The common thought around baseball is that the San Francisco Giants‘ farm system is weak. And the thought is true. The organization is sorely lacking in the minor leagues currently, and that hurts the depth of the team. But the fans can’t really complain about that, because that same weak farm system has provided the stars who have led the way to three World Series Championships in five seasons.
Think about the players who have been most vital to the World Series runs. Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval, Sergio Romo and Madison Bumgarner were crucial pieces to all three World Series. Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum were key to 2010 and 2012’s runs. Ryan Vogelsong had his hand in 2012 and 2014’s postseason pushes. Travis Ishikawa hit one of the most famous home runs in World Series history to propel the team to the 2014 championship round. Brian Wilson was the closer that struck out Nelson Cruz in 2010 to clinch the team’s first Commissioner’s Trophy in 56 years. Even Jonathan Sanchez enjoyed a career year in 2010, success he would never match again.
Now for the trivia question. What do all of these players have in common? That’s right, all ten of those players were drafted by the Giants. Even Vogelsong, whose journey has taken him through more twists and turns than a rollercoaster, and Ishikawa, who has been a part of six organizations, were once Giants’ farmhands.
That’s not it, either. Of the 25 players on the Giants’ World Series roster, 13 were drafted by San Francisco, and two others had never pitched for another big league team. 2010 and 2012’s teams included 10 drafted Giants each.
Look at the Giants’ current 40-man roster, as well. If you count Vogelsong, who’s not currently on the roster because no corresponding move has been made to make room for him, there are 22 players occupying spots who were Giants’ draftee. Three players were also signed by the Giants as international free agents. That makes 25 of 41 players, or 61 percent who called San Francisco their first home.
There are also three players who made their big league debuts in orange and black after long minor league journeys. That makes 28 of 41 players, or 68 percent.
Bumgarner and Posey were drafted in back-to-back years (2007 and 2008, respectively) by the team, and grew up through the system together. They each made their debuts in 2009, and have become one of the best pitcher-catcher duos in all of baseball. Bumgarner has become the best postseason pitcher in history, and Posey is an MVP-winning catcher who’s value goes way beyond his .308 career average.
Cain was drafted in 2002 in the first round of the draft. He made his initial major league appearance in 2005, and has since become one of the most durable and consistent pitcher in baseball before injuries derailed him last season.Jul 13, 2013; San Diego, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Tim Lincecum (55) and catcher Buster Posey (28) react after Lincecum threw a no hitter against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park. The Giants won 9-0. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Lincecum was a first round pick in 2006, and after making his debut in 2007, won two consecutive Cy Young Awards in the following years. Even though he’s fallen off the map in recent years, what he did in his first six years can’t be diminished.
Sandoval, who moved to the Boston Red Sox this offseason, was signed by the team as an international free agent at just 16 years old. He spent his first 12 professional years with the organization, and helped bring the team more success than they’d experienced since a lot of fans were born. You can’t really blame him for wanting to try new things in new places, but he’s another example of a star born in the farm system.
Brandon Belt, Joe Panik, and Brandon Crawford were the other three pieces to an all homegrown infield the Giants featured for a good portion of last season. In a way, you can also count Casey McGehee as “homegrown,” because he was born and raised in Soquel, California, and attended Fresno State University. He’s not the typical farm-raised player, but he’s as close as you can get.
The truth is, guys like Kyle Crick, Clayton Blackburn and Mac Williamson may never live up to the expectations that have been put before them by the guys who came before them. But when you consider what we’ve seen come through the ranks in the past decade, who could really live up to those expectations?