This Giants team is a mess. That much is obvious. They’re 11-24 since June 1st, nine games under .500 and 6.5 games out of first in the NL West. They’ve been hurt by injuries and ineffectiveness. The pitching has actually rebounded from a dreadful start to be somewhat respectable, but they can’t hit at all.
The outfield has been of particular concern. The outlook is bleak for Pagan returning this season, and the team has had to plug that hole by playing Gregor Blanco and Andres Torres a lot more than they’d like, particularly Torres. Now, Torres is a hero in SF, and rightfully so, after his 2010 season, but this year he looks…well, he looks like a 35-year-old. He can’t hit righties at all (.571 OPS this year), and he’s looked shaky on defense. To help Torres out, the following players have constituted a sort of revolving door of fifth outfielders: Francisco Peguero, Juan Perez, Cole Gillespie, and now Kensuke Tanaka. In addition, the team signed Jeff Francoeur and assigned him to Fresno; he’ll be up within the week.
The purpose of this post isn’t to talk about the various pluses and minuses of the players named above, nor is it to propose a solution to the left field problem. It is to make a simple point: Gary Brown is not the answer. Gary Brown is not ready.
I’ve seen some rumblings around the internet that the Giants should call up “top prospect” Gary Brown to be the next option, either in left or in center (pushing Blanco to left). This is a bad idea. Gary Brown is, right now, not a viable option for playing time in San Francisco.
There are two big reasons for this: one, Gary Brown isn’t that good right now, and two, Gary Brown is still a prospect.
First, Gary Brown has had an up-and-down year in AAA. His April was dreadful (.535 OPS) and his May, while better, was still pretty bad (.692 OPS). Sometime in early June Brown sat down with Fresno hitting coach Russ Morman and Giants’ coordinator of minor league instruction Shane Turner, and whatever they talked about worked. He’s hit .285/.335/.536 in 164 PA since June 1st. 8 of his 11 home runs this year have come since the start of June. These are all good things. That being said he has a 38-to-9 strikeout-to-walk ratio since June 1st, and a 91-to-23 ratio overall this season. He’s striking out a lot – even when he’s hitting the ball well – and he’d certainly continue to do that in SF.
He also isn’t hitting righties. This year he’s .240/.298/.409 against them, and for his career he hasn’t been much better. Torres also isn’t hitting righties – making a Torres/Brown platoon rather ineffective – and this is the sort of thing he should work on in Fresno.
It’s worth pointing out as well that all of the players I mentioned above , the cast of characters that have paraded in and out of the fifth-outfield spot, has performed better in Fresno than Brown. Brown’s .723 OPS in Fresno is lower than Tanaka’s (.786), Gillespie’s (.816), Perez’s (.838), and Peguero’s (.762), as well as Roger Kieschnick’s (.816) who may also get a shot sometime between now and September.
Which leads me to my second point: Gary Brown is still a prospect. Sure, the prospect sheen of 2012, when he was Baseball America’s #38 overall prospect, has faded, but he’s still a 24-year-old in his third professional season. He’s a developing player who still has a lot of developing to go. Developing doesn’t happen at the end of the bench in San Francisco, it happens by getting four or five plate appearances per day in Fresno.