GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Gary Brown's locker in the Scottsdale Stadium clubhouse was right near the front door last year. When Brown showed up this season, he was tucked into the opposite corner.

As far as neighbors go, Brown has traded Hunter Pence and Brandon Belt for a refrigerator overflowing with Dasani water bottles.

Once a top-50 prospect, Brown's star has dimmed, and the message sent by the organization wasn't a subtle one. It would be hard for a 25-year-old former first-round pick to be any further under the radar than Brown is this spring.

And he's just fine with that.

"I'm trying to stay under the radar," he said, smiling. "I want to talk with my actions, not my words."

Those actions have sent a mixed message. Brown still has all the tools to develop into a major leaguer: A plus glove in center field, blazing speed and surprising power for a player listed at 6-foot-1, 190 pounds.

In his first full season out of Cal State Fullerton, Brown hit .336 for the San Jose Giants, with a .407 on-base percentage, 14 homers and 53 stolen bases. At the time he looked like the organization's leadoff hitter of the future, but last season at Triple-A Fresno he was missing all the qualities of a top-notch No. 1 hitter. Brown had a .286 on-base percentage for the Grizzlies and was caught stealing on 11 of 28 attempts.

The disappointing year led to some re-evaluation within the organization.


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"He profiled as a leadoff-type hitter, but he may not be that as we get to this level," Giants hitting coach Hensley Meulens said. "We need a guy who gets on base and makes contact. We've talked about it within our staff that he might not be that type of guy."

Brown and some of his minor league hitting coaches have not always seen eye to eye when it comes to his swing, and asked about his future as a table-setter, Brown disagreed with the notion that he might be better suited at a different spot. Aside from a brief stint in college as a No. 2 hitter, he has always been atop lineups, from Little League to the minors. In college, coaches tried to get Brown to be more of a slap hitter, bunt more often and take advantage of his speed. The Giants have tried the same thing.

"I'm not that guy," Brown said. "I've got a little bit of power, and I split the gaps. When you expect something from someone and they do something else, you're kind of shocked or you don't really know how to react. I think it's been a learning process of us getting to know each other."

Brown has not lived up to expectations thus far, but he said he hasn't crumbled under the pressure of being a first-round pick.

"Any pressure that was put on me was by myself," he said. "It wasn't anything else -- it was just my expectations. Expectations can be a bad thing."

This season, there are none. The Giants have Angel Pagan signed in center field for three more seasons, and Brown has been passed on the organization's depth chart by Juan Perez and Roger Kieschnick. Still, he's closer to the big leagues than ever, since the Giants had to put him on the 40-man roster in the offseason to hold his rights. The Giants and Brown have had some rocky times, but general manager Brian Sabean insisted the organization hasn't given up on the center fielder.

"He survived last year, and sometimes that's the goal," Sabean said. "When you go through what he did as a No. 1 pick ... I think he's ready now, and relieved he's on the (40-man) roster."

Brown has pleased coaches with his offseason conditioning work and spring work ethic, but he isn't in the mix to win a roster spot, with Perez, Kieschnick and the recently signed Tyler Colvin fighting for a job. Once one of the most exciting outfield prospects in the game, Brown is fine with being away from the spotlight, focusing on getting better and again finding that bright path.

"I'm done doing the guessing game and all that," he said. "I think we're going to have a good group of guys in Fresno, and it's going to be a fun year wherever I am. Whatever happens, happens."

  • Infielder Brandon Hicks hit a two-run homer off Clayton Kershaw and prospect Edwin Escobar pitched three strong innings to lead the Giants past the Dodgers 3-2 at Camelback Ranch. Escobar has given up just one hit in six innings this spring, and manager Bruce Bochy said the 21-year-old left-hander has made an impression.

    "He's close" to the big leagues," Bochy said. "He's knocking on the door now."

    In the other half of a split-squad day, Madison Bumgarner pitched four scoreless innings to lead the big leaguers past prospects 8-0 in what was billed a "Futures Game." Top prospect Kyle Crick walked four and gave up five runs in two-thirds of an inning. Christian Arroyo, last year's first-round pick, had a base hit for the Futures Team.

  • Michael Morse (calf) and Hunter Pence (shoulder) downplayed injuries that kept them out of the lineup Sunday. The Giants anticipate both players returning to game action in the coming days.

    For more on the Giants, see Alex Pavlovic's Giants Extra blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/Giants. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/AlexPavlovic.