Prospect Retrospective: Marcus Giles
Marcus Giles was drafted by the Braves in the 53rd round in 1996, out of high school in California. A draft-and-follow guy, he attended junior college, then signed with the Braves in the spring of '97.
His pro debut was outstanding: .348/.437/.556 in 55 games for Danville in the Appalachian League, with 32 walks, 47 strikeouts in 207 at-bats. At the time, I had space constraints imposed by STATS on the Minor League Scouting Notebook, so I didn't write about many rookie ball players. He wasn't in the '98 book, but in retrospect, looking at his performance and his age-relative-to-competition, he would likely have been rated a Grade B- prospect.
In '98, Giles continued tearing up pro pitching, hitting .329/.430/.636 with 37 homers for Macon in the Sally League. Despite these excellent numbers, some scouts still doubted his bat, and most doubted his defense. I gave him a Grade B heading into 1999, impressed with his hitting but concerned that he wouldn't find a position.
'99 was another good year. Although his home run total dropped from 37 to 13 at Myrtle Beach, he still hit .326 and slugged .513. He also made major strides improving his defense. I gave him another Grade B heading into 2000. It should be noted that many traditionalists were still skeptical about him at this point.
Moving to Double-A for '00, Giles continued to hit: .290/.392/.472 for Greenville, with 17 homers, 72 walks, and 71 strikeouts in 132 games. I bumped his grade up to Grade A- in the 2001 book, had him rated as the number 17 prospect in all of baseball, and the best in the Braves system. Baseball America had him as the third-best prospect in the Atlanta farm, and only Jim Callis (at 38) ranked Giles on his Top 50 prospect list among BA contributors.
Giles split '01 and '02 between Atlanta and the minors, then broke out in '03 with numbers very similar to what he did at the lower levels. Concerns about his glovework have eased, and he is one of the most dangerous middle infielders in the game today.
Like his brother Brian (who we will look at tomorrow), Marcus never impressed scouts, and there were doubts about him all the way up the ladder. But through hard work and natural hitting talent, he's turned himself into quite a player. In this case, statistical analysis pointed out Giles' ability far sooner than traditional scouting methods. Giles statistics through the minor leagues were marked by very strong power production for a middle infielder, but also sound strike zone judgment, a high walk rate combined with an adequate strikeout rate that actually got better as he moved up the ladder.
Giles should continue to be an excellent hitter. My main concern is durability. Middle infielders often get worn down by nagging injuries, and Giles' hard-nosed style of play could make this worse. If he keeps his health, I see no reason for Giles not to make more All-Star teams. Not bad for a 53rd-round pick.