Fred Lewis paid his own way to fly out to San Francisco and attend the Bonds ceremony and I think we were all surprised and maybe even a little bit heart-warmed by the gesture. No one expected a fellow player to willingly honor Barry Bonds without the team footing the bill and Fred Lewis is such a random pull from the list of ex-Giants that the surprise factor is unusually high.
The Giants drafted Lewis in the 2nd round of the 2002 draft, and after making his debut in 2006 and posting a .374 on base percentage in Bonds’ last season of 2007, maybe there was some degree of hope that he could be The Next Big Thing. Not Barry Bonds, of course, but not another developmental failure of the failed Giants farm system.
His final two years with the Giants saw him post a .350 OBP in 857 plate appearances (255 games) and a 101 OPS+. Just a tick above league average. Not great as a Bonds successor in left field, but a perfectly fine backup option for the outfield. Still, the Giants traded him away to the Blue Jays before the 2010 season, prompting Grant to write “Requiem for Fred Lewis”, in which he commented:
You’d expect a fairer analysis from the folks running the team, but once again we’re looking at how bizarrely the Giants handled a player. Fred Lewis...
came up in ‘07, Barry Bonds’s last season, and put up a .374 on-base percentage in limited at-bats
started in ‘08 only after Dave Roberts was injured. Think about that with the benefit of hindsight for a minute. A 90-loss team that needed to get younger wanted to start Dave Roberts over Fred Lewis
performed well as a starter in his first full season, and then was penciled in as the #3 hitter the next season. Why? Because the team expected him to magically develop power at the age of 27, even though he had never hit more than 12 home runs at any professional level.
lost his job in the middle of a slump that brought his numbers just slightly below what was expected
never regained his job even as he got hot and his replacement got cold
Bizarre. Again, it’s not as if Lewis is going to morph into Stan Musial on another team, but that’s just a weird sequence. It’s so, so Giants, though.
The Giants needed to make room on the roster for Eugenio Velez, who was the Emmanuel Burriss of his time, and eight years later we see that almost nothing has changed about the Giants when it comes to developing outfielders. Or most of their position players.
Lewis played his last game (for the Mets) in October 2012 at age 31. He had a 91 OPS+ in 715 plate appearances across three teams (Blue Jays, Reds, and Mets) in 209 games. His story isn’t one of a the many random dudes to play Major League Baseball across is staggering history, however. He did have some moments, including the time he hit for the cycle as a rookie (only the second time in Giants’ history that happened):
This booming shot for his first home run of 2009:
This booming shot in Seattle:
And his last home run as a Giant:
Anyway, Lewis wound up being a 3.9 bWAR player in his time with the Giants, which, hey, isn’t bad. And for one more night he got to be a San Francisco in the best possible way.