SAN FRANCISCO – Two disappointing seasons might have stripped Gary Brown of the “center fielder of the future” label. But the Giants aren’t ready to just give him away.
The club added Brown to the 40-man roster on Wednesday, the final opportunity to add players to protect them from being snapped up in the Rule 5 draft next month. They also added right-hander Kendry Flores, third baseman Adam Duvall and right-handed reliever Hunter Stickland.
Right-hander Guillermo Moscoso was designated for assignment.
The moves leave the Giants full at 40, so they’ll need to subtract someone else when they finalize Javier Lopez’s contract. And they’ll obviously need to clear more space when they sign a fifth starter, whether it’s Ryan Vogelsong or Bronson Arroyo or someone else.
They might just say goodbye to an arbitration-eligible player or two that they had planned to non-tender. It’s hard to imagine left-hander Jose Mijares getting an offer, especially once Lopez gets sealed up. And infielder Tony Abreu would appear to be redundant, since the club has Joaquin Arias. Ehire Adrianza will be out of options this spring, too.
Brown, 24, was the Giants’ first round pick in 2010 (24th overall) out of Cal State Fullerton and was ranked as the organization’s top prospect in 2012 after he set a franchise record for hits while batting .336 for Single-A San Jose.
But Brown’s numbers dipped at Double-A Richmond in 2012 as right-handed hitters exploited his unorthodox setup and swing. A promotion to the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League didn’t help this past season, as he struggled to make adjustments while hitting .231 with a .286 on-base percentage.
Brown hasn’t been very good at other aspects that a leadoff hitter should master; he has been caught stealing 49 times in 154 attempts in his minor league career, and isn’t particularly good at bunting or taking walks. His speed makes him an asset in center field, but he’s not as good as Juan Perez, who dazzled in limited big league action this past season.
Brown showed more of a willingness to make adjustments toward the end of last season, minor league hitting coordinator Steve Decker told me last week. He said he still thinks Brown can be a productive big leaguer. The Giants, obviously, have a huge need in the outfield right now and they aren't confident they'll be able to acquire an everyday left fielder via trade or free agency. Brown probably can't win a job this spring. But a strong showing and a more complete approach against right-handed pitching could help to put him back on the map, and you can bet the Giants are hoping that's exactly what will happen.
The other additions weren’t a big surprise. Flores had a breakout year at Low-A Augusta, posting a 2.73 ERA to outperform first-round pick Chris Stratton as the GreenJackets’ ace. He posted an unreal 8-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio (137 to 17 in 141.2 innings) and struck out 15 in a start at Lexington on Aug. 21. Scouts say Flores’ stuff has a limited ceiling, though.
Duvall does not look pretty in the batter’s box but his fly balls carry over the fence. He hit .252/.320/.465 for Double-A Richmond with 17 home runs, and was really tearing it up for Margarita in the Venezuelan winter league.
Strickland came to the Giants on a waiver claim from the Pirates last year and needed Tommy John surgery, but his stuff is as electric as anyone’s in the system. Clearly, he’s a project that still intrigues Giants vice president and resident pitching guru Dick Tidrow.
Without going into every dimension of the rule, players must be protected on a club’s 40-man roster after spending a certain amount of time in the organization – three years for college draftees, for example – or they can be plucked away by another club in the Rule 5 draft for a $50,000 claiming price.
Any player selected in the major league phase of the draft must remain on that club’s active roster for the entirety of the following season, or be offered back for half the claiming price.