Prospect of the Day: Brett Pill, INF, San Francisco Giants
San Francisco Giants prospect Brett Pill had a strong year in Triple-A and a fast start in the majors. Will he get to play in 2012? Let's take a look.
Brett Pill was drafted by the Giants in the seventh round in 2006, from Cal State Fullerton. He hit well in college, hitting .328 while leading the Big West with 23 doubles, but scouts weren't sure he would show enough home run power for a first baseman at higher levels, hurting his stock accordingly. He slammed 47 doubles in the Sally League in 2007, although his overall line for Augusta was mediocre at .269/.321/.416. In '08 he hit just .266/.321/.395 in the California League, quite unimpressive. However, in '09 he made some adjustment to his swing while adding strength to his frame, and the result was a .298/.348/.480 mark with 19 homers and 37 doubles for Double-A Connecticut.
Pill moved up to Triple-A Fresno in 2010, hitting .275/.319/.433 with 16 homers. He entered 2011 buried behind Brandon Belt on the prospect depth chart, but a return engagement in Triple-A resulted in a .312/.341/.530 line with a career-best 25 homers. He's in the majors now and hitting quite well in his initial look at major league pitching.
A 6-4, 210 pound right-handed hitter and thrower, Pill turned 27 this month and that limits his prospect status: he's at his peak now and unlikely to improve a great deal. Some scouts have complained that his swing is too long, but his strikeout rates are quite low for a player with power, with just 54 whiffs in 536 Triple-A at-bats this year. The negative side is a low walk rate: he's an aggressive hitter and doesn't draw many free passes. He's added some loft to his swing over the last three years without sacrificing contact, although he doesn't have as much pure power potential as Belt does.
On defense, he is a very good defensive first baseman, and also has a few games of experience at third base and left field. The presence of Belt on the Fresno roster for much of 2011 forced the Giants to be creative, and Pill ended up playing 57 games at second base this year. As you would expect, his range at the position is quite limited, but he didn't make a lot of errors, posting a .977 fielding percentage, which is pretty good considering the circumstances. No, you don't want to start him regularly at second base, but the extra versatility certainly increases Pill's chances of earning a roster spot next year.