Season in Review: Fresno Grizzlies

The Grizzlies have had plenty of troubles over the year, often after being cannibalized by the big league team for those few players who were performing well. 2006 was no different, but more players showed up this year.

RECORD: 61-83 (.424); 4th place in 4 team Pacific Division; 13th in 16 team Pacific Coast League.

SEASON IN REVIEW: The season started with being swept in 4 games by division rival Las Vegas, and it didn't get much better from there.

The Grizzlies came into 2006 without many top prospects gracing their roster.  Second baseman Kevin Frandsen was going to team with outfielder Todd Linden on the offensive side of the ball.  Merkin Valdez was the top pitcher on the team in terms of prospect status, but the one-time starter had a great spring in relief, and was moved there.

Linden went out with a thumb injury making a defensive play in the team's sixth game, and missed more than a month.  Valdez struggled in the closer role and never truly looked comfortable relieving  He did make 3 starts at the end of the year, and had a 3.12 ERA, despite not going more than 3 innings in any start.

And Frandsen?  Frandsen had a good year, but he spent half of it in San Francisco.

The team's fortunes didn't improve with midseason call-ups.  Nick Pereira, who dominated in San Jose, had a lot of problems adjusting to the hitter-friend Pacific Coast League.  Former top prospect Alfredo Simon struggled before a demotion.  And while Pat Misch had an improvement in Triple-A over his control-plagued 2005, his 4.02 ERA after returning to Fresno wasn't enough to truly help the team.

TEAM MVP: Only 2 players on this team made more than 120 appearances, and Fred Lewis' 120 games led the team.  Lewis struggled on and off while playing in left field, but his .276 average was improved by a strong on-base percentage (.375) and gathering double digit totals in doubles, triples and home runs.  He also had a team high 18 steals, albeit a low total for a player with good speed.

TOP PITCHER: In a hitter's league?  Uh oh.  Two callups from Double-A, Misch and Matt Palmer, posted respectable low 4 ERAs.  Pereira didn't fair so well with a 5.92 ERA.

No, the best pitcher in this group was a free agent pickup, Michael Tejera.  While not one of the Giants true prospects, he had a 3.66 ERA in 13 starts, and a 4.11 ERA in 22 relief appearances for the Grizzlies.  However, there was one hitch.  He had a great start to the year, but with it unlikely for the 29 year old to be promoted, the Giants allowed him to pursue other opportunities in July.  He searched, found no good opportunities, and came back.  He struggled the rest of the way for the Grizzlies.

PLAYERS WHO STEPPED UP: There were still some doubts that Kevin Frandsen was going to stay a consistent hitter after his breakout in 2005.  He batted .304 with 25 doubles in 71 games, and may not ever see the minors again.

Two guys with troubles in the majors came down to Triple-A and absolutely dominated.  Jason Ellison batted a ridiculous .406/.452/.536 in 46 games in Fresno, and Lance Niekro had 14 home runs in 36 games while batting .319 and slugging .660.

Clay Timpner, meanwhile, had a ton of troubles in Double-A, where he was expected to start after a solid year in Single-A in 2005.  Timpner, however, got a promotion to Triple-A and looked good.  He batted .286, and though his secondary average wasn't impressive, it helped salvage what looked like a lost year.

Erick Threets, meanwhile, finally started to look like the former prospect he'd been long considered.  Working exclusively in relief and usually as a setup man, Threets put together a 2.87 ERA as his surgically repaired arm didn't show the infamous velocity it used to.  He got 51 strikeouts in 62.2 innings, but also threw 44 walks.

Brian Wilson also had a good year.  He had a 2.89 ERA in 24 games, eventually forcing his way into a callup and also may never look back.

PLAYERS WHO DISAPPOINTED: A year ago, named Merkin Valdez the team's #1 prospect not named Matt Cain, and Valdez nearly won a roster spot in Spring Training.  What happened?  Valez had a 5.80 ERA working mostly in relief, and had 39 walks against 48 strikeouts in 49.2 innings.

Alfredo Simon also used to have a similar profile to Valdez and often drew comparisons.  His 6.75 ERA in 10 games was bad, and he was soon demoted and eventually waived from the 40 man roster mid-season.  Nick Pereira also came up to Fresno with a hot reputation after dominating in San Jose, but struggled mightily in Triple-A.

Dan Ortmeier was one of the Giants other top prospects and had had a good season in 2005 in Double-A.  But he couldn't find his stroke in hitter-friendly Fresno, and batted .244 with just a .683 OPS in 68 games in Fresno before being demoted down to Connecticut.  He did spend most of the time in Frenso playing out of position in center field, however.

THINGS TO THINK ABOUT: In 2005, the Giants said they wanted to keep the nucleus of the team that would win the California League championship together.  They did so in 2006 as the group moved to Connecticut, but the nucleus fell apart in injury.  Will the nucleus be moved up to Fresno together in 2007 despite suffering a tough year?  And if corner outfielders Nate Schierholtz and Eddy Martinez-Esteve do move up, where will Dan Ortmeier play?

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