On Your Toes and Hit that Line! 

Road trip to Fresno, anyone? Not to see the Bulldogs, sorry. But it's quite possible that the triple-A Fresno Grizzlies could start the year as entertaining as their big-league affiliate and provide a sneak peek at the Giants a year from now.

As reported yesterday, Jonathan Sanchez is being groomed this spring to start, which means he probably won't join the big-league bullpen next month. That's not a bad thing. His future is as a starter, so best to give him a few months at least to refine his game within a splitter's distance of the confluence of the Mighty 99 and the Yosemite Freeway.

With Tim Lincecum also likely to start the year as a FrezzGrizz, and a few other promising prospects (or at least entertaining, in the case of Erick Threets who throws 100 MPH but with control problems) optioned yesterday to AAA, here's a best guess at the ones worth watching come April in Fresno:

Pat Misch

Billy Sadler

Nate Schierholtz
Eddie Martinez-Esteve
Fred Lewis

Eugenio Velez
Travis Ishikawa

It's not too much a stretch to pencil Sanchez and Lincecum into the Giant rotation in 2008, Sadler and Misch into the bullpen, and Lewis and EME into the outfield rotation. Longer shots in my book are Ishikawa, Schierholtz and Threets.

The Giants may surprise us by keeping Lewis, Sadler or any of the three starting pitchers this April, but I doubt it. For those who don't follow prospects closely, one guy worth watching is Velez, whom the Giants plucked from the Toronto farm system in the Rule 5 draft last year, stashed in low-A ball, and watched tear up the Sally League. Problem is, he's relatively old -- 25 this May. It's a long way from low-A to AAA, and just as far again to the bigs. Can he do well against his peers? I've heard he might be moved from second base, where he's been wreaking havoc all spring, to the outfield a la Alfonso Soriano, so keep an eye not only on how he hits in Fresno but where he plays defense.

While we're in Fresno, I really want to check out this place, too. I hope you don't mind.


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