The MLB draft is today, and this year will only be five rounds. Historically speaking, who has been the SF Giants' best picks in each of the first five rounds?
The San Francisco Giants have had their fair share of misses in the draft, but especially within the last 20 years, they have done exceptionally well.
After all, they drafted Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner, Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, Brandon Crawford, and Brandon Belt within the same seven-year interval.
Of course, this group would serve as the core that brought the first three World Series trophies back to San Francisco since the organization moved out west in 1958.
The best players selected in each round contain some very familiar names as well as a couple of surprises.
The best is determined by WAR, and the player needs to have signed out of the draft. This condition is important since the Giants did draft Barry Bonds in the second round of the 1982 draft.
However, San Francisco famously did not sign the eventual seven-time MVP over a difference of $5,000. Bonds would have been the best player ever drafted in the second round of any team, but that is just the way the cookie crumbles sometimes.
So, who are the best players the Giants have drafted in each of the first five rounds:
SF Giants' best MLB draft pick in the first round: Will Clark, 56.5 WAR
This may receive some groans from people who did not see the sweet-swinging first baseman play, but Will Clark strung together an incredible career. The Giants selected the left-handed bat with the second overall pick in the 1985 draft. Ironically, future teammate, Barry Bonds, would be taken by the Pittsburgh Pirates just four picks later.
Clark posted a .303/.384/.497 line (137 OPS+) across 15 seasons with the Giants, Texas Rangers, and St. Louis Cardinals. This included 2,176 hits, 284 home runs, and 1,205 RBI. Though, it is his first home run that remains one of the more memorable moments in Giants history.
Perhaps, in a couple of years, Clark may be passing the torch to long-time Giants catcher Buster Posey (41.8 WAR), but for now, he is the best first round pick in Giants history.
SF Giants' best MLB draft pick in the second round: Bob Knepper, 21.9 WAR
There is a sharp dropoff between the first and second rounds in terms of the overall value the Giants have realized. Left-handed hurler Bob Knepper is the best second-round pick in Giants history, and it is not even close. No other Giants second-round pick has ever generated over 10 WAR.
Bob Knepper was plucked in the second round of the 1972 draft and spent his first five seasons in the Orange and Black before being shipped off to the Houston Astros. In 15 seasons, the southpaw recorded a 146-155 overall record with a 3.68 ERA.
Knepper had an incredibly long career despite never being the type of pitcher to rack up high strikeout totals. Throughout his career, he posted 4.9 K/9 while being extremely stingy in giving up the long ball.
SF Giants' best MLB draft pick in third round: Mike Benjamin. 6.7 WAR
Similar to the second round, the Giants have not had much success in getting value out of their third-round picks. Behind Mike Benjamin, the highest WAR produced by a Giants third-round pick was Jack Armstrong (1.2) Don't worry, it gets better from here!
The San Francisco Giants took Benjamin in the third round of the 1987 draft. The versatile infielder was never known for his bat, but he did have a memorable stretch at the plate in 1995. Following an injury to Matt Williams, Benjamin collected 14 hits in a three-game span, including a six-hit game.
However, this was an outlier relative to the rest of his career. The former third-round pick generated a meager .229/.277/.339 line (61 OPS+) in 13 seasons that included stops with the Giants, Philadelphia Phillies, Boston Red Sox, and Pittsburgh Pirates. Despite the limited production at the plate, Benjamin had a very long career as a utility infielder.
SF Giants' best MLB draft pick in the fourth round: Brandon Crawford. 24.0 WAR
The Giants have had much more luck in the fourth round than they have ever had in the second and third rounds. Baseball is weird like that sometimes.
In addition to Brandon Crawford, several Giants fourth rounders strung together successful careers including Russ Ortiz, Charlie Hayes, and Rob Deer.
San Francisco selected Crawford in the fourth round of the 2008 draft. This draft will likely be known as one of the best drafts in Giants history as it included both Crawford and Posey.
The slick-fielding shortstop has spent his entire nine-year career with the Orange and Black. It is unlikely that he will ever put on a different uniform. In those nine seasons, Crawford has produced a .249/.316/.389 line (94 OPS+) while collecting three Gold Gloves and earning two All-Star nods.
Though his overall production has slid in recent seasons, Crawford was at the center, especially defensively, of the 2012 and 2014 title runs.
SF Giants' best MLB draft pick in the fifth round: Brandon Belt, 23.0 WAR
The inclusion of Brandon Belt may get some groans as well. However, the truth is, baseball teams are rarely successful at picking in the fifth round. In its totality, the MLB draft is a crapshoot, and this is especially true after the first round.
Brandon Belt has put together a nice career where he has posted a .261/.354/.448 line (120 OPS+) across nine seasons. It is fair to wonder if the first baseman's power numbers would be better if he had not played in the expansive dimensions of Oracle Park. Belt has averaged 14 home runs per season, which is a respectable number, but not the type of production many would want from a first baseman.
With that being said, Belt has won two World Series rings and earned one All-Star nod. Similar to Crawford, his production in the batter's box has been on the decline for the last several seasons. To that point, he has yet to hit a home run this year and we are in the middle of June!
Giants History might look a little different if they had not done so well in the draft during the 2000s. Hopefully, San Francisco bucks the trend of their recent draft failures by taking a player who could challenge any of the names above as the best player ever selected in their respective round. Mike Benjamin is just waiting for someone to take his crown.