#7. Gary Brown – CF, 24 yo, AAA: Brown, like Joe Panik, is a former first round pick who’s seen his stock drop recently. Brown was the Giants’ top prospect as recently as last year, but that distinction is now reserved for pitcher Kyle Crick. As far as position players go, Brown is still rated very high, but I think there are a couple of guys who have moved ahead of him. Drafted in 2010 out of Cal State-Fullerton, his calling has always been speed, contact and defense (the speed being his elite-level tool.) The Giants drafted him with the intention that he’d be their CF and leadoff hitter for many years, as his quirky bat flashed .300 potential with gap power. He did nothing to dispel those beliefs during his first full season of pro ball, hitting .336 with 14 HR, 13 3B, 34 2B and 53 SB for San Jose in 2011. That performance earned him a #38 ranking on the Baseball America Top 100 prior to the 2012 season. Visions of Brown winning the starting CF gig in San Francisco by 2013 filled the heads of many Giants’ fans.
Those lofty visions have faded a bit since then, as Brown’s numbers took a hit in Richmond last season, and his performance through the first half in Fresno has been disappointing so far. He’s seen his OPS dip from .925 (’11) to .731 (’12) to .724 (’13) over a three-year span. He also saw his SB dip to 33 last season and only 12 through 92 games at AAA this year. For a guy with elite speed, 12-21 in SB attempts is a bit concerning. While Brown has not hit for average this season, he does have 11 home runs, including 8 in the month of June alone. He’s already broken his career high for strikeouts in roughly half a season, however, so maybe he’s changed his approach at the plate. Whatever the case, the Giants have said that he’ll need to prove he can hit righties if he wants to play in the big leagues. His defense and arm are still very good, but it’s the bat that might end up keeping him from being a MLB starter. Brown is an old-school type of guy who plays with a chip on his shoulder, and I think he will eventually find a way to prove those who jumped off his bandwagon wrong.