I was never big on Fred Lewis as a prospect. Here, for example, I ranked him behind Eddy Martinez-Esteve and Craig Whitaker. Here I expressed amazement at his inclusion on Baseball America's top-100 list. I didn't dislike him as a prospect, but I just thought that he was always a little too old for his league, and his performances weren't special enough to ignore that.
Now he's a part of Rebuilding Project, Phase One: Collect league-average hitters. We're all looking forward to Phase Four: Buster and Madison Take Foodstuffs and Wimmen as War Trophies, but Phase One will have to do for now. And I'm happy to have Lewis as a part of Phase One. His defense -- Benardian as his routes may be at times -- is good, and his on-base skillz were some of the best on the team last year.
I'm worried, though, that the Giants are setting the fans up for Lewis-induced disappointment. He'll hit in the middle of the order this year, even though his career high in homers at any level is still lower than Omar Vizquel's career high in the majors. So there's a strong chance that Lewis won't crack ten homers, but the chatter from the organization is that Lewis will change his approach when he's in the middle of the order. He'll be more aggressive, and his athleticism will lead to more home runs. So the story goes, at least.
I call shenanigans. Lewis is strong, for sure. Some of his home runs last year were absolute bombs. But he isn't a power hitter, and he likely never will be. It makes much more sense to appreciate him for the player he already is, which is a decent-OBP and doubles power corner outfielder with speed and good defense. Another two seasons like the last, and Lewis just might be the best position player farm product since Matt Williams. I could blame the organization for that, but you know who doesn't get blamed enough? Todd Linden. Never forget.
Sets of projections from around the interweb:
Bill James: .277/.353/.416, with 10 HR
ZiPS: .267/.342/.416, with 10 HR
PECOTA: .279/.354/.437, with 10 HR
So the projections have Lewis anywhere from nine home runs to ten home runs. Pfft. If he hits nine-and-a-half, all of those slide rule gropers are going to feel pretty stupid. For what it's worth, I'm going to err closer to PECOTA:
Optimistic, but not insane. That should be the motto for this year's team, actually....