San Francisco gets its initial choice deep in Round 4, the 134th pick overall, and Sabean -- despite a history of excellent selections -- is hard-pressed to predict which decent player among the hundreds on the board could pay off down the road.
"It's literally a stab in the dark to try to figure out who'll be there," said Sabean. "It could be tough. You can prepare yourself, but you can't even begin to predict who'll be available that far down."
Why so low this season? The flurry of winter inkings. The Giants lost their first-round pick (No. 22 overall) by getting closer Armando Benitez from the Florida Marlins, the second rounder (.No. 72) in nabbing ex-St. Louis catcher Mike Matheny and the third-round pick (104) with the signing of shortstop Omar Vizquel from Cleveland.
Tidrow has been delighted with the past few years' selections, including 2003, when they signed a multitude of good position players -- the Giants' drafts are usually heavily weighted toward pitching. But he knows the two-day draft will be a crapshoot.
"Picking in the middle of the pack, a lot of guys will be gone," said Tidrow. "That's 130-plus, a good portion of the better players. It's a tough year to say you're going to get a big leaguer with your 134th pick. We're hoping we'll do as well as we did last year."
Indeed. Tidrow says second-round outfielder Eddy Martinez-Esteve out of Florida State and outfielder Clay Timpner, the fourth rounder from the University of Central Florida, seem destined for the Majors some day, along with surprising 12th-round infielder Kevin Frandsen of San Jose State.
With position players well-stocked in the Minors, Sabean says the club will likely go the college prospect route.
"Traditionally, there's pitching in [the fourth] round," he said. "You'd be very hesitant in taking a high school player because he's not going to sign being selected there. Assuredly, it will be a college guy. That's the way the numbers work. We got Russ Ortiz in the fourth round, but again it really depends on the agent involved."
Last three top picks: San Francisco broke its mold in 2003 by grabbing a multitude of position players and excellent hitters. They usually seek the "best athlete available" in their choices, and such was the case last year with Eddy Martinez-Esteve, a solid fielder who entered this campaign with a .329 Minor League average playing for Salem-Kaiser, Hagerstown and San Jose.
Martinez-Esteve, OF: California League leader in on-base percentage (.447) and slugging (.594), and in the top five for average at .349. He has 40 RBIs and eight homers for Class A San Jose.
David Aardsma, RHP: Star college closer for Rice, Aardsma needed work on breaking balls at Double-A Norwich this season after brief stints with Giants. Over nine games and eight starts, he was 6-2 with a 2.93 ERA and 30 strikeouts over 46 innings before being traded to the Chicago Cubs, along with Jerome Williams, for reliever LaTroy Hawkins on May 28.
Matt Cain, RHP: Hard-throwing big man sports a 3-2 mark and a 3.27 ERA at Triple-A Fresno. In nine starts, he's thrown one complete game and has fanned 61 batters over 52 1/3 frames.