Hello, everyone. Thanks for the warm welcome on Bay City Ball. I’m bringing you a post today that will become a regular feature on the blog: the prototype prospect mailbag.
Today’s post contains responses to questions left on the blog by two fellows, Curtis and Liem (if you don’t mind me using your names, gents).
Curtis asked about Eric Surkamp’s velocity and about Gary Brown’s patience against right-handers.
Liem also asked about Brown: in particular, Brown’s stolen base percentage in the Cal League versus his stat at Cal State Fullerton.
I can’t recall specifics on Surkamp’s velocity but I know it’s never been a selling point for his game. My colleague Kevin Cunningham made a scouting trip out to Richmond, where Surkamp has pitched all year, and reported to me that the lefty was throwing 89. I hope that helps, Curtis.
Brown is a curious case, in terms of these questions thrown at me. I noted that Brown is facing almost no left-handed pitching this year. 78 of his 455 at-bats have been against LHP. As far as patience goes, in the classical sense I gauge that by K/BB ratio for hitters unless I’m specifically watching them at the plate. I have not watched Brown for that specific aspect, but I will in future visits to San Jose Muni.
That said, Brown’s K/BB ratio overall is 65/35, with a 54/28 split against right-handers. Not terrible, but not cause for panic. I interviewed Brown a few times this year and asked him about sitting against lefties, and he didn’t have a reason for it.
Curtis also pointed out Brown’s age (23) and his existence in a hitter’s league (also true). But I think many people either miss or don’t know that SJ Muni is a pitcher’s park, so that will skew the numbers a bit. As for age, I don’t subscribe to age per level as fervently as others might. I give Brown a break as he was a senior when he was drafted and had three full years of pro ball, plus he signed late. This is his first full season. He wasn’t a super high profile dude when drafted compared to the other high first round talent. Pushing him to a higher level right now wouldn’t be my first option, if I had a say in developing him.
The big question Curtis had, and something probably on the minds of our readers, is Brown’s future projection. Is he destined to be a fourth outfielder or platoon type guy? His numbers do not jump off the page. I don’t think they have to for a guy to be a solid everyday Major League player. I also think that Advanced-A isn’t the true proving ground of pro ball, for any organization. If Brown is still sitting against LHP and not walking as well in Richmond in 2012, then we can ask about his viability as an everyday outfielder.
Liem cites Brown’s steal percentage of 44 stolen bases in 59 attempts as mediocre. Brown is second in the league in steals, behind High Desert outfielder Daniel Carroll, who has 51 steals in 64 attempts. Carroll also has 138 strikeouts and 66 walks in about 50 fewer at-bats than Brown. I’ll take Brown right now over those crazy high strikeout numbers.
When looking over the raw numbers, something caught my eye. Lake Elsinore outfielder Reymond Fuentes similar numbers to Brown; 36 steals, decent walk rate at 98 strikeouts to 40 walks, and 100+ hits. Here’s the interesting thing: Fuentes came over to San Diego in the Adrian Gonzalez trade and instantly became a top five prospect in a system that was downright depressing before they netted three elite guys for A-Gon. Here’s a guy who was never supposed to hit for power, and still has not. Brown has shown some pop; he’s tied for fourth on the team in homers with 9 and has 26 doubles, more than most of the stolen base leaders in the league.
Brown has proven himself as having more tools than just the 80 speed. That makes him a better prospect in my eyes.
Anyway, since the question was about Brown’s steal rate, in particular how his 2011 stolen base rate compares to that of his career rate at Fullerton, we’ll address that. He was 32 for 37 in stolen base attempts his senior year at Fullerton, 23 for 31 as a junior in 2009, and 25 for 28 as a sophomore in 2008. He had about 200-250 at-bats each year in college. He’s well over 400 this year and has doubled his steal totals.
I’d chalk up the decline in rate to a higher sample size. There appears to be nothing wrong with his game at the plate or on the basepaths.
I’d like to keep these posts up once a week. Send your questions to me on the blog, via email (email@example.com), or on Twitter (chelmrtz). I’ll do my best to research and answer your queries. Look for your questions and my answers next week!