Down on the Farm: When Giants have top-five draft pick, they find stars


Down on the Farm: When Giants have top-five draft pick, they find stars

The last time the Giants owned a top-five pick in the MLB Draft, they called the name Gerald Dempsey "Buster" Posey. Yeah, that turned out pretty well. 

All in all, the Giants have only owned four top-five draft picks. Through Aug. 10, the Giants (46-70) are in place for the No. 3 overall pick in the 2018 MLB Draft. 

When San Francisco's front office has been put in that position, they have pounced at the chance to find a star and place the team in the right direction. Starting with Will Clark, take a look back at the Giants' impressive history of success with a top-five draft pick. 

Will Clark, 1985, No. 2 overall

After an abysmal 1984 season, the Giants brought a new thrill to San Francisco with the second pick in the 1985 MLB Draft. 

As a junior at Mississippi State, his last year as a Bulldog, Will Clark dominated his college competition. He hit .420 with 25 home runs in 65 games played. Clark went on won the Golden Spikes Award as the nation’s top college player. 

The start to his professional career was just as promising too. Clark played another 65 games at Advanced Single-A in Fresno and slashed .309/.558/.512 with 10 more home runs in '85. In less than a year after the Giants drafted him, the boisterous sweet-swinging lefty was in the bigs. 

Clark made his major league debut on April 8, 1986 at 22 years old against some 39-year-old named Nolan Ryan. Never mind that Ryan already had five no-hitters to his name, The Thrill couldn't care less. In his first at-bat, he took Ryan deep to dead center field. He went on to bat .287 with 11 home runs as a rookie. 

Over eight years with the Giants, Clark cranked out 176 home runs and 1278 hits with his .299/.373/.499 slash line. As a Giant, he was a five-time All-Star, two-time Silver Slugger award winner and won the 1991 National League Gold Glove at first base. 

The Giants took Clark four picks before Barry Bonds went to the Pirates, but at the time, you couldn't fault San Francisco for taking the first baseman. And years later, there still shouldn't be any second guessing despite all that Bonds did. 

Matt Williams, 1986, No. 3 overall

Matt Williams' career was almost literally twice as good as the first two picks of the 1986 MLB Draft. Williams accumulated a 46.4 career bWAR over 17 years. In comparison, the first two picks of the draft combined for 47.7 career bWAR.

While the Giants painfully lost 100 games for the first time in franchise history in 1985, the team's worst season ever brought them a future star in Williams. 

Coming out of UNLV, Williams, like Clark, crushed 25 balls over the fence his final college season as a junior. But unlike the Giants' top pick from a year before, Williams didn't burst onto the scene right away. Though Williams made his major league debut in 1987, he truly became an everyday player for a full season in 1990 at 24 years old and was now a third baseman, no longer a shortstop. The wait was easily worth it. 

In his first season of seeing his name in the lineup every game, Williams was named an All-Star and won the Silver Slugger award as he knocked 33 home runs and led the league with 122 RBI. From that 1990 season through his final year with the Giants in 1996, Williams averaged 30 home runs and 92 RBI. 

As a Giant, Williams totaled 1092 hits and 247 home runs over 10 years. He was a four-time All-Star in San Francisco, won three Silver Slugger awards and three Gold Gloves. 

The Giants' picks of Clark and Williams in back-to-back years went about as perfect as the team could have planned for. 

Jason Grilli, 1997, No. 4 overall

The Giants drafted Grilli as a junior out of Seton Hall University, but he was gone just two years later. The now journeyman never did make it to the majors with the Giants and was traded to the Marlins for Livan Hernandez on July 25, 1999. 

Before the trade, Baseball America twice saw Grilli as a Top 100 prospect for the Giants. The right-hander was ranked as the No. 54 prospect in the game by Baseball America going into the 1998 season. He moved up 10 spots to No. 44 prior to the 1999 season. 

Grilli is now in his 15th season and pitching for his ninth different team. He was named an All-Star as a reliever with the Pirates in 2013. 

Buster Posey, 2008, No. 5 overall

If it weren't for a 10-year minimum rule, Posey, in his eighth full season with the Giants, would already be a Hall of Famer.  

Let's look at his list of Cooperstown accomplishments he's already achieved at 30 years old. Posey is a three-time World Series champion, a NL MVP and Rookie of the Year, he's played in five All-Star Games, won three Silver Slugger awards, and took home his first Gold Glove last season. In other words, Posey is already on his way to etching his name among the greatest catchers of all-time. 

Remembering the 2008 MLB Draft, which was thought to be a stacked class at the time, Posey is far and above the best player. The four players selected ahead of him have combined for a 25 bWAR. By himself, Posey has a 37.5 bWAR. He is 12.5 wins better than the four together, and that includes All-Star Eric Hosmer. 

Posey is the latest in a line of Giants top five picks in which the franchise comes out on top. Grilli is nowhere near the player Clark, Williams or Posey turned into, yet even he became an All-Star down the line like the three others. 

The Giants expected to compete for a World Series this season. Instead, they're at the bottom of baseball, but maybe that means another future San Francisco star awaits them next June. 

Report: Two Giants hitters elect free agency


Report: Two Giants hitters elect free agency

With free agency set to begin five days after the World Series ends, two hitters that played for the Giants during the 2017 season have put their names on the open market.

Veteran third baseman Conor Gillaspie and longtime minor league outfielder Carlos Moncrief have both elected for free agency, according to Baseball America.

The 30-year-old Gillaspie appeared in 44 games for the Giants this past season. He hit just .168/.218/.288 with four doubles, two home runs and eight RBI. He was designated for assignment on August 3 and outrighted to Triple-A Sacramento on August 5. With the River Cats, Gillaspie hit .375 with four doubles in 15 games in August.

Prior to the 2017 season, Gillaspie signed a one-year, $1.4 million deal with the Giants.

As for Moncrief, the soon-to-be 29-year-old finally got his first call-up the majors this past season after eight and a half seasons in the minors. He debuted for the Giants on July 29. In 28 games, he hit .211/.256/.237 with one double and five RBI. While he didn't do much with the bat, Moncrief showed off a cannon for an arm when he patrolled right field.

Giants reassign pitching coach Dave Righetti, two other coaches


Giants reassign pitching coach Dave Righetti, two other coaches

SAN FRANCISCO — Late in a 98-loss season, general manager Bobby Evans met with members of the coaching staff to discuss new roles. The shakeup of the staff ended up being a stunning one. 

Pitching coach Dave Righetti was one of three coaches to be reassigned Saturday morning. After 18 seasons as pitching coach, Righetti will now serve as special assistant to the general manager. Bullpen coach Mark Gardner was given a “special assignment role to assist in pitching evaluations.” Assistant hitting coach Steve Decker will be a special assistant for baseball operations. 

The moves cap a 13-month run in which the coaching staff has taken much of the blame for a $200 million roster that was poorly constructed in places and played embarrassing baseball for long stretches of the 2016 and 2017 seasons. Third base coach Roberto Kelly was let go after the 2016 season and first base coach Billy Hayes was reassigned. More changes appear on the way. 

“It does raise the level of attention to change when you struggle as much as we have, but you’re always contemplating making changes to try to help keep pushing your guys and make sure you continue to have different perspectives and new voices and reflections on how to get the most out of them,” Evans said on a conference call. 

Throughout September, multiple coaches expressed concern about their future roles, but the Giants held off several weeks before announcing changes. At least two members of the staff were involved in managerial searches elsewhere, and third base coach Phil Nevin is reportedly still a candidate for the open job in Philadelphia. 

Evans confirmed that he has interviewed outside candidates for a hitting coach role, but he would not go so far as to say Hensley Meulens will be reassigned as well. He also would not speak to the future of Ron Wotus, although the longtime bench coach is expected to be mixed up in future changes as well. Evans indicated he would announce further moves after all the open managerial vacancies are filled.

For now, the Giants are in the process of trying to find a new pitching coach. They are focused on experienced outside candidates, and they have plenty of options, as several other teams have made changes this month. Evans hinted that he wants the next pitching coach to have a more analytical approach. 

Righetti's replacement will have massive shoes to fill. His run was the longest for a pitching coach in franchise history. The Giants, usually so reliant on pitching, finished 16th in the Majors with a 4.50 ERA, but it’s hard to see how Righetti takes the blame for that. Madison Bumgarner missed a chunk of the season after a dirt bike accident, Johnny Cueto had a brutal injury-plagued year, Matt Moore battled himself and had the worst ERA in the National League, and the bullpen struggled, with closer Mark Melancon pitching through an injury that required season-ending surgery. 

Righetti was credited with helping to develop a rotation and bullpen that won three titles, and the bond he shared with pitchers was on display during the final weekend of the year, when Matt Cain talked repeatedly about their close relationship and went straight for Righetti after he came off the field for the final time. While it’s often hard to figure out where to give credit, even in a down year for the staff, Righetti played a role in Sam Dyson’s resurgence, and he helped Ty Blach and Chris Stratton break in as big league regulars. 

“Ultimately a change for us in the clubhouse is really an opportunity just to put a new voice with our pitching staff and try to keep pushing to the heights that we aspire as an organization and a club,” Evans said. “Changes sometimes are needed as much for the sake of that new voice as anything, and I think that was really the priority here.”

Righetti will help Evans in a front office role. Evans admitted that Righetti’s “heartbeat is in uniform as a coach,” but said he was willing to take on a new role for an organization he loves. 

Gardner, a former Giants pitcher, had been on staff since 2003. He will now help to evaluate pitchers inside and outside the organization, and Evans said Gardner could serve an important role in evaluating trade options. Decker joined the big league staff in 2015 after a long run working in the minor leagues. The 2017 season was his 23rd with the organization. He will have a “blank canvas,” Evans said, working in different roles inside the organization. Decker will also help with draft preparation.