Gary Brown - CF - Giants - Gary Brown can certainly fly, but it's not under anybody's radar after his 2011 season. Drafted in the first round, Brown earned the title of Giants top prospect both due to lack of viable alternatives and to his monstrous .336/.407/.519 slash line. His top tools is his incredible speed, rating above a 70, if not reaching 80 on the 20-80 scouting scale. That's not all he brings to the table though, as his defense would play in the majors right now, and he even shows glimpses of future power.
Despite his phenomenal stat line in 2011, questions still remain on Brown's long-term ability at the dish. While his slash line would indicate both patience and power, the reality is that he still has work to do on his approach at the plate, since he will likely be cast as a leadoff man due to his speed. I'm not a believer in his power long term, despite the impressive slugging and ISO (.128) rates in 2011. Playing in the California League, Brown was able to take advantage of the hitter friendly environments, and I think his power takes a big step back in 2012. Brown did well to hit for the power he did while making contact at a high rate, recording a strikeout rate of only 12.1% while balancing that with a solid walk rate of 7.2%. The walk rate is adequate, but to truly take advantage of his speed and become a force in the majors, he would do well to refine his approach a bit more and try get it to the double digits. Where Brown will make his impact in the fantasy game, is in the steals category. You're forgiven if you mistook him for John Dillinger as he stole 53 bases last season, at a 73.6% clip, but hey...Dillinger got caught too... Another thing to remember about Brown's monster of a season; he was 22 for the whole year, and while that's not far too old for Hi-A, there was little reason for him to spend the entire year at the Hi-A level. It's not really fair to hold that against him as he did all he could to force a promotion, but it does need to be considered when evaluating his season.
In terms of tools, Brown's best is the aforementioned speed, and he uses it to get to first base as much as he does once he's there. He's been recorded as fast as 3.7 seconds down the line on a bunt, coming from the right side. Brown is able to make consistent contact and put that speed to use by generating impressive bat speed through his quick wrists. His bat speed allows him to get around on inside pitches and display a bit of pull power, though his swing isn't suited for power down the line and despite the quickness of his bat, he doesn't do a good job of letting the ball get deep before turning on it. That his swing isn't geared for power might be a good thing for him in the end. The road to the majors is littered with speed prospects who sold out for power and failed along the way. Aside from his speed, Brown's instincts and arm play well in centerfield, and his defense will be a huge part of his value in the majors. This doesn't do us much favors in fantasyland, but if it keeps him in the lineup and on the basepaths, who are we to complain?
The future is bright for Gary Brown. I'm not a huge fan of him in terms of fantasy, but the facts are in his favor. He's likely to provide huge value in steals, and will find playing time plentiful given his defensive value and the dearth of options around him. Brown should be able to crack the majors by 2014, though it might be a little later given the conservative route the Giants have taken with him. 2012 will be a big year for him in regards to the development of the bat, as both his age and hitting environment gave rise to questions as to how good his performance really was in 2011. Even with those questions, Brown projects as a useful piece in fantasy leagues and more than that in the majors. If his bat is for real, then we'll be talking about one of the more complete players in the majors leagues and a fantasy force. All that said, I'd settle for a .300 hitter with gap power, plus defense and 50+ steals any day of the week.