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Prospect Retros: the Giambi Brothers

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The Giambi Brothers in College

A Tale of Two Brothers

Jason Giambi was drafted by the Oakland Athletics in the second round of the 1992 draft, out of Long Beach State University. He hit .317/.442/.610 in 13 games for Southern Oregon after signing. Scouts were certain he would hit for average and get on base, but there were questions about how much home run power he would develop. Based on his college record, draft status, and early pro performance, he would have been a Grade B prospect heading in to '93.

Although limited to 89 games at Class A Modesto by injury, he hit well with a .291/.427/.470 mark, including 12 homers. His plate discipline was tremendous: 73 walks, 47 strikeouts in 313 at-bats. A minimum grade would be B, and possibly B+.

Moved up to Double-A Huntsville in '94, he struggled, hitting just .223 in 56 games. But he was promoted to Triple-A anyhow, and caught fire, hitting .318/.406/.500. Again, this would be B/B+ performance.

He began '95 at Triple-A Edmonton, hitting .342/.445/.537 with 26 doubles in 55 games, earning a promotion to the Majors, where he hit .256/.364/.398 in 54 games. He broke out with a .291, 20 homer, 40 double season in Oakland in '95.

Giambi developed more home run power than his minor league record indicated, but his other offensive skills (plate discipline, batting average) were apparent from an early age. How much of his slippage in the last two years is due to injury, steroids, or the simple fact that he has "old player" skills is unclear.

Comparable Players to Jason Giambi, no actives listed:

Mo Vaughn
Hal Trosky
Ted Kluszewski
Kent Hrbek
Wally Berger
Hack Wilson
Boog Powell

Jason's little brother Jeremy was drafted by the Kansas City Royals in the 6th round of the 1996 draft, out of Cal State Fullerton. Like his brother, he was considered a very polished hitter, but it was unclear how much power he would develop, and there were serious doubts about his defense. He hit .273 but with a .430 OBP in 67 games after signing, drawing 61 walks with only 32 strikeouts for short-season Spokane. He also stole 22 bases. At this point he would have rated a Grade B- or Grade C+ prospect.

Giambi began '97 at Class A Lansing, hitting .336/.450/.578 in 31 games. Promoted to Double-A, he continued raking, hitting .321/.420/.507 in 74 games. His strike zone judgment remained excellent, his power was solid, and he even showed better-than-expected defensive skills. Everyone I talked with raved about his work ethic that year. I gave him a Grade B+ in the 1998 Minor League Scouting Notebook.

Giambi was an unstoppable force in Triple-A in '98, hitting .372/.470/.634 with 20 homers in 96 games. Again, his strike zone judgment was terrific, and his power production continued to increase. At the same time, he was losing his speed, his defense deteriorated, and complaints about his work ethic began cropping up, the later being a particular puzzle since everyone praised his work ethic in '97. Something was changing, although he continued to hit the hell out of the ball.

Giambi split '99 between Omaha and Kansas City, hitting well at both levels. But the Royals soured on him due to continued defensive problems and apparent personality issues. Traded to Oakland in '00, he has become a journeyman, hitting well at times, but struggling with injuries and what was euphemistically referred to as "muscle-boundedness."

Jeremy was an even better hitter than his brother was early in his career, and given a normal course of development he should have been a star. His course of development was not normal. Would it have been if he had avoided trouble? Who knows? I do know that his '97 and '98 performance in the minors was some of the best hitting I have ever seen at the minor league level. He was nearly impossible to get out at times.

Comparable Players to Jeremy Giambi, no actives listed

Kevin Reimer
Tony Solaita
Champ Summers
Dave Revering
Dick Kokos
Bob Hamelin
Art Shamsky