San Francisco Giants: Former First Rounder Alderson Worth Another Look?


Once upon a time, the San Francisco Giants didn’t pay much attention to their scouting department and the MLB draft. It’s understandable though. With a team comprised of a superstar in Barry Bonds, along with “whatever-we-can-afford”, it had to be difficult to put much emphasis in developing young talent. But they now have a chance to correct those past mistakes.

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Missing on known talent is one thing. But paying an untested pitcher coming out of high school a million dollars based on the fact that he struck out 60 percent of the batters he faced — most of whom would never play above college level — seemed ludicrous.

At the time, it all seemed like the right road to take. Who doesn’t remember the signing of Michael Tucker? The team deliberately signed Tucker, knowing that he would not be tendered prior to the deadline, meaning that they would lose their draft pick. So they basically signed Tucker in order to avoid making a $1 million dollar mistake.

How times have changed.

In 2005, the year that Tucker was signed, the Giants’ first pick in the draft didn’t come until the fourth round. They did, by chance, get lucky with their pick in the 28th round which turned out to be Sergio Romo. They also did not have a first-rounder in 2004.

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Prior to that, with the exception of Matt Cain, the quality and value had been low. Some of the first-round draftees (Jason Grilli, Jerome Williams, David Aardsma, Conor Gillaspie) moved on to other teams and enjoyed some success. Others, like Todd Linden, Emmanuel Burriss, Gary Brown, just never lived up to the value of the pick.

The team also used some as pieces in trades to bring in talent for the stretch runs (Zack Wheeler and Charlie Culberson). Then there players who suffered injuries, such as was the case of Noah Lowry, as well as the dreaded unsigned draft pick Matt White back in 1996.

In recent years however, the Giants have, in fact, re-focused their energy on the draft. And having developed a better track record for identifying young talent, how are we to believe that the team was so wrong with one?

In 2007, the Giants drafted Madison Bumgarner, Tim Alderson, and Wendell Fairley. As of this writing, Fairley is out of baseball, and everyone knows what happened to Bumgarner. But what about Alderson?

At 6’6″ and 220 lbs he was drafted right out of high school — just as Bumgarner had been. In 2009, both pitched for the Double-A Connecticut Defenders with Bumgarner going 9-1 with an amazing 1.93 ERA. Alderson, who also pitched a few games with High-A San Jose that year, wasn’t far behind with a 6-1 record and a 3.47 ERA.

But then something happened in baseball that is not uncommon; the parent club needed something ASAP, and a player’s high value led to a change in uniforms.

The Giants traded Tim Alderson for second baseman Freddy Sanchez on July 29th 2009. That day was a bright spot in the eyes of many Giants fans. The team picked up an All-Star caliber hitter and and all-around good teammate. Sanchez’s spirited play down the stretch in 2009 — and amazing play throughout 2010 — made the trade worth it for the Giants.

But what about Alderson?

Playing in the Pirates organization, Alderson continued to pitch well that season, finishing 3-1 with Double-A Altoona. So between both organizations, he finished 2009 with a 13-3 record, and the projections were good.

Sep 29, 2015; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner (40) pitches the ball against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the first inning at AT&T Park. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

But in an article in August 2009, it showed that while the Pirates were very excited to get him, they wanted to change some things in his delivery. Some have speculated that’s where things began to change.

After a slow start in 2010 with Altoona, he was demoted to High-A Bradenton where he went 4-3 and after moving back up to Altoona finished 7-6 there.

In 2011, he was turned into a reliever. Do career projections really go awry that quickly?

A first-rounder, perhaps not projected as a number one starter, but at least a middle-rotation guy, goes to the bullpen? And not even to be the team’s closer?

It kind of seem like whoever made the trade for Alderson had, at this point, written it off as a lost deal. There would be no decent return on the investment.

He was sent to the Baltimore Orioles in July 2013, in exchange for Russ Canzler. Now, Alderson was with his third team — and one far-removed from the team that saw him as the next big prospect. After finishing that year, he elected to test free agency, deciding to sign a minor-league deal with the Orioles and began the season in Triple-A Norfolk.

After being released in July 2014, he was picked up by the Oakland A’s High-A affiliate, the Stockton Ports. He was placed in the rotation for the Ports and went 5-0 in seven starts.

His last stop was with the Washington Nationals’ organization, pitching for the Double-A Harrisburg Senators. He was again a starter, and in five starts went 1-1 with a 3.38 ERA.

And he is now a free-agent.

Many times, a club is drawn to their own draftees, and gives them the chance to shine before any other prospects. The Giants have shown this tendency themselves with players like Gary Brown, who may have been better off being traded early. The pressure is intense. And if you see a teammate of yours getting called up — one who was picked lower than you in the draft — it has to make you wonder. But you do usually get more chances than any other player to make it.

Which brings it all back to Alderson. Some might think that the pressure would be greater here to perform, since he was once such a high pick of the Giants’ organization. But in reality, the pick itself has already gotten more than its value in having had Sanchez on that championship team.

No, Sanchez wasn’t the entire reason they won it. But there is probably a good portion of the Giants fan base that would have traded the next ten first-round draft choices just to get that one ring in 2010. So you can thank Alderson for being a part of the beginning of a dynasty.

And the Giants, for their part, have shown an ability to regain value in a player that they had once traded away. Ryan Vogelsong was traded with Armando Rios for Jason Schmidt. He then returned to familiar surroundings in the Bay Area and thrived. Perhaps we will also be saying this about Heath Hembree someday. But again, getting Jake Peavy for him was worth it to help win a title.

Next: Bumgarner, Crawford, and Posey Win Silver Sluggers

Tim Alderson is now a minor-league free-agent. He was once an A++ prospect coming up in the Giants’ organization with hopes of being paired with Madison Bumgarner at the top of the rotation. His value rather than his ability though, was used to help bring a title to the team. And now the team can bring him, and the arm that was once drafted by them in the first round, back into the fold.

Of course, this article is nothing more than a writer who would like to see a perfect scenario where everything clicks into place.

But that never happens in baseball, does it?