Winning tends to have its price, as Major League ballclubs are reminded when the First-Year Player Draft occurs. The most elite teams move to the end of the selection line.But they don't complain. And the reigning World Series champion San Francisco Giants aren't any different. They're overjoyed to have the 29th choice in next Monday's first round. "With the success we had last year, I'd absolutely pick at the back end of the Draft every year," said Giants special assistant John Barr, who coordinates the team's scouting and Draft efforts. To a large extent, Draft order doesn't matter to Barr or his colleagues. Like a solid ballplayer, Barr has learned the value of a consistent approach.
"We're preparing the same way as if we were picking fifth," he said.For the Giants, that means ranking the top 800 prospects, in order and by position. Barr compared the process to gathering "all the players in one playground. Who are going to be the best players in five years?" This system reflects Barr's belief in taking the best player available when the Giants' turn comes, rather than drafting to fill a particular void.
"You can't force a selection," Barr said. "'I really want a third baseman.' Well, there might not be a third baseman there."Live coverage of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft begins with a one-hour preview show Monday at 3 p.m. PT on MLB.com and MLB Network, followed by the first round and supplemental compensation round. MLB.com will provide exclusive coverage of Day 2 and 3, featuring a live pick-by-pick stream, expert commentary and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of every Draft-eligible player. You can also keep up to date at Draft Central and by following @MLBDraft on Twitter. And get into the Draft conversation by tagging your tweets with #mlbdraft.
Barr acknowledged that the array of available pitchers appears unusually strong.
"I think you have more depth in pitching than I've seen in a while," he said.
Giants' recent top picks
|2010||Gary Brown||OF||San Jose (A)|
|2009||Zach Wheeler||RHP||San Jose (A)|
|2008||Buster Posey||C||San Francisco (MLB)|
|2007||Madison Bumgarner||LHP||San Francisco (MLB)|
|2006||Tim Lincecum||RHP||San Francisco (MLB)|
"This was a year when we were all battling weather on both coasts, whether you were trying to avoid tornadoes in the Midwest and the rain and snow in the Northeast," Barr said. "There were kids in the Northeast who would play a game or two and then be off for a week and a half."Barr believes that the Giants still amassed sufficient information on intriguing prospects by focusing on each players' performance in summer and fall leagues. Besides their first-round selection, the Giants have a pick in the compensation round, 49th overall, for losing free-agent infielder Juan Uribe to the Los Angeles Dodgers. That will give the Giants an additional chance to replenish the talent that played a major role in ending their 56-year championship drought. San Francisco employed an entirely homegrown starting rotation of Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez and Madison Bumgarner in last year's postseason. Ten of the 25 members of the Giants' postseason roster played for high-Class A San Jose at some point during their ascent to the Majors. "We're going to end up selecting some really good players at those two slots [29th and 49th] and throughout the draft," Barr said confidently. Here's a glance at what the Giants have in store as the Draft approaches: In about 50 words
Being shuffled to the back of the first round doesn't faze the Giants. They began building their 2010 World Series-winning team with such a late pick: right-hander Matt Cain, who went 25th overall. By the end of 2005, Cain had reached the Majors to stay. The scoop
The Giants genuinely believe that a player ranked in the top 15 on their Draft board will fall to them. They felt this way last year, when they took outfielder Gary Brown with the 24th overall selection. Brown is currently thriving at San Jose. First-round buzz
The possibilities are endless, if you pay attention to mock drafts that predict the Giants will take a right-handed pitcher, a left-handed pitcher, a corner infielder or an outfielder. Though the Giants have focused more on position players since Barr arrived in 2008, surmising that the Giants will lead off by selecting a pitcher is always a good bet. Shopping list
The Giants must decide whether they can find a corner outfielder or infielder who has the power to hit the ball out of AT&T Park or if they'd prefer speedy, gap-to-gap hitters who might fit the park better. Expect the Giants to address catching, since depth at that spot always seems to be an issue. Trend watch
Last year's Draft breakdown -- 25 pitchers, 10 outfielders, nine infielders and six catchers -- almost but not quite approximates the position-by-position breakdown for a 25-man roster. The Giants will strive for a similar balance while maintaining their Best Athlete Available philosophy. Recent Draft History
Left-hander Eric Surkamp continues to excel at each level. After finishing 4-2 with a 3.11 ERA in 17 starts at San Jose last year, Surkamp went 3-2, 1.33 with 69 strikeouts in 61 innings in his first 10 starts at Double-A Richmond. Cinderella story
A 30th-round pick in 2009, left-hander Craig Westcott was 6-0 with a 2.72 ERA in his first nine appearances with San Jose. Moreover, Westcott underwent open-heart surgery when he was two months old, due to an enlarged heart caused by malfunctioning valves. In The Show
Shortstop Brandon Crawford, recently promoted to San Francisco after Mike Fontenot went on the disabled list, hit .333 (4-for-12) and drove in five runs in his first five games. Crawford became the sixth player in big league history to hit a grand slam in his first Major League game.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.