Every player the Giants grab in this year’s draft will have a bright spotlight on them because after last season, the industry has gotten wise to the fact that they 1) don’t have many prospects and 2) need prospects who can contribute to the major league team if the organization is to thrive in the future. Either they’ll luck into drafting a player who can help Bruce Bochy next season, or they’ll draft and develop a group who will be primed to help the next manager in the years ahead.
They once got Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford, Conor Gillaspie, and Juan Perez in the same draft. Sure, those guys helped the team at different times — Gillaspie had to literally leave them and come back — but it all happened in that magical year of 2008. Ten years ago. A decade. Amazing. Where has the time gone? Ten years later, and the Giants are right back to drafting really high up there. #2, #45, #80, #106, #136 in the first five rounds.
Best Giants fourth rounders: When the Giants selected Brandon Crawford from UCLA with the 117th overall pick in the 4th round of the 2008 draft, the major league team was at the tail end of an unspoken rebuilding cycle. They’d already accumulated the likes of Tim Lincecum, Madison Bumgarner, and Buster Posey thanks to some degree of good fortune and superior scouting. The consensus with Crawford, though, was that he was all glove and no bat, seemingly a reach for a 4th-round pick in an organization that hadn’t drafted a Major League caliber-hitter since Bill Mueller.
Nothing Crawford did in the early part of his professional career altered those scout impressions, either. He didn’t hit very much, but he was great with the glove. His first three seasons in the major leagues more or less confirmed the scouting report: little bat, big glove. His defensive wizardry elevated the Giants’ pitching and his Hometown Kid story was a huge marketing boost. His 21.9 career bWAR is 815th in Major League Baseball history (he’ll probably surpass Marco Scutaro’s career by season’s end and remain comfortably ahead of the likes of Neil Walker and Justin Turner) and 37th all-time in Giants history, ahead of such notables as Pablo Sandoval (20.5), Kevin Mitchell (19.2), Tom Haller (19.0), and Monte Irvin (18.9). Not bad for an all glove, no hit shortstop.
Oh, but over the last five seasons, his OPS+ is 104 and in the month of May 2018 his OPS is 1.122 with 35 hits in 89 plate appearances. The Giants drafted a decent player and he became an All-Star.
If it’s not obvious from all these words or the article’s headline, it’s Brandon Crawford.
Who have the Giants taken with the 106th pick? Jay Canizaro (middle infielder) in the 4th round of 1993 and Julian Benevides (third baseman) in the 3rd round of the 2001 draft.
Canizaro is an interesting case study in “Are we unfair to the Giants because our opinions are based on only some of the available information or does the available information tell us everything there is to know about the organization?”. I mean, look, players get cut all the time and every team mismanages younger players, but this article about Canizaro’s release from the team following the 2000 Spring Training reads like it could’ve been written after the 2018 Spring Training (link behind paywall):
Second baseman Jay Canizaro did everything right to make the team this spring, hitting .364 with four home runs and 11 runs batted in. But it wasn’t enough. Canizaro got caught in a numbers squeeze and apparently was placed on waivers yesterday.
As good as Canizaro was, [Felipe] Crespo was better. Crespo scalded the ball day in and day out, hitting .523. He also had two advantages over Canizaro: being a switch-hitter and versatile enough to play more positions, including the outfield. The Giants had to keep [Ramon E.] Martinez because he is the only backup shortstop.
After seven years in the only organization he has ever known, Canizaro sounded bitter about being cut.
“I want to go to a team that really wants me and has a plan for me,” Canizaro said. “Here, no matter what you do they put labels on you when you’re young. I can go 4-for-4 with an error, and all they talk about is the error.”
“It’s tough when you’ve been in an organization as long as I have, and once you get labeled a certain way, they have no other plan for you.”
Crespo and Martinez were both 27 to Canizaro’s 26 and they both had better 2000 seasons than him, too, but it’s always odd when an organization favors an older guy who didn’t come up through the organization versus the younger player who has (Martinez came up through Kansas City, Crespo the Blue Jays).
Julian Benavidez is noteworthy because he was drafted out of Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, California. I went to high school in Concord and DVC was referred to as “Harvard Behind the Mall”. Also, Willie McGee and Doug Davis are alumni.
Who is the best fourth round pick in major league history? Jonah Keri’s favorite player, Tim Raines. He’s a player I was aware of but didn’t totally remember, but even a cursory glance at his numbers and a small review of video made his Hall of Fame a slam dunk, and it was slightly annoying that it took so long for the voters to come around on him. Then again, it’s the job of Hall of Fame voters to be annoying.
Who have the Giants taken in the fourth round recently? Almost exclusively 4-year college and junior college players. In fact, since 1990, they’ve drafted only 4 high schoolers in the 4th round. The most recent was 17-year old reliever Logan Webb in the 2014 draft. He’s in San Jose this season and at age 21, he’s 2 years younger than the average player there and holding his own. The rest never made it to the big leagues.
Before 1990, the Giants drafted a lot of high school players in the 4th round. From 1978-1983, the Giants drafted high schoolers, and 3 of the 5 made it to the majors: Rob Deer, Randy Kutcher, and Charlie Hayes. Charlie Hayes is, in fact, the last high school player the Giants drafted in the 4th round to make it to the major leagues. But none of them were quite as good as Brandon Crawford.
Outside of those high schoolers, this is the spot where Russ Ortiz was taken in 1995; Kevin Correia in 2002; and, Steven Okert in 2012.
Can the Giants repeat their resounding 4th round success 10 years later?