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San Francisco Giants Draft Report Card

By David Rawnsley

Best Debut: 1B Sean McGowan (3) was one of the top college hitters in the spring at Boston College and continued to pound the ball at short-season Salem-Keizer, earning Northwest League all-star honors with a .335-15-62 season. RHP Kurt Ainsworth (1) dominated Northwest League hitters with a 1.61 ERA and 64 strikeouts in 45 innings despite a blister problem, then excelled with Class A San Jose in the California League playoffs.

Best Athlete: On pure athletic ability, 6-foot-4, 185-pound RHP Jerome Williams (1), 17, probably ranks first. He more than held his own in a college-dominated league by going 1-1, 2.19 with 34 strikeouts in 37 innings.

Best Hitter: McGowan is a horse at 6-foot-6, 230 pounds, and he’s short to the ball for his size and hits to all fields. SS Joe Jester (7), who hit .300-8-40 at Salem-Keizer, has excellent plate discipline and can turn on inside fastballs.

Best Power: McGowan’s swing doesn’t produce long, arching home runs but he’s strong enough to reach the fences with line drives from pole to pole.

Fastest Runner: Holst and Jester are both 4.1-second runners from home to first. CF Scott Daeley (31) has a quicker first step and is a better basestealer but is not quite as fast under way.

Best Defensive Player: Daeley has excellent instincts on the bases and in center field, plus he has an accurate throwing arm.

Best Fastball: Ainsworth can hit 94 mph now, but the lanky, loose Williams will probably surpass him soon in pure velocity.

Most Intriguing Background: RHP Jeff Verplancke (11) was a second-round pick of the Mariners after a solid 1998 season, but he tore up his elbow, had Tommy John surgery and missed all of 1999. Convinced he was as good as new, the Giants signed him for $600,000 in late August.

Closest to the Majors: Though the Giants didn’t bump Ainsworth up to full-season Class A in the regular season as they have with college pitchers in the past, he is clearly the most advanced of their picks.

The One That Got Away: Once the Giants signed Verplancke, they had everyone under contract they wanted. The Giants signed their first 13 picks.

Best Non-Draft Sign: 3B Julio Cordido spent two years in the Venezuelan Summer League but was the best non-drafted talent to debut at Salem-Keizer. He hit .264-1-28, has quick hands and above-average arm strength. The Giants think he will develop plus power.

Summary: The Giants are not afraid to spend money on players with a history of Tommy John surgery. That was evident when they spent $1.3 million on Ainsworth and $600,000 on Verplancke. They also elected not to void the contract of LHP John Thomas (2), who signed for $565,000 only to succumb to similar arm surgery before pitching a single inning. If Ainsworth and Verplancke remain healthy, this should prove to be a quality draft.

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