Pat Burrell hit 18 homers after signing with the Giants two months into the 2010 season, and he retired with nine 20-homer seasons and four 30-homer seasons on his résumé. That's exactly the kind of power production the Giants have been desperately searching for in recent years, and as they rebuild their farm system and organizational structure, they're counting on Burrell's experience to help the next generation.
This month was supposed to be Burrell's first as hitting coach for the San Jose Giants, who play just a few minutes from Bellarmine College Prep, where he starred in high school. Whenever San Jose is cleared to play, Burrell will be in charge of some of the organization's best hitting prospects, and he got some early time with them at a camp in January and during a couple of weeks of minor league spring training.
Burrell came away impressed by the prospects, including with 18-year-old shortstop Marco Luciano, who is considered by some to be the organization's top prospect. On Tuesday's episode of the Giants Insider Podcast, Burrell talked about what makes Luciano special.
"He creates a lot of torque, a lot of bat speed. It looks easy for him," Burrell said. "You throw batting practice, which I've started doing, and certain guys just stand out, they just do. Certain guys cover larger percentages of the plate with less effort. Obviously the power is there and he coils up nicely. Remember Alfonso Soriano with the Yankees, how there's kind of a coil there and then just an explosion of power there? It's similar to that, he's got a similar build."
Luciano would have had a strong chance to come through San Jose this year, and Hunter Bishop -- last year's first-round pick -- might have spent much of his season with Burrell. The two have a natural connection, as Bishop starred at Serra High, another traditional power in the West Catholic Athletic League. But Burrell joked that he's found those ties aren't always realized since the players he's coaching are so young. Bishop was born three years after Burrell graduated from high school.
Burrell eventually found his way back home, helping the Giants win the 2010 title. The organization hopes this next wave of prospects can get the Giants back to prominence, and Burrell is a believer.
"In the past five years when I wasn't involved, or more, all you heard about was the lack of talent in the Giants' minor league system, and when I went to January camp, seeing (Heliot) Ramos, seeing Luciano, (Luis) Matos -- these guys, there's a lot of natural ability there," Burrell said. "Luciano, I'd be surprised if he doesn't move really quick. Joey Bart, he's been up and down in camp, he's half in the door already, it seems like to me. Hunter Bishop, I mean, wow, he's a very talented player. He's got a ways to go but all the intangible things are there. He's a big man, moves (well), unbelievable power, and he can really run, so we definitely have some big pieces that are coming."