10/24/2003 5:01 PM ET Linden performing well in AFL As the right fielder of the future, he's getting his work in By Rich Draper / MLB.com
The promise of good things to come -- that's what the Arizona Fall League is all about. Top prospects from all Major League teams compete against each other and the Giants contingent on the Grand Canyon Rafters features 2004 right field candidate Todd Linden, a fast-tracker hailed as one of San Francisco's future stars.
Also on the club are infielder Jamie Athas, first sacker Lance Niekro and pitchers Boof Bonser, Noah Lowry and Luke Anderson.
Bobby Evans, San Francisco's director of minor league administration, said Linden has no areas of great concern but needs more exposure to top-level baseball.
Although the outfielder -- dubbed the organization's Player of the Year by USA Today in 2002 -- absorbed a lot of knowledge with San Francisco as a late callup, he needs to face better pitching on a consistent basis, improve his average against right-handers and decrease strikeouts.
"For him, the AFL adds another dimension, another layer of experience," said Evans. "He has the tools and ability and is capable of being pushed."
In the AFL so far, Linden is batting .268 in 11 contests, has homered twice, driven in eight runs and boasts a .561 slugging percentage, second-best on the Rafters.
Linden, a strong switch-hitter, was the Giants' sandwich selection in the June 2001 draft (41st overall) and quickly moved through the minors. He played for Shreveport and Fresno in 2002, hitting .278 for the Triple-A Grizzlies in 125 games before he was called up to San Francisco on Aug. 17.
He played 18 games for the Giants, logged time in left field, hit .211, got his first big-league hit, RBI and homer -- the latter a memorable blast into the distant Dodger Stadium loge section.
Playing in the Fall League can only help, says Evans.
"It's a precursor for Todd to play in winter ball overseas," he explained. "It's a win-win for everybody. It enhances everything for him. There's not one thing he needs to work on -- he can hit and throw the ball with the best of them and is an all-around athlete."
Asked about Linden following the Giants' season, vice-president and general manager Brian Sabean said it's important how the 23-year-old out of Louisiana State performs in the AFL.
"He's gotten through the minors as fast as anybody, but you want to see him surprise you in Fall League," said Sabean. "We are not sure he's ready [for next year] and he does have to make adjustments and get more at-bats in the minor league. He's still just out of college."
Teammate Jamie Athas, a second baseman, is hitting .233 over 13 games. Niekro has a .229 average with three RBIs. On the hill, Giants minor leaguer Bonser is 1-2 with a 5.79 ERA over four starts and Lowry is 0-0, 9.64 in three outings, including two starts.
"The pitchers are getting a chance to continue what they started this season," said Evans.
In a 7-3 victory over the Desert Dogs this week, Linden's double drove in one run, he scored on Rob Bowen's triple, then Niekro's single plated Bowen.
Athas had a big hit in a 9-6 defeat to the Saguaros, slugging a run-scoring triple.
In an Oct. 11 loss to the Desert Dogs, Linden slugged two homers for three RBIs. In the field, he caught a hard liner to rob Ryan Doumit of a hit.
On Oct. 8, the Rafters topped the Scorpions, 1-0, with Niekro's single in the bottom of the seventh driving in Linden.