What Gary Brown has thus far done in Advanced-A San Jose – after a 4-5 game today with two doubles (13) and two more stolen bags (28), he’s now hitting .378/.451/.559 (average/on-base percentage/slugging) for a 1.010 OPS with five home runs – reminds me of the time they dropped Bobby Flay off at a Chevy’s restaurant and said: “Show me what you got.”
He has little more to prove at his current level, and should probably soon head East to Double-A Richmond, where he’ll face much more polished competition in substantially less hitter-friendly environments. Even if he doesn’t hit like a maniac, he has the potential to add a ton of value both in center field and each and every time he reaches first.
He will, however, need to handle the jump better than Brandon Crawford did in 2009, when he went from the California League, where he was hitting .371/.445/.600, to the Eastern League, where he hit just .258/.294/.365 with 100 strikeouts (and just 20 walks) in 423 plate appearances.
There are several reasons to believe that fate would be kinder to Brown, though. Crawford only logged 119 plate appearances before making what proved to be the huge jump. So, the fact that Brown already has exactly 100 more PAs (219) is in his favor. Also, Brown’s .422 average on balls in play (BABiP) is inflated, but not to the extent that Crawford’s was (.493). Not to mention, a player with Brown’s foot speed has a much better chance at producing escalated BABiPs. And finally, Crawford was whiffing at a huge rate of 30.5 percent, while Brown is regularly making contact (16.2 percent strikeout rate).
And while pouring over Brown’s numbers, I also noticed something else that’s a bit odd. He’s been hit nine times already this season, 12 times in 268 career professional plate appearances. Granted, this could be a complete fluke, the creation of a very small sample size. But, there’s potentially something there, and I condone any method that Brown can come up with that safely places him 90 feet from home plate. Craig Biggio, the all-time leader, parlayed this skill into some additional career value. In fact, he reached base via a bruise in 2.28 percent of his plate appearances. Brown has done so in 4.48 percent of plate appearances. Something. Maybe.
Maybe that’s grasping, but I really want to believe in this young spark plug. As Chris has already noted, it wouldn’t take a tremendous amount of hitting ability for Brown to become an excellent contributor. And, forgive me, but Andres Torres is going to get neither younger nor cheaper anytime soon.
Baseball America noted that Brown had the potential to move through the system quickly. It’s a bit early to get too excited, most definitely, but at the very least Brown could allow Bochy, who also has Darren Ford, to switch his rifle for a double-barrel shotgun come September. He’d have not one, but two shots to pinch run one of these speedsters in tight games down the stretch. If one of them – Brown, presumably – can actually hit, well that’d be something.
And the Giants would be awfully prudent to determine, sometime soon, whether Brown is the type of player that ought to be dangled for the likes of a Stephen Drew, Jose Reyes-type player, or if they should immediately slap an “Off Limits – Do Not Touch” sticker on him. Brown taking some swings in Double-A should help the Giants make a tremendously more informed decision.