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Draft I: The Prologue

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Ah, draft day. For bad teams, it's like that one sunny day in Pacifica. The rest of the year is foggy and miserable, but for one day, baby, you're on top of the world!

The Giants pick fifth, which is the highest pick since Jason Grill in 1997. Grilli begat Livan Hernandez, who begat sadness and heartburn before begatting Jim Brower. Brower was released after his right arm was sacrificed by Felipe Alou to appease an angry volcano. The Giants can do better with their picks.

And they have since the 1997 draft, for the most part. At least, they have had success when they've kept their first-round picks. Pitching-heavy or not, the Giants tend to get a lot of utility out of their first-round picks, especially when you consider that their run of Bonds-related success was keeping them in the bottom of the draft. Even if you consider David Aardsma or Grilli to be flops, it's still worth noting that their value was high enough at one point to bring back a major leaguer in trade.

Since 1965, over half of the #5 overall picks have reached the majors. Some notable players picked #5: Dale Murphy, Matt Williams, Dwight Gooden, Vernon Wells, J.D. Drew, Mark Teixeira, and Ryan Braun. That's a heapin' pile of Hall-of-Very-Gooders, and the Giants could use a facsimile of anyone on that list. They can't, however, whiff on a guy like B.J. Garbe (Twins-1999).

I'll profile a handful of the top prospects over the next week or so. I haven't seen any of them play, of course, so the profiles will consist of speculation-heavy linkfests. I hope to be the blogging equivalent of Marcie from HR, who annoyed you all by winning money in your NCAA tournament pool. For instance, I like Gordon Beckham because he makes me think of Gordon Gekko from Wall Street, which makes me think of Michael Douglas walking along the beach with a cell phone the size of a Nintendo 64. And that makes me giggle. So my associations with Gordon Beckham are instantly positive. That might make him my number one pick.

Today, though, I thought I'd get things started by dropping some mad science on you. There are four subgroups in the amateur draft: high school hitters, high school pitchers, college hitters, and college pitchers. In the history of the draft, the Giants have done well enough with three of the four subgroups. When it comes to high school hitters, though...ye gods. Here's a list of the high school hitters taken by the Giants in the first round of the draft:

Dave Rader (1967)
Gary Matthews (1968)
Mike Phillips (1969)
Johnny LeMaster (1973)
Mark Kuecker (1976)
Craig Landis (1977)
Jessie Reid (1980)
Royce Clayton (1988)
Adam Hyzdu (1990)
Marcus Jensen (1990)
Tony Torcato (1998)
Arturo McDowell (1998)

Hey! I've heard of Gary Matthews! He was good. That was also 40 years ago. Since then, there's been nothing, depending on your affinity for good-glove, no-hit shortstops.

"Okay", you might think, "but that's just cherry-picking to take from the first round. What about the successes in the later rounds?" Fair enough. Here's a listing of the rest of the high school hitters, but I'll thin he list by including only those who made it to the majors as a hitter:

Chris Arnold (11th round)
Dave Lemonds (5th round)
Bernie Williams (11th round) (No, not that one. The other one.)
Rob Ellis (34th round)
Horace Speed (3rd round)
Gary Thomasson (7th round)
Jack Clark (13th round) (as a pitcher!)
Guy Sularz (10th round)
Jose Barrios (3rd round)
Rich Murray (6th round)
Chili Davis (11th round)
Jeff Ransom (5th round)
John Raab (11th round)
Rob Deer (4th round)
Charlie Hayes (4th round)
Tony Perezchica (3rd round)
Chris Brown (2nd round)
Randy Kutcher (4th round)
Tom O'Malley (16th round)
Dave Hengel (6th round)
Matt Nokes (20th round)
Mike Caruso (2nd round)
Travis Ishikawa (21st round)

Two Tony Perezchica mentions in the same week? It had to happen at some point.

Forty-three years of drafting high school hitters, and the Giants have had five All-Star appearances (two each for Jack Clark and Chili Davis, and one for Chris Brown). That's nature's way of telling the Giants to stay away from high school hitters. It doesn't work. It's the baseball equivalent of a finch trying to get it on with a jellyfish. Everyone knows it's not going to work.

At least, that's my first inclination. Then I think, hey, dammit, this organization is due. It's just like when you're losing in roulette, and you have to keep playing because you're due to win. This is known as "Gambler's Strategy", and it pretty much works all the time. Nick Noonan is going to set the world on fire in 2011, and it would be awesome if he were joined by Tim Beckham. They could also team with Madison Bumgarner and Tim Alderson to be a cracking good bunch of chaps with which to play cricket, should they fancy a match.

There's no reason to think that the decisions made in 1967 have anything to do with the decisions made in 1999. Unless you think the organization is cursed. Which I do.

Comment starter: Should the Giants stay away from high school hitters because of their lack of success in the past?

Note: Don't be a weenie and put your "top-five hope-we-get-'em players" in the comments section of this post. The last post in this acclaimed series will ask for that very thing.