More than 500 baseball players have worn Fresno Grizzlies uniforms since the team’s inception in 1998. Of those, a few extraordinary ones stand out. To commemorate Tim Lincecum’s scheduled return Sunday with the Salt Lake Bees, here’s my list of the top five most talented Grizzlies who passed through Fresno on their way to the majors.
1. Tim Lincecum
Who else? Before he was a World Series champion, a two-time Cy Young Award winner or a counterculture icon (“Let Timmy smoke!”), Lincecum was a 5-foot-11 fireballer with a repertoire of pitches that were virtually unhittable. Over five starts for the Grizzlies in 2007, he allowed one run over 31 innings. That’s a 0.29 ERA, for those scoring at home.
2. Carlos Correa
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Turns out the Alex Rodriguez comparisons weren’t out of line. With his slick fielding, power and assured presence, Correa looks every bit like baseball’s premier shortstop for the next decade. Fresno fans got to see him for only 24 games, but they sure were memorable.
3. Buster Posey
Posey arrived in Fresno midway through the 2009 season (straight from Class A) and returned for two months in 2010 before becoming a cornerstone for the Giants’ World Series teams. He hit .337/.421/.535 during his Grizzlies tenure, showing the level swing that made him a National League batting champ and MVP.
4. Madison Bumgarner
Over 14 starts for the Grizzlies in 2010, Bumgarner went 7-1 with a 3.16 ERA, displaying the trademark motion that made it appear as if he was pitching around the side of a building. The left-hander also drew notice for his intensity, like the time he got tossed from a game for arguing a call on the bases.
5. Calvin Murray
Unlike the other four on this list, Murray didn’t have much impact in the majors. (He currently works as a player agent.) But he sure was special during that 1999 season with the Grizzlies, hitting .334 with 23 homers and 42 steals – arguably the top offensive season in club history.