Organizational Rankings: #23 – San Francisco

I am tempted to just take what I wrote about the White Sox, copy it, change a few names, and wonder if people will notice. The Giants really are the National League version of the south side Chicago club; really good rotation, some bullpen talent, and a group of position players that mostly makes you cringe.

The good: Tim Lincecum, Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval, and Matt Cain is a pretty sweet quartet to build around. Very few teams have four good young players that can stack up next to that group.

The bad: So much of the payroll is tied up in mediocre veterans that the team lacks the volume of good players it needs to surround that group in order to build a quality team. 47 percent of their 2010 payroll is tied up in Barry Zito, Aaron Rowand, and Edgar Renteria. That hurts. With Lincecum getting good so quickly, he’s no longer cheap, so there just isn’t much money to go around, and that leads to things like Aubrey Huff, Starting First Baseman.

The end result is a weird roster, a team that has enough pieces to potentially contend but some glaringly obvious holes and a lot of question marks. Can the rotation make up for everything else? Maybe, but I wouldn’t count on it, and if Lincecum lands on the DL for any length of time, this could get very ugly, very quickly.

Looking ahead, the farm system is weak after Posey and Bumgarner, whose missing velocity is a real concern. They don’t have a GM that has shown he can make shrewd, low cost acquisitions, and they lack payroll flexibility. The young guys on the major league team are good enough to keep this team from being dreadful (as long as they all stay healthy), but there aren’t enough of them, and it’s not clear where the help is going to come from.

Add it all up, and you have an organization with some good pieces in place, but too many problems to be considered one of the better clubs in baseball.




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Dave is a co-founder of USSMariner.com and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.

57 Responses to “Organizational Rankings: #23 – San Francisco”

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  1. eitheror says:

    These org rankings are great reads, but can you guys hire an editor? There are continual grammar/style issues that hurt your ethos. The last line of paragraph four is missing a verb.

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    • marcello says:

      I assume they should hire an editor with all their crazy, excess internet monies?

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      • snapper says:

        Too bad these guys missed the tech bubble. 10-12 years ago FanGraphs, Hardball Times and BTF could have sold each other enough advertising to boost their “revenues” to $20M and done $200M IPOs.

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      • Jake Squid says:

        Hey, I sent an email to them months ago offering my services as a proof-reader/editor. For free. I got no response so I assume that they aren’t interested.

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      • Tom Au says:

        In one place where I worked, they had the analysts edit each other; e.g. Marc Hulet on Dave Cameron’s pieces, and vice-versa. That way, every article had TWO people responsible for its content.

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  2. bobo says:

    Any chance you can add a running link of the rankings for the prior teams that have already been discussed? I’m going to quickly forget the teams that have already been ranked.

    Also, I’m organizing some wagers on the next team to come up, early betting favorite is…Arizona.

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  3. eitheror says:

    I’m pretty sure there are qualified people who would voluntarily help edit content here. I certainly would. I’m sure you could put out a call for interns who need resume builders. Grant them access to the pay content, let them contribute once a week, and give them whatever other little perks Fangraphs has to offer.

    In the last 5-7 months Fangraphs penetrated ESPN and most other mainstream outlets. In terms of serious citation(excluding derisive mentions of VORP by Jon Heyman) I wouldn’t be surprised to see Fangraphs pass BPro. This is going to lead to a lot of first time visitors who may find the lack of editing unprofessional. I love the content so it isn’t a huge issue for me, but with regard to public image and reader retention it would probably be a wise investment to have someone edit the posts.

    Seriously though I love Fangraphs and have no malicious intent. Please spare me any flame wars or knee-jerk reactions.

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  4. DrBGiantsfan says:

    I would not quibble over 1 or 2 levels, but the Giants should be ranked in the top half if not top 3′rd. As you pointed out their young core is as good as any in baseball, and you are grossly underranking their farm system, which BA has at #4. How many teams are that strong once you get past their top two prospects? Zack Wheeler and Thomas Neal are also top 100 on many lists. Tommy Joseph and Rafael Rodriguez are high ceiling young hitters. Their second tier prospects such as Clayton Tanner, Brandon Crawford, Peguero, Noonan, runs quite deep and is likely to produce several quality MLB players. Sabean may be a slug, but at least he’s had the sense to put good people in charge of scouting and the draft.

    Sorry, but #23 is ridiculously low.

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    • marcello says:

      As long as Sabean is the drunk at the wheel, #23 seems like a reasonable spot. But agreed that the minor league talent is being extremely underrated.

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      • DrBGiantsfan says:

        If it all comes down to Sabean being drunk at the wheel, why don’t we just rank the GM’s and be done with it?

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      • marcello says:

        The problem is, the GM is the most important person when you’re doing an Organizational Ranking. So, if you get an F for GM, it’s going to pull down your overall score a ton.

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      • Omar says:

        Well part of it’s the GMs but some teams find ways to compete in spite of the GM. The Dodgers and, to a lesser extent, the Phillies come to mind. It’s more than just GMs too, plus I hate “ranking” GMs. Yes, some are better than others, but each team has a different set of circumstances with different management structures in place that very few people outside of each organization know about. It’s apples/oranges when you compare most GMs. That’s besides the point though, while you won’t find a bigger Tim Lincecum fan than me…the Giants still need some help. Their offense is pretty bad, while Posey and Sandoval are two nice pieces to have, they’ll need quite a bit more than that…especially if they keep surrounding them with players like Edgar Renteria and Freddy Sanchez. I think 23 may be a bit harsh, but the Giants are in that blob of teams where there’s not too much separating the 24th best team from the 10th.

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    • Ivdown says:

      I think you are forgetting that there are only 3 or 4 good to stud players on the entire team (minus bullpen guys). Most everyone else is either too young to be good enough to help yet, too old to help anymore, or just average. The Giants farm isn’t looking close to as good as it was a year ago either, with Villalona’s troubles, Bumgarner’s velocity drop, and Barnes and Alderson’s trades out of SF. I might have SF higher, but not by much.

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      • DrBGiantsfan says:

        I’m not forgetting anything, and why doesn’t Brian Wilson and the bullpen count? I haven’t seen Jonathan Sanchez mentioned either and he’s still young with as high a ceiling as anyone.

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      • B says:

        27 isn’t old, but it’s definitely past the point where you can call him “young”…

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      • DrBGiantsfan says:

        Sanchez was older when he was drafted out of a lower division college program. He’s developmentally young. Most observers believe he still has considerable upside.

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      • Ivdown says:

        I’m not counting the bullpen because even the best one in the Giants bullpen had a 2.4 WAR (Wilson). If I was talking about the Dodgers I wouldn’t include their bullpen either, because even though it’s very, very good, no one makes as big of an impact value wise as a good sp or position player can. Jonathan Sanchez was worth 2.1 WAR last season and 2.8 the year before. Obviously not bad, but just barely over an average level for a SP, thus why I didn’t mention him. From what I’ve seen about him he may have the upside of low to mid 3s, but he hasn’t really gotten there, yet.

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    • B says:

      Well, we’re barely an above .500 team right now, most of our “talent” is getting to the point where it’s expensive, our GM uses a strategy he’s proven time and time again doesn’t work, we’re hamstrung for a few more years down the road by Rowand and Zito (and Zito’s deal is ridiculously backloaded if you don’t know, 4 years $83M left on the deal), and our farm system has varying reviews – BA likes it, true, but I’ve seen a couple other prospect analysts rank it way, way lower (like Keith Law has it in the 20′s somewhere, I believe). #23 sounds like a pretty fair ranking to me. There’s more bad than good.

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      • DrBGiantsfan says:

        Yes, I know all about Zito’s deal. It will not be the limiting factor in future talent on the Giants.

        Ranking a farm system that has Posey and Bumgarner at the top backed up by the likes of Wheeler, Neal, Joseph and RafRod down in the 20′s is crazy. I disagree that there is more bad than good.

        With one of the better cores of young homegrown talent already in the majors, an excellent farm system and solid scouting and drafting, the Giants are as well positioned for the future as any team in baseball.

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      • Ivdown says:

        Bumgarner’s stock is dropping quite far right now. At the end of last year he was in everyone’s top 10, and top 5 for some. I know he’s still in the teens or twenties on almost all prospect sheets, everyone seems to be very concerned that his fastball hasn’t regained it’s velocity, and I’d be worried about the pretty big decline in K/9.

        Buster Posey is a stud, though.

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      • Will says:

        agreed, 23rd seems fine as a ranking. having a handful of good players and or prospects doesn’t make you above average, it makes you a major league team

        look at the royals, their core isn’t incomparable, either at the ML or prospect level, and everyone was fine with them at 29 or whatever

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      • B says:

        Generally if your organization’s prospect depth is built on guys that have yet to play professionally in any meaningful way or are 17….well, that’s not exactly impressive. Bumgarner’s stock is dropping by the hour, Lincecum’s salary is growing exponentially, Cain is inching closer to free agency, regardless of what you think of Sanchez, he has major control issues he’s shown no signs of fixing and is 27 – 27 is still 27, players at that age are generally in their prime. Not that he can’t continue to improve a lot, his K rate is impressive, but you’re betting on the underdog on that one. We are completely incapable of surrounding our core with any worthwhile players….it’s not a pretty picture. Until Sabean’s gone, we’re going to be wasting away some great talent, just like we did when Bonds was around.

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      • DrBGiantsfan says:

        The Giants have prospects that are ready now, Posey, Pucetas, Runzler. They have prospects who will be ready soon, Neal, Brandon Crawford, Roger Kieschnick, Jason Stoffel, Clayton Tanner, Peguero and possibly Ford. They have prospects just starting out, Wheeler, Joseph, Rodriguez. I disagree completely with the premise that all their prospects are either 17 or have no pro experience.

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      • B says:

        Well, just being prospects doesn’t mean they’re “good” prospects, or even a good bet to contribute. I’m no prospect expert, but I’ve seen conflicting reports on our system. It seems some people don’t like it or many of those prospects you’re talking about. You could be right, but there’s valid arguments why you’re wrong, too.

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      • JH says:

        I see this all the time in response to Dave’s organizational rankings posts. The job of a farm system is to produce major leaguers, not to produce top prospects. In the Giants’ case, they have significant depth of quality prospects, but there are a lot of factors that cut into your confidence they’ll be able to use the pieces they’ve got to build a winning team with any kind of consistency. 1-2 stud prospects and 4-6 solid guys will usually net you 3 quality major leaguers. 4 if you’re lucky. A baseball team needs 25.

        Another reason a great farm system doesn’t necessarily = high ranking in here is the issue of timing. Oftentimes the young core presently in place will be gone by the time the minor league kids are ready to help. The Giants are a good example of this, with Matt Cain’s club-controlled years set to expire at the end of 2011 and Lincecum already costing the team 8-figures per year. When the talent isn’t going to line up so that every young player is helping your team at the same time, a poor GM should get a whole lot more weight in the ranking.

        Last, the talent in the minors isn’t anywhere near the level of the talent already in the majors. The Giants have Lincecum-Sandoval-Cain-Posey at the major league level and are still a fringe contender in a division with 2 pretty clearly superior teams.

        Farm systems help you find building blocks, but there’s a helluva lot more to building successful teams. Sabean’s shown that he’s awful at filling out a roster behind his young players.

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      • DrBGiantsfan says:

        So whytheheck do we need 3 separate posts on the organization when it can all be summed up into 4 words, “Brian Sabean is a chump.”? I mean, let’s just ignore the fact that the the Giants won 88 games last year with likely less talent at the MLB level than they have this year. That over the last 3-4 years they’ve brought as much talent to the majors from the farm system as anybody and a lot more than most, and that they still have a strong farm sytem to keep the supply coming. Let’s just forget all that and say it won’t amount to a hill of beans because Sabean is a dog, nevermind that those good things have happend while he is in charge.

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      • B says:

        Because it’s about more than just Sabean. It’s about Lincecum getting expensive. It’s about Cain getting closer to free agency. It’s about legitimate questions as to whether the farm system really is that strong. It’s about “the last 3-4 years they’ve brought as much talent to the majors from the farm system as anybody and a lot more than most” being solely because of Lincecum, who’s unbelieveable and we probably won’t find a player of that talent again, and Sandoval, who the team didn’t even regard as much of a prospect. It’s about the 88 wins from last season looking like it’s a mirage based on all the data we have to analyze their actual talent level. It’s about last years talent really not being any worse than this years – we haven’t improved in any substantial way. It’s mostly about Brian Sabean, but if you think it’s solely about Brian Sabean, you’re missing the point.

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      • JH says:

        Do you really believe that the only thing people are focused on is Sabean, DrB? If we were talking about the 2002 Giants, you think the analysis/ranking would have been the same because Sabean was at the helm of the Giants then, too? No. This writeup in 2002 would go something along the lines of “he doesn’t do anything the way we’d do it, but goddamn Barry Bonds is good. They’ll be in the mix as long as he’s around.”

        The ranking comes from the fact that A) the Giants as constituted are a fringe contender with maybe a 10-15% shot at the playoffs this year, B) there’s virtually no upside in the role players they’ve brought in to complement their core, C) there’s not much in the way of immediate help on the farm except for D) the best hitter in the minor leagues, who’s blocked several times over and who doesn’t figure to get any kind of real shot, and E) the talent in the low minors, though solid, is not at the level where you can be confident about perpetual contention.

        BA’s #4 ranking has Posey in it, while Dave’s article considers him as part of the current major league talent. It would also stand to go down quite a bit if re-done today with Bumgarner still not hitting 90mph with any regularity. Callis/Manuel/etc. have changed their tone from “he’s young and wore down, wait and see” to “yeah, now we’re worried.” Something tells me that nobody at BA still thinks of him as a top-15 prospect. That hurts when your organizational ranking is based almost entirely on the 2 stud prospects at the top.

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      • DrBGiantsfan says:

        B,

        “….Lincecum, who’s unbelieveable and we probably won’t find a player of that talent again.”

        Well, you also mentioned Sandoval, and then there’s Posey, and don’t forget Matt Cain who’s pretty darn good in his own right. We’ve already found those. That’s seems like a pretty strong track record to me. What makes you so sure that the people who found those talents have suddenly lost their touch and it’ll never happen again?

        JH,

        Brian Sabean was grossly overrated in 2002 and he’s just as grossly underrated now. People are fixated on the mediocre FA signings, but he’s limiting himself to players who will sign for two years or less to placehold for more minor league talent to arrive. He’s done a good job of building up the scouting and player development departments and has a steady flow of talent coming from within the organization, something that was almost inconceivable in 2002.

        “….not much in the way of immediate help on the farm EXCEPT FOR THE BEST HITTER IN THE MINOR LEAGUES.” LOL! I rest my case!

        As for Posey being counted as a major leaguer or minor leaguer, since Dave’s article was about the total talent in the organization, it shouldn’t matter, should it?

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  5. SharksRog says:

    I guess it would depend on how one defined “Organizational Rankings,” but I too think #23 is low.

    Back in 2007 it appeared the earliest the Giants could become really good was 2012. That still appears to be the case, but with an outside shot at 2011.

    The Giants haven’t done particularly well with their picks after #10 overall (particularly #’s 22-53), but drafting Tim Lincecum, Madions Bumgarner, Buster Posey and Zach Wheeler with four top 10 picks the past four years seems pretty good to me.

    If Bumgarner’s speed comes back, the Giants could have the top five-man rotation in the game — with all but Zito being fairly young. Bumgarner, Lincecum and Cain were all first rounders, but Jonathan Sanchez was a 24th round gem. As long as their starters remain healthy, the Giants should have above-average pitching.

    A key to the Giants’ future will be the development of left fielder Thomas Neal, shortstops Brandon Crawford and Ehire Adrianza, second baseman Nick Noonan, third baseman Conor Gillaspie, right fielder Roger Kieschnick and center fielders Francisco Peguero and Darren Ford. I’m not particularly optimistic about many in that group after Neal and perhaps Adrianza, but there appears to be a fair amount of potential in the group.

    Maybe I’m wrong, but I think the Giants are on the verge of quite possibly building something special. That would seem to me to make the #23 rating far too low.

    Now, if you said that Brian Sabean has built this talent in spite of himself, I would tend to agree with you. Aside from top-10 picks, he has made a TON of mistakes since the end of the 2002 season, when he broke up a World Series team. In Brian’s defense, he has significant salary issues then. But had he retained the right players instead of making so many moves from outside, he likely could have kept a far better team at little if any more money.

    Aside from the excellent minor league contract signings of Juan Uribe, Brandon Medders and Justin Miller a year ago, Brian seems to have continued his post-2002 pattern of signing mostly the wrong guys. He has spoken to the importance of improving the Giants’ horrid ability to reach base, but if actions speak louder than words, he isn’t really committed to the idea.

    He should be committed — perhaps in more ways than one.

    If by Organizational Ratings we mean the ability of the GM, #23 maybe too high. But if we’re talking about the state of the state in the near future, I think it is far too low.

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    • B says:

      I’m not really seeing the argument for “something special”. We’re a pretty close to .500 team talent wise. We need to add a lot to move up to winning our division. Our farm system’s reviews are sporadic, our high level talent isn’t overly impressive at the moment, even if a guy like Crawford or Neal ends up contributing, when will he be able to contribute in a significant way? 2013? Even if he turns into a good player, he probably won’t be anything special as a rookie and maybe not his second year in the league, either. As much as I love Lincecum, Cain and Sandoval, I don’t see much else to really be excited about besides Posey.

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      • DrBGiantsfan says:

        Well, you and I have a fundamental disagreement about the strength of the Giants farm system. I see a system that is pretty darn close to BA’s ranking of #4. You obviously don’t. As for 2013, yes, I think 2013 could see the Giants with a pretty special team at the MLB level, but I think Neal and Crawford will break in before then, probably next season.

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      • B says:

        “Well, you and I have a fundamental disagreement about the strength of the Giants farm system. I see a system that is pretty darn close to BA’s ranking of #4.”

        Nah, I’m not really trying to give my own opinion, just trying to repeat what the supposedly knowledgeable people are saying. Some of them, like BA, really like our system. Some of them, like Keith Law, really dislike our system. That seems like a pretty good reason to me to at least be willing to question it. Not saying I have answers, just trying to bring up legitimate questions.

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      • DrBGiantsfan says:

        But you are giving your opinion since you are obviously siding with the Keith Laws of the prospect evaluating world, rather than ones like BA who rank the Giants highly.

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    • JH says:

      See, my problem lies with listing 7-8 guys (some of whom, like Cain, will be gone when the others are ready) and calling that “something special.” That still leaves Sabean responsible for 15 roster spots, one of which is tied up in Barry Zito at $20mil/year. Those other 14 spots will do a lot more to determine the quality of the Giants moving forward than the 7-8 spots filled by prospects and young guys currently on the major league roster.

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      • CaR says:

        Can’t that be said about most organizations? Every team has aging core players and contracts to get out from under perpetually. It seems as though any team running a “Gillick-style” FO is going to get ripped in these rankings. In this case it seems warranted, horrible veteran signings, but I would always feel very competitive with the guys at the front of the Giants rotation.

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      • B says:

        “Can’t that be said about most organizations?”

        Yeah, probably, but most organizations are better run than ours and/or have better talent right now.

        “I would always feel very competitive with the guys at the front of the Giants rotation.”

        I love Lincecum, and he’s unbelieveable. I love Cain, and he’s very good. I even love Sanchez and wouldn’t be surprised to see him turn into a front line starter with his strikeout ability. Even Zito contributes. And despite all that, we still aern’t “competitive” if competitive means actually making the playoffs. Don’t get fooled by the 88 wins last year – that was much closer to the top of our range than the bottom. We’re a longshot for the playoffs right now, and we were a long shot last year. We got lucky to even get close. That’s the problem, and why we deserve our ranking.

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      • JH says:

        “Can’t that be said about most organizations?”

        Yes, which is why strength of farm system is not the most heavily weighted factor when considering overall organizational health. Poor talent evaluators at the helm is a huge deal, because even with generational talent on the farm, the front office guys are still going to be responsible for 2/3rds of the roster or more.

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  6. SharksRog says:

    By the way, as we might expect from a contributor to the Wall Street Journal, your analysis of the Giants’ future salary issues seem to be spot on, mate.

    The Giants were very pro-active with Matt Cain, buying out his final four seasons of arbitration eligibility for just $15.25 million. The same strategy backfired with Noah Lowry, but combing the two moves, the Giants still fared well.

    I think a key will be how they handle Pablo Sandoval. I thought they should have locked up Tim Lincecum right when they brought him up — as the Rays did a year later with Evan Longoria. That window of opportunity seems to have shut with a bang. But the opportunity might be there soon to lock up Sandoval much as the Diamondbacks did this past winter with Justin Upton. The key, of course, would be continued good performance and improved nutrition.

    Two winters from now, the Giants will have Lincecum eligible for free agency again, Cain eligible for free agency, and Sandoval eligible for arbitration. Plus, they will still have the $30+ million owed to Barry Zito and Aaron Rowand in 2010.

    The Giants are on the hook through 2013 for Zito, and if he continues to pitch decently, I would think they would bring him back for 2014, when they have an $18 million option that is excessive, but which is a net of only $11million compared the their $7 million buyout.

    Ah, America. What a great country!

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    • Eric says:

      “Two winters from now, the Giants will have Lincecum eligible for free agency again…”

      Um, no. Arbitration, not free agency.

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  7. Free Bowker says:

    I hope bowker gets a long look.

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    • JH says:

      He won’t. Yet another problem with the Sabean regime.

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      • DrBGiantsfan says:

        What’s with all the Bowker love? It seems his name is constantly coming up as an example of how Sabean and Bochy won’t give young players a chance. What has Bowker ever done that would warrant a long look on any team in baseball? I could give you a list of half-dozen players in the Giants organization who I would look at a lot longer than John Bowker.

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      • B says:

        “What has Bowker ever done that would warrant a long look on any team in baseball?”

        Tear up AAA while changing his batting approach to one that actually resembles a successful major leaguers. I don’t know that Bowker will be good, but I do know he’s earned himself a legitimate shot, and given the other options we’ve been running out in his place, it’s ridiculous that the franchise operates the way that it does.

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      • JH says:

        “What has Bowker ever done that would warrant a long look on any team in baseball?”

        Did you miss the part where John Bowker was the best hitter in the minor leagues last year? It’s not like he’s some 32-year-old 300-lb guy with huge holes in his swing, either. He’s the perfect example of a guy who deserves a shot over a mediocre retread like Aubrey Huff.

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      • DrBGiantsfan says:

        Bowker was the best hitter in the minor leagues last year? Wow! That’s a pretty bold statement considering Jason Heyward was also in the minors last year, just to name one. Do you know anything at all about the history of hitting stats from Fresno and the PCL? Did you see any of Bowker’s MLB AB’s last year where he was still flailing at the same shoetop sliders as the year before?

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  8. bradley emden says:

    A few at bats after not playing for a week or two does not show us how Bowker would do as a regular. His minor league stats, Fresno or not, were impressive. He also has something most of our other younger outfielders do not have, and that is legitimate power. If he were on another team, we would be hearing about their great prospect. But since he is a giants minor leaguer he must be a Todd Linden rerun. To put Velez ahead of him and Lewis is just plain looney.

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    • DrBGiantsfan says:

      See, this is the type of fanciful thinking that has sprung up amongst a certain type of Giants fan about Bowker. I’m sorry, but there is no team in baseball where JB would be touted as a “great prospect.” I do think that if a MLB team was very patient with him, he could develop into a decent hitter, say .280/.340 with 18-20 HR’s, but you could say that about a whole lot of prospects including Nate Schierholtz who is a much better fielder. You could say it about Fred Lewis too, for that matter.

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      • B-Chad says:

        A decent hitter would be hitting in the heart of the Giants order, seems like they’d be a great team to give Bowker a look. The fact he’s still in a “battle,” for the RF job is a joke. Eugenio Velez is a all speed nothing else player, and Nate Schierholtz has no command of the strikezone whatsoever.

        I was a big Nate backer for a while, hoping with time he’d develop a knack for taking a walk to go with his decent speed and gap to gap power. He hasn’t, and while he’s a better defensive OF than Bowker, I’ll be curious to see how big the gap ends up being. I don’t believe he’ll prevent enough runs in the field to make up for the difference in batting.

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  9. Patrick says:

    Ya know, I might be a little late to the party- but I really think this team has the talent to win it all in 2010…

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  10. Jono says:

    Thanks Pat, nice observation. wonder where these guys will rank compared to the rest of the NL, and compared to the Ms…

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