San Francisco Giants Top 10 Prospects 2009
The Giants hit just 94 home runs last year, the fewest by a major league club in a non-strike-shortened season since the expansion Marlins in 1993. It was a depressing lack of power for a fan base accustomed to cheering Barry Bonds.
San Francisco took plenty of souvenir baseballs out of play, though. Fifteen players made their major league debuts before Sept. 1, the most by a club since the 1954 Philadelphia Athletics, and seemingly hardly a day went by without someone registering their first hit. After the 162-game experiment ran its course, the Giants identified a few players—Fred Lewis, Sergio Romo, Pablo Sandoval, Brian Wilson—who could be part of their next contender. They also eliminated many others.
Tim Lincecum shined brightest of all. The undersized righthander elevated himself among the game's elite pitchers, winning the National League Cy Young Award and becoming the first Giant to lead the majors in strikeouts.
The end result was a 72-90 record and a fourth consecutive losing season, a run of shame San Francisco hadn't experienced since 1974-77, among the darkest of ages at Candlestick Park.
Yet there's hope deeper in the system and the Giants might not be down for long. First-year scouting director John Barr redirected the club's former pitching-heavy philosophy and took college bats with his top four draft picks. None made a bigger statement than catcher Buster Posey, Baseball America's College Player of the Year and the Golden Spikes Award winner, who signed at the Aug. 15 deadline for $6.2 million.
That was the largest up-front bonus in draft history and nearly triple the previous franchise record ($2.1 million to Angel Villalona in 2006). It also underscored a significant change that began the previous season under longtime general manager Brian Sabean. Instead of borrowing from the player-development budget to sign veteran free agents, the Giants reduced payroll and spent more on prospects. They also invested in another top-flight international talent, signing 16-year-old Dominican outfielder Rafael Rodriguez for $2.55 million in mid-July.
Most of the system's top talent is at least a year or two away, however, so 2009 promises to be interesting in San Francisco. Sabean and manager Bruce Bochy have contracts that expire after the season, and new managing partner Bill Neukom doesn't believe in public votes of confidence. That may be why the team spent $37.25 million in guaranteed money on several free agents in the offseason, most notably Edgar Renteria.
Major League Baseball approved Neukom in August to replace Peter Magowan, whose departure was termed charitably as a retirement. Magowan solidified the Giants' place in San Francisco, and his ballpark vision was realized with the construction of a modern classic on the waterfront. But the Mitchell Report characterized him as a steroids enabler, forever staining his reputation, and there were indications the club's disastrous $126 million signing of Barry Zito made him unpopular with club investors.
Magowan approached his role from a fan's perspective, often making impetuous moves such as the Zito contract. Neukom, the former chief legal mind at Microsoft, plans to take a measured, analytical approach while prioritizing player development and a "Giants Way" of competing both on and off the field.
Neukom said he expects San Francisco to be competitive in 2009 and contend the following season, all while bringing his "Microsoft meritocracy" to the front office. Even if the Giants show improvement, Neukom could decide he wants a baseball architect with a more modern perspective than Sabean, who isn't known to squint at a laptop screen.
TOP TEN PROSPECTS
1. Madison Bumgarner, lhp
2. Buster Posey, c
3. Angel Villalona, 1b
4. Tim Alderson, rhp
5. Nick Noonan, 2b
6. Ehire Adrianza, ss
7. Conor Gillaspie, 3b
8. Rafael Rodriguez, of
9. Scott Barnes, lhp
10. Sergio Romo, rhp
Best Hitter for Average Buster Posey
Best Power Hitter Angel Villalona
Best Strike-Zone Discipline Eddy Martinez-Esteve
Fastest Baserunner Darren Ford
Best Athlete Wendell Fairley
Best Fastball Madison Bumgarner
Best Curveball Tim Alderson
Best Slider Waldis Joaquin
Best Changeup Scott Barnes
Best Control Madison Bumgarner
Best Defensive Catcher Jackson Williams
Best Defensive Infielder Brian Bocock
Best Infield Arm Brian Bocock
Best Defensive Outfielder Darren Ford
Best Outfield Arm Mike McBryde
Reader's Choice: The MLB Team Of The 2010s
Mookie Betts or Bryce Harper? Manny Machado or Nolan Arenado? Baseball America readers voted on their Team of the 2010s.
PROJECTED 2012 LINEUP
Catcher Buster Posey
First Base Angel Villalona
Second Base Nick Noonan
Third Base Conor Gillaspie
Shortstop Ehire Adrianza
Left Field Fred Lewis
Center Field Aaron Rowand
Right Field Nate Schierholtz
No. 1 Starter Tim Lincecum
No. 2 Starter Madison Bumgarner
No. 3 Starter Matt Cain
No. 4 Starter Tim Alderson
No. 5 Starter Barry Zito
Closer Brian Wilson
TOP PROSPECTS OF THE DECADE
1999 Jason Grilli, rhp Rockies
2000 Kurt Ainsworth, rhp Out of baseball
2001 Jerome Williams, rhp Dodgers
2002 Jerome Williams, rhp Dodgers
2003 Jesse Foppert, rhp Giants
2004 Merkin Valdez, rhp Giants
2005 Matt Cain, rhp Giants
2006 Matt Cain, rhp Giants
2007 Tim Lincecum, rhp Giants
2008 Angel Villalona, 3b/1b Giants
TOP DRAFT PICKS OF THE DECADE
1999 Kurt Ainsworth, rhp Out of baseball
2000 Boof Bonser, rhp Twins
2001 Brad Hennessey, rhp Giants
2002 Matt Cain, rhp Giants
2003 David Aardsma, rhp Red Sox
2004 Eddy Martinez-Esteve, of (2nd round) Giants
2005 Ben Copeland, of (4th round) Giants
2006 Tim Lincecum, rhp Giants
2007 Madison Bumgarner, rhp Giants
2008 Buster Posey, c Giants
LARGEST BONUSES IN CLUB HISTORY
Buster Posey, 2008 $6,200,000
Rafael Rodriguez, 2008 $2,550,000
Angel Villalona, 2007 $2,100,000
Tim Lincecum, 2006 $2,025,000
Madison Bumgarner, 2007 $2,000,000