Results tagged ‘ Baseball America ’

Who’s Next – Top Prospects Ranked

MLB.com and Baseball America released their respective 2013 Top Prospect lists for the San Francisco Giants organizations.

The MLB.com version is for the Top 100 prospects in all of baseball. Two Giants cracked the list: RHP Kyle Crick at #86 and OF Gary Brown at #100. This is the first time Crick made the MLB.com list while Brown was #48 for the 2012 version.

Baseball America, meanwhile, has been rolling out their organizational top prospects for each farm system over the last few weeks. January 30th was the Giants’ turn. Beat writer Andy Baggarly filed this year’s list as he has done in years past.

Crick was the top choice for the Baseball America list. Brown was fourth. While Crick is not considered to appear in Triple-A this season, many project Brown to possibly start the season with Fresno or at least make a stop with the Grizzlies some time in 2013.

Brown played all of 2012 with Double-A Richmond. He struggled early on with the Flying Squirrels, hitting .227 through his first 23 games, but he rebounded with a strong May and June to finish with a .279 batting average. He also played in the Arizona Fall League this offseason.

Three Fresno Grizzlies from 2012 were in the Top 10 Prospect List: Heath Hembree (#7), Francisco Peguero (#8), and Roger Kieschnick (#9).

Hembree is coming off his first pro season at Triple-A. He tied for the team lead with the Grizzlies in saves with 15 despite missing a month-and-a-half with an arm injury. Before he went on the disabled list, Hembree was elected to the PCL mid-season All-Star team.

Peguero parlayed his first Triple-A season into his Major League debut last August. Peguero had a team-best 10 triples for Fresno last season, which are tied for the second-most ever by a Grizzlies hitter in a single season. The outfielder made his big league debut on August 25th and played in a total of 17 games for the Giants.

Peguero was rated as having the best outfield arm in the Giants system by Baseball America once again. Here’s proof of that distinction. Yeah, we think he deserves it.

Kieschnick also made his Triple-A debut in 2012. He missed three months due to a left shoulder injury, but still managed to pace the Grizzlies in home runs with 15. Here is video evidence of power.

Kieschnick went down with the injury on May 31st, when he was batting .319. He appeared in four games as a designated hitter in the final series of the season from August 31-September 3, hitting a home run in the penultimate game.

Another name to watch for on the possible 2013 Grizzlies roster is Michael Kickham. The left-handed pitcher was placed fifth on Baseball America’s Top 10 list. The Missouri State product made 27 starts over 28 games for Double-A Richmond in 2012, going 11-10 with a 3.05 ERA. He had 137 strikeouts and 75 walks in 150.2 innings pitched.

He has quickly risen through the Giants system – he skipped High-A San Jose – and he may earn a shot at Triple-A in 2013 based on his career projection thus far. Kickham is rated as having the best slider in the Giants system according to Baseball America, a lethal pitch for a southpaw. The 24-year-old was selected by the Giants in the sixth round of the 2010 First-Year Player Draft.

Prospect Watch: Francisco Peguero

By: Jesse Beltran

Being considered a top-10 prospect for the San Francisco Giants the past three years can be a lot of pressure on a young outfielder like Francisco Peguero. After glancing at the 23-year-old’s numbers, one would notice it has not intimidated him.

Francisco Peguero rounds the bases (Real Life Studios)

Peguero’s journey through the farm system landed him in San Jose for 122 games in the 2010 season. He posted a .329 batting average while hitting 10 home runs and a league-leading 16 triples with 40 stolen bases, which led to his selection to the Post-Season California League All-Star team.

He wasn’t just an offense force; he did work with the glove as well, only committing four errors the entire season. After a phenomenal season, it was evident that high expectations were to follow. At the start of the 2011 season, Baseball America considered him the fourth-highest prospect in the Giants organization.

The two-time Major League Spring Training invitee didn’t miss a beat when the 2011 season rolled around, beginning the year in San Jose but only for 16 games due to his consistent numbers from the previous season.

Along came the promotion to the Double-A Flying Squirrels of Richmond, where he was limited to only 71 games due to arthroscopic knee surgery on his left knee. The knee injury did make a difference on the base paths. Peguero attained only eight stolen bases in Richmond and a total of 12 the entire year. His batting production continued with a consistent .309/.318/.446 line.

A player like Peguero who has an aggressive approach doesn’t draw much walks. Over his six-year career, he has batted 1,971 times and only drawn 80 walks. Due to his current approach, his slot in the lineup will be tough to figure out because he will give the team an edge from either the top or bottom part of the batting order.

A native of Nigua in the Dominican Republic, Peguero tends to go back home for the offseason for some rest and spend time with his family. However at the pace Peguero has been going through the Giants farm system, he took advantage of some extra reps during the offseason in the Dominican Winter League with the Gigantes del Cibao.

Peguero retrieves a fly ball with Richmond in 2011 (Real Life Studios)

This short league of 24 games benefited Peguero to keep his legs in shape chasing balls down in the outfield. At the plate, he slightly improved his patience with five walks in 87 at bats while batting .264 throughout the league. This improvement in walks doesn’t seem like much, but at that rate of walks per-at-bat, this calculates into him reaching his career total in walks (80) within 1,392 at-bats, instead of the 1,971 it actually took him. The Winter League experience will be a great benefit for him as he makes his way through Fresno.

Francisco Peguero has continued to work hard to achieve his dream of playing in the Major Leagues, being listed in the Top 100 Prospects at the #98 spot by MLB.com is just another feat for the young player in his journey. Striving to be ready for his call up to San Francisco, Peguero is expected to be in a Grizzlies uniform to begin the 2012 season.

A Walk In The Park

By: Noah Frank

When you are fortunate enough to work in baseball, you can, from time to time, forget the advantages your job affords you. In the offseason, when there are no games being played, you work a fairly standard 9-5 day, joining the rest of the population on the morning and evening commutes. But if you are lucky enough to have your offices built into the ballpark, and built into as beautiful a ballpark as we have here in Downtown Fresno, there is a constant reminder, right outside the window.

This week, that which all Grizzlies fans already know about our baseball home was revealed to a nationwide audience. Baseball America, the preeminent publication in our sport, chose Chukchansi Park to grace the cover of its 2012 Great Parks Calendar, which will hang in offices and homes from Spokane to Jupiter, from Portland (not Oregon anymore, just Maine) to Orem. It is a special honor for a city like Fresno, one that is not always associated with aesthetic beauty by those who do not live here.

In order to get a feel for the weight of such an honor, I caught up with a couple of people who know Downtown Fresno as well as anyone. Craig Scharton was born and raised in Fresno, and has moved his life Downtown, first living in the Security Bank building before purchasing his current house. This is only fitting, as he spends his days in the city offices as the Director of Downtown and Community Revitalization. There are few people in our town more committed to the success of Downtown than Scharton, who currently has a 20-game package for The CRU Club, and whose family has owned some form of ticket plan since the team’s move to its Downtown home in 2002.

A shot of Chukchansi Park from the Fresno sky. (Fresno Grizzlies)

“It’s obviously an incredible facility,” said Scharton of the ballpark. “And if we forget, we’re always reminded when we take visitors around how beautiful it is.”

Sometimes it takes an outsider’s view to make us aware again of what a great facility we have here. Another one of Downtown’s biggest champions, Travis Sheridan, relayed such a perspective.

“I’ve had visitors in all last year, coming anywhere from St. Louis to Australia,” he recalled. “They have all been so impressed with the ballpark. That’s when you know without a shadow of a doubt that this is a top notch ballpark.”

Scharton also recalled his experiences hearing from those who live outside of Fresno about how Chukchansi Park compares in the national landscape.

“We consistently hear from players and visitors that it’s the nicest ballpark in Triple-A” Scharton commented. That’s saying a lot, considering that six other parks have been built since 2000 in the Pacific Coast League alone.

The ballpark has also become the focal point of the Downtown entertainment experience. Sheridan was living in the Tower District when he first attended a game, back in 2004. Despite being a big baseball fan, he did not begin attending regularly until he became more involved in the future of Downtown four years ago as the Director of Marketing and Communications for the Central Valley Business Incubator.

“For me, it was a two-pronged approach,” Sheridan explained. “The more I got involved, the more I started patronizing the Downtown area, and the ballpark is the crown jewel of Downtown. As a baseball fan, I realized I was missing out.”

Sheridan (left) with Billy Crystal in the tunnel behind the Grizzlies dugout. (Don Davis)

Sheridan moved Downtown a year ago and took a much bigger leap in his connection to the Grizzlies this season, when he became the on-field host for 67 of the team’s 72 home games.

“Nothing beats an afternoon at the ballpark,” said Sheridan, who would certainly know. “Walking from my place (at Broadway Lofts) to the ballpark, it’s a great way to experience Downtown. It makes for a great overall urban experience.”

Adding to that experience, at least over the last couple of seasons, was the chance to see past or future World Champions playing right here in Fresno.

“One of the things I thought was great last year was carrying the momentum forward from the San Francisco Giants winning the World Series,” said Sheridan. “We don’t have that with Fresno State Football. There’s not a lot of people who graduate that program who we’re following in the pros.”

Of course, college football lacks the fluid feeder system that the Grizzlies enjoy, thanks to the club’s strong affiliation with the Giants. After all, more than half of the 2010 World Series roster came up through Fresno at one point or another, intrinsically tying Grizzlies fans to last year’s world title. Scharton agreed with the importance of that connection, citing a recent example.

“We were with a whole group in LA last night talking about Downtown (Fresno),” he recalled. “We listed off the players that we’ve all been fortunate enough to watch up close and personal, like Buster Posey, Tim Lincecum, and even Pablo Sandoval, who hit that home run here last year (on a Major League rehab assignment).”

In good times and bad for the baseball on the field, though, the ballpark remains. As it goes into its 11th year, Chukchansi Park looks as good as ever, as evidenced by its selection for the Great Parks Calendar cover.

The photo used by Baseball America for the cover of the 2012 calendar. (Don Davis)

“We know that we have a great stadium, and we hope that this recognition lets a lot of other people see what a great facility we have too,” said Sharton. “We hope they come and check it out.”

The people Scharton is referring to aren’t limited to just Fresnans, though. There are Giants fans all over the state, mostly north of the Central Valley, who travel great distances to see those in the farm system play.

“Just like people go to Spring Training, they should come down a couple times a year to see the upcoming prospects,” said Scharton. “It’s much easier and much cheaper to come down here than to go Scottsdale.”

Scottsdale Stadium, the Spring Training home of the Giants, is somewhat similar to Chukchansi Park. It holds roughly 12,000 people and was wholly renovated just a couple of years after Chukchansi Park was built. Both provide an opportunity for Giants fans to get out of San Francisco and watch the up-and-comers in the organization before they hit the Major League level. Sheridan agreed, for the most part, that Fresno could pull the same type of fan that makes the trek to Arizona each spring.

“Spring Training will always be a destination, but you can definitely carry that momentum,” Sheridan suggested. “Once people that have been identified in Spring Training as prospects, you can follow those folks in Fresno, throughout the year. To be able to see the prospects in Scottsdale and know you’ll be able to catch them any weekend in Fresno is a good selling point.”

It certainly won’t hurt to have some national recognition from the likes of Baseball America, either.

Baseball Hipster Heaven: The Arizona Fall League

By: Noah Frank

There is a great joke about hipsters that a friend of mine told me several years ago, back when I lived in the Bay Area.

First, the setup: “How many hipsters does it take to screw in a light bulb?”

The answer? “Some obscure number, you’ve probably never heard of it.”

After the punch line, the follow-up: “If you like that joke, I’ve got a copy of it on vinyl.”

The joke is funny because it plays on hipsters’ disregard of, and disgust for, all things mainstream, their self-righteous contempt clutched to as a badge of honor to leverage themselves above the masses as connoisseurs of culture. In the last few seasons, the Arizona Fall League has taken on a life of its own, becoming the underground lounge full of up-and-coming prospects, the den where baseball hipsters, like Keith Law, sit and scout, then take to Twitter to tell the American masses about the players they will be worshiping in a few years.

The parallel between the music hipsters and the baseball hipsters didn’t fully hit me until I saw a tweet from Law pop up in the middle of a playoff game, only to be bewildered to find that it had nothing to do with this game, but rather some prospect in the AFL game he was attending that day. This is not to make any judgments of right or wrong, just to point out that clearly, at this moment, a hipster culture had been created in baseball; one in which the possible, projected future was more important than the actual, present postseason.

Ken Joyce (right) with Brock Bond and River Cats infielder Chris Carter in 2010. (Don Davis)

Needless to say, with this newfound emphasis being put on the yearly exhibition of prospects, the public’s desire for more information has grown accordingly. A strong performance in the AFL doesn’t win you a World Series, but it might put you on the cover of Baseball America, and motivate your team’s fan base to clamor for you to replace an underperforming veteran. Here at Yard Work, we wrote a couple of pieces last year showcasing the various Giants prospects coming up the ranks who we might see in Fresno, including the likes of Brandon Belt and Conor Gillaspie. We also had several offseason conversations with Jonathan Mayo— the MLB.com writer assigned to cover the minor leagues and the draft— to gain a better perspective on these prospects and on how well we could project their stellar performances in the Fall League towards future success.

This year I found, to my delight, that 2010 Grizzlies hitting coach Ken Joyce was serving as the hitting coach for the Scottsdale Scorpions, the AFL squad for which the Giants prospects play. Recent top draft picks Gary Brown and Joe Panik are joined by the likes of 2011 Grizzly and Giant Brandon Crawford on that Scottsdale squad. And because of the collective structure of the AFL, in which each team is comprised of prospects from five different organizations, they all wear the same uniform as uber prospects Bryce Harper (Nationals) and Mike Trout (Angels). I caught up with Joyce the other day to get his thoughts on all of the above.

Yard Work: Brandon Crawford is an interesting case as a guy with Major League time playing in the AFL. Is this the first time he’s played for you, and what have you been working on so far?

Ken Joyce: I’ve actually seen him before, since I had him in the instructional league last year. The biggest thing is we’ve simplified everything. A couple years ago in Double-A he was swinging the bat very well, but he got a little too technical, was trying to do too much. So we just focused on getting him in a good rhythm. He has been on fire, swinging very well against both righties and lefties. Plus, he’s kind of taken on a leadership role for these younger guys.

Brandon Crawford is known for his glove, but his bat has heated up in the AFL. (Don Davis)

YW: You also are getting an up close look at Joe Panik and Gary Brown. What are your first impressions of them?

KJ: I’m very impressed with Panik. He’s a very mature young man, a little ahead of his time. Just talking to some people in the [Giants] organization, he reminds a lot of people of [Buster] Posey in his demeanor. Now it’s just a matter of adjusting to each level as he moves along. The fact that he’s [in the AFL] shows that they think very highly of him. He hit his first home run for us today. Overall his performance hasn’t shown up in the numbers, but he’s exhausted. He’s been going pretty much for a full year straight, so it’s probably the most baseball he’s ever played in his life.

As for Gary Brown, I saw him a bit in Spring Training, but this is my first time really working with him. I think he’s fatigued a bit, too, it’s been a long year. The key for him is not getting caught up in the results. Two years ago Posey hit about .220 in this league and was in the Majors the next year. In my opinion, that is actually good for you— we’d rather have you fail here than in the big leagues. Browny’s got a very good attitude about it, he’s just been pressing a little bit mentally. But defensively, he’s as good as anybody here.

YW: What have you seen out of Bryce Harper and Mike Trout, arguably the top two prospects in the game?

KJ: They are both very talented individuals, I mean their raw talent is off the charts. I think they’re dealing with some of the same issues as Browny, that it’s just been a long year for them. They’ve been better lately, though.

YW: Does it take some of the pressure off of the Giants prospects to know that guys like Harper and Trout are more in the spotlight?

KJ: It takes a little bit of pressure off our guys, but at the same time, it means more people are coming to see them play every day.

YW: Have any other guys stood out to you that maybe the general baseball public is unaware of at this point? Is there anyone to keep an eye on the next couple of years?

KJ: I’ve been real impressed with two of our catchers. Derek Norris (Nationals) has been swinging the bat real well. We saw him in Harrisburg this year where he put up some power numbers in Double-A, but the average was low. He’s made some good adjustments since then. Dan Butler (Red Sox) has also been impressive.

YW: Any other Giants prospects to look out for?

KJ: The pitchers have done a good job, Austin Fleet especially. He’s got two wins, and has given up only one run so far. Stephen Harrold has closed out a couple games for us, too. The young kids have very good arms and have done a nice job, even getting themselves out of pressure situations.

YW: Do you have other impressions from the AFL to share with the folks back at home?

KJ: It’s just a great opportunity for these guys to develop. After all, if you can’t play in front of the rovers, the farm directors, the general managers, how are you going to play in front of 40-50,000 people? As for me, I’m loving it down here. It’s been good times, working with a good staff. It’s been good to see the rovers that we see throughout the year come through.

Prospect Watch: Thomas Neal

Prospects have always been a hot topic during Spring Training and this year is no exception. Players like Brandon Belt, Zach Wheeler, Conor Gillaspie, and Darren Ford all ring a bell to any Giants lover. During this year’s Spring Training, much has been made about the Giants top prospect, Brandon Belt, but it wouldn’t hurt to keep an eye on outfielder Thomas Neal as well.
Neal has produced consistently strong Minor League numbers that have landed him in the top seven of Baseball America‘s Giants prospects list each of the last two years. Not only has he shown a good glove in the outfield, committing just 19 errors across his five-year minor league career, but he has also shown enough pop in his bat to be a potential big leaguer.

neal.JPG

In 2009, a then 21-year-old Neal put up break through numbers that shot him up the ranks of Giants prospects. He batted .337 (160-for-475) with 67 extra-base hits in 129 games with the San Jose Giants. He also belted 22 of those out of the park and polished off the season with 90 runs batted in. These outstanding numbers nabbed Neal the 2009 San Jose Giants MVP award.
He advanced to Double-A in 2010 with the Richmond Flying Squirrels, where he proceeded to post solid numbers yet again. He compiled a .291 batting average, also cleared the 40-double mark for the second straight year. His career minor league line of .296/.375/.475, has helped him rise steadily through the minor league ranks.
His overall performance in the minor league system eventually scored him a spot on the Giants 40-man roster in mid November. Neal is currently playing on Major League Spring Training with the Giants in Scottsdale, Arizona. He will more than likely end up in Fresno for the beginning of the season and has a possibility of making his Major League debut in San Francisco in 2011.
In addition to being a noted prospect, Neal has joined the Twitter trend that has exploded within the sports world recently. His username @TdaddyNeal is constantly being updated before and after (but hopefully not during) Spring Training games. Neal logs in daily to tweet about Spring Training, day-to-day life, random questions of the night and favorite quotes. He frequently interacts with fans through Twitter, which is always great for a technologically keyed-in Giants fan base.
His down-to-earth online persona has received positive attention, helping him attain a collection of over 2,200 followers, as of this article. Check into Yard Work in the near future to catch a full length interview with Thomas Neal, in the mean time feel free to start following @TdaddyNeal, as I do, for everyday updates from the prospect himself.
(Photo Credit: Real Life Studios)

The Once And Future King

By: Noah Frank

As a kid
growing up, I remember watching Patrick Roy, goalie for the Colorado Avalanche,
and reflecting upon his last name. Having learned French at an early age, I
recognized his last name as being close to the French word for “king” (roi),
hence his nickname: King Patrick. The rabid baseball fan that I am, I always
saw the same thing whenever the Rookies of the Year were announced in the
acronym for the award: ROY. So this season, when the Giants’ Twitter fan site
@SF_Giants began their ROYPosey hashtag push, I could think of only one thing:

King Posey.

That was a
far cry from my first impression of the young man carrying the burden of all 

the hopes of a long-suffering fan base. I first met Buster Posey at our annual Hot
Stove Dinner
, last February 4th. On a brisk Thursday night in
downtown Fresno, he strolled into 

the banquet room at the Holiday Inn. Clad in
a modest dress shirt and slacks, no tie, a modest sport coat and a closely cropped haircut,
he might as well have been a member of the military on leave. I have stood next
to some of the most imposing legends of the modern era: Randy Johnson, Roger poseyhotstove.jpgClemens, Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi. This kid did not have that same striking
presence as legends like those. He was just that- a kid.

Standing
behind the row of speakers who were seated up on stage that night, I could see
his hands shake under the table as he addressed the crowd. His even, mild tone
was much softer than that of his fellow athletes that night, retired Major
Leaguers Dave Dravecky, Steve Decker and Mark Gardner. One could forgive a
young man in his early 20s for not having the same composure as those twice his
age, much less those with public speaking and minor league managerial
experience. But this was supposed to be the chosen one, not only the offensive
savior but also the overseer of the talented young pitching staff expected to
help push the Giants into contention for a World Championship.

Two months
later came the blitz of a highly anticipated media day and an even bigger
Opening Day. Joining Posey on the media rounds was an even younger, even
greener prospect, fireballer Madison Bumgarner. By now Posey seemed more
comfortable, perhaps more at ease and back in his element wearing a jersey and
cleats instead of street clothes. I guided Bumgarner, Decker and him through
the row of television cameras lining the terrace behind the right-field seats.
He handled himself capably, and with a walk-off win in front of nearly 14,000
fans that night
, the questions that followed were mostly softballs.

The team’s record-setting start certainly helped as well, as the Grizzlies stormed out to
a 32-16 start with Posey on the team. As anyone who works in baseball knows,
though, the season is long and tiresome, and certainly has its ups and downs.
The Giants were off to a good start as well, but questions about their offense
lingered. Suddenly, they dropped five straight, culminating in a weekend sweep
at the hands of the cross-town rival Oakland Athletics
in which they managed just a
single run total, dropping their record to 22-21 on May 23rd. Posey
responded the next day, an off-day for the Giants, by going 4-for-4 against the Memphis Redbirds.

The constant
media pressure will begin to grate on anyone as the season progresses, especially
when you have to answer the same question over and over: “Why aren’t you in San
Francisco yet?” Ever the even-keeled diplomat in front of the camera, he gave
all the right answers. But after that Oakland series, the cries could be heard
all the way from San Francisco. The local beat writer asked me what I thought
the chances were of Posey still 

being a Grizzly when the team returned from its
next road trip, an eight-game swing 

Bumgarner Posey.jpgthrough Salt Lake City and Las Vegas that
would not return them to the Central Valley until June 5th.

“90
percent,” I remember saying. Oops.

That Friday
night the Grizzlies polished off an 8-0 pasting of the Salt Lake Bees to open
that trip, with Posey going 2-for-3 with a walk, a double and an RBI to back
Madison Bumgarner’s 7.2 innings of four-hit, shutout ball. Life was about as
splendid as it could be for a Grizzlies fan, sitting 10.5 games up in first place. About an hour later I received a
text from the Giants’ V.P. of Baseball Operations that Buster was being called
up the next day.

In addition
to being sad about losing Buster from our lineup, I was more worried what the
pressure of a media market the size of San Francisco’s, combined with all the
national attention focused on him, would do to his calm, collected demeanor.
What would happen if he didn’t get off to a good start? How much patience would
an antsy fan base be willing to show for this 23-year-old with just 172 games
of minor league experience?

SI-World-Series-2010.jpgWell, when
you go 3-for-4 with three RBI in your first game, it takes a bit of the
pressure off. Another three-hit game the next day and a record-setting July
later on cemented his place in baseball history as the first Giant to claim
Rookie of the Year honors in 35 years.

Sure, the
expectation was there. Sure, he was named the top prospect in the system, fifth
overall in the minors by Baseball America before the season. But this? All of
this? With a World Series title to boot? I guess that this is what people mean
when they say they have watched someone grow up in front of their very eyes.

I wonder
sometimes how it feels from Buster’s perspective. It must all seem a bit
surreal, like some winding, lucid dream. Judging by how many orange-clad fans
stormed the streets of San Francisco for the victory parade, there are a lot of
people hoping he never wakes up.

(Photo Credit for first two photos: Don Davis; Credit for final photo: Sports Illustrated)

Prospect Watch: Charlie Culberson

By: Noah Frank

Every year,
as the bulk of the baseball watching populous turns its collective attention to
the playoffs– culminating in the Fall Classic– a handful of experts pack their
bags and head to Arizona. No, they are not flying south for the winter, though
the mild temperatures are certainly the reason that their destination is
situated where it is. These scouts and writers are headed to the Arizona Fall League, a post-season
prospect showcase of the best the minors has to offer. At first glance, this
was not somewhere one would expect to find Charlie
Culberson
.

culberson.jpg

Not only was
Culberson not among the top 30 prospects in the Giants’ system entering 2010,
according to Baseball America, he wasn’t even listed on the organizational
depth chart at second base, making his only appearance in their prospect
handbook as the fourth-string third baseman.

It’s funny
how quickly a professional baseball player can put his name on the map these
days. Let’s just say that whole anonymity thing isn’t going to last into next
year’s edition.

A career
.249 hitter with just a .312 on-base percentage through his first three
professional seasons, Culberson– still just 21– spent the year at High-A San Jose. After a lackluster April that
saw him hit just .212, he stormed out to bat .326 in May and a cool .400 in the
month of June. His overall average reached a season-high of .329 in late June,
but would tumble downwards in the second half, coinciding with the promotion of
top prospect and fellow right-side infielder Brandon Belt to Double-A Richmond.

Culberson
still finished the year at .290/.340/.457 with 28 doubles and 16 home runs, his
best season yet as a professional. The Giants liked what they saw enough to
give him a shot in the AFL, a talent-rich prospect zoo where he would be thoroughly
tested.

Even with
his improvements this year, nobody could have expected what Culberson
delivered. He hit safely in his first dozen games, batting .472 (25-for-53)
with eight doubles, two triples, two home runs, 15 runs scored and nine RBI. He
racked up eight multi-hit games over that stretch, including four of three or
more hits. As of November 5th he had settled down to a .417 average,
but still leads the league in hits (30), doubles (10), and extra-base hits
(14), while ranking second in slugging percentage (.694) and total bases (50).
Never mind that he’s doing all of this against the best competition available.

Culberson
may still have Brock Bond above him
on the organizational depth chart at second base, but he has likely passed Nick Noonan and may well see some time
in Fresno this year. A sandwich pick out of high school back in 2007, it has
taken Culberson a little while to achieve his potential. But with Belt flanking
him at first base, the Giants have a lot to be excited about in the future of
the right side of the infield.

(Photo Credit: Mills Fitzner)

Welcome!

Thumbnail image for stadium wide shot.JPG

Well, hello there. Welcome to Yard Work, the official blog
of the Fresno Grizzlies. WhileFresnoGrizzlies.com
will continue to handle all your daily news and information about the team,
Yard Work will take a look behind the scenes of what it takes to put on an
entire season of minor league baseball. With contributions from front office
staff, players, coaches, interns, the Drag Kings and even fans
themselves, it will provide you with a unique, inside look into the
personalities that make Grizzlies baseball so much fun.


With another award-winning
season
in the books, the organization is looking forward to a great 2010. Our newly
revamped website is up and running, bringing our fans more stories, pictures
and videos than ever before. Plus, this season’s promotional calendar, which is
being rolled out this week, will offer fans an unprecedented level of
involvement in choosing what they want to see at the ballpark this spring and
summer.

On the field, the Grizzlies will welcome new manager Steve Decker for
the upcoming season. Decker will have at his disposal some of the budding stars
of the top-ranked minor league system in the National League, according to Baseball
America
. We’ll know more about just who those players will be in the coming
weeks, as the Giants narrow down their 25-man roster in Spring Training. I’ll
be down in Scottsdale this weekend, talking with players, coaches and Giants
front-office folk and will be writing a couple of entries about the experience.

Remember everyone, Opening Day is just around the corner on Friday,
April 16th. The Grizzlies take on the Portland Beavers at Chukchansi Park
at 7:05pm with Decker and Portland
skipper Terry Kennedy, former catching teammates with the Giants,
matched up against each other as managers for the first time.

More to come this weekend from Arizona!

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