Giants Top 50: #14 - Brian Horwitz

There's nothing in sports like an underdog story…except maybe in the Minor Leagues. Major League fans seem only interested in the next superstar, and if you don't have that pedigree, they won't spend the time of day on you. But one guy continues to toil and succeed without the burden of expectations, except for his own. #14 is Brian Horwitz!

Date of Birth: 11/07/1982 Position: RF Height: 6'1" Weight: 180 Bats: R Throws: R
Acquired: Signed as a Nondrafted Free Agent in 2004.
2006 Stats
Team-Level AVG OBP SLG OPS AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS
San Jose - High-A .324 .414 .425 .839 207 26 67 11 2 2 31 30 23 0 2
Connecticut - AA .286 .365 .349 .714 269 23 77 9 1 2 29 31 35 3 3
Fresno - AAA .125 .222 .188 .410 16 1 2 1 0 0 1 2 2 0 0

Well, it finally happened.  Brian Horwitz didn't win a batting title in 2006, for the first time in his three pro seasons.

You won't find him complaining, though; he didn't win one because he split time between two leagues after a mid-season callup.

Yes, Horwitz, he of the non-drafted free agent signing and no expectations, continues to hit with regularity and simply get the job done in the minors.  Perhaps it's time to finally start looking at him as a legitimate prospect.  Heck, he even hit well in Connecticut (for Connecticut), after an adjustment period.

He was hitting as high as .366 in early May at San Jose, and finished his time in San Jose (punctuated by a brief, overmatched callup in Fresno) with a respectable .324 batting average in 56 games.  The batting title was won by Luis Perez, who batted just 10 points higher than Horwitz did.  Horwitz played five games at Frenso in late May before going back to San Jose, and then was promoted to Connecticut for the rest of the season in mid-June.  He finished with a .286 BA in the Eastern League, which doesn't sound good when compared with batting title winner Michael Abreu's .332.  But the .286 average, had it qualified, would've had Horwitz in the Top 10 of the batting race.

Nothing about Horwitz's tools have changed.  He is one of the best contact hitters in the Giants system, using his strike zone judgment and pitch recognition to stay productive.  He also continues to get on base at a solid clip, walking more than he struck out for the second straight year.  But his power remains frustrating low: after slugging .460 in Augusta (fueled by his .349 average and 38 doubles), he slugged a combined .376 with just 21 doubles over three levels in 2006.  He did double his home run total, which gave him just 4 on the season. Horwitz also remains without notable speed, using smarts to cover-up lacking footspeed.  He is a capable defender in either corner, but he doesn't excel in either spot.

Certainly, part of this drop in power came from spending more than half the season ahead of schedule on the prospect ladder, and much of it in slugging-reducing Connecticut.  But even at San Jose, his slugging was down, and the power outage does make it that much harder for Horwitz to fight his way into the majors.

So what's left?  The predictions for him to be a 4th outfielder still seem to be on track.  As a 4th outfielder, his ability to hit consistently becomes a big asset, and his lack of power and speed are not as damning blows as they would be if he were starting.

This is not a bad thing for Horwitz in the big picture.  For those not familiar with his background, Horwitz was drafted out of Cal as a Junior by the Oakland Athletics in the 26th round of the 2003 draft, but Horwitz wanted a six-figure bonus and Oakland balked.  A rough senior season left Horwitz undrafted, and the Giants signed him shortly after the draft.  Even after making the Northwest League All-Star team in his debut outing, expectations did not follow him.  Even after winning a second batting title, getting promoted for the postseason and winning the ‘Most Important Player' in the California League Championship Series for the champion San Jose Giants, Horwitz was still brushed aside by many Giants prospect hounds as being inconsequential.

But still, Horwitz still hounds them and simply produces.  Even into Double-A, where many a hitting prospect has floundered.

But the toughest road is ahead.  The upper levels of the Giants system are packed with outfielders, and a promotion to Fresno is almost out of the question just by playing the numbers game.  Playing time in Connecticut might be hard enough to get itself, with the possibility of Eddy Martinez-Esteve being held back after injury, and Ben Copeland and Michael Mooney both nipping at Horwitz's heels on the ladder.  Will the Giants continue to find room for the overachiever as higher ceiling players push up?

Well, if Horwitz continues to hit (and all too often, be the best hitter on his respective teams), they'll have to.  Horwitz has earned a lot of respect so far, but he'll continue to in 2007.



Have any questions about these prospects, or perhaps some we haven't named? SFDugout.com will be answering your questions throughout this series! Send your questions to sfdugout@yahoo.com!

Check out the other prospects at the Top 50 Prospects Index!



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