Giants enter Draft at unpredictable position
Historical success suggests middle-of-the-pack spot unlikely to hurt club
SAN FRANCISCO -- Quite frequently in the First-Year Player Draft, the Giants have emerged from the middle to come out on top.
They own the 14th overall choice in today's first round, square in the middle of the order. Historically, though, selecting in the teens has been kind to the Giants.
Giants first-rounders drafted 14th through 18th overall included such helpful performers as third baseman Al Gallagher (14th overall pick, 1965), catcher Dave Rader (18th, 1967), outfielder Gary Matthews (17th, 1968), right-hander Scott Garrelts (15th, 1979) and shortstop Royce Clayton (15th, 1988). Combined, they overshadowed the lack of impact made by the likes of right-handers Bob Reynolds (17th, 1966) and Joe Fontenot (16th, 1995), left-hander Frank Riccelli (18th, 1971) and outfielders Steve Hosey (14th, 1989) and Adam Hyzdu (15th, 1990).
Giants scouting director John Barr thus could legitimately say, referring to this week's first-round selection, "We know we're going to be happy with whoever we get."
Exactly whom that might be is anybody's guess. That's the catch with choosing in the middle of the first round. Projecting who might be available for the Giants at No. 14 is difficult, particularly this year. Two college right-handers initially considered to be early-first-round picks, UNLV's Erick Fedde and East Carolina's Jeff Hoffman, have had Tommy John elbow surgery. They might still be drafted among the top 13 picks; they might not be. What happens to them could launch a domino effect that influences the Giants' approach.
"This [Draft] might be a little more unpredictable up top," Barr said.
Having set themselves up for two World Series triumphs by drafting Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum and Madison Bumgarner in the first round, the Giants have prompted speculation that they will again draft a pitcher. Barr maintained that the Giants were keeping their options open.
"We're definitely considering pitching with our [first] pick," he said. "There are also some position players who we're considering. The Draft right now is being perceived as stronger with pitching than it is with position players from a depth standpoint. We're not at this point tied to taking one or the other."
The 2014 Draft will take place today through Saturday, beginning with the Draft preview show on MLB.com and MLB Network today at 3 p.m. PT. Live Draft coverage from MLB Network's Studio 42 begins at 4 p.m., with the top 74 picks being streamed on MLB.com and broadcast on MLB Network. MLB.com's exclusive coverage of the second and third days will begin with a live Draft show at 9:30 a.m. PT on Friday.
MLB.com's coverage includes Draft Central, the Top 200 Draft Prospects list and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of Draft-eligible players. Every selection will be tweeted live from @MLBDraftTracker, and you can also keep up to date by following @MLBDraft. And get into the Draft conversation by tagging your tweets with #mlbdraft.
In about 50 words
The Giants are free to go in any direction they please. They continue to absorb criticism for their relative inability to develop position players. Yet if they keep stockpiling talented pitching prospects, they can use those hurlers to obtain anyone they want from other clubs. This approach has worked in the past for the Giants, and they are not likely to change.
Many fans want the Giants to reach into their backyard and select University of San Francisco outfielder Bradley Zimmer, who is widely considered a likely first-round choice. But the Giants rarely do things that obvious. Infielder Christian Arroyo, their top selection last year, was not viewed as a first-round pick by many experts.
The Giants rarely tip their hand regarding the Draft, and this year's no exception. But many believe that they will select a power right-hander, which might be a good idea now that the organization's contingent of highly regarded pitching prospects is rising toward the Majors and could use replenishing. South Carolina prepster Grant Holmes, Vanderbilt ace Tyler Beede and Virginia right-hander Nick Howard, among other pitchers, have been linked to the Giants.
The financial values for picks in the first 10 rounds of the 2014 First-Year Player Draft and for each team's four international Draft slots will be increased by 1.7 percent over last year's assigned figures.
Giants bonus pool
San Francisco's allotment has been established at $5,949,800 for its first 10 picks.
With the increases, the Draft bonus pools for all 30 clubs will total $205,786,400, and the international bonus pools will equal $79,194,000, according to figures obtained by MLB.com. The industry spent $219,302,880 on Draft bonuses in 2013 and had paid out $88.7 million on applicable international bonuses through Feb. 9 (the signing period runs through June 15).
The Draft pools cover the top 10 rounds and any bonus money in excess of $100,000 given to players taken in rounds 11 through 40. If a player selected in the first 10 rounds does not sign, his assigned value is subtracted from his team's pool.
A club that exceeds its Draft pool by 0 to 5 percent pays a 75 percent tax on the overage. The penalties get much more severe at higher thresholds: the loss of a first-round pick and a 75 percent tax for surpassing it by between 5 and 10 percent; the loss of first- and second-rounders and a 100 percent tax for between 10 and 15 percent; and the loss of two first-rounders and a 100 percent tax for more than 15 percent.
Though the Giants would seem to need position players the most, they never neglect pitching. That philosophy will remain paramount as long as Brian Sabean is the general manager. Last year, for example, the Giants drafted infielders Arroyo and Ryder Jones with their first two picks but followed by taking pitchers with three of their next four selections.
No trend exists. Though the Giants tend to emphasize pitching, they have taken position players with three of their past five first-round picks. San Francisco likes to stick with a tried-and-true approach, taking the best athlete available from their master board in each round, regardless of position or experience.
* RECENT DRAFT HISTORY *
After batting .257 at Double-A Richmond last year, second baseman Joe Panik has kept his batting average well above .300 through much of the season at Triple-A Fresno, and he could be in line for a September callup. Some observers question whether Panik has what it takes to be a Major League regular, but he appears to fit the profile of a handy utilityman at the very least.
Sergio Romo remains an inspiration. San Francisco drafted its closer in the 28th round in 2005. Romo nearly joined the Navy before pursuing his baseball career at three different colleges. He rose one classification at a time, from Rookie-level ball to Double-A, before reaching the Majors in 2008.
In The Show
Brandon Crawford has proved that the Giants can indeed draft and develop successful position players. Twelve shortstops were chosen ahead of Crawford before the Giants took him in the fourth round in 2008. Among that dozen, only Gordon Beckham of the White Sox can be remotely considered to have enjoyed a career more fruitful than Crawford's. Crawford is gaining recognition as a Gold Glove candidate and has a 2012 World Series ring to his credit.
The Giants' recent top picks
2013: Christian Arroyo, SS, Augusta/A
2012: Chris Stratton, RHP, San Jose/A advanced
2011: Joe Panik, SS, Fresno/AAA
2010: Gary Brown, CF, Fresno/AAA
2009: Zack Wheeler, RHP, New York/NL