This is a hypothetical scenario that I have been kicking around for the past year or so...
Let's go back to June of 2008, the Rays had the first pick in the draft, but they also had the best record in baseball at the time of the draft and it was beginning to look like their years of high draft picks and stockpiling prospects was about to produce a very good team (they, of course, would go on to win the AL pennant that year). All of the pre-draft talk was that they were trying to decide between two players; a High School SS from Georgia Tim Beckham, and Buster Posey. Tim Beckham was somewhat of a consensus top prospect among the various publications and experts (Keith Law and Baseball Prospectus ranked him #1, John Sickles #2, and Baseball America #3). Those publications ranked Posey 2nd, 3rd, 1st, and 4th respectively. It seemed that the Rays were leaning toward Tim Beckham all along and when Posey floated a $12 million signing bonus demand (which nobody took seriously) that might have sealed it.
When the Rays drafted Tim Beckham my reaction was that I gave them credit for sticking to the best player on their board. With the team they had put together, I might have been inclined to take a player that was more of a "sure bet" to help right away, even if I had to sacrifice some upside to do it. The Rays must wonder how Posey would have looked on some of their recent teams (especially last year's team that had the best record in the AL).
What if they had taken Posey? The Pirates were said to like Pedro Alvarez better than any player in the draft, so their selection at #2 likely wouldn't have changed. I think the same was true of the Royals and Eric Hosmer at #3 (although less certain about that one). The Orioles pick at #4 is where it gets interesting. They might well have taken Tim Beckahm over Brian Matusz. So that leaves the Giants.
I think the Giants pick would have come down to Tim Beckham (provided the Orioles didn't take him of course), Justin Smoak, and Gordon Beckham. I don't think they would have taken Kyle Skipworth, a High School catcher, that high (too much of a project) and I don't think they would have drafted a pitcher (I mean, I think they would have if one was clearly the best player on their board, but I don't think they would have in a draft so loaded with great position players). I also don't think they would have taken Yonder Alonso or Jason Castro. I think they would have preferred one of the Beckhams over Smoak, based largely on a lot of pre-draft talk about them wanting "an athlete" and "an up the middle player" (and yes I realize pre-draft talk is often hearsay, disinformation, or just plain bullshit). Smoak was obviously the favorite of McCovey Chronicles, he wound up going 11th to the Rangers.
So what do you think would have happened, and where would that leave the Giants now? My prediction is the Orioles would have taken Tim Beckham and the Giants would have taken Gordon Beckham. I think the McCovey Chronicles reaction to a Gordon Beckham pick would have been similar to the reaction to the Posey, a very silly initial freakout followed by acceptance a bit later (he was the MVP of the Cape Cod and one of the best players in college baseball that year). G. Beckham was rushed to the majors by the White Sox own admission, which I tend to believe he hasn't fully recovered from. The Giants could have been more patient with his development and things might look different for him now, they also probably would have left him at SS where most thought he could play. Meanwhile Justin Smoak (traded to the Mariners as the centerpiece of the Cliff Lee trade) got off to a tough start in MLB last year and wound up getting sent back to AAA, so far this year he has posted a very respectable .253/.360/.465 line and seems to be coming along quite nicely. Tim Beckham has been developing steadily and is having his best season yet so far in AA at .291/.352/.423 as far as I know, most tend to think he can play SS in the majors.
I think the 2008 draft was good enough that any of those guys would have turned out to be good picks that we would have ultimately been happy with. Certainly things could not have worked out any better for the Giants (and hey, if they draft a SS in the first round, they probably don't take Brandon Crawford in the 4th). If you read this whole thing (I didn't intend it to be such a book) thanks for indulging my walk down memory lane.
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