Fresno Grizzlies Update

Tom DubberkeCorrespondent IJuly 7, 2010

The Fresno Grizzlies are 75 games into their 144 game schedule, so now is as good a time as any to update you on what the Grizzlies’ players are doing at the halfway point.

The Grizzlies are currently in first place in their division with a 51-34 record, largely on the back of strong hitting and consistent but unspectacular pitching.  The Grizzlies’ leading hitter of the moment is former Giant John Bowker.

Now that he’s safely back at AAA and playing every day, he’s hitting .321 with a 1.037 OPS since his demotion about a month ago now.

The Giants need a left-handed hitting outfielder with power, but I’d bet dollars to donuts that they won’t look to John Bowker as the guy to fill that hole.  The Giants are in a pennant race, and Giants' management loves its grizzled veterans, not its growing Grizzlies.

Besides, Bowker has had opportunities each of the last three seasons to establish himself as a major league player, and he hasn’t been able to do it.  My guess is the Giants have essentially given up on Bowker (who turns 27 this Thursday), and Bowker doesn’t have a chance to have a major league career unless the Giants trade him away to a team that will give him more regular playing time at the major league level than the Giants did.

The Grizzlies have a lot of hitting right now.  Joe Borchard cooled off after a hot first quarter of the season (showing why he’s a AAA player) but still has an .848 OPS.  After an awful start, Jesus Guzman has pulled his OPS up to .820.

3B Ryan Rohlinger is hitting .331 with a .931 OPS despite spending about a month on the major league roster, mostly just warming the bench.  Same with 2B Matt Downs: He’s hitting .301 with a .907 OPS in playing time limited by the time he spent on the major league roster.

Tyler Graham has come out of nowhere to hit .358 with an .864 OPS.  Eugenio Velez is hitting .303 with a .763 OPS, and 1B Brett Pill is hitting .301 with an .815 OPS.  Steve Holm, the Grizzlies’ starting catcher since Buster Posey was promoted, has a .371 OBP and an .813 OPS.

However, all of these players are at least 26 years old already and are likely to never be anything more valuable than major league backups.

Emmanuel Burriss is finally playing regularly again after injuries ruined his 2009 season and the start of 2010.  He’s hitting .302 with a .343 OBP after 17 AAA games.  He’s 25 this year.

One of my unsung favorites 2B Brock Bond is hitting .295 with a .408 OBP.  Bond has no power, and his defense isn’t highly regarded, but he’s a middle infielder who gets on base, and he doesn’t turn 25 until September 11th.  He’s behind just about every other Grizzlies’ infielder on the Giants’ depth chart, but eventually someone has to give him a shot at the major league level.

That probably won’t be the Giants.  Management likes players with tools, not guys who actually get on base.

At least someone appreciates what Brock Bond has done this season.  He’s one of two Grizzlies selected to play for the Pacific Coast League team in the AAA All-Star Game.

Since the Giants called up Madison Bumgarner, the Giants don’t have a lot of near-term pitching prospects either.  The best of what’s left is probably Waldis Joaquin, who’s still only 23 years old and pitched well in 15 games for the Grizzlies after getting sent down (3.78 ERA with 20 Ks and only six walks in 16.2 IP).  However, he’s been on the disabled list since June 18 with a mysterious injury (I can’t find any description of the injury on the Internet).

Another guy whose horn I’ve been tooting is Steve Edlefsen, based on his strong first half.  I’m not the only one, as Edlefsen is the other Grizzly who was selected for the AAA All-Star Game.

Unfortunately, Edlefsen has cooled considerably in his last 10 appearances.  While he has a 1.91 ERA after 31 first-half appearances with a line of 47 IP, 38 hits, five HRs, 20 walks, and 39 Ks, in his last 10 his ERA is 4.35, he’s given up three of those five HRs, and he’s given up nearly as many walks as strikeouts and innings pitched.

At age 25 Edlefsen is still reasonably a prospect.  The biggest problem for him right now is that the Giants are in a pennant race, and they don’t cotton to rookies who aren’t former first round picks, especially in a pennant race.

Among the starters, 27-year-old Eric Hacker has come back down to earth after a hot start (he currently has a 4.69 ERA), but his ratios are still pretty good.  27-year-old Joe Martinez is 5-2 with a 3.39 ERA and good ratios.  Sadly, Martinez looks good enough to just be a five-year AAA pitcher who gets two or three major league starts a season when somebody gets hurt, unless he gets hot at one of those times.

Kevin Pucetas (age 25) has been very disappointing.  He was terrific for the first two-thirds of the Grizzlies’ 2009 season but then slumped badly at the finish. The slump has continued into 2010: Pucetas currently has a 5.85 ERA.

Brandon Medders has a 2.84 ERA with solid peripheral numbers in nine games since his demotion.  Given his extensive major league experience, he’ll likely be the first to get promoted when the Giants decide to promote somebody from within, provided he continues to pitch the way he has so far.

Geno Espinelli (age 27) is pitching well (2.78 ERA) but isn’t really fooling anybody (18 Ks in 35.2 IP).  Osiris Matos (age 25) hasn’t pitched badly, but he hasn’t pitched particularly well either (4.31 ERA, almost all in relief).  Alex Hinshaw still has a great arm, but still can’t throw strikes (31.1 IP, 23 walks, and 34 Ks).

The Giants recently promoted their top starter at AA Richmond, Daryl Maday, to Fresno.  He’s 24 this year (turns 25 on August 12), and while he gave up five earned runs in six innings in his first start, he also struck out eight.  He’s got plenty to prove before he’s ready for another promotion.

The long and the short of it is that since Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner have been promoted, the remaining Grizzlies look like what you’d expect from a team fighting for a division title: a lot of older, replacement-level players who can plug holes when/if someone gets hurt in San Francisco.