Giants Top 50: #6 - Fred Lewis

An outfielder with "wheels" is of no use if all he can do is spin those wheels. Fighting to break through a crowd of similarly talented and deserving minor league outfielders to sit on the bench with the big club is possibly a waste of time. For Fred Lewis, it is getting close to his last shot.

Date of Birth: 12/9/1980 Position: OF Height: 6'2" Weight: 190 Bats: L Throws: R
Acquired: Drafted in the 2nd Round (#66 Overall) of the 2002 Draft
2006 Stats
Team-Level AVG OBP SLG OPS AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS
Fresno - Triple-A .276 .375 .453 .828 429 85 121 20 11 12 56 68 105 18 8
San Francisco - MLB .455 .455 .545 1.000 11 5 5 1 0 0 2 0 3 0 0

Sometimes San Francisco Giants baseball is like spending an afternoon with a Where's Waldo book. There is a great discovery awaiting the reader in each drawing, but ultimately the moment when Waldo is found is anti-climatic. Looking for a standout player in the Giants' system yields similar results.

Fred Lewis may not be hiding anywhere wearing a red striped sweater and ski cap. When choosing a San Francisco minor league outfielder Lewis is one of many with potential. It is to say, there are red striped sweaters everywhere in this organization but few that can be called the real deal. No Waldos to be found, not yet.

Lewis makes his case for a major league spot with great tools, speed and smarts on the basepaths, and strike zone perception that Baseball America ranked as best in the system in a 2004 report. In each of his seasons in minor league baseball he has produced something positive. The sum of Fred Lewis' parts has yet to come together and until it does he can only be graded as incomplete.

The outfielder had his busiest year in 2006. He played a full year at AAA Fresno and there had a career high in home runs with 12. His usual speed was missing; after stealing 30 or more bases in his previous three minor league seasons he had 18 steals. He started and finished strong in the minor league portion of his season, hitting .339 in April and .313 in August. Lewis showed power in the middle of the season with five home runs in the month of June.

Lewis made his major league debut in San Francisco when the rosters expanded September 1 and had five hits in eleven at bats. He was one of six Giants players sent to the Arizona Fall League at the end of the year. Teammate Kevin Frandsen overshadowed Lewis with his phenomenal AFL performance, but lost in the excitement is the eight game hitting streak Lewis put together over late October and early November. He ended the AFL campaign hitting .273 for the season.

The past season does not feel like it, but it is comparable to Lewis' best year: 2004 in San Jose. That season Lewis set personal bests in many categories, matching or nearly matching the same numbers in 2006. In San Jose Lewis hit .301 and his on-base percentage was .424, as well as posting numbers that better reflect his baserunning skills. 2006 brought the aforementioned increase in power and a dip in batting average to .276.

The year in between at AA Norwich reads along the same lines. That season brought career highs in hits at 140, a personal best 28 doubles, and, unfortunately, the most strikeouts. Lewis has recorded over 100 strikeouts in each full season played above short-season Salem-Keizer and in 2005 he struck out 124 times.

He offsets the high strikeout numbers by drawing walks and getting hits. By utilizing his great speed he stretches a hit into an extra base hit. The Giants lack speed at the major league level and Lewis' high steal totals would fill that need.

Lewis himself is a jumble of athletic ability. He excelled in two sports in college and focused on football before the Giants picked him in the second round of the 2002 first year player draft. He is tailor made to hit at the top of the lineup—think Ray Durham with size. Lewis has been compared to fellow minor league outfielder Jason Ellison in athleticism and abilities. The two share the inability to make an impression in the fight for an outfield spot in San Francisco.

The outfield situation is as easy to sort out in the minors as it is with the big club. Lewis is on the Giants' 40 man roster meaning he could be vying for a spot in Fresno with the likes of Clay Timpner, Dan Ortmeier and Nate Schierholtz. He could occupy a bench position in San Francisco. Young outfield legs are a necessity with Barry Bonds returning to left field and a new (old?) man in centerfield in Dave Roberts.

For Lewis to play a significant role in 2007 other than the designated legs, or to even play at all before September, it will require some sort of breakout. How the outfielder can break out with limited at-bats at his two possible levels of play is only one of the factors holding Lewis back. It is entirely possible that nobody will emerge in the new season.



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Check out the other prospects at the Top 50 Prospects Index!



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Chris has been a Giants fan since her days in utero. She loves baseball and writes about whatever she can get her hands on…even the Athletics. She's a Bay Area gal through and through. This is her 24th season of fandom. Love/hate mail can be sent to seasond_salt@yahoo.com, where the love mail gets top priority and the hate mail gets used for kindling.

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