Lancaster, California —— Gio Brusa is going to go as far as his bat will take him.
Drafted by the San Francisco Giants in the sixth round out of the University of the Pacific thirteen months ago, the outfielder is already on an aggressive development path with a jump to High-A San Jose in his first full year as a professional. And though there have been some growing pains here—Brusa is hitting .238/.294/.414/.707 over 80 games entering play on Tuesday, including a 4-for-28 stretch over his last ten games—there’s unquestionable power in the outfielder’s profile, too.
That’s what you get in a switch-hitting, 240-lb. left fielder with some length: already 18 doubles and 11 home runs in 302 at-bats this season, a very positive starting point for a hitter adjusting to a sometimes-difficult life in High-A.
“I love the jump and I’m always up for a challenge, whatever it is,” Brusa told Baseball Census. “I really just prayed, honestly, for God’s plan to be with me, and for the timing to be right for me to be here. That’s just kind of how I am. I take it faith-based and go from there.”
For Brusa, that’s meant finding consistent playing time on a deep San Francisco Giants affiliate that includes prospects across the outfield—namely Heath Quinn, as well as fellow switch-hitter Bryan Reynolds. But the simplest way to play more is to produce, and nearly a dozen home runs (even in a hitter’s league) will keep getting Gio Brusa chances to show what he can do from both sides of the plate.
“I’m getting to the point where I understand how to use hitter’s counts to my advantage,” Brusa said of his growing power profile. “There are still definitely times where I’m too aggressive in those counts, and my eyes get so big and I’m so eager to hit that I end up chasing something. Occasionally I’ll find my focus getting out into the field rather than into my zone. But I’m definitely getting better at it, and I’m really starting to learn my zone.”
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Brusa, like Reynolds along with him in the San Jose outfield, has a massive asset in his back pocket, too: matchup immunity. A switch hitter his entire life, the Pacific standout doesn’t have to worry about facing a tough lefty in the late innings, for a simple cross over to the other side of the plate brings him a better chance to do damage against anybody. And while Brusa looks better hitting for power from the left side of the plate, he is slugging .552 as a right-handed hitter this year in a limited sample size—the combination suggesting there’s enough intrigue on both sides to continue to switch hit and provide value.
“I love it, because it takes the whole matchup strategy out of it when I’m up there,” Brusa said of switch-hitting. “It eliminates the tough curveball. It’s a good feeling knowing that everything is coming into you. Plus, knowing that I have the ability to drive the ball from both sides, that’s a really big tool, and I take a lot of pride in that.”
“But it is kind of funny because the side I feel power the best from has a tendency to switch,” he continued, laughing. “You have spurts where it feels like crap from one side but great from the other, some spurts where you feel great from both sides, and some spurts where it’ll abruptly switch. But I feel like I’ve kept enough power in my profile from both sides, it just comes down to feeling good from whatever side of the plate I’m hitting at that time.”
I think the power Gio Brusa already flashes is more a testament to his swing mechanics and raw natural strength than it is the California League’s good atmosphere for hitters. That is, when he reaches new levels with the San Francisco Giants beyond High-A, there’s no reason to think he shouldn’t still be hitting his fair share of doubles and home runs regardless of ballpark environment or wind conditions.
“I think it comes down to my strength and my swing, a little bit of both,” he said. “I’ve worked really hard on my mechanics from a young age with my dad, and I’ve also put in a lot of time to work really hard in the weight room. Just look at football guys, or look at basketball players like LeBron James, and they are tremendous athletes with tremendous strength. Why can’t [baseball players] be like that? For me, as a baseball player, I want to be big, strong, and fast just like that. And for me that means doing explosive movements and maintaining athleticism.”
From that base and mindset, Gio Brusa and the San Francisco Giants would be wise to bank on more power coming through as he develops further in their minor league system. As a corner outfielder, it’ll prove to be his ticket to The Show soon, too.