Culberson Breaking Out

Infielder starting to show his potential





SAN FRANCISCO—From the day the Giants selected them out of high school in the supplemental first round in 2007, infielders Charlie Culberson and Nick Noonan were seen as a package deal.

They went to instructional league together, got their first pro experience as a double-play combination in the Rookie-level Arizona League and started for low Class A Augusta the following season.

But while Noonan zoomed up the prospect charts, Culberson had trouble keeping his head above water. The Georgia native hit .234 as a 19-year-old at Augusta, then struggled to a .246 clip while repeating the league in 2009.

"I knew it would be tough on Charlie," farm director Fred Stanley said. "He and Nick heard all the hype they'd go all the way through the system and be in the big leagues together. That was the word on the street and they knew it."

That's why Stanley is so proud of the strides Culberson has made this season at high Class A San Jose. He was batting .308/.357/.482, with 15 home runs and 28 doubles. He also had four triples and was 23 for 30 in stolen bases.

Stanley said Culberson's pitch recognition and improved discipline sparked his turnaround at the plate.

"He's got a powerful swing," Stanley said. "He can hit 40 doubles at higher levels. As he gets stronger he might be 20-homer guy. It's hard to project because he's got a few levels to go through, but he keeps making progress at this rate, my gosh, he'll be a great asset for us at the major league level."

Culberson signed as a shortstop, moved to third base and now is playing second, where his strong arm and quick release allow him to turn difficult double plays. It also means he's playing the same position as Noonan, his former double-play partner, whose progress stalled at Double-A this season while he dealt with a recurring hamstring injury.

Both young infielders have more to prove in Double-A and beyond. If Culberson hits a few bumps, he's shown the aptitude to adjust.

GIANTICS

• The Giants placed Triple-A Fresno righthander Matt Kinney on the restricted list after he tested positive for an amphetamine and received a 50-game suspension.

• Infielder Matt Downs was claimed by the Astros after the Giants designated him for assignment to make room for outfielder Cody Ross.