Farm Focus: Brown poised for future leadoff role

Farm Focus: Brown poised for future leadoff role

Aug. 19, 2011

Rael Enteen

The Giants of the last few years havent shied away from leaning heavily on their farm system to produce impact players. Never was that more obvious than in 2010, when a heavily homegrown roster led the team to its first world championship in San Francisco history.The rash of injuries to the 2011 squad, however, has done a number to the Giants already depleted system. To start the year, the Giants minor league affiliates didnt boast top talent because all the big names were contributing at the big-league level. Now in August, the top pitching prospect, Zack Wheeler, is gone, shipped to the Mets in exchange for a banged-up slugger. Thomas Neal, another one of the teams more heralded prospects, is a casualty of win-now trades made at the deadline.While the Giants continue to struggle at the plate and deal with a question mark in the No. 5 starter spot and injuries in the bullpen, some of the kids down on the farm may be forced to abandon their slow and steady development path in exchange for a last-minute ticket to the big leagues.Line of the Month: Gary Brown since July 18: .342 AVG, 23 R, 3 HR, 10 RBI, 3 2B, 4 3B, 81 SBCS, 1010 KBBWith the trade that sent Zack Wheeler to the Mets, Gary Brown immediately became the obvious choice as the Giants top prospect. Even before the trade, Browns production with Single-A San Jose had him in the same conversation as the highly-touted Wheeler.Originally drafted by the Oakland A's in the 12th round of the 2007 MLB Draft, Brown opted for a college career at Cal State Fullerton, where he hit .438 in 2010, before being drafted in the first round by the Giants.After being drafted, Brown played in only 12 games in 2010 between the Arizona rookie league and Low-A Salem-Keizer. He hit just .159 in 44 at bats, but started 2011 hot and hasnt let up. His line over the last month is impressive, but its not that off from what hes been doing all season: .319 AVG, .391 OBP, 47 extra-base hits and 46 steals.At just 22, Brown needs more seasoning at higher levels of the minor leagues before getting a call to the Giants. However, the defending champs are in desperate need of a leadoff hitter, where Brown projects to spend the majority of his career.With premium speed and a disciplined plate approach, Brown looks like the long-term answer at the top of the Giants order. Its rare to see such a young player taking that many walks this early in his minor league career. If Brown can carry his nearly-.400 on-base percentage with him to the higher levels, stolen base opportunities should not be hard to find, and with his speed, a 50-to-60 steal season in the big leagues is not out of the question.In the Spotlight: Brandon Crawford wasnt truly in the spotlight until he got a call-up to the Giants in late May. A fourth-round pick in 2008, Crawford was an exciting shortstop possibility for the future, not for now. Following a storybook grand slam in his debut, Crawford struggled at the plate and was eventually sent down to Triple-A Fresno.Considering Crawford never played above Double-A ball until his call to the Giants, his .308 line with the Grizzlies in 14 games since his demotion is very impressive. The defensive whiz out of UCLA and born inMountain View also has one home run and four steals to start his Triple-A career.Depending on the productivity and health of Miguel Tejada and Orlando Cabrera, the Giants could decide that Crawfords plus glove makes up for his offensive deficiencies and give him another shot in the big leagues.Under the Radar: At one time, Max Ramirez was In the Spotlight on some other teams farm systems he appeared in both the 2007 and 2008 All-Star Futures Games. After stints in both the majors and minors with the Braves, Indians, Rangers, Astros and Cubs, the right-handed hitting catcher, 26, found his way to the Giants. With the Giants still having a hard time getting offensive production out of the catcher position since the Buster Posey injury, Ramirezs .333 batting average and .586 slugging percentage with the Grizzlies should stand out. However, the Giants have demonstrated a hesitance to let a new catcher, unfamiliar with the teams All-Star pitching staff, take over. While the relationship between a pitcher and his catcher cannot be underscored, the waiver wire seems void of catching options and the Giants may be forced to re-evaluate their stance if the Chris StewartEli Whiteside platoon continues to struggle at the plate.

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Quakes' 3-0 loss to Sounders


Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Quakes' 3-0 loss to Sounders


What a difference a week makes.

The San Jose Earthquakes entered their two-game, coast-to-coast swing of road games in playoff position. 

But now, after a 5-1 loss to the Red Bulls in the middle of last week and on Sunday, a 3-0 loss to the Seattle Sounders, the Quakes are in seventh place in the Western Conference -- on the outside looking in. 

Here are five takeaways from defeat number nine on the season:

-- For the first 53 minutes there, it looked like San Jose had corrected what ailed them against the Red Bulls. They bent but did not break. 

But Christian Roldan opened the flood gates in the 54th minute, capitalizing on a defensive miscue and then it didn't take Seattle too much longer to put the game out of reach -- and make the Quakes look completely out of place. 

Roldan scored again in the 56th minute and Kelvin Leerdam, starting in his first game for the Sounders, scored nine minutes later. 

Roldan came inches away from his hat trick -- hitting the post in the 79th minute. 

-- Again, it's tough to criticize the play of one player, but in both Roldan goals -- that came within a minute of one another -- Andres Imperiale looked like the target of Seattle's attack -- he got caught flat footed on the first goal and on the second, the Argentinean was beat in the air. 

His defensive partner Victor Bernardez was victimized on that second goal too. 

It's probably not a coincidence then, that the Quakes signed Swiss defender Francois Affolter during the week. 

-- Speaking of Affolter, we've yet to see him at Avaya Stadium. And just like Jesse Fioranelli's other signing, little is known of the international player. Yet, at this point, with injuries and a deep run in the U.S. Open Cup tournament, the Quakes are in need of able bodies. 

Affolter, a center back, does have five international caps and over 200 caps in the Swiss Super League and German Bundesliga. 

-- After losing to New York last week, the Quakes moved below the magic red line in the Western Conference. Sunday's loss to the Sounders is critical -- with 21 games played, the Sounders not only creeped ahead of the Quakes, but are now four points clear of their Western Conference rival for that sixth (and last) playoff spot.  

Over a two-match stretch, the Quakes went from fifth and in the playoffs to seventh and knowing the latter part of the season (13 games) will be an uphill climb. 

-- San Jose got another look at Vako. The midfielder scored against the Red Bulls but, after checking in during minute 62, Vako did not figure into the attack. 

And, in the interest of the aforementioned able bodies, it was positive to see Quincy Amarikwa put in another shift ... and almost score in the 83rd minute.

Reports: Former Warriors center agrees to one-year deal with Magic


Reports: Former Warriors center agrees to one-year deal with Magic

After one season with the Clippers, free agent Marreese Speights is headed back to the state of Florida.

The former Warriors center has agreed to a one-year deal with the Orlando Magic, according to USA Today Sports.

News that the two sides were closing in on a deal was first reported by David Pick.

The deal is reportedly worth the veteran's minimum of $2.1 million.

In his lone season with the Clippers, Speights averaged 8.7 points and 4.5 rebounds in 82 games.

Speights played three seasons was the Warriors and was part of the 2014-15 championship team.

The soon-to-be 30-year-old Speights was born in St. Petersburg, Florida and played his college ball at the University of Florida.