Before being called up to the majors, nobody on this site paid any attention to Trevor Brown.
That isn't an accusatory or castigating statement; it's just a fact. His day at the plate would occasionally be mentioned in Minor Lines and no one would comment on it, in the backup catcher skirmishes he was an afterthought's afterthought, and even when he got called up, he got four sentences in the MCC write-up. Most of those sentences were about Ehire Adrianza. This is because it would have been insane to give him more consideration than a few sentences and a joke. It's more than Jackson Williams's call up got!
Where did Trevor Brown come from? He grew up in Southern California and went to college at UCLA. While he was there, he played all over the infield. He had more starts at first base than anywhere else, though he also saw plenty of time at second and catcher, and got a few games in both at third base and in right field. Brown hit .291/.352/.371 in college, with 4 career home runs, with his best year being his last, when he hit .321/.373/.427, while playing mostly first base.
The Giants took Brown in the 10th round in 2012. The pick was viewed as a steal, by which I mean people thought that the Giants were stealing slot money from the 10th round to pay Shilo McCall, who they'd taken in the 9th:
He’s their 10th round pick, so they get 100k cap for him. If they can sign him for 50k, that’s 50k they can spend on Shilo.
It’s really the only thing that makes sense. I mean… .247/.324/.289… as a C/1B in a system full of promising young C talent.
There are, in fact, several fun comments from that draft thread, and I'm going to share them with you now because they're funny, even though they were the best predictions possible using the information that was available at the time:
I’m guessing that Brown is an org filler sign to make room to try and keep McCall from his Arkansas commitment.
No power and mediocre contact skills? Sign me up for some of that!
He’s a decent catcher though, there’s just not a whole lot of interesting things to say about him.
Jackson Williams all over again?
Chris Stewart replacement!
The truly brilliant among us had long since learned that since the only possible consequence of giving opinions in draft threads was to make yourself look stupid, it was better not to do it. Also, if you can get Chris Stewart in the tenth round, you sure as hell do it, but that's neither here nor there.
Brown went to Salem-Keizer after being drafted in 2012, where he played both at catcher and first base. In college, Brown had been forced into a utility role when he'd have preferred to catch, but in his first professional spring training in 2013, he was forced into a middle infield role when he'd have preferred to catch, which is totally different. He was a second baseman that year, playing 88 games there compared to just 14 at catcher. Things started to change the next year, however, when almost all of his playing time came behind the plate, and by 2015, he was a full-time catcher. This second base-to-catcher transition is known as a "reverse Biggio."
His hitting, however, was always an issue. As a Volcano, Trevor hit .221/.297/.287, which was a portent of what was to come for him with the bat. In Augusta, he was a little better, hitting .250/.304/.326 with 3 homers, but when he got to San Jose, he OPSed just .467. The next year, he repeated San Jose and OPSed .541, which is an improvement in the same way that receiving 800 paper cuts is an improvement over receiving 900 paper cuts. Clearly better! Not good.
San Jose is probably when developing Trevor Brown ceased to be any real kind of priority for the Giants. He'd just started to catch a lot more, and presumably they liked what they saw, because when they needed a warm body in AAA (because Andrew Susac got called up to the majors to replace the injured Hector Sanchez), they called on the guy in A-ball who was pretty good defensively, but couldn't hit his way out of a hitting contest filled with professional hitters. And once he was there, Brown did pretty dang well. He hit .319/.381/.361, which is like not getting any paper cuts at all. Much better!
Brown spent the entire AAA season last year in Sacramento, eventually impressing the Giants enough that they released Guillermo Quiroz, a tacit admission that Brown's defensive skills meant they didn't really need to keep Quiroz around. And Brown kept not being a disaster at the plate too, putting up a .662 OPS that included a pinch-hit walk-off homer on September 2. He also impressed the pitching staff defensively, with Clayton Blackburn tweeting this in September:
@hankschulman both of them are very good back there— Clayton Blackburn (@C_Blackburn16) September 6, 2015
Overall, in the minors, Brown hit .244/.300/.316, which is, if you're paying attention, bad. But his defensive skills and improvement at the plate, combined with an absolutely desperate catching situation, led to his getting called up in mid-September last year. The Giants' desire to evaluate him at the major league level led to his getting 12 starts down the stretch, and his performance there, combined with a strong spring and an Andrew Susac injury, led to his making the Opening Day roster.
We've all seen what he's done since he's been up, but let's have a quick reminder. Trevor Brown has hit three home runs in the last six days; that matches his career high in any season, and at any professional level. He's the first Giant since Kevin Mitchell in 1991 to have his first three hits of a season be home runs, and I'm willing to bet Trevor Brown has killed way fewer cats. He's caught a resurgent Matt Cain start, a Jeff Samardzija start where he dominated in Coors, and, yes, a subpar Jake Peavy start. He broke up a Dodger no-hitter but not a Beaver one, he won the Barney Nugent award in spring, and he has fantastic taste in haircuts:
While this is something to savor and enjoy, let's not make it into something it's not. He's already showing signs of declining; he came into yesterday's game with a 1.875 OPS, and he ended it with a 1.667 OPS. That's a troubling trend, man.
Setting aside his hot start and the Giants' ability to turn seemingly poor hitters into All-Star level ones, Trevor Brown is not especially likely to be the next Carlton Fisk. However, with his defensive reputation, he has a better chance at being an Eli Whiteside-type player, who every pitcher loves throwing to and who contributes enough to stay on the team for several years. For an unlikely major leaguer living an unlikely dream, that's really not bad at all.