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Draft VIII: The Unthinkable

The first seven installments of the Tony-nominated series "Draft!" have focused on hitters. Peter Magowan is on record as saying "we hope to get a position player this time." Every mock drafter and their mock drafting mothers have the Giants down for a position player. It just makes too much sense.

What if…


they actually draft a pitcher?

In 2006, a good portion of the posters were hoping for Kyle Drabek in the draft, myself included. When Tim Lincecum was chosen, there was mass squinting. No one really knew what to make of him. Poor control…live stuff…rumored mechanical quirks…. The McCovey Chronicles color-coordinated grumbling alert was lowered to "Blue: Wait-and-See Grumbling."

The fanbase was much, much more interested in a hitter with the 2007 draft than they were in 2006. The Giants had the 10th-pick, not the 5th, and there wasn’t a very deep crop of hitters. If the Giants really liked Matt Wieters, were lukewarm on Beau Mills, and didn’t want to use their first pick on a high school hitter, they didn’t have any options to grab a hitter with their first pick. So when they took a high school pitcher, blood starting coming out of people’s noses. So far, Madison Bumgarner is one of the better prospects out of that draft. Tim Alderson isn’t far behind.

Add in Cain, Sanchez, Lowry, and Correia to the mix with all of the interesting young relievers and low-minors starters, and I’m always on board with the Giants drafting a pitcher, regardless of what the organizational depth chart currently looks like. It’s an evaluative strength. I’m in. And the Giants have been murmuring about Brian Matusz. John Barr said:

If four hitters go before us and those were the four hitters we were considering, and we say, 'Gee, this left-handed pitcher is pretty good' - you could always use a left-handed pitcher."

Barr also went out of his way on KNBR (the .mp3 is here) to bring up Matusz. This leads me to think the Giants’ draft board looks something like this:

1. Tim Beckham or Pedro Alvarez
2. Tim Beckham or Pedro Alvarez
3. Buster Posey
4. Just one of Justin Smoak, Yonder Alonso, or Gordon Beckham
5. Brian Matusz

Maybe Matusz is as high as third on their board. But I think the Giants have targeted four position players and Matusz, and if the draft shakes out in a certain way, Matusz will be in San Jose by the end of the season. I’ll try not to freak out. And unless this is the greatest smokescreen in the history of smokescreens, the Giants aren’t really interested in Aaron Crow. I’ve played a ton of Spy Hunter in my day, so I'd like to think I can detect a good smokescreen.

At the risk of being one of the annoying dorks who quotes himself to make a point, allow me to quote myself to make a point:

With a pick in the top third of the draft, you don't want to hear the newfound prospect referred to as a "no. 2 or 3 starter", or, "comparable to Woody Williams". You want pyrotechnics and flash. "Comparable to Mark Prior dipped into the River Styx", or, "Downside is as a no. 1 starter who shoots lightning bolts from his eyeballs." The guy linked to the Giants before the draft, Daniel Bard, was the former. Tim Lincecum is closer to the latter.

History has been kind to that analysis, and I stand by the overall point. When I read up on Matusz, I see words like "polished" and "safe." That gives me the jibblies. I want dominance from the #5 pick. Sheer bone-melting dominance.

Thing is, I can’t really find a great active comp for Matusz. He throws in the low-90s, has good control and a swing-through breaking pitch, and he has a deceptive delivery. That sounds a little like Andy Pettitte or Al Leiter. Those two weren’t exactly the prototypical bone-melting dominators I was envisioning, but they were key pieces to championship teams. If the Giants feel like Matusz has a huge upside that transcends the "polished" and "safe" veneer, I’ll trust them. They’ve earned it. And in two or three years, when Matusz would ostensibly be ready, we have no idea what the Giants' offense will look like. Maybe in 2010, the Giants will be contenders desperately seeking help at the top of the rotation. Maybe.

But, man, I really want a position player, and I know I’m not alone.


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