As promised, here is the first piece on the 2007 Draft series. The first part unsurprisingly is on the Giants' first two picks in the draft: left handed pitcher Madison Bumgarner (who went 10th overall in the draft) and right handed pitcher Tim Alderson (who went 22nd overall). Both were high upside arms out of high school, and though they were projected to be a couple years away at the soonest from contributing at the Big League level, many Giants fans dreamed of rotation headlining Lincecum, Cain, Bumgarner and Alderson for years to come.
After years of development in the minors though, the two pitchers have panned out in remarkably different ways. One is a World Series stud, the other hasn't played above Double-A. One was arguably the best pitcher last year in a rotation with not one or two but three All-Star pitchers, while the other one performed so poorly in 2010 that their team sent him from Double-A to High-A.
I think it's safe to say we all know who's who.
Let's take a deeper look though at their individual profiles though.
Madison Bumgarner: "The World Series Hero"
Bumgarner went 10th overall in the 2007 MLB Rule 4 Draft. At the time, there was some good arms coming out of the draft, as David Price went No. 1 overall and Jarrod Parker (formerly the Diamondbacks' top prospect) went in the slot before Bumgarner. At the time, Bumgarner was young and just out of high school, but scouts liked what he brought to the table as a big (six-foot, five inches, 227 pounds) left-handed pitcher with Top-of-the-rotation potential.
A lot of Giants fans though weren't exactly thrilled however with the selection of the pick. Dr. B of When the Giants Come to Town was adamantly against the drafting of Bumgarner prior to draft day (as stated by OGC in his post about the Bumgarner selection), and even OGC himself had some choice things to say in his "disappointment" of Bumgarner going in the Giants' slot. Here is what he said about the pick:
"I was disapppointed by the selection of Madison Bumgarner. Not to the point of wanting to throw myself down the stairs, as DrB on MCC said he would if the Giants selected him, but I had been hoping to get some offensive help from the #10 pick. I was really hoping that Wieters would fall to us, but I guess that was wishful thinking. But there was a bunch of top offensive help available at #10, Beau Mills, Jason Heyward, Matt Dominguez, who were consensus top picks where you couldn't go wrong - in the post analysis - selecting one of them."
Furthermore, OGC also pointed out to Bumgarner's lack of breaking stuff as a bit of a red flag, especially considering Sabean said after draft day that they were planning to "fast track" him in the Giants system. Of course, OGC was realistic that he could develop one, especially since he was so young at the time. Here's what he said about Bumgarner developing his secondary pitches:
"Bumgarner doesn't have a curve or slider not because he could not master them, but because he just started pitching them just one year ago, because his father wouldn't allow him to. Well, now he will get professional training on the proper way to throw them, plus he can speak with Zito, Cain, and Lincecum about it because they all have a great curve ball, and probably with Lowry and Misch about their changeups. And he's only 17 (18 in August), so he still has some physical maturation coming, which should add a few MPH to his already good fastball plus with professional coaching, he should be able to master the curve and/or slider with a few years under his belt."
The issue though for most Giants fans at the time (OGC included) though was not really the fact that they picked Bumgarner, but rather that they picked Bumgarner when it was obvious that they needed to restock their system with position players. At the time, Dominguez and Heyward were available in the draft, and to some (if not most Giants fans), the common thought was that either of those guys would have brought more value because of the lack of position talent in the Giants system. As for Bumgarner, while he was a good pitcher, he would still be a No. 3 guy behind Lincecum and Cain and, at the time, would probably be a No. 3 or 4 guy depending on how Noah Lowry developed (which ended up being 3 because Lowry got hurt and his career fell off a cliff).
Despite the controversy with the selection, Bumgarner was ranked highly by baseball publications as Baseball America ranked him the No. 3 prospect in the Giants system before even playing a game. Bumgarner made good on the high praise and the Top-10 selection as he absolutely dominated the Sally. In 24 games and a 141.2 IP, he went 15-3 with a 1.46 ERA, 1.71 FIP, 0.93 WHIP and a 164 strikeouts. He showed impeccable command (his K/BB ratio was 7.81 and his BABIP was around average at .304), and his control was also very mature for a kid just out of high school (1.33 BB/9). Without a doubt, Bumgarner was dominating in every way in Low Single-A and it was safe to say the Giants had a lot to look forward to with the former Top-10 pick.
With such a dominating 2008 campaign with the Green Jackets, his stock rose considerably going into the 2009 season. Baseball America ranked him the No. 9 prospect overall, and a popular argument amongst prospect experts was whether he or Baltimore Orioles left-handed prospect Brian Matusz would have the better pitching career. Bumgarner started out the year in San Jose in High-A, but the league proved to be too easy for him as he dominated in just five starts. In 24.1 IP, he posted an ERA of 1.48, a FIP of 2.05, a WHIP of 0.89 and a K/BB ratio of 5.75. Though his strikeout numbers did decline a little (his K/9 rate in the 24.1 innings sample was 8.51, almost seven points down from the previous season), but considering the Cal League was a hitter's league, there wasn't too much concern about the initial dip in San Jose.
After five starts, the Giants moved Bumgarner up to Double-A with the Connecticut Defenders (the team moved to Richmond the following season). Bumgarner pitched a lot of innings (107) and posted good traditional numbers (1.93 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 9-1 record) in the Eastern League, but there were some red flags raised during his 2009 campaign with the Defenders.
The biggest concern was his dip in dominance rate (K/9), as it fell to 5.80, an almost 10 point drop from the previous year. While he was still showing good control (his BB/9 was 2.42), the huge regression in K/9 rate from Augusta left him with a K/BB ratio (2.30) that looked a whole lot less impressive than the gaudy 7.81 ratio he put up in the Sally. Hence, a lot of questions started to get asked about Bumgarner's development. How was his velocity holding up? Was he developing his secondary pitches? Are hitters figuring him out? Is he going through some minor injury issues that fans and writers aren't aware of?
All those questions became amplified when the Giants called him up for an emergency spot start late in the 2009 season. Though Bumgarner pitched admirably in a 76 pitch start (he went 5.1 IP and allowed five hits, one walk and struck out four while only giving up two runs), the big alarm that went off was Bumgarner's dip in velocity. While reports said that he was hitting the mid-90's range in the minors, Bumgarner's fastball velocity averaged only 88.1 MPH in his first Major League appearance. Suddenly, many people began wondering if Bumgarner's stuff and velocity in the minors were exaggerated, simply to raise his stock as a prospect in the system. Management claimed though that the drop in velocity was a temporary thing, and that he was just suffering from fatigue after pitching so many innings in 2008 and 2009 as a teenager.
Unfortunately, come Spring Training in 2010, things did not start off well for Bumgarner. The velocity did not go up as expected, as Bumgarner was hitting the 87-89 MPH range on the radar guns and he also put up very uninspired numbers during the Spring as well, as he allowed five runs, eight and seven walks in seven innings pitched. His ERA hovered to 6.43 during Spring Training, his WHIP was a bloated 2.14, and the worst stat of all? He had zero strikeouts the entire Spring. (That's right...ZERO!)
The lackluster performance made the Giants go with Todd Wellemeyer in the fifth spot over Bumgarner, and instead, Bumgarner started the year in 2010 with the Fresno Grizzlies. Despite the humbling spring and drop in stock (he fell from No. 9 to No. 14 in BA's prospect rankings), he still managed to pitch well in the Pacific Coast League. He finished the Fresno campaign with a 7-1 record, 3.16 ERA, 3.43 FIP, 1.33 WHIP and a K/BB ratio of 2.68. Furthermore, his velocity came back (he was back in the 90 MPH range by April) and his strikeouts per nine increased to 6.42 with the Grizzlies.
After Wellemeyer (predictably) flopped in the fifth spot in the rotation, Bumgarner got the call up to the Big League roster. Not only did Bumgarner have a great year overall during the regular season (7-6, 3.00 ERA, 3.66 FIP, 1.31 WHIP and 3.31 K/BB ratio), but he shined the most in the playoffs during the Giants' World Series run. In four playoff appearances, and 3 starts, Bumgarner went 2-0 with a 2.18 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, and had 18 strikeouts and only five walks in 20.2 IP during the postseason. Bumgarner's real gem came in the World Series against the Rangers on the road in Game Four, as he pitched 8 shutout innings with six strikeouts and only two walks and three hits allowed in the winning effort that put the Giants up 3-1 in the series.
The following year in 2011, Bumgarner arguably was the best Giants starting pitcher in 2011, which is saying something considering they had a two-time Cy Young Winner (Lincecum) and two other All-Stars in the past few years (Cain and Vogelsong). Bumgarner pitched 204.1 innings, and finished with a 13-13 record, 3.21 ERA, 2.67 FIP, 1.21 WHIP, and a 4.15 K/BB ratio. In comparison, Bumgarner's FIP was the best on the team, as was his tERA (3.12), xFIP (3.10) and SIERA (3.18). Additionally, his K/BB ratio was almost a point and a half better than the second closest Giants starting pitcher (Cain came in at second with a 2.84 K/BB ratio).
It's crazy to think how Bumgarner went from "mixed feelings" pick in 2007 to a pitcher on the rise on arguably one of the best starting staffs in baseball in 2012. Right now, the future is bright for Bumgarner, as he would be a No. 1 pitcher on most teams right now (seriously, Jonathan Sanchez is slotted to be the No. 2 starter in KC and he could be No. 1 with a good Spring). It'll be interesting to see how Bumgarner will do over a second straight full year, and if he can continue to be as dominating as he was last year, especially in the second half (Bumgarner was dominating June on, as he posted FIP numbers of 2.51, 2.74, 3.08, and 2.51 from June-October). My "gut" tells me he will continue the momentum, though I wouldn't be surprised to see a little regression simply because his year was so phenomenal in 2011.
Regression or not, one thing is for clear: the Giants made the right choice in the 10th slot in 2007.
Tim Alderson: "The Player Traded for Freddy Sanchez"
In 2009, when Alderson was traded for Freddy Sanchez in a July Trade Deadline deal, there was a bit of mixed feelings (mostly weighing toward the negative end) amongst Giants fans on the Web. Chris Quick said this of Alderson in a post on Bay City Ball after the trade went down:
"At first glance, I think it’s a steep price to pay for Sanchez. Injury issues aside, he’s a quality player that’s been worth between 3-4 wins these past four years. In the matter of the last few days the Giants have traded away two Top-10 pitching prospects from their system. Outside of Madison Bumgarner and Zack Wheeler (who is still unsigned), the Giants probably don’t have another pitcher in their Top-10.
The difference between Sanchez and Juan Uribe over the remainder of the season probably varies between 0.5 – 1 win(s). The Giants fix a major hole on their team and do improve themselves. But I’m not sure I like the price that they paid.
Tentatively, I’d call this a Pirates win. Welcome to the team, Freddy."
After all, it did seem like a typical "panic" move by Sabes. Alderson was a Top-10 prospect in the Giants system and a first round pick, and many felt that the contribution Sanchez would have with the Giants wouldn't match the upside Alderson would bring to the Giants rotation in the future.
Two years later, it's obvious the Giants wound up on the better end of the deal, as Sanchez played a crucial role in the Giants World Series run, while Alderson has taken a nose dive as a prospect in the Pirates system.
Alderson was drafted in the 22nd slot in the 2007 draft as a young, tall, projectable arm out of Horizon High School in Arizona (he was a teammate of current Giants prospect Tommy Joseph, so he came from a nice high school program). At six-foot, six inches, Alderson had the physical tools of a No. 1 or No. 2 starting pitcher in the making, and scouts were very high about his potential as a professional pitcher. His scouting report on MiLB.com prior to draft day was positive, as scouts remarked that he had "plus, plus command" and that he displayed very good poise on the mound in the game they scouted (he struck out 13 against Bishop Gorman High School, a pretty good baseball program based out of Las Vegas). There were some concerns about his unorthodox delivery, but for the most part, scouts were pretty high on Alderson's upside, as stated in the summary section of his scouting report:
"With a unique delivery, pitching out of the stretch and unorthodox arm action, some teams may be wary. But Alderson has the chance to have three above-average pitches with outstanding command in a big, athletic package."
After signing, Alderson made a short appearance in the Arizona Rookie League in 2007, pitching in 3 games and a limited five inning stint. He made quite the impression, as he struck out 12, allowed four hits and no free passes in the small sample. The sterling scouting reports and impressive Rookie League debut earned Alderson some hype going into the 2008 season, as Baseball America ranked him at No. 84 in their Top-100 list.
While the Giants opted to have Bumgarner start his professional career in the Sally, they fast tracked Alderson to High-A as a 19-year-old, as he pitched 26 games and a 145.1 innings in the Cal League. Alderson put up great numbers for a teenager in a league where the average age of pitcher's at the time was 22.8 years old (so he was almost four years younger than the competition, which is a HUGE age difference). He went 13-4 with a 2.79 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 2.64 FIP, and a K/BB ratio of 3.65. He wasn't a strikeout machine like his left-handed counterpart in Augusta (his K/9 was 7.68), but the solid control and command he displayed in his first full year of professional ball had a lot of Giants fans salivating about his potential. In fact, it was commonplace for many Giants fans and baseball analysts to compare Bumgarner and Alderson, and there was a wide contingent of Giants fans that preferred Alderson to Bumgarner at the time.
After the solid campaign in San Jose, Alderson's stock rose dramatically, as Baseball America ranked him the No. 45 prospect in their Top-100. Despite the solid campaign the previous year in San Jose, the Giants opted for him to start the year again in the Cal League, not eager to rush him to the challenges of the Eastern League just yet. Despite a drop in strikeout rate (his K/9 fell to 6.92), Alderson showed even better control in San Jose, as he posted a BB/9 of only 1.04 in a 26 inning sample.
Unfortunately, despite the improved control, Alderson proved to be a less dominant pitcher in his second year in the Cal League. His H/9 rose from 7.7 in 2008 to 10.7, and his ERA and FIP numbers rose to 4.15 and 4.12, respectively. Granted, there wasn't much panic from Giants fans or management because it was only a five start sample, but safe to say, there was some concern that perhaps Alderson didn't have that No. 1 upside as initially thought when drafted, and probably was more of a No. 3 or No. 2 starter at best (Fangraphs/Rotographs' Marc Hulet especially championed this notion).
Still, the Giants eventually promoted Alderson to Double-A Connecticut, and he was able to overcome the lackluster start and post solid numbers in his short campaign with the Defenders before being traded for Sanchez in late July. In 13 starts and 72.2 IP, Alderson posted an ERA of 3.47, a FIP of 3.53, a WHIP of 1.24 and a K/BB ratio of 3.29. But again, while the numbers were solid, Alderson continued to get batted around in the Eastern League, as his H/9 hovered at 9.4. So, while most of the numbers were nice, the fact that hitters were making consistent contact against him continued to worry Giants fans, and made people wonder if Alderson was projecting downward rather than upward as a prospect.
Since being traded to the Pirates, all the concerns and worries about Alderson came into fruition (though it came at the expense of another team, thank God). In 38.2 IP and seven starts in Double-A Altoona, Alderson finished off the 2009 season in mediocre fashion, as he posted an ERA of 4.66, a 4.62 FIP, a 1.34 WHIP, an a K/BB ratio of 1.38 (amplified by a drop in K/9 to 4.19 and rise BB/9 to 3.03). To make matters worse, Alderson was getting a little lucky in Altoona as his BABIP only hovered around .267. If his luck was a little different, it isn't out of the question to think that his 2009 Altoona numbers would have been a lot worse.
The next season for Alderson in Double-A proved to be a challenge and sparked his steep decline as a prospect in the Pirates system. He got batted around hard in 18 starts in Altoona, as his H/9 rose to a career high 11.2 and his ERA inflated to 5.62 in 89.2 IP. The stint in Double-A was so disheartening that the Pirates demoted Alderson to High-A to work on some things, but it didn't seem to help, as he finished the High-A campaign with a 6.98 ERA and 1.92 K/BB ratio in 38.1 IP. Of course, his FIP numbers suggest he wasn't as bad his ERA numbers said in High-A and Double-A (they were 4.47 and 4.82, respectively), but considering Alderson was back in High-A after pitching (and dominating) there as a 19 year old displayed how much of a step back Alderson had taken in such a short period of time.
Alderson last year played in Double-A Altoona for a third time and there was some hope that he could rebound from such a disastrous 2010 campaign. Unfortunately, the Pirates organization had soured on him, moving him out of the rotation and into the bullpen. He only made one start the whole season and only pitched 74.1 innings in 2011. Despite the move to the bullpen, he didn't show much progress, as he finished the year with a 4.12 ERA, 4.25 FIP, 1.30 WHIP and a 2.11 K/BB ratio. In the span of less than three years, Alderson went from a prospect with a No. 2-3 ceiling to most likely a middle reliever. Hence, it isn't surprising that Alderson dropped from most Pirates prospects lists by 2012.
The story of Alderson's decline is an interesting one. In many ways, it makes Giants fans wonder: was Alderson's decline a product of his declining or overrated skills as a pitcher? Or is his decline more of an example of an organization's poor development of pitching talent? After all, Scott Barnes, another top pitching prospect in the Giants system who was traded near the deadline the same season as Alderson also went through a steep decline after he left the Giants system (though to be fair, he did bounce back a little in 2011).
In all likelihood, the answer probably lies somewhere in the middle. It was obvious that Alderson was proving to be less and less dominating as he moved up the system, but at the same time, the Giants organization is very efficient when it comes to developing pitching talent. Would Alderson have realized that No. 2 or No. 3 starter potential if he was still in the Giants system? Maybe not, but I don't think he would have gone through such a steep decline either if he was still in the same organization that drafted him.
At the end of the day though, while Bumgarner's story is an example of why organizations need to keep their top farm talent, Alderson is a poster boy for why losing top prospects isn't the end of the world. Remember, the Alderson for Sanchez trade was unpopular at the time amongst baseball circles, as many thought the Giants hadn't learned anything from previous deals like the A.J. Pierzynski for Joe Nathan and Francisco Liriano trade. However, if anything, the Alderson trade probably shows that management does know more about their prospects than we as Giants fans would like to give them credit for. Did Sabes and the Giants management team probably expect Alderson to decline so fast in the Pirates organization? Probably not. But, his skills and stats showed that he was declining and thus, expendable, and they made a deal where they could get a solid piece in return before his value depreciated to the point where he would be untrade-able (as he is now).
As a Giants fan, you can't find much argument with that approach at all.