San Francisco Giants: Allow Gary Brown to compete for left field spot
By Mark ONeill
With the Pablo Sandoval debacle still lingering malodorously around A&T Park, it would behoove San Francisco Giants GM, Brian Sabean, to cleanse the air as thoroughly as possible, and whereas a winning season accomplishes that more effectively than anything else, he must first refurbish his depleted ranks.
The Giants need to fill Pablo’s vacated third base slot, plug up the gap in left field, and acquire a fifth starter for the rotation. With the possibility that Sabean will try to extract a third baseman from within the organization, by either shifting Buster Posey to third, allowing Chris Dominguez to try out for it, or converting Matt Duffy to the hot corner, that leaves left field and a starting pitcher still on the needs list.
Numerous reports have linked the Giants to Jon Lester and Max Scherzer, and of course, no one is ruling out the possibility that Ryan Vogelsong will return to the Giants. Vogelsong worked 188 innings in the just-completed season, and though his postseason numbers did not match up with those of his first postseason experience, that’s not saying much because he was so lights-out in that epic 2012 playoff run.
That leaves left field. Last week, when I wrote a piece, suggesting that Michael Morse and Gregor Blanco might platoon in left field, I failed to take into consideration the fact that Morse’s salary is due to undergo an upgrade, reported to be somewhere in the two-years, 22 million-dollar range, identical to the contract once bestowed upon Aubrey Huff. You might recall how that worked out for San Francisco.
With all of that in mind, MLB’s Richard Justice posted an intriguing article earlier this week, suggesting that the trend recently seems to favor rushing prospects into the fray, the logic being that the good ones are going to be able to adjust, while occasionally, no amount of time will help the also-rans.
Stepping outside the box time, again. Give Gary Brown a shot at making the team as a starting left fielder.
Of course, it goes without saying that no one rule governs all, but bearing that thought in mind, consider the case ofGary Brown
A center fielder during his minor league career, with only a smattering of starts in left, Brown was brought up in September, and had three hits in seven at-bats. He was drafted in 2010, out of Fullerton State, certainly a school with a stellar baseball program, and has played in 550 minor league games, on all levels.
Whereas his .277 batting average and his .342 are more than sufficient, what really draws the spotlight, are his impressive credentials when it comes to demonstrating his speed. He stole 141 bases, and had 28 triples, while hammering out 44 home runs, and 120 doubles, for a .415 slugging percentage.
Oct 16, 2014; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants left fielder Travis Ishikawa (45) runs the bases after hitting a walk off three run home run against the St. Louis Cardinals during the ninth inning of game five of the 2014 NLCS playoff at AT&T Park. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Brown is not completely ready, obviously, or there would be no need to continue the hunt for an outfielder, and he is not a left fielder by trade, but when you consider that Travis Ishikawa had virtually no experience, and he managed to do adequately on the biggest stage in baseball, it piques the imagination.
When one reflects upon the caliber of play demonstrated by the rookies who were called up in September, in the midst of a pennant race, it would appear that the coaching staff at triple-A Fresno has its finger on the pulse of what it takes to make a successful major league contributor.
As a center fielder, Brown’s responsibilities would have included directing traffic in whichever venue he played, experience which would serve him well on the major league level in left field. It would seem patently obvious, that if a player such as Ishikawa, could be called into duty in an unfamiliar position, and succeed, then a player of Brown’s capabilities, could make the adjustment from the more challenging center field, to left.
With Gregor Blanco and Juan Perez in camp during spring training, the Giants should extend to Gary Brown, the opportunity to compete for a starting position. The worst that would happen would be that Blanco would resume a full-time role in left, or work out some kind of platoon arrangement with Brown, in the event that Brown could not handle the complete package.
There are better options in left field than Gregor Blanco, as far as offense goes, but not as far as his glove is concerned. With AT&T Park in mind, if one has to choose between good defense/poor offense (Blanco) or good offense/poor defense (Morse), it would seem as though the difference in defense is more dramatic than that of the offense. Sometimes, adequate has to suffice.
But Gary Brown stands the best chance of providing something beyond just adequate; he provides the opportunity to take the position to the next level, possibly diminishing some of the impact of losing Sandoval.
Consider him an air freshener, if you will.