Everybody knows that outfielder Todd Linden is a big leaguer, yet where he'll fit on the Giants roster in 2006 is still an unanswered question. Linden, 25, has jetted out of the Minor League ranks, kicking in the afterburners with a sensational season at Triple-A Fresno, batting .321 and leading the Pacific Coast League with 30 homers and 80 RBIs in only 95 games.
Wow. Triple wow. And nearly a PCL Triple Crown. So he can, in theory, forget about the Grizzlies forever more.
The real trick is competing and succeeding in the Major Leagues, where his defensive flair has hit the video replay boards but also where veteran right-handed pitchers own crisp breaking balls and on-the-black offerings that can fool All-Stars, much less take advantage of holes in young hitters' swings.
And Linden, even after multiple seasons of heavy-duty tinkering, still has his problems, which he hopes to help solve by playing winter ball in Mazatlan, Mexico.
Last year for the Giants, the switch-hitter hit .300 as a right-handed batter, but that was only in 30 games. On the left side -- where, presumably, the power lies -- he batted .196 and struggled over his final 26 games with San Francisco, hitting .136 with one RBI.
Analyzing Linden's .216 overall average, manager Felipe Alou feels there's still room for the strongman to become a complete player but admits he's getting impatient. As are others in the Giants' organization.
"I've talked to him about being more aggressive at the plate," said Alou. "I know Todd is a good baseball player -- he has good baserunning skills, a good arm and is a great defensive guy. He's a much better righty hitter and we'd like for him to get better as a lefty hitter. He may not be a regular player [now], but if he does better as a lefty, he could be an everyday guy."
General manager Brian Sabean has stated the club desperately needs a potent left-handed basher -- possibly a first baseman or complementary outfielder -- and if Linden progresses quickly, he could shove speedy Jason Ellison aside for the fourth outfield spot in 2006.
It'll take some pushing. Ellison has the edge for the moment, thanks to 14 stolen bases, a .264 overall average and five outfield assists during the 2005 season.
Sabean has stated Linden and first sacker Lance Niekro need to improve dramatically over the next few years or become tradeable players, and Linden realizes time is running out.
"I'm looking to get more at-bats in Mazatlan and make the adjustments I'm trying to make," said Linden, the Giants sandwich selection in the 2002 First-Year Player Draft. "I look at what I did at Triple-A, and I'm that same player. There are some loopholes I have to take care of, tighten up the swing. If I flatten it out, it'll be tougher for people to get me out."
What he'd like to do is recapture the two-week magic he showed after being recalled on Aug. 12 to San Francisco, batting .389 with a homer, three doubles and two RBIs and sporting a career-high six-game hitting streak in which he hit .480 and had multi-hit efforts in four games at Cincinnati.
Then, the spiral began.
"It's a matter of seeing pitches I can handle from the left side," said Linden. "I flatten my swing, get more pitches, and can cover more of the zone so they won't be able to eat me up here and there. The pitchers are aware of my weak spots and they'll throw to it.
"I'm conscious of them, but in Triple-A, that wasn't me," he said. "In Triple-A, I was laying off those close pitches and waiting for my pitch. With the Giants, pitchers are going to exploit my weakness, and I need to stop chasing [pitches] so I don't get myself out."Giants Webpage
Edited by SoxFanSince57, 21 October 2005 - 05:18 PM.