The Romans gave us indoor plumbing. The Greeks gave us philosophy. The Giants have given the world free bullpen help and walk-off home runs. It's nice to be a part of progress. If the historians had to choose, though, they'd probably remember this period as the Classical Fourth Outfielder Era. At least, that's the common perception of the Giants' organization. Prospect A? Fourth outfielder. Prospect B? Fourth outfielder. Prospect C? Fifth outfielder. All good enough to be on a major league roster; none good enough to start.
Maybe. Schierholtz is still just 23, and he's hit at every minor league level. Rajai Davis used to be a switch-hitter, so maybe his new swing/new production level isn't a fluke. Fred Lewis is 26, but remember that he played football in the YRFL (Year-Round Football League) for ten years before the Giants drafted him. He showed up to his first minor league practice wearing shoulder pads, and he asked the coaches if he had to supply his own cylindrical wooden stick.
(An aside: The old story of "Lewis is behind the curve because he concentrated on football" always seemed ridiculous to me. Apparently, it seemed ridiculous to Lewis, too.)
If these three comprise an armada of fourth outfielders, it isn't because they don't look like starting outfielders. All three have varying combinations of speed and power that are too impressive to dismiss without giving them a fair chance. They aren't fourth outfielders to me until they prove they can't be starters. My off-the-cuff plan for 2008 playing time:
At least 350 at-bats:
N/A; he really is a future fifth outfielder:
The comment starter: How likely is it to move Dave Roberts (two years, much money) and Randy Winn (two years, much money, limited no-trade), and how much of a chance at playing time do the young outfielders have next year?