San Francisco Giants: Homegrown talent is covering the infield, but where are the outfielders?
By Gary Oversen
The San Francisco Giants have a starting infield full of prospects that came out of their own system. With free agency, that is very rare in the game today. But what about the outfield?
It was in 2007 that the Giants began having a carousel of opening day starters in left field every year. You remember the names; Dave Roberts, Fred Lewis, Mark DeRosa, Pat Burrell, Aubrey Huff, Andres Torres, Mike Morse, and Nori Aoki.
Of that group, Fred Lewis was the only one that came up through the organization. Lewis was given the gift of somewhat replacing a legendary figure in Barry Bonds, and playing decently wasn’t good enough.
Each one of the remaining players on the list were viewed as stopgaps. Players who could hold the fort until, well, they can’t anymore. It also looks like a collection of injuries waiting to happen.
Moving over to center field is a bit of a different look. There is some consistency with Angel Pagan (4 years), Aaron Rowand (3 years), and Marquis Grissom (3 years). But part of the consistency between them is they all had injury problems that didn’t allow them to finish each year out strong.
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And none of them came up through their organization. The last homegrown center fielder to start on opening day was Marvin Benard back in 2001.
Right field is another hodge-podge of free-agent signees and trade acquisitions. Hunter Pence has somewhat stabilized the position, although recent injuries have occurred. He should be good to go moving forward though. And Randy Winn had a three-year run in there. Funny enough, this position did have a former prospect start on opening day recently. It was the year they first won it all, 2010. And that player, was John Bowker.
Nate Schierholtz did play the most games in right field for two consecutive seasons (2010-2011). After being a part of the package that was sent to the Philadelphia Phillies to bring Pence to AT&T, he spent the next two years bouncing from the Chicago Cubs to the Washington Nationals. He played last year in Japan.
So as you can see, the track record for outfielders coming out of the Giants minor league system is shaky at best. But why do they swing and miss so often? Or do they even swing at all?
That is actually one of the main reasons for a low success rate as far as outfield prospect depth. The team doesn’t select outfielders very high very often.
Sep 26, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants center fielder Jarrett Parker (47) hits a grand slam home run against the Oakland Athletics in the eighth inning of their MLB baseball game at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Lance Iversen-USA TODAY Sports
If you look at the first-round draft choices by the team since 2002, there have been two outfielders taken. Wendell Fairley(29th pick 2007) and Gary Brown(24th pick 2010). Fairley, drafted out of high school, never made it past Double-A. (He did resurface this past year in the Independent League where he hit .286 in limited action.) Brown was a prospect with high aspirations. After years of being “on the radar” he was finally placed on waivers and picked up by the St Louis Cardinals in 2015. However, the second rounder that year was Jarrett Parker. And 2012 third-rounder Mac Williamson has shown the ability to hit major league pitching.
The team also drafted an outfielder in the third round of 2014 by the name of Dylan Davis. So maybe we are seeing a shifting of the tides.
Or maybe not.
Maybe the team has had it right all along. This method of drafting shortstops and pitchers is actually one used back in Little League. Isn’t the game so simple as to place the best position players on the field and have excellent pitching to limit the balls that are hit? But when they are hit, the fielders are so athletic that there are few holes. I digress. But really?
Since 2000, the Giants have had 26 first-round picks. 14 have been pitchers and 6 have been infielders. So the focus is pretty clear. Stock up on the arms and the athletes, we’ll sort out positions later.
It really does make sense to focus on developing players from within, that play positions that are the most valuable, and highest cost. Which is most often pitching. You can develop them, or have them as trade pieces in the future.
With the recent international signing of top-prospect SS Lucius Fox, as well as the consistent play of Christian Arroyo, the team continues to go after the best athlete available. Maybe we will see them transition to the outfield soon. Good baseball players can play anywhere on the diamond.
And through this whole article I haven’t even mentioned the starting infield by name, once. Matt Duffy(18th round 2012 draft), Brandon Crawford(4th round 2008), Brandon Belt(5th round 2009), Buster Posey (1st round 2008),and Joe Panik(1st round 2011). Four out of the five played shortstop in college. And I’m sure Belt wanted to.
So is it bad for the team to sign free agents or trade for players to fill the outfield?
Not if they continue their winning culture.
I’m sure that they will still have a difficult time convincing some of the sluggers to sign through free agency. It might be that they will always have to trade for the sluggers, then hope that they see what is going on here and stay. Just as Pence did. Or maybe they have to continue taking chances on comeback player of the year candidates such as Mike Morse or the recently signed Kyle Blanks.
Next: Under the radar free agent options
Maybe this spring Parker and Williamson become the two-headed super duo of Parker Williamson, and this whole business of not cultivating outfield talent will become nonsense.