Once a promising prospect, Gary Brown‘s time with the San Francisco Giants organization has possibly come to end as he was designated for assignment on Tuesday, March 31.
Brown, 26, earned a September call-up and performed admirably during the final month of the 2014 regular season, hitting .429. His speed potential also earned him a spot on the Giants’ roster for the National League Wild Card game against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
It appeared that Brown was working his way back into the Giants’ future plans after a couple of difficult seasons in the minor leagues, which meant that the 2015 spring training was crucial to his future within the organization. At the start of spring training, Brown was one of several players vying for a chance to make the Giants’ 25-man Opening Day roster as a fourth outfielder. An injury to right-fielder Hunter Pence gave the former top-100 prospect an even better chance to earn a roster spot. But Brown under-performed during Cactus League play, slashing .154/.250/.256 with one home run, which opened the door for other players to leave their mark on management.
One of the players that left indelible mark of the Giants’ management team was 31-year-old Justin Maxwell, who was a non-roster invitee to spring training. Maxwell, who has played for the Washington Nationals, Houston Astros and Kansas City Royals, excelled during Cactus League action with a slash line of .349/.382/.540. He also contributed two home runs, four doubles, 14 RBI and 10 runs scored.
Thanks to his performance, Maxwell earned a spot on the 25-man roster for Opening Day. But, to make room, Maxwell needed to be added to the Giants’ 40-man roster, which meant someone needed to be removed. The decision to remove the underperforming Brown was made, thus, leading to his designation for assignment and making him available to other teams. If Brown is not claimed by another MLB team he will be able to report to Triple-A Sacramento for the start of the minor league season.
While it can be viewed as a difficult decision for an organization to potentially give up on a player that was drafted in the first round just five years ago, it seems that, by performance alone, the decision to keep Maxwell over Brown was a pretty easy choice to make.
When drafted, Brown was expected to be a top-of-the-order type hitter that would get on base and wreak havoc against opposing batteries. But, the former 24th pick in the 2010 MLB First-Year-Player-Draft is not your prototypical lead-off hitter. While he is known for his speed, which most scouting analysts have as a 70 on the 20-80 scale, Brown does not produce a high success rate when it comes to swiping bases. During his minor league career, Brown has succeeded stealing a base 67.1 percent of the time (141-for-201). He was unable to show an improved approach to base stealing this spring, swiping three bags in six attempts.
Brown’s struggles stealing bases are a concern, but so is his inability to adhere to the teachings of Giants’ hitting coach Hensley Muelens, who has tried to get Brown to shorten his swing and develop a better approach at the plate that could lead to consistent contact and plate discipline. After a successful first full season in the minors where Brown hit .336, the former prospect has seen a steady decline in the batting average department while his strikeout totals climbed.
Brown hit rock bottom during the 2013, slashing .231/.286/.375 with 135 strikeouts.
The former Future Games participant started to show signs of figuring things out during the 2014 season, bouncing back with a slash line of .271/.329/.394, while cutting his strikeouts down to 119.
Unfortunately for Brown, he was unable to carry the momentum of the 2014 season into spring training this year. If he wants to make it back to the Major Leagues, he will have to hope another team sees enough potential in him to offer a contract or if he clears waivers he can earn a spot back with the Giants, with the latter scenario seeming less likely.