Time for Part 5 of our draft retrospective. This time, we’ll be talking about pick 136, in the 5th round, so please prepare your extremely strong opinions about the 136th pick and the 5th round of the Major League Baseball Rule 4 First Year Player Draft.
Best Giants fifth rounders:
(I ascend into heaven on a golden chariot)
(Flocks of angels attend to my side)
(I get some sort of heaven microphone so that my voice can be heard by every soul on Earth)
(My sonorous proclamation rings out from the highest mountaintop to the depths of the Pacific Ocean, from skyscrapers to lone fishermen at sea, the message uniting humanity for the first time)
(One KNBR caller mumbles, “I think he’s overrated.”)
I WILL STRIKE YOU DOWN DO NOT TEST ME
But there are other notable Giants who were taken in the fifth round! Bob Howry is second best by bWAR, and while he spent almost all of his career outside of San Francisco — he was traded in the 1997 White Flag deal — he did come back in 2009, when he was generally very good unless he had the chance to give up a walk-off homer to a Hairston. And Ryan Vogelsong was a fifth rounder way back in 1998. It’s never a good idea to give short shrift to Ryan Vogelsong, who will show up at your house and glare you into submission, which will maybe be a good story after he’s done, but in the moment it will be extremely unpleasant.
And only ‘90s kids will remember this: William VanLandingham! He went to the Giants in the fifth round in 1991. VanLandingham, was, uh, not effective, but how am I supposed to pass up a chance at a William VanLandingham reference? Before Jarrod Saltalamacchia, he had the longest name in major league history. I’m not made of stone here.
Who have the Giants taken with the 136th pick? The Giants have had the 136th pick three times. The first time, they took Dave Hengel, who was the most accomplished of the three players the Giants took there, and also he didn’t sign. In this context, “most accomplished” means he made the majors with the Mariners, who drafted him in the third round three years later. Hengel got 176 plate appearances over four years and had a career OPS+ of 31.
The other two 136th picks, who both signed, never made the majors. The 136th pick in 1986 was Tim McCoy, a left-handed pitcher who had a couple decent years in A-ball for the Giants, then had a bad half season in AA, and went to Houston in a transaction lost to history. The last 136th pick came in 2001 and was used on Josh Cram. He was a right-handed pitcher out of Clemson who had some early success in the Giants system, but couldn’t sustain it. After four years in the minors, he was done with professional baseball. Also, he had a 2.09 ERA in the Cape Cod League in the summer of 2000, because the Giants have been drafting the same way forever.
Who is the best 136th pick in major league history? None other than our old friend Angel Pagan. Pagan was drafted out of high school in Puerto Rico in 1999 and carved out a nice career for himself, having several excellent years and earning two World Series rings. His career bWAR is 17.2 and he is also, and I cannot stress this enough, extremely handsome.
In second place is Don Aase, a pitcher for several AL teams in the late ‘70s and ‘80s, who was a consistent, if unspectacular, pitcher. The only active major league player with positive bWAR who was taken 136th is Nick Pivetta, starting pitcher for the Phillies, whose career bWAR currently sits at 1.1, so he’s got a ways to go before catching up to Pagan.
Who have the Giants taken in the fifth round recently? Have I mentioned Brandon Belt? I don’t remember. Because if you check the stats, he’s actually been quite good in his career. Fun fact!
The success stories over the last decade have been Belt, Heath Hembree, and Ty Blach. Quickly going through the others currently with the Giants organization: Dan Slania has had troubles as a starter in the minors but is currently doing quite well as a reliever in Richmond, Sam Coonrod is out for the year with an injury, Ronnie Jebavy is in Richmond but needs to show more offensively for the team to consider him part of their future, Ryan Howard is having a nice year for the Flying Squirrels, and Jason Bahr, currently an Augusta Greenjacket, is the highlight of any Minor Lines article he appears in.
Sure, a lot of fifth round guys didn’t end up with the Giants, but there are other ways to contribute. Hembree, for example, got turned into Jake Peavy, who helped the team win a championship. Vogelsong didn’t succeed as a graduated Giants prospect; he succeeded as a veteran who stared down Cereberus so he could escape Hades and come back to San Francisco. Garrett Broshius, who pitched in the minors for six years, ended up leaving baseball, becoming a labor lawyer, and then giving baseball a righteous what-for over their godawful minor league labor practices. These are all valid paths in life and there’s nothing wrong with any of them.
Gimme another Brandon Belt this year though. That’d be cool.