"This guy is going to be a big-league ballplayer," San Jose manager Andy Skeels said. "There's no doubt about it. He has everything he needs, and I don't think he needs anybody else to tell him that."
"I've still got more to learn, but I think I've shown what I'm capable of doing," he said. "Hopefully I can clean my up some of my mistakes in the Fall League and carry it into next season."
Skeels, the San Jose manager, believes the organization has earned the benefit of the doubt when it comes to grooming talent. He notes that players such as Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval and Madison Bumgarner all thrived in San Francisco from the moment they arrived.
"Once we determine that Gary's ready, he really will be ready," Skeels said. "He's a focused player who understands all the noise is meaningless. And he shares a lot of the same traits with Buster and Bumgarner. This kid competes."
Brown concedes that he's not happy about one thing he heard this season.
"People keep saying I'm a singles hitter," said Brown, who is 6-foot-1, 190 pounds. "Maybe they think that because I'm a leadoff man, but that's not me. I've been a gap hitter my whole life. So that gets me a little riled up."Please click on the title for whole post
I agree with Skeels, I don't see it as "if" he'll be in the majors, more rather "when". I also like his attitude, same as it was when he was first drafted and then signed: humble, realize that there is a lot he needs to learn to make the majors, got a bit of a chip on his shoulder. I find that players who can find that chip that drives them to maximize their talents are ones to bet on to do something.
Of course, first, he has to have the talent, and he does, his speed, his defensive abilities, and a talent that many misinterpreted, his ability to adjust his batting approach to what the league is giving him. As I showed in my analysis when he was drafted, he is able to adjust how he bats to what the league will give him. The net result, at every level he has played on in college and the pros, is that he ends up with a high OBP that he leverages with his speed.
On top of that, he is pushing himself to be beyond the stereotyped speedster who don't walk much or hit for much power, he not only can take the walks as necessary to keep his OBP high (plus lean into pitches to get a high amount of HBP which also boosts his OBP greatly at whatever level he has been at), but he is looking to provide power as well, which is what you ideally want from your leadoff hitter: ability to get on base at a high rate (whether by hit, walk, or HBP), ability to steal bases to get a rally started (which gets back to the first point, you can't steal to get in scoring position if you don't get on base in the first place), and the ability to hit for extra-base hit power, so that you can drive in any runners that happen to be ahead of you from the bottom of the batting order.
He had a good but not great season in San Jose: .336/.407/.519/.925. For example, last year two 22 YO did better in Cal League, Brandon Belt (1.125 OPS) and Paul Goldschmidt (.990 OPS), while two others, Albert Cartwright (.932 OPS) and Kyle Seager (.921 OPS). Albert was out, I guess with an injury, and actually Seager made the majors with Seattle this season, though he had trouble hitting.
The prior season, James Darnell (.930 OPS) struggled in AA in 2010, then did well in 2011 before struggling in AAA, at age 24. And this is roughly the same talent level, good for around 15th in the league in OPS each of the seasons. And it varies, Jon Gaston had a .966 OPS but has struggled the last two seasons in AA while Posey with a .967 OPS had, well, done pretty well last season. Of course, big difference probably because Posey had few K's and equal BB, while Gaston struck out a lot lot more (164 in 518 AB). Jason Castro (.916 OPS) has done OK as well, making the majors, albeit with the Astros.
So how well did Brown do in bat command? 77 K's in 559 AB equals 86% contact rate, which is the minimum level (85%) for good contact. He only had 46 walks but still a decent 60% BB/K rate because of his low strikeout rate, which he supplemented greatly with 23 HBP (tied for league among top 100 in OPS, third had 16, fourth 15, and a couple tied at 14). His ISO was 183 in a league where the average was 153 (almost 20% better).
Still, he was mostly in the low .800 OPS for the first half of the season (having a really bad June), but then he really turned it on the last three months of the 2011 season, in addition to reducing his strikeout rate (see his month by month stats on First Inning). So that is very encouraging.
If he can do well in the AFL this season, he could jump to AAA to start the 2012 season, which could line him up for promotion to the majors by mid-season, assuming he continues to excel offensively and defensively, while the Giants current CF and leadoff options (currently just Andres Torres and Darren Ford, and perhaps Justin Christian) continue to struggle into 2012.
Speaking of which, I would put it at 50-50 that Cody Ross resigns with the Giants, I can't see any team offering him a multi-year contract after two overall down seasons in 2010 and 2011, on the wrong side of 30, but the Giants probably won't be able to offer him anything more than $2-3M, much like Huff before the 2010 season, because of the need to pay Lincecum big money (probably Sanchez as well; he has Boras as his agent) plus some of their relievers. Some team might be willing to offer at least that much while giving him a starting job, something the Giants will not be offering him, just a chance to compete for a spot.
Speaking of which again, there are not any good options on the free agent market for leadoff hitters. In CF, Nate McLouth and Coco Crisp are the best options there, but both have serious issues, McLouth performance, Crisp injury. At SS, Jose Reyes is the star option for leadoff but there is just not enough team payroll budget to cover him and still keep our young pitchers, a sacrifice I'm not willing to endorse. We need to keep our pitchers long-term. Other options include Rafael Furcal and Jimmy Rollins. Age and potential injury problems are the main issues there, particular for Furcal, who is 35 YO next season (Rollins 33 next season).
Rollins, an Alameda native and Giants fan when he was young appears to be the best option here to get a SS who can bridge us to when Crawford is ready to hit in the majors, either 2013 or 2014. He's been making $8.5M per year, but his stats have not been stellar the past few years, suggesting a repeat of the Miguel Tejada experience (though Rollins is younger and more motivated and excited to be a Giants player), with a DeRosa sized contract, two years at $12M ($6M per season) plus maybe an option. If he's as gung-ho as Burrell was, maybe he'll take a little less to play for his boyhood team (but he hasn't made the money that Burrell has made). But his downward slide is a big warning sign, along with the missed games. And I'm not sure if he would cost a first round pick, I would not give up a first round pick to get him either.
I know Giants fans are against contracts like this but if Crawford hits .183/.263/.246/.509, like he did after his first week in the majors, we'll have another bad year offensively in 2012, even with Buster Posey back. We need to take a chance on some SS, particularly if Crawford does not hit that well in the AFL. Crawford has hit better since getting regular starts the past couple of weeks, starting 10 out of the last 15 games, hitting .216/.293/.324/.617, which is probably just bad enough to not be countered by his great defense. The good news is that he is still controlling the zone well, only 6 K's in 37 AB, with 4 BB's, but still horrible BABIP of .233 (which is really bad, average hitters are at .300 BABIP).
That is what teams have to do when their young prospects do not look ready, they have to sign medium to high priced veterans to try to ensure a minimum level of production at a certain position, whether lineup or fielding. That is the game teams have to play because there is no way to supply all of your lineup and starting rotation from the farm system, that is just how the business of baseball works. And just because another team later on gets a similar or better position player for a low price does not mean that the price of that player was that low when the Giants made their move, sometimes teams overplay their hand and are left accepting a very low offer in the end. For a great example of that, see how the Twins went from selecting from the Yankees and Red Sox's best prospects to accepting so-so prospects from the Mets.
We'll have a better gauge of how good or bad Crawford is right now with his performance in the AFL. If he hits really well, he could probably start 2012 in AAA and be ready by 2013, but I fear that he'll only be average at best and thus end up in AA instead and probably won't be ready until 2014. Even if he figures things out faster than expected, the Giants could still use Rollins as backup plan at 2B, where we are not sure how Freddy Sanchez will handle things, and he could also blow himself out of the season, again, even if he starts out healthy enough. That is his history and, unfortunately, he's probably going to do that again. And Panik and Posey are still far away from being ready for 2B at the major league level (Posey because he is so good as a catcher and still young).