Season in Review: Fresno Grizzlies

For Fresno, 2005 was just another year of roster instability never letting the team be able to get any momentum. At least they had a couple of big name prospects, for a little while.

Final Record: 68-76 (T-2nd in division, T-10th Overall in the Pacific Coast League)

What Went Right: Todd Linden finally figured it out, at least at the AAA level. Older prospects like Jack Taschner, Doug Clark and Mike Cervenak had very strong years. Solid AAA journeyman made up the heart of the team. Mid and late season callups like Seung Song, Kevin Frandsen, Angel Chavez and Brian Wilson did well.

What Went Wrong: The San Francisco Giants went with a youth movement midseason, raiding the Grizzlies roster often. Top prospect Matt Cain had a rough year in the PCL. Another top pitcher, Patrick Misch, had an even worse year. They are in the same division as the perennial champion Sacramento Rivercats.

Team MVP: Todd Linden (.321/.437/.682) with 30 HR in only 95 games.

Team Cy Young: Matt Cain (10-5, 4.39 ERA, 176 K’s in 145.2 IP)

For Fresno, it was all about being the Giants’ top farm club this year. As San Francisco suffered injuries and released older players, the Grizzlies continuously lost their best players throughout the season.

The team’s heart for the first half of the year was the outfield, anchored by right fielder Todd Linden. When he wasn’t in the majors, Linden was dominating the PCL, fighting for the league lead in most categories including home runs. Doug Clark, a 29 year old former prospect, also had a breakout year, batting .316 with 13 home runs and 29 stolen bases. Adam Shabala kicked in 14 home runs and 35 stolen bases as well.

The infield was anchored by mostly minor league veterans. Brian Dallimore remained a Fresno fixture, playing 100 games in the valley with a .302 batting average. He was joined by 28 year old Mike Cervenak, who played both first and third much of the year. Utilityman Micky Lopez was also one of the team’s most consistent presences, playing 113 games and batting .286. Between them was Angel Chavez, a 24 year old shortstop who was called up from San Jose in May. Chavez posted a respectable .281 average with 11 home runs. With them, and mostly consistent offensive production from the outfield even after Linden was promoted, the offense wasn’t too bad.

The pitching, however, was a different story. Fresno started the year with 3 big prospects: Matt Cain, Patrick Misch and Brad Hennessey in the rotation, and Kevin Correia as the closer. Cain cruised for a month before running into trouble with walks and home runs, which plagued him much of the year. Misch had even more problems, managing a 6.35 ERA through 19 games and a 3-9 record, walking 40 and striking out just 69 in 102.0 IP before being demoted to AA Norwich. And Hennessey had a 5.19 ERA through 11 games between promotions to San Francisco before sticking up there for good.

The majority of the starting duties then fell on a couple of major league vets trying to resurrect their careers. Brian Cooper stared 21 games with a 4.53 ERA, while Matt Kinney arrived mid-season, and despite a couple of strong streaks, had a 5.21 ERA. Both pitchers went 7-8. Mid-season callup Seung Song, a minor league free agent cut by two different teams in the offseason coming off of an injury, had a 4.42 ERA in 10 starts, and sometimes looked great, sometimes not.

The bullpen was the same story. Kevin Correia was a great closer for about a month, and then imploded. However, after making 2 strong starts, he was off to San Francisco. Jack Taschner took on some of the closing duties between callups, getting a team leading 10 saves, and putting up a team best 1.64 ERA, but he of course was SF bound, as was Jeremy Accardo and Scott Munter.

Some bright spots for the future came from some late season callups. Second Baseman Kevin Frandsen, who’d started the year in San Jose, came up to Fresno in August and stayed hot, batting .351 with 10 doubles and 2 home runs in 20 games. Meanwhile, closer Brian Wilson, who started the year in Augusta, did well in Fresno though he did hit some bumps. Wilson had a 3.97 ERA in 9 appearances in AAA.

The futures for most of these players are hard to figure, but probably not with the Giants. Most of those who were ready for the majors have already been called up. And while Frandsen and Wilson will probably return to AAA in 2006, much of the rest of the team are older non-prospects and probable free agents. With some decent prospects coming up from Norwich (particularly outfielders) many may be looking for gigs elsewhere next year.

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