608 PA, .231/.286/375, .660 OPS, 13 HR, 17 SB, 11 CS, 33 BB, 135 K

Most of you know the story on Brown, so I’m not going to beat a dead horse. Former top prospect who seems to have lost his way, both at the plate and on the base paths. The numbers tell the story, and they’re a bit alarming. He’s seen his OPS drop from .925 in San Jose to .731 in Richmond, and again to .660 last year in Fresno. Whether it’s his hitting mechanics or his mental approach to the game, something just doesn’t seem right. It sure didn’t help that Brown was literally the only outfielder in Fresno last who didn’t get a chance to help the big club (as Dr Lefty pointed out a while back).

I’ll say this about Brown: For his sake, I hope he doesn’t read what’s being written about him out there. Just or unjust, most of it’s not pretty. But I also hope he knows that the majority of this fan base is on his side, hoping like hell he becomes the player we once expected him to be. Yes, he’s got long odds… but so does every other prospect in baseball. He’s a former 1st round pick who the organization has a lot of money invested in. Eventually, I believe he’ll get his chance… but he has to improve his play for that to happen. Will he be a major league starter? I’d say that’s up to him. When he plays to his potential, he’s got game-changing abilities all over the field. That, my friends, you cannot teach.

The quote below from Bobby Evans almost perfectly sums up my own feelings about Brown. For a guy with his skillset to produce the kinds of numbers he did in Fresno last year, it’s almost like he went to the plate with a completely different mindset. Hitting 8 HR in a month (like Brown did in June) can certainly do that to a player. If Brown is going to succeed at the next level, he’ll need to get back to what got him to this point in the first place. Hit the ball into the gaps, run like hell on the bases, and impact games with your defense and arm. Just my lowly opinion, but I think that’s Brown’s ticket to The Show. Will he punch it? That’s the question everyone wants to know. Let’s hope 2014 is a redemption year for the kid. He sure needs it.

They said it: “He’s not as far away as you might think…Historically he’s a player who doesn’t strike out a lot…He’s got to get back to being who he was. He’s a player who’s got to take advantage of his speed and put the ball in play, and not hit it in the air so much.” ~ Bobby Evans, Giants Assistant GM

Brown video:

Brown video 2:

(MiLB.com)

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6 thoughts on “Cove Chatter 100: #16”

  1. People really get whiplashed getting too high or too low about prospects, particularly top ones. But just because Brown was our top prospect before does not mean that he was all that great then, just like now that he’s struggling, he’s not still a viable prospect either. But that’s how general fans work, like with Randy Winn, they were up, down, up, down, up, down over his career here as a Giant.

    The fact is where Brown was selected, the odds were already against him, few there become good players in the majors, but a good portion do become useful at least. That’s all I’ve really hoped for, that he’ll be useful, particularly after seeing a video of him batting, it looked like he was doing the jitterbug out there. You could just see that he will always be a work in progress.

    I’m still encouraged. I like that he finally tried to change what wasn’t working. I like that he tries to hit for power, I follow Ted Williams Science of Hitting teaching that you swing for power, but yeah, focusing on line drives is better for that power than trying to loft homers. I like that his defense is so good that he probably won’t have to hit for much to contribute as an average player in the majors, which is still pretty good. I hate that it looks like he won’t be much of a base stealer given how much speed he has, but that’s relatively minor nit to pick if he can just get on base an above average number of times, and that’s something he has done most years as an amateur and as a pro, his speed is very useful there even if he never steals that many bases. And players learn, look at how Winn and Pence improved greatly in SB% after joining the Giants, we have good teachers up here.

    What I expect this season is a bit more stability as well as improvement in his batting line, though still some significant up and downs, he’s still learning his new swing mechanics, and I recall Torres mentioning that it took him a full year to process all his new learnings. He’s only 25 YO for this season, so if he can be ready by the end of the 2015 season, he would only be 27 YO for the 2016 season, still young enough to contribute as a starter.

    I still like his chances of being a good enough starter for us. At minimum, I think he can bat enough eventually that his defense more than makes up for his offensive inadequacies, and be a cheap CF option for a good number of years, 3-6, and with the upside that if he ever puts it all together, he can be a high OBP, high SLG CF with great defense. I’ve given up on him being a force as a base stealer, though that’s probably still possible.

    Overall, that’s not bad for a 25th pick, and actually pretty good, as the vast majority even fails to make the majors. And I think he understands Ted Williams type of offensive baseball enough that should he ever figures out MLB pitching, he can be even better.

    But yeah, given how many other interesting prospects we have, particularly among pitchers, and the uncertainties facing him, he probably belongs around this spot on most Giants top prospect lists.

    1. Hey OGC, thanks for the thoughts. By the way, I read your piece on Age vs Level in the Sally. Good stuff, and it really did make me look at my own beliefs about players in the system. Sure, there will always be a few exceptions to any rule, but the numbers really don’t lie.

      I think how you’re feeling about his base-stealing is how I currently see his hit tool. He certainly has room to improve, and should improve at least at the AAA level with another year of experience… but I don’t see him being a force with the bat. My days of viewing him as a potential game-changing leadoff hitter might be over. I still think he can be a starter, but maybe in the mold of Gregor Blanco. Great defense, strong arm, some speed, and the ability to hit for a little pop. But I think he’ll have to prove to me that he can hit and get on base at the highest level. Can he still get there? Of course. But as you say, time to make some adjustments at the plate.

      1. Thanks, glad you liked the post. No problem, you write good stuff, happy to contribute and support you.

        Yeah, you hit the nail on the head, I probably should have put that in my post: the numbers really don’t lie. I mean, maybe someone sees something that really makes a difference, and that’s good, but that don’t mean that you can’t be realistic and understand the enormous odds that prospect is facing, skills or no skills identified.

        Here’s why I’m OK with his hit tool: he’s must have incredible bat speed and control to be able to hit pitches squarely while dancing around like he did in college.

        I’m amazed that they let him continue that up to AAA, but I guess their thinking is much along the lines of how they handled Lincecum: it may be weird and different, but it works where he is, so it becomes a trial and error thing of moving him up until it don’t work anymore, at which point, they reconvene with the player and figure out what needs to change at that point to get him to the majors.

        That’s why I’m OK with his disastrous 2014 and am not calling this year his do or die season as a prospect,. If you recall, I’ve noted Malcolm Gladwell’s article on failure (choking) in pressure situations and how that is related to how some people’s reaction to the pressure is to switch modes of physical movement, basically from muscle memory mode where movement is intuitive to learning mode where you are conscious of every movement as you learn, and you are basically playing like all your learning went out the window. (Sabers have it all wrong, clutch hitting is being able to hit the same in pressure situations, not better, as most studies I’ve see, looked for).

        So in my eyes, his early season was his initial failure, then they started working on changing him mid-season, then as far as I’m concerned, the rest of the season is him in learning mode, and any learner is going to have ups and downs. His initial success with hitting all those homers suggest to me that once he learns his new hitting mechanics and harnesses that, he can be a pretty good hitter with power as well. Of course, not everyone learns to do that consistently, and that’s when the prospect fails to develop further.

        But I’m encouraged by the fact that he has done this before, and with great success. He actually was not that good in his freshman season in college, except for OBP (which his good OBP has always really been driven by his HBP). He was sad there and in Cape Cod. Then in his sophomore year, he was better but not great, very improved, in college and Cape Cod. Then he earned his first round selection with his great junior season, where he outhit Evan Longoria’s best season in that same league, just a few seasons after Evan.

        He was so good a hitter that the value of his BIP (I used the formula for valuing offense that TangoTiger created) was still greater over a 5 PA average than if you had changed all 5 PA (including outs) into walks. People knocked him for not walking, but he showed in prior seasons that he could get on base via hits, walks, and HBP, but he must have intuitively sensed that when you are hitting that well, it is better to hit than take walks and so his walk rate went down, but because he hit so well, his OBP was still superb.

        So, if he follows form, he should see good improvement in the 2014 season, but as he’s still learning (depends on how much work he put into his swing in the off-season, hopefully he was practicing all winter, like Torres did when he reworked his swing), I expect some more ups and downs, but improvement as the season progresses, much like Belt in 2012. Then, again, if follow form, he should be hitting great in early 2015 season and forcing the Giants to make a decision on Pagan in CF (depends on what they do with LF, of course, though I would note that they traded Molina away to clear the way for Posey when he was ready, but I see that as a low probability event, more likely he would need an injury in the majors to bring him up that season, but the Giants will clear the path for him for 2016 spring training, if he develops as I hope he will).

      2. I believe Brown will show improvements this year… I don’t see how his offense could get any worse than what it was last year, honestly… although he did still hit extra bases at a decent rate. If he doesn’t perform this season though, I have to wonder if the organization would still view him as any kind of a long-term plan. You have to hit your way off the island (or onto it, in this case).

        This is a discussion for another day, but I truly believe the “no such thing as clutch” or intangibles, or what have you, argument is bogus. Anyone who has ever played a competitive sport (at ANY level) can tell you there’s a difference between a regular, every day athletic event, and an event when the stakes are high. (Postseason, tournaments, etc.). Your body changes, your emotions change… Heck, I was only a Division 2 tennis player, and even I know that! I have absolutely no doubts that pressure affects even the greatest athletes in the world. My high school tennis coach used to say it all the time… Why did so and so lose that match? They choked. They couldn’t handle the pressure. Professional athletes choke all the time. Even the invincible Clayton Kershaw choked when it mattered most this year. The great ones rise above the pressure. That’s why performances like Bumgarner’s in his 2 WS starts are so impressive. He’s my age, and for him to pitch like that, with so much on the line, is pretty darn amazing. That’s CLUTCH.

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