Spring Training is underway for 2010, and once again, Fred Lewis seems to be the guy garnering the most attention. The difference this season is it seems to be for all the wrong reasons. Once labeled as a 5 tool can't miss kind of guy, Lewis is now being regarded as a bust and that the Giants need to cut ties with him. I'll be honest, like most Giants fans, I'm getting a little impatient with Lewis, but that doesn't mean we should just give up on the 2'nd round pick. Let's take a look at a few things:
First and foremost, let's not forget that Lewis had the dubious honor of following up one of the best outfielders in the history of the game in Barry Bonds. The bottom line here is Lewis felt like he had to fill Bonds' shoes in the field and at the plate, and that's a recipe for disaster. With that said, Lewis' first full year in the bigs wasn't exactly horrible. He put up respectable numbers of .282/.351/.440 to go with 9 HR and 40 RBI. He also swiped 21 bags with his above average speed. Sure, there were some glaring numbers like the 124 strikeouts to only 51 walks, but he was essentially just a rookie.
Those promising numbers led to high expectations in 2009, and Lewis failed to deliver. His numbers dipped significantly to .258/.348/.390 with the HR's and RBI's being cut in half. He only swiped 8 bags, but also had nearly 200 less plate appearances.
This year, he's gotten off to a bit of a slow start at camp, but we are only 6 games deep, so let's not jump off a cliff just yet. The Giants competition in the OF is tight and spirited for sure with Andres Torres and Eugenio Velez looking to reclaim their spots. The question is, are Torres and Velez really THAT much better than Lewis? Let's compare:
In 2009, Torres had a solid year posting numbers of .270/.343/.533 with 6 HR's and 23 RBI's in only 170 plate appearances. He did post a 3:1 K/BB ratio though which is right around where Lewis was in '08 and '09. These numbers came from a guy who hadn't sniffed a major league field in 4 seasons and had never posted numbers this high, so you have to ask yourself, is this guy for real?
Velez on the other hand wasn't nearly as good as some think he was. He may have contributed a clutch hit here or there, but overall, .267/.308/.400 with 5 HR's and 31 RBI's in 307 plate appearances, not to mention the 55 K's to only 16 BB's, his numbers don't exactly scream Major League talent.
I'm all about putting the best team on the field, and after the numbers Torres put up last season, I'm good with giving him a backup slot, but am I ok with Velez over Lewis? The way I see it is you don't just give up on a guy with 5 tool capabilities after a subpar season because he didn't hit .330 with 30 HR's and 100+ RBI like you thought he would. Sometimes it takes a bit for a player to realize his potential, but if you aren't patient with him while he gets there, he'll be beating you instead of winning with you.