My beat is the Fresno Grizzlies. I live in Fresno, go to every Grizzlies' game I can, and write about the team at my website www.grizzlies-baseball.com.
One of the differences between following a minor league team and a major league team is continuity. Once someone establishes themselves as a leader and top producer for your minor league team, the parent team snatches them up. That's just the nature of the relationship between a major league team and its affiliates.
So Fresno fans that have become accustomed, or are growing accustomed to seeing guys like Madison Bumgarner, Kevin Pucetas, John Bowker, or Buster Posey, have to get used to the idea that the better they perform, the sooner we'll lose them.
What makes this ok, (in addition to the fact that you'll soon get to watch those guys tearing up the NL West) is that there are a crop of youngsters that are working there way up to Fresno. Here are three that we are likely to see here this year. But don't blink; they might not be with us for long.
Roger Kieschnick - 23, Corner Outfielder - Bats Left, Throws Right
Roger is from Rockwall, Texas, and was taken by the Giants in the 3rd round of the 2008 draft. He played two years of college ball at Texas Tech, which is more of a football school; but he finished his sophomore year as a Second-Team All-Big 12. Kieschnick played at San Jose in 2009 and put up some big numbers. He hit for average: .296; for power: 23 home runs, 275 total bases; and even stole 9 bases in 10 attempts. He is also something of a daredevil in the outfield, with a real nice arm. He can stand to improve his routes and jumps a little bit, but that's what the minors are for. His biggest concern is improving his plate discipline. He'll need to do better than 36 walks and 130 strikeouts. I suspect that he'll begin 2010 in Connecticut, but look for him in Fresno by July.
Thomas Neal - 22, Corner Outfielder / First Baseman - Bats Right, Throws Right
Thomas had a breakout year in 2009, also playing in San Jose. He's from Inglewood, CA, and was taken by the Giants in the 36th round of the 2005 draft. Baseball America has him ranked at 96th overall in 2010. Like Kieschnick, Neal is usually a corner outfielder, but was used at first base in the Arizona Fall League, and did well. Last year in San Jose, Thomas hit .337, with an outstanding OPS of 1.010. He also improved his plate discipline over his 2008 season in Augusta. He probably won't start the year with the Grizzlies, but I expect that we'll see plenty of him in 2010.
Zack Wheeler - 19, RHP
The Giants first round draft pick in 2009 is an exciting, flame-throwing right-hander from Dallas, GA. Straight out of high school, Zack mixes a 95 mph fastball with an excellent curve. Baseball America ranks him at #49. He hasn't pitched yet in the pros, so it will be a while before he makes it to Fresno. He's got tons of stuff, but he'll need to work on command, and ideally develop a changeup in 2010. Zack certainly looks like another in a long line of mega-talented, young Giants pitchers.