How the MLB Draft nearly landed some Giants elsewhere


How the MLB Draft nearly landed some Giants elsewhere

SAN FRANCISCO — Somewhere in Derek Law’s house, there is a Texas Rangers jersey with his name on the back of it. Law has never thrown a pitch for the Rangers or any of their affiliates, but as a young right-hander coming out of Seton LaSalle Catholic in Pittsburgh, he was their 28th round selection in the 2009 MLB Draft. 

Pittsburgh was hit with heavy rain that spring, preventing Law from showing much to scouts. But the Rangers saw enough to call his name late. They never, however, followed up with an offer. 

“I probably would have signed for cheap, too,” Law said last week, laughing. “I wanted to play professionally.”

Law’s friends were so sure he would go pro that one bought him that customized Rangers jersey, which he tucked away. He ended up going to Miami-Dade College and getting the call from the Giants in the ninth round two years later. 

“I’d say it worked out really well,” Law said. 

As you might expect, Law is far from alone in that experience. On the active roster, the Giants have 18 players who signed out of college, and 10 of them were also drafted out of high school by teams they never ended up playing with. Of those 10, Aaron Hill (seventh round in 2000, 13th round in 2003) is the only one who did not get drafted higher the second time around.

The only other homegrown member of the current bullpen jumped up one round in his second draft, and like Law, Josh Osich very easily could have ended up elsewhere. Osich was a seventh round pick out of Oregon State in 2010, but his case was complicated. He had undergone Tommy John surgery and didn’t throw a pitch in the season before the draft, but the Angels took a flyer. Osich had a dollar figure in mind, but the Angels didn’t hit the mark. They thought they could come in low and snag a rehabbing 21-year-old.

“I don’t blame them at all,” Osich said. “It was smart on their part.”

Osich made a smart decision, too. He went back to school, got his fastball back up to the 97-98 mph range, no-hit a talented UCLA squad, and was headed for the top two rounds before another injury set him back the day before the 2011 draft. The Giants didn’t blink and they took him in the sixth round, signing Osich for three times the amount he was seeking from the Angels a year earlier. 

While many of the Giants have been selected twice in their lives, Brandon Belt went through two drafts before he even played an inning for Texas. The Red Sox picked the promising but injured high school pitcher in the 11th round in 2006. A year later, the Braves spent the same pick on the San Jacinto College product. 

“I was never close to signing,” Belt said. “Especially after the juco year, I was going to Texas no matter what.”

The Giants took Belt in the fifth round after two years at Texas, but sometimes, that time at a four-year university isn’t even needed. Bryan Morris spent just one year at junior college before turning pro. He was a third-round pick of the Rays in 2005 and thought he would sign. Tampa Bay pulled a pre-draft offer, though, and Morris instead went to play for his father at Motlow State Community College in Tennessee. The Dodgers took him in the first round in 2006. 

Multiple Giants actually have Dodgers draft ties. Mark Melancon was their 30th round pick in 2003 and Austin Slater was called by the rival in the 44th round of the 2011 draft. 

Then there are the marquee players who have no draft ties at all, and most of them have the same reason. 

Brandon Crawford’s father made it clear to scouts that the shortstop was going to UCLA. Joe Panik talked to a couple of teams, but said they knew it would take “life changing money” to keep him out of St. John’s. George Kontos was the top prep prospect in Illinois, and the night before the draft a couple of teams called to say they might take him in the top two rounds. But …

“Everyone that called, my dad said I was going to school,” said Kontos, who headed to Northwestern.

Crawford, Panik and Kontos all ended up getting selected in the top five rounds. Jeff Samardzija was a fifth-round pick of the Cubs in 2006, but if you guessed that his budding football career kept him from getting drafted out of high school, you would only be half right. Samardzija had already committed to be a wide receiver at Notre Dame when baseball season came around, and he got off to a slow start. 

“I threw a ton over the winter and when the season started my velo was down to 88 (mph) when all the cross-checkers were coming through,” he said. 

The fastball returned as the weather warmed, but many scouts had already made up their minds about Samardzija. He wasn't all that bothered. 

“I was pretty gung-ho on playing football,” he said. 

Samardzija would later have the tables turned. As he prepared to play professional baseball, NFL teams had him on their boards as a wide receiver. The time in college worked out well for Samardzija, the two-sport star, and that’s no surprise to the Giants’ biggest star. 

Three years before the Giants selected Buster Posey fifth overall and changed the course of an organization, his name was called in the 50th round by the Angels. Posey, then a pitching prospect, never heard from them. He had already made it clear to teams looking at him in the top rounds that he had no interest in turning pro. 

“I’m a huge advocate of going to college,” Posey said. “Obviously there are times where the money is hard to turn down for a high school kid, but I still think there’s so much value in going to college and spending four years at a nice university.”

Bumgarner injury just the latest in recent run of misfortune for Giants

Bumgarner injury just the latest in recent run of misfortune for Giants

Eight years ago in this very space, I postulated that Brian Sabean had done a lucrative deal with Satan.Co to win the Giants’ first World Series in 56 years. He never denied it, so I took that as silent affirmation.

Now, it seems Beelzebub has brought the bill, to be paid in full on receipt of same.

The San Francisco Giants, who needed as few things as possible to go wrong to start this season, just got two full-on groin shots in the space of less than a week, the second of which was delivered when Madison Bumgfarner fractured his hand trying to repel a line drive from Kansas City second baseman Whit Merrifield during Friday’s Cactus League game.

The injury did not look serious at first because, well, because Bumgarner pretends to be made of adamantium, but an X-ray revealed the fracture and though no time for recovery was listed, Bumgarner may return to health before the Giants do.

And yes, I know spring training is no time for fans to lose hope for a cheery season, but you take the fact as they present themselves, and the Giants are already 40 percent down from their projected starting rotation. Jeff Samardzija is already on the disabled list with a hinky pectoral muscle, and as the Giants know all too well, things like this tend to come in sixes, if not eights.

The 2010 Giants hit on every midseason trade and parlayed that good fortune and the assets already on board to a storied October run. A year later, Buster Posey got Scott Cousin-ed, and his broken ankle snapped the team’s hope of repeating.

The Giants then won in 2012 and ’14 without too much incident, but starting midway through 2016, continuing into last year when Bumgarner flipped his dirt bike, and now down to today, it’s been nothing but seeds and stems for Giantvania.

The rumor mill has been quick to offer up possible replacements for the Bumgarner vacancy (though not for his expected results), but at a time in the game’s development when the best and most progressive-thinking teams are talking about four-man rotations and Staff on every fifth day, a strategic development that requires strength in numbers, the Giants have neither that strength nor those numbers.

Their best internal choices are veteran Derek Holland, who might already have been penciled in as Samardzija’s replacement, and phenom-in-training Tyler Beede. But that essentially uses up the in-house bank of usable goods, so Sabean can either buy something very off-the-rack or hope he and Bruce Bochy can fake it long enough for Samardzija (three to four weeks) and then Bumgarner (six to eight, according to ESPN's Buster Olney).

This seems awfully daunting, especially for a team that has buzzard’s luck and a rotting bat rack for a season and a half. But with six days before the regular season starts in Los Angeles against Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers...oh, the hell with it. If you’re a Giant fan, start drinking, and continue until further notice. The evil lord of the netherworld will tell you when it’s time to stop.

Bumgarner fractures bone in pitching hand in final tune-up before season

Bumgarner fractures bone in pitching hand in final tune-up before season

SAN FRANCISCO -- A day after the Giants lost one of the game's most durable pitchers, they took a much bigger blow. 

Madison Bumgarner fractured the fifth metacarpal in his pitching hand when he was hit by a line drive Friday in what was to be his final appearance before facing Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers on Opening Day. The Giants did not have an immediate timetable for how long their ace will be out, but he is expected to miss a significant portion of the season for a second straight year. The rotation is already without Jeff Samardzija for the first month of the season because of a strained pectoral.

Bumgarner told reporters he will have surgery on Saturday to insert pins into his hand. He expects the pins to be removed in four-to-six weeks, and that he'll be able to pitch before the All-Star break. ESPN's Buster Olney reported that, in all, Bumgarner will be out for six-to-eight weeks.

Bumgarner looked poised for a huge season, and he threw well all camp. He was injured when hit by a liner off the bat of Kansas City's Whit Merrifield. Ironically, Bumgarner and Merrifield grew up close to each other in North Carolina, and Merrifield has told a story about getting beamed by an intimidating 11-year-old Bumgarner in little league.

The Giants had little rotation depth coming into the season, and the group is now in shambles. Derek Holland, a non-roster invitee, may be the No. 2 starter. The Giants will also have to lean heavily on young pitchers Chris Stratton and Ty Blach. Johnny Cueto is the de facto ace, but he's coming off a down year and at times has struggled this spring. 

There are not many appealing options left in free agency and the Giants likely would have to go into the tax to sign one. Tyler Beede and Andrew Suarez are the top in-house options.