Gillaspie Aims To Regroup In 2010
SAN FRANCISCO—There were 1,504 players taken in the 2008 draft. Giants third baseman Conor Gillaspie beat all of them to the majors.
That comes with an asterisk, however. His debut in September 2008 was a prearranged concession so that he would agree to sign for $970,000—the slot value the league assessed for the 37th overall selection.
In 2010 Gillaspie wasn't allowed to cut in line. While other top prospects like catcher Buster Posey and shortstop Brandon Crawford received airplane tickets out of high Class A San Jose, Gillaspie spent the entire season in the California League.
Gillaspie didn't outshine the competition, either. His .286/.364/.386 stat line didn't stand out on perhaps the best offensive team in the minor leagues. He also failed to dispel doubts about his ability to stay at third base, committing 27 errors at the position.
But his manager, Andy Skeels, praised the former Wichita State standout's effort and attitude.
"It takes kids time to find their bearings, especially if you're an all-American or a .400 hitter in college," Skeels said. "But you couldn't have put him in a better situation. With the team we had, it was like, 'Dude, get over yourself. That guy's a first-round pick too, and that guy too. Just be a baseball player, be a teammate, be a guy who helps us win a championship.' That's as important to player development as anything else."
Gillaspie made an impression on coaches when he volunteered to show up for instructional league and committed himself to overhauling his defensive mechanics.
Assuming Gillaspie begins at Double-A Richmond (where Skeels will also be moving up) next season, he might improve in one area without too much effort. Skeels noted that Gillaspie's strong strike-zone discipline often worked to his disadvantage because of inconsistent umpiring in the Cal League. He drew 55 walks and struck out 68 times.
"I can't tell you the number of times the bat was literally taken out of his hands," said Skeels, who will move up to manage Richmond next season. "He easily could've walked 30 more times."
• Brian Harper, a former big league catcher who worked as a roving instructor the past two seasons, was appointed to replace Skeels as San Jose's manager.
• Along with Harper, Giants skipper Bruce Bochy, Steve Decker at Triple-A Fresno and Skeels at Richmond, the Giants have former catchers managing each of their top four clubs.