Draft III: Smoakin in the Draft Room

On the traditional scouting scale of 20-to-80, Justin Smoak tops out at a full 80 in the all-important punability category. Just think of the possibilities! A splash hit becomes Smoak in the water. Throw a pitch right down the pipe, and he'll Smoak it. It would be the funniest five minutes in the history of the site. This paragraph counts for one of those minutes. Hope you enjoyed it.

He can hit, too. After a slow start, Smoak is hitting .389/.509/.758 for the season. He has 20 home runs, and a 51-26 BB/K ratio in 211 at-bats. He's a switch-hitter with power from both sides. Sweet mercy....

Baseball Prospectus had this quote from a scout:

"You have to feel very strongly about the bat to consider a player like that with a single-digit pick, or I guess feel as uncertain about the other choices. Middle-of-the-diamond guys give you way more margin for error," he continued. "First base, you have to be an animal in the big leagues, so you better be awfully sure about these guys."

Ah, but this is the Giants organization. The bar is loooow. The last great first baseman was 15 years ago. Since then, we've been tickled pink just to have a bucket full of average. The legacy of pain extends from Todd Benzinger to the present day. If Smoak comes up and hits .280/.360/.470 for six seasons, he'll have his face on ballpark-giveaway crap for the next three decades. He should do more, though. From Rany Jazayerli's fantastic series on the amateur draft:

College first basemen are the most valuable group of draft picks by an enormous margin. College first basemen selected in the first round have gone on to have Hall of Fame-caliber careers approximately one-third of the time.

If the Giants leave this draft without a first baseman from the first two rounds, it might be a disappointment. But there are about six or seven first basemen who could go in the first round, and surely one or two will slip to the 37th overall pick. It might be smart to take a premium-position guy like Gordon Beckham or Buster Posey with the #5, and hope that David Cooper or Allan Dykstra slips to #37. That's a dangerous game, though. If the Giants believe that Smoak could be on the only-71-minor-league-games path of the previous first baseman drafted by the Giants in the first round, they shouldn't think twice.

And what of Angel Villalona? The 17-year-old is surely supposed to be the first baseman of the future. Fair point, but this is only worth writing once, as Yonder Alonso and Eric Hosmer still need to be reviewed: Angel Villalona shouldn't make any difference with whom the Giants draft in 2008. The dude's 17. Smoak should be in the majors in two or three years. Villalona will be 20. When Smoak is hitting his arbitration years, Villalona will be 23. Maybe the Giants will have a McCovey/Cepeda situation before then, and they'll be forced to trade one of the two before they get expensive. There are worse fates than having to trade a young power hitter on the open market. Just pretend you've never heard the name "Ray Sadecki."

The Giants should trade their second-rounder and use their trade exception to move up and get both Smoak and Pedro Alvarez. They can throw in Ray Durham's expiring contract. But now I'm just getting greedy. If the Giants get either Smoak or Alvarez, I'd be ecstatic. Flip a coin.

Links:

Baseball America's mock draft with Smoak to the Giants
Baseball Prospectus's mock draft with Smoak to the Giants
College Baseball Blog's write-up on Smoak
MLB.com's draft report
MVN profile
A Peter Magowan quote that indicates the Giants plan to select a position player
Local puff piece on Smoak
The career stats of Desi Wilson for perspective.

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