For the San Francisco Giants, their drafts have had a direct impact on developing a core of players most responsible for their success. Here are the five crucial moves that helped the Giants reach the World Series:
1. Drafting Matt Cain
The Giants drafted Matt Cain in the first round of the 2002 draft with the 25th pick overall. This was the stocked draft in which the Pittsburgh Pirates whiffed by taking Bryan Bullington with the first overall pick, and it included several other All-Star players such as Zack Greinke, Cole Hamels and Prince Fielder.
The Giants have done a great job taking pitchers in the first round; they selected both Tim Lincecum and Madison Bumgarner with the 10th overall pick in 2006 and 2007, respectively. The Cain pick stands out because he came a little later in the first round and he has become the Giants' ace, and a pitcher who is now 4-2 lifetime in the postseason with an ERA of 1.83 in five different series. The Giants also have him signed to what amounts to an eight-year, $139.75 million contract from 2010 to 2017 with a club option for 2018. They’ve got a big-game pitcher thanks to a big-time draft decision.
2. Drafting Buster Posey
By hitting .336/.408/.549 with 39 doubles, 24 home runs and 103 RBIs, Posey won the NL batting title and I expect him to be named the NL Most Valuable Player in November. The Giants’ scouting department selected him fifth overall in the 2008 draft. The Giants were fortunate that Tim Beckham, Pedro Alvarez, Eric Hosmer and Brian Matusz were all picked before them, so they had the opportunity to take Posey. (It helped that some of those clubs were scared off by Posey's bonus demands, but kudos to the Giants for taking -- and paying -- the guy they wanted.)
Posey does a tremendous job of calling a game, framing pitches and maintaining consistent solid contact with his pitcher. Giants pitchers rarely shake him off because of their trust in him. It is remarkable that Posey will have already played in two World Series in the first three years of his major league career, all while hitting cleanup and shouldering the catching duties, which can by physically and mentally onerous. He’s a Hall of Famer in the making at an early age.
3. Acquiring Marco Scutaro
He was just named the NLCS MVP after going 14-for-28 and getting on base an incredible 16 times in the seven-game series. Giants GM Brian Sabean acquired Scutaro from the Colorado Rockies on July 27, costing only minor league infielder Charlie Culberson.
Scutaro is an above-average defensive second baseman and has brought stability and experience to the middle of the diamond. His leadership helped develop his double play partner, Brandon Crawford, who was much more consistent defensively after Scutaro arrived. There are many baseball clichés that best describe Scutaro, such as “dirt bag," “gamer," and “winner." He’s the ideal No. 2 hitter in the lineup because he can hit-and-run, bunt, move runners and take pitches. And he very rarely strikes out.
4. Drafting Sergio Romo
Romo was the Giants’ 28th-round pick of the 2005 draft, and although it’s taken time for him to develop into a closer, his nasty slider and incredible spirit and heart have always made him a special player. Romo was 4-2 this year with a 1.79 ERA, .087 WHIP and 14 saves. He’s symbolic of the many successful late-round picks that the Giants scouting staff has made over the years and another example of how hard-core scouting can be a difference maker.
5. Acquiring Hunter Pence
Sabean has made it routine the past few years to acquire a significant outfield bat either in the offseason or during the season to help the Giants improve their offense and defense. Last year he acquired Carlos Beltran from the New York Mets and then this past offseason he traded for both Melky Cabrera and Angel Pagan. On July 31 he traded Nate Schierholtz and prospects Tommy Joseph and Seth Rosin to the Philadelphia Phillies for Pence.
On the year, Pence hit .253/.319/.425 with 24 doubles, 24 home runs and 104 RBIs. Though his playing style is somewhat awkward, Pence has brought outfield stability to the Giants. This was critical, especially because no less than a month later Cabrera -- the All-Star Game MVP -- tested positive for PEDs and his year with the Giants was finished.
Pence’s pregame pep talks compare to those of Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, with the same bizarre glares that put fear in you if you don’t know him. Pence is all heart and just wants to help the players stay loose and motivated. He’s not a true “impact” player, but he’s a solid player who drove in 45 runs in just 59 games to finish the season, helping the Giants hold off the Dodgers in the NL West.