The Fresno Grizzlies’ 2013 season opener is three weeks away — April 4 at Chukchansi Park — making this a good time to check up on how our Boys of Summer are doing in spring training.
With the parent-club San Francisco Giants sending so many players to the World Baseball Classic, more minor -leaguers are getting a chance to show what they can do in Cactus League competition. Through Thursday’s games, seven of the 10 players with the most at-bats (Kensuke Tenaka, Nick Noonan, Cole Gillespie, Francisco Peguero, Roger Kieschnick, Gary Brown and Brett Pill) are thought to be on the bubble between Triple-A and the majors.
Early last week, I made an attempt to predict the Grizzlies’ opening day roster. (The list would look slightly different if I did it today.) Here are some of the latest goings on as the regular reason approaches:
*** Brett Pill is expected to be out three to four weeks after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery Thursday. Terrible timing for Pill, who is fighting for a roster spot and has nothing left to prove in Triple-A. The timing means Pill could open the season on the disabled list, or in Fresno on a rehab assignment. Pill appeared in 48 games last season for the World Series champs.
*** Francisco Peguero hasn’t cooled off (.424 average) and appears to be battling veteran free-agent pickup Cole Gillespie for the fifth outfield spot. (Provided the Giants go with a fifth outfielder.) Grizzlies fans are well-acquainted with Peguero’s throwing arm and speed on the basepaths, so he could force his way onto the roster if he continues to hit.
*** Chris Heston and Michael Kickham are two young arms the Giants are counting on as insurance for the major-league rotation. Both are coming off strong seasons at Double-A Richmond and are ticketed for Fresno. The right-handed Heston boasts the more impressive career stats, but Kickham is rated the better prospect because he can bring it 94 mph from the left side.
*** Fresno fan favorite Brock Bond continues to make the most of his first taste of big-league camp. The pesky second baseman is hitting .412 over 17 at-bats (strangely, he hasn’t drawn a walk) while holding his own on defense. Not bad for a guy the Giants apparently drafted by mistake.
*** The battle for the second backup infield spot (behind Joaquin Arias) remains up in the air. Tony Abreu was thought to have the early edge given his 40-man roster status but has been limited to two at-bats with a strained quad. None of the other candidates (Wilson Valdez, Nick Noonan and Japanese import Kensuke Tanaka) have stood out, and Tanaka’s struggles have been pronounced.
*** I left Johnny Monell off my predicted Grizzlies roster, which the left-handed hitting catcher seems to be taking personally. Monell is hitting .600 (with a .933 slugging percentage) and could figure into the Giants’ plans as a pinch-hitter. Monell played a handful of games in Fresno in 2010 and has spent the last two seasons at Double-A.