This upcoming Rule 4 draft will mark the fifth anniversary of the 2007 draft. While everyone will remember that draft for the big names such as David Price, Jason Heyward and Matt Wieters (and most likely Mike Moustakas...I'm that big a fan), this draft was also a pretty significant one for the Giants.
In many ways, the end of the 2006 season signified the beginning of the end of the Barry Bonds era. The Giants canned Felipe Alou at the end of the season (the Giants finished 76-85; the Giants tried to make a playoff push by acquiring Shea Hillenbrand, but the deal ended up doing more harm than good), and hired Bruce Bochy, who was coming off a successful campaign for the rival Padres. Additionally, many of the Giants' mainstay players in 2006 opted for greener pastures in the off-season. Seasoned (and often injured) veterans such as Moises Alou and Steve Finley left San Francisco, and suddenly, the Giants' window of opportunity for competing in the NL West looked closed for at least the next couple of years. Yes, the Giants management did sign Barry Zito to a massive contract (a mistake the Giants are still paying for), but it was obvious by the start of Spring Training that the Giants were in rebuilding mode, even in Bonds' last year of his contract.
With the Post-Bonds era looming, Brian Sabean and his management team's biggest moves in 2007 had nothing to do with the Big League roster (sans the Zito deal of course; also getting rid of Matt Morris and his albatross contract wasn't bad either). Instead, the main goal for Sabean and Co. was to restock a farm system that had been left bare by numerous mid-season and off-season transactions in the recent past, and organizational flame outs in the Majors and Minors. (Does Jerome Williams, Jesse Foppert, Lance Niekro and Eddy Martinez-Esteve ring any bells?) The 2007 was the right kind of draft to start such a rebuilding process, as the Giants had six (that's right SIX) picks in the first 51 slots of the first and supplemental rounds.
Yes, there was some talent in the Giants system going into 2007 (Matt Cain had made his debut already and Tim Lincecum was set to do so in 2007), but no one would question that behind their top two prospects (Lincecum and Cain) that the system was incredibly weak. So, in 2007, the Giants loaded up on talent, knowing that they had to get younger and build depth in their system if they ever wanted to compete when Bonds left town after the 2007 year.
The 2007 draft class, especially the first six picks, basically are a symbol of the start of the current mold of the Giants system Giants fans see today. Remember, this used to be an organization that preferred veterans to talent within the farm system during the early years of Sabean's regime. However, that took a turn in 2007 (though you could argue Cain and Lincecum really planted the seeds; the 2007 draft class burst the new plan through the dirt) as the organization went through a huge overhaul in terms of how they evaluated and signed players. As most Giants fans will tell you, the plan obviously proved to be a success (2010 World Series).
I could do this in one post, but I don't feel like I would be doing the subject much justice. So instead, I will be breaking down the analysis of the 2007 draft class into four posts. Here is how the breakdown will look like:
Part I: The "First Rounders" (Madison Bumgarner and Tim Alderson).
Part II: The "Future Duo Up the Middle" (Nick Noonan and Charlie Culberson).
Part III: The "Tools" Guy and the "College" Guy (Wendell Fairley and Jackson Williams).
Part IV: The "Outsiders" (Notable guys drafted outside the first and supplemental round).
Each part will be posted within a couple of days within each other. As you can see from the list above, the results from that 2007 draft have been a bit mixed. Nonetheless, despite the results, the draft above started a process within the Giants system that has not only produced better teams at the Big League level (three straight winning seasons for the Giants from 2009-2011), but a better framework for the organization in terms of acquiring talent, be it through the draft, free agency or international signings.
I also find this all interesting because one has to wonder when the Giants will undergo another change in organizational philosophy similar to 2007. The safe bet seems to be going into the 2014 season, when Lincecum will be a free agent. Will the Giants continue the ride the train that they first started churning in 2007? Or are they preparing for Lincecum to chase the dollar and perhaps prepare to change their identity again?
As for the questions above, only time will tell. I'm not a fortune teller, and as stated before on this blog, I focus more on the Giants' Minor League rosters here, not the Big League one (go to Giants Nirvana, Crazy Crabbers, McCovey Chronicles, or Bay City Ball for that). For now, I'm going to be looking at and analyzing that 2007 class that helped start the process that Giants fans currently see now.
I think that's enough on my plate for now.