- Denny Bautista (RHP; was in majors before, I assume signed minor league contract))
- Santiago Casilla (RHP; former A's reliever, signed to minor league contract recently)
- Rafael Cova (RHP)
- Steven Edlefsen (RHP; BA rated him as best slider in 2008 annual)
- Eric Hacker (RHP)
- Osiris Matos (RHP; we dropped him from 40-man so apparently nobody claimed him and returned to us)
- Tony Pena Jr. (RHP; was in majors before, I assume signed minor league contract)
- Felix Romero (RHP)
- Dan Turpen (RHP)
- Craig Whitaker (RHP; top pick, been working his way up long time)
- Craig Clark (LHP)
- Clayton Tanner (LHP; local kid, been doing well, rising up, good luck!)
- Steve Holm (C; was dropped from 40-man last season when Whiteside brought up)
- Jonny Monell (C)
- Hector Sanchez (C; one of our better prospects)
- Jackson Williams (C; one of our sandwich draft picks, good/great skills, bad bat so far)
- Ehire Adrianza (SS; reported as major league ready SS skills, needs to develop hitting, still young)
- Brandon Crawford (SS; noted as SS of the future by Giants brass this off-season)
- Nick Noonan (2B/SS; hype has died down but this past season was first year he showed hitting discipline that scouts raved about when drafted, I'm very encouraged by his good improvement late in the season, but he needs to continue showing that)
- Wendell Fairley (CF; has been up and down as a prospect, but it's a good sign that they are bringing him up to spring training this year)
- Roger Kieschnick (RF; had very good first full pro season, still strikes out too much but shows all the skills he was advertised to have, very encouraging first year)
- Thomas Neal (LF, not RF as Schulman noted; breakout season, nice recovery from injury from a couple of years back, could be in majors soon if he continues hitting like that but in AA, remniscent of Pablo's rise)
I totally and vehemently disagree with Henry Schulman's assertion that the Giants need to "develop three or four Pablo Sandovals and stick them on the field at the same time." It would obviously help, and I, of course, wouldn't mind that as that would give us one of the great teams in the history of the majors, but that is not critical to the team's success over the next few seasons. Perhaps this is why fans are so upset over the lineup, because reporters lead them to think that having so many great hitters (and Sandoval is a great hitter) in the lineup is a requirement to be successful every season in making the playoffs.
Heck, we didn't even have three or four Sandovals the year we went to the World Series (Bonds and Kent only, nobody else even broke 800 OPS).
Here is how special Sandoval was in 2009: only 6 hitters in the NL had a OPS as high as Sandoval's .943, only 4 hitters in the AL, for a total of 10 hitters in the majors, out of roughly 400 hitters. There are not that many players like Sandoval in the majors. So, no, we don't need to develop three or four Pablo Sandovals, that would be setting the bar waaay too high.
As I noted in my business plan series (linked to the side), when you have a great pitching staff, the offense does not have to be that good to win 90 games. With our defense (pitching and fielding) last season, we only needed to score 4.30 runs per game to reach 90 wins. That would have placed us comfortably 11th in the NL in 2009 (average runs scored was 4.43), behind the Washington Nationals which was 10th with 4.38 runs scored. With an average offense, we would have won 92 games.
Using Bill James projections plus our projected lineup, the Giants should score over 4.5 runs per game. To win 92 games averaging 4.5 runs scored, our defense would need a runs allowed average of 3.83, just slightly above last year's 3.77.
But James's projections tend to be on the high side, from what I recall. CHONE won for "best" projection for their 2008 projections, if I remember right. Using CHONE's projections, the Giants should score over 4.4 runs per game. If they did that, the Giants defense would have to allow 3.73 runs per game, or slightly better than last year's figure.
And I think that it is safe to assume something similar to last year's. Lincecum should be about the same. Any regression by Cain and/or Zito should be offset by Sanchez pitching well for a season (4.24 ERA overall but 5.54 ERA as starter before no-hitter and 3.46 ERA starting from no-hitter, and even without the no-hitter, he had a 3.83 ERA afterward, plus maturation and confidence and development for 2010, when he'll be 27 YO) and improvements in the #5 starter, whether Bumgarner or whoever, as our other starters (other then the four we have for 2010) had a 4.62 ERA collectively in 2009. Defensively, we take a big hit with Huff at 1B, but DeRosa and Sanchez are pretty good in the OF and 2B, respectively, which should balance things there. Plus Renteria's arm should be better with the surgery and Sandoval should be better with one more season of experience.
But I do agree vociferously with most of the rest of Schulman's post. "The Giants have taken the first step with some good position-playing drafts." I also agree with the Giants front office assertion that Baseball America was ill-informed when it criticized their system before, particularly in 2007 and 2008 when Sandoval was doing well but BA didn't think enough of him to put him in the Giants Top 30 prospects list.
I also whole heartedly agree that "Fans need some patience." Fans have not been patient. This is a long term process, and worrying that this might be the only year we can capitalize on Lincecum et al is fatalistic and shows lack of confidence, which I suppose is only fitting because these fans show no confidence in Sabean despite the great job he has done with the pitching staff. I, for one, am glad the Giants are taking the long view with regards to their strategy and not signing a Holliday (who I think is being overpaid in any case).
As I've been preaching the past few years, the Giants have been re-building and re-builds are never pretty nor cleanly done. It is never done with just home-grown players, there will always be free agents signed to fill in the gaps that the farm system could not fill. It will not be perfect, there will be mistakes, but you have to look at the big picture and see what team is coming out of the process.
What is coming out is a team dominated by a great pitching rotation, supported by a great bullpen, and has a developing offense, with Sandoval now in there (we have at least 5 more seasons of him) and Posey in the wings, plus a lot of good prospects percolating upward or already trying to make a name for themselves (Schierholtz, Bowker, Ishikawa, Burriss, Frandsen).
People are worried that the Giants won't be able to re-sign their young pitchers beyond our arbitration control because of the large contracts already committed (Zito and Rowand) but here I am putting my trust into Neukom's statement that he will get the money should we ever need it for a player. People have been assuming that applies only to free agents but I would have to think that it would apply to our own players as well, and Lincecum and Cain will be the first recipients of that largess, I believe.
Lastly, I would clarify one statement Schulman noted, that developing position players have not been the Giants forte. That's true if you are looking at the total number of position players developed. But that's not the whole story.
The whole story is that the Giants have been focusing their first round picks mainly on pitchers for the most part since Sabean took over as GM, and particularly after Dick Tidrow took over as head of player personnel. Those picks have the greatest likelihood of becoming a major league player, and even then, when you are winning, those picks become a good starting player around 10% of the time, which is pretty low odds. And they just get lower and lower, already around 1% by only the 4th round.
Picks like Posey (5th) and Wheeler (6th) become good players around 45% of the time, but by the 10th pick (Lincecum and Bumgarner) it has fallen to around 20% success rate for finding good starting players, and by the 21-30th picks, the ones that the playoff teams get, it is around 10%, as noted above.
That is a pretty low success rate, so while it is correct to say that developing position players have not been the Giants forte, there is a huge mitigating factor in that they had not been trying to be successful in developing position players, really, until 2008 when they drafted Buster Posey, Conor Gillaspie, Roger Kieschnick, and Brandon Crawford.
And, if Sandoval continues to hit like he did in 2009, what would you rather have: one Pablo Sandoval or a handful of Mark Teahen's, Bobby Crosby's, Dan Johnson's, Mike Jacob's? I would rather get a great player once in a while who you can't pick up easily via free agency, than a bunch of OK starters who you can pick up easily via free agency.
And Sabean has picked up great players over the years. Kent in 1997. Schmidt in 2001. Cain in 2002. Sandoval in 2003. Lincecum in 2006. And it is looking like Bumgarner in 2007 and Posey in 2008. Plus if Sanchez and Wilson continue doing well, I would add them to the list as well.
Oh, and I totally agree with Schulman that "they will be fun to watch."