End Of An Error

The Giants called up Triple-A Fresno outfielders Fred Lewis and Dan Ortmeier on Thursday, replacing the injured Dave Roberts (15-day DL) and Todd Linden. The 26-year-old Linden was designated for assignment, effectively ending his Giants career and reinforcing the reputation the Giants have as an organization that cannot develop hitters.

I’m as tired of beating this dead horse as anyone, but Linden was a guy who was supposed to help change the fact that the Brian Sabean regime, which began with the 1997 season, has not drafted and developed a player who has become a solid big league regular as a hitter, with the easily-dismissed exception of Mike Caruso. Linden was the club’s supplemental first-round pick in 2001, San Francisco’s third pick after Brad Hennessey and Noah Lowry. As usual, the Giants’ pitching picks (including 47th-round find Scott Munter and second-round former phenom, Jesse Foppert) from that draft have worked out, but the hitters in that class–Linden, third-rounder Julian Benavidez, seventh-rounder Jamie Athas–have not.

Linden’s career big league line is an ugly .217/.288/.324 in 373 at-bats spread over 185 games. He’s far from the guy that hit .390 at Washington in 2000 and tore up the Cape Cod League that summer; instead, he’s a swing-and-miss, all-or-nothing hitter who doesn’t walk or make consistent enough contact for his above-average raw power to show through. He never really got better with the Giants, and leaves homegrown products Lewis and Ortmeier to take his place. Lewis, also 26, was off to a good start with the Grizzlies and may yet be a late bloomer, as he shows patience and improved baserunning acumen to go with his above-average tools. Ortmeier, who turns 26 Friday, was off to a similar start but lacks Lewis’ patience and overall athleticism.

Still, both are 26 and have yet to establish themselves as regulars. Can they surpass the career totals of the likes of Linden, Kevin Frandsen (who may yet become the top homegrown Giants hitter), Lance Niekro and the quickly forgotten Caruso as Giants-drafted hitters who make it? Or are Bill Mueller and Chris Singleton–products of the Giants’ 1993 draft–somewhere getting ready to celebrate, like the 1972 Dolphins do every year, when another challenger to their mark as the Last Homegrown Giants Regulars goes bust?