Brandon Crawford is the cute one. Brandon Belt is the funny one. This would explain why people rag on Belt even though he's actually talented, just like people rag on Ringo. But there's more to these Brandons than labels, alright. They're good, hardy, championship-winning folk. Just the kind we like around these parts.
With the 2015 MLB Draft coming up, it seems like a good time to remember how unlikely it was for them to be here in the first place. The Giants have Buster Posey because they sucked very, very hard in the season before they had the chance to draft him. They have Tim Lincecum and Madison Bumgarner for similar reasons, only with slightly less sucking. The Giants don't have Belt and Crawford for those reasons. They have them because other teams wanted different players with every one of the 100+ picks before they were selected.
Crawford was a fourth-round pick. Belt was a fifth-round pick. According to Baseball-Reference, they've combined for 21 WAR since reaching the majors. That means that they've combined for more value than the Giants have received from every one of their second- and third-round picks combined in the last 20 years.
The best second-round pick from the last 20 years? Scott Linebrink, except he accrued all that value with other teams. The best second-round pick from the last 20 years who were valuable for the Giants? It's a tie between Fred Lewis and Nate Schierholtz.
Stop that. It's not news that the further you drift away from the first round, the harder it is to find a major leaguer. It's hard to find even a good bench-type in the second round. It's exponentially harder after that. And yet the Giants' hopes this season hinge on fourth- and fifth-round picks, both of whom had weird paths to the majors.
Brandon Crawford was a top prospect out of high school, with a commitment to UCLA that was so strong, he wasn't even drafted. He showed up on the Baseball America list of "Fab 50 Freshman" back in 2006 with some other folks.
7. Buster Posey ss/rhp
21. Chris Dominguez, 3B
24. Brandon Crawford, ss
32. Ryan Lollis, of
He started as a true freshman and became a player scouts and prospect hounds drooled over. From a chat in 2006:
Q: Scott from Seattle asks:
Besides ASU’s Ike Davis, what other Pac10 freshmen, if any, have made an impression on you?
A: Will Kimmey: I’ve got to start with Brandon Crawford, who has been sensational for UCLA thus far, or Washington State’s Jared Prince, who’s done the same up in Pullman. Write it down that those two will challenge Ike Davis for the league’s freshman of the year mantle.
In a later chat, Kimmey writes that "Crawford has quickly become one of my favorite players with his five-tool skills," and Crawford was a first-team Freshman All-American and was ranked as the fifth-best college prospect for the following year's draft. Again, that's ahead of Posey.
After a disappointing year, though, Crawford ranked #28 on a similar list.
Later when a chatter asks of Crawford would be a reach for the Yankees at the end of the first round, we got ...
Crawford has not hit for average or shown much pop or discipline this spring, and his bat is a huge question mark for several clubs I’ve spoken with.
He fell and fell and fell from that lofty freshman ranking to the fourth round, where he was drafted after Petey Paramore, L.J. Hoes, Ryan Chaffee, and other made-up players. The Giants, to be fair, drafted Roger Kieschnick over Crawford. The shortstop was nothing more than a toolsy raffle ticket, the kind that usually end up on the floor shortly after the raffle winner is announced.
Then he struggled in various stops around the minors. Now he's on the Giants. And he's sorta good.
Belt was famously ranked above Clayton Kershaw as a high-school lefty, and he wasn't quite the hitter that Toby Gerhart was supposed to be. Luckily for the Giants, his fastball started to slip. He began to hit as a first baseman at San Jacinto Community College before transferring to University of Texas.
He has very good barrel awareness and quick hands, and he hits the ball hard from foul pole to foul pole–particularly to the opposite field. He remains raw offensively–he tends to jump at the ball and needs to get his front foot and his head under control.
Good thing that's all fixed! Belt made an off-the-cuff list of the players who made the worst decision in not signing after high school, and he rarely showed up in pre-draft chats and lists. This was the pre-draft scouting report:
Besides (Austin) Wood, the only other Longhorn with a chance to go in the first 10 rounds is first baseman Brandon Belt. He led Texas with a .338 average and eight homers heading into the super-regionals, though scouts don’t love his set-up. He bats out of a deep crouch and cuts himself off, reducing his power.
Good thing that's all fixed! The Giants took a chance on Belt in the fifth round, said, hey, dummy, stand up just a little more, and have reaped the benefits ever since. But, again, the Giants draft Tommy Joseph, Chris Dominguez, and Jason Stoffel ahead of Belt, so it's not like they were completely enamored of the guy. He, like almost every draft pick outside of the top 20, was a happy accident.
Ah, the capriciousness of draft day. All it took was someone in the Orioles' war room saying, "Ashur Tolliver? Sounds too lacrosse-y. Let's get that gangly kid from Texas" and the Giants would be ... well, goodness, I have no idea what the butterflies would have done to the weather patterns. They'd probably have Adam LaRoche on a five-year deal. He seems very Giants. They'd also probably have just one, sweet, lonely championship. Look at the little guy. So lonely.
The draft is in a couple weeks, and you'll pretend to get excited about high schoolers and college kids you've never heard of. I know I will. Until then, it's worth remembering that the Giants hit big on some later picks, which is something they spent decades not doing. To the Brandons!