On Thursday, 77 new major league baseball draft selections will be made. Unfortunately, the San Francisco Giants will only make one of them, pick No. 59, before having to wait until Friday for rounds 3 through 10 to take place. Signing Jeff Samardzija in the offseason cost the Giants their No. 18 pick, if somehow that news is just now reaching you.
To prepare for the future, one must look at the past, or something like that. How have the Giants faired recently on draft day? Let's just say their first-round pick in 2011 is one leg of possibly the best double-play tandem in baseball. So that's a start.
A look at the last five years of San Francisco Giants drafts:
Current Major Leaguers
Eight picks, all from 2011 and 2012, are currently on the Giants' 25-man roster, with another four having received major-league time, and another four on the 40-man roster.
- Joe Panik: 2011, round 1
- Josh Osich: 2011, round 6
- Derek Law: 2011, round 9
- Kelby Tomlinson: 2011, round 12
- Chris Stratton: 2012, round 1
- Mac Williamson: 2012, round 4
- Trevor Brown: 2012, round 10
- Matt Duffy: 2012, round 18
Duffy, being an 18th-round pick, was the first player to reach the big leagues of any player selected after the 16th round in 2012, and has by far the highest career WAR (6.0) of any of those nine total players. In fact, he has the second highest career WAR of any player selected that year, with Alex Wood leading at 7.2 and Carlos Correa coming in third at 5.4.
The Giants' group of eight gives them more players selected 2011 or later on the current 25-man roster (including 15-day and 60-day disabled list guys) than any other team in baseball. The New York Mets are second with six, while the Kansas City Royals have zero.
I think it's safe the say, at least in terms of pure quantity, that the Giants have been the best at this whole draft thing. But what about quality?
Well, that title goes to the Mets, as long as you trust WAR. Right off the bat, Matt Harvey and Steven Matz total for a career WAR of 14, which is 0.7 higher than the Giants' total. All in all, the Mets' six current roster men combine for a career WAR of 18, an average of 3.0 per player, while the Giants average 1.7 per player. The Houston Astros have five players who combine for a 17.5 mark, averaging 3.5 per player.
There's an overall look. Let's peek into each draft individually.
2011: Time to Panik
I would've named 2011 "Time to Lay Down the Law" but Joe Panik is more important. Sorry, Derek. Aside from the four current major leaguers, five more are on the 40-man roster (Kyle Crick, Andrew Susac, Ray Black, Clayton Blackburn, Jake Smith) and another three are in the major with other teams (Joe Biagini, Cody Hall, Andrew Triggs).
On the morning of the 2011 draft, the Giants had a half-game lead in the National League West and a record of 33-26, but the season came to an end with the team finishing eight games back of the Arizona Diamondbacks, and only winning three more games than they lost the rest of the season. But on June 6, they made a 29th overall selection in Panik, who in less than three full seasons, made an All-Star team, won a World Series title, and accumulated a career WAR of 5.1, all while being the sixth best defensive second baseman (according to the UZR metric) in all of baseball since 2014.
Flashback: Q&A with Joe Panik from the 2012 season
The need was there in the middle infield, too. The Giants' starting second baseman on June 6 was Freddy Sanchez, but he broke four days later diving for a Brandon Phillips ground ball up the middle. Emmanuel Burriss replaced Sanchez at second and batted .159 in 101 plate appearances the rest of the year. San Francisco sent Henry Sosa and Jason Stoffel to the Houston Astros for Jeff Keppinger on July 19, but that clearly wasn't the long term solution.
The Giants had two top-10 prospects in the system playing shortstop that could have eventually filled the void, but Charlie Culberson only got 22 at-bats in the bigs before netting Marco Scutaro, and Ehire Adrianza, well, he's still Ehire Adrianza. And want to know who played the most second base for the Fresno Grizzles that year? Brett Pill. He began playing second on May 1 and did so 56 more times in 2011. He compiled a 97.7 fielding percentage, but never played the position again.
Moving on from Panik, Law and Osich have both been mostly good in the Giants' bullpen this year, and Tomlinson has succeeded all expectations, averaging .303 amid sporadic, inconsistent at-bats.
Going through the rest of the draft, the first ten rounds probably haven't yielded everything the Giants hoped it would have. Kyle Crick (1st round) and Bryce Bandilla (4th round), once strikeout machines of the California League, have taken sharp turns in their career path. Crick is in his third season in Double-A with major doubts as to his status as a starter or reliever. Bandilla is still with the organization, but hasn't pitched in a game since August of 2014.
Chris Marlowe (5th round), once known for having one of the best breaking balls in the system, retired in 2014, while Jean Delgado (8th round) and Kentrell Hill (10th round) were released more than two years ago.
The underlying theme of the 2011 draft may be late-round gems, starting with the 16th-rounder Blackburn, who became a top-five prospect within a year of being drafted. Hall (21st round) reached the majors as a September call-up in 2015 and has since pitched for the Diamondbacks and Marlins, while Triggs (23rd round), who ended up not signing with the Giants and going four rounds higher in 2012 to the Kansas City Royals, was just recently sent back to Triple-A Nashville by the Oakland Athletics. Then you've got Biagini (26th round) pitching in the Toronto Blue Jays bullpen after the Rule-5 draft shipped him to Canada.
Tyler Mizenko (28th round) and his sinker could very well reach the majors some day. He has a career 2.58 ERA in the minors and leads the organization in FIP this season at a 2.11 mark.
And all the way down in the 48th round, the Giants grabbed Jake Smith — a 40-man guy who is struggling in Richmond this season but struck out 118 in 84.1 innings last year in San Jose.
An 18th round pick from Long Beach State who skipped Triple-A was a 4.9 WAR player in his first full major league season, finishing second in NL Rookie of the Year voting to Kris Bryant. Not bad for a guy who was hardly on the general public's radar until 2014.
Duffy provided comfort where the Giants thought they were locked in for the foreseeable future. Pablo Sandoval left San Francisco and signed with the Boston Red Sox in the offseason after the city's third world championship, and Duffy, a career middle infielder, has managed to be the second best third baseman defensively since Sandoval's departure, trailing only Adrian Beltre in UZR. The Giants just said, "here, play third base," after playing third just three times in the minors, and it really seemed like Duffy never skipped a beat.
Brown (10th round) may have been even more of a surprise than Duffy, at least offensively speaking. The Giants have always liked him as a backstop, but it shocked the Bay Area when Brown hit three home runs in his first 51 plate appearances as a major leaguer after going 1,230 in the minors with just seven to his name. He's certainly been a reliable catcher backing up Buster Posey since Andrew Susac began the season injury-ridden.
Stratton was that year's first-round selection, reaching the majors just weeks ago to bolster an ailing bullpen. But as a starter in the minors, his numbers have never been eye-popping. Still, the fact that he has a big league ERA and Crick is still a Flying Squirrel means, at this point, he was a better first overall pick.
Steven Okert (4th round) had a taste of the majors and will surely be back. His snappy, three-quarter release with a plus slider from the left side should help the Giants as a solid reliever, along with Osich, to replace Javier Lopez.
Like the 2011 draft, two players inside the first ten rounds have been released while another sent in his retirement papers. E.J. Encinosa (7th round) was let go last November while Shilo McCall (9th round) was released just this spring. Joe Kurrasch (8th round) retired in May of 2015. And another 16th-round pick is still promising, despite Ian Gardeck's current Tommy John surgery rehab. Let's hope he still throws 100 mph when he recovers.
Mitch Delfino (20th round) is having a nice season in his first Triple-A uniform, but the rest of that year is bleak. Only one of the remaining 20 players selected after Delfino are still with the organization, and that man is Jason Forjet — a 26-year-old, 31st rounder who hasn't moved past Advanced Class-A.
2013: Best Current Trade Chip?
Duffy, Crawford, and Panik are going to make it difficult for Christian Arroyo to break Giants' camp as a big leaguer, unless he does so as a left fielder. That possibility has been floated, but has not shown itself in regular season action yet. The recently turned 21-year-old is having a stellar season with Double-A Richmond, hitting 15 doubles at the 51-game mark and driving his average up to near .300. He's widely regarded as the team's No. 1 prospect, so what do you do with him when he may be knocking on the door as early as this September?
And that's why I think Arroyo may be used as a trade chip very soon. His value is high, especially considering his success offensively in the Eastern League. The piece he brings back may bring more value to San Francisco than the team's previous four first-round picks (2009-2012) combined, assuming it's not a Zack Wheeler/Carlos Beltran-type result.
Two of 2013's first 10 picks are out of baseball, including fourth-rounder Brian Ragira and sixth-rounder Nick Vander Tuig, both former Pac-12 guys who were released this spring. But the remaining seven selections have a good amount of promise. Chase Johnson (3rd round) is in the process of being converted back into a reliever, where many scouts see him being the most valuable, and potentially a major-league bullpen arm. Dan Slania (5th round) joined the rotation to replace Johnson, and the verdict is still up in the air on him. But the results have been solid so far, and he was good in his reliever days (3.68 ERA, 4.13 K/BB).
D.J. Snelten (9th round) is a tall, developing left-handed starter in San Jose, whose 2.81 FIP this season shows he may be better than his 3.76 ERA indicates. And Tyler Rogers (10th round) is 25.2 innings into the season without allowing an earned run, lowering his career ERA to 1.74 in 232.1 innings — all as a true submariner.
In rounds 11-40, only two players, Christian Jones (18th round) and Blake Miller (25th round) have reached Double-A, though Miller surprisingly retired last September.
2014: Young Beedah
The Giants returned to the starting pitcher for their first-round pick in 2014, grabbing Vanderbilt right-hander Tyler Beede. The 23-year-old is in Double-A for 2016 after earning a late-season promotion to Richmond last year. Many expect Beede to be in the majors next season, and he could be just the right fit to replace the expiring contract of Jake Peavy.
All ten picks in the opening rounds are still with the organization, with Austin Slater (8th round) recently being promoted to Triple-A Sacramento. If he were to find his way to San Francisco any time soon, he would be just the ninth player from the 2014 draft to reach the majors.
Of the other eight top-10 round players, Aramis Garcia (2nd round), Dylan Davis (3rd round), and Sam Coonrod (5th round) are the most interesting, with Garcia displaying an offensive upside as a catcher, Davis showing power from the outfield while being able to throw mid-90s on the mound, and Coonrod having scouts on the fence in the starter/reliever debate, but nonetheless, a talent with mid-90s fastballs and developing two-seamer and slider.
Diamonds in the latter end of the draft may end up being Caleb Smith (17th round), Jordan Johnson (23rd round), and Hunter Cole (26th round). Smith currently owns the third best K/9 ratio in the system at 13.2, Johnson is a frontline starter in San Jose who struck out 10 in his final 2015 start (4.2 innings), and Cole is already in Double-A playing corner outfield for the Flying Squirrels after he slashed .313/.373/.493 for San Jose in 2015.
2015: Shawshank Redemption
This draft will be a year old in two days, so it's impossible to truly and accurately evaluate it. But so far, it's been 31st overall pick Chris Shaw creating the most buzz. Even despite a recent 10-game slump, Shaw has slashed .292/.364/.559 to start 2016. He is first in the California League in slugging percentage (.559), and second in doubles (18), home runs (12), RBI (41), and OPS (.923).
Also making a ton of noise in the San Jose lineup is 11th-round pick C.J. Hinojosa, who is second in the league in batting average (.332) and on-base percentage (.416).
Ronnie Jebavy (5th round), Steven Duggar (6th round), and Jose Vizcaino, Jr. (7th round) are all producing in that same San Jose Giants lineup, too. It was remarkable to see six 2015 draftees break camp in High-A. Duggar has impressed the most of the trio, being fifth in the league in on-base percentage (.408) with 40 walks to 44 strikeouts in 233 plate appearances. Oh, and he's also slugging .503 with nine doubles, four triples, and eight home runs.
I can't forget about 18th overall selection Phil Bickford, who is in Augusta posting a nice 62/14 strikeout-to-walk ratio thus far in 53 innings. Development of Bickford's secondary pitches will determine his future in the higher levels, and eventually the majors. His mid-90s "invisible" fastball should surely help him get close on its own.
Left-handed starter Andrew Suarez (2nd round) is the furthest promoted from the 2015 draft, reaching Double-A after an early-May send-up. The numbers drooped since joining the usually pitcher friendly Eastern League, but he is only five starts into that era of his career.
Going further down the list, some surprises so far have been 8th rounder Cory Taylor, who is making the South Atlantic League look easy (1.94 ERA, 1.165 WHIP in 46.1 innings), as well as 23rd rounder Dillon Dobson, who through just over 200 plate appearances, has nine doubles, four triples, and eight home runs for the Augusta GreenJackets.
It's hard to compare five drafts together when most have not come close to reaching their full fruition. But if I had to pick one, I'd say the Giants' most recent collection of picks may be their best potential crop. Even if they don't reach the major leagues with the Giants, the grouping of Bickford, Shaw, Suarez, and Duggar appear to have some serious value. The beauty of baseball, especially in the minor leagues, is that anything can happen. We'll check back in on this in five years. See you in the next decade.
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