Fred Lewis was ranked #78 on Baseball America's top 100 prospects list. I have to admit, I severely underestimated the respect Lewis would garner from the scouting community. The story is a familiar one: boy loves football, baseball throws money at boy, boy learns to love baseball, chewing tobacco rots gums from outside-in, boy turns 58 and finds self signing memorabilia at card show for overweight man-child. Well, that's one version.
Point is, there was always the disclaimer addended after talking about Lewis. Fine athlete, could be a fine player if he learned how to play baseball. It's easy to be dismissive when looking at the stat sheet, pointing out a 24-year old in high-A has no business striking out over 100 times. The backstory also makes Lewis seem as if he were discovered catching fish with his teeth in the Yukon, and hadn't held a bat before. He might have concentrated on football, sure, but he's been playing baseball his whole life.
Still, a lot of people with a lot of experience watching young players are enthusiastic about him. The scouting community can be wrong, obviously. For every Rocco Baldelli there is a Rick Asadoorian, just like for every Mark Bellhorn there is a Jack Cust. It isn't like the statistical or scouting community has a monopoly on right. It is best to go with the Inherit the Wind-style of baseball philosophy, and slap the scouting notebook and Baseball Prospectus together as you leave the courtroom.
There is no shortage of players ranked from #79 to 100 with whom I would feel more comfortable. Ian Kinsler, for example, is someone I would trade Lewis for in an instant. The ceiling might be a dropoff, but the odds of any contribution at all would be higher. As it stands, though, it is much better to be in the Fred Lewis business now than it was a year ago. His year at Fresno will probably be the most intriguing of any Giants hitting prospect.