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Big bats among Giants' pitching-rich Draft crop

Big bats among Giants' pitching-rich Draft crop

Big bats among Giants' pitching-rich Draft crop
SAN FRANCISCO -- As the opening round of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft unfolded Monday, San Francisco's war room had hopes of using the 29th overall pick to make one of three Bay Area products into Giants.

But Stanford left-hander Chris Reed went 16th to the Dodgers, righty Joe Ross 25th to the Padres and, finally, right-hander Robert Stephenson was selected by the Reds just two picks ahead of the Giants' first selection. But that didn't dampen the spirits of special assistant John Barr, who oversees the club's scouting and Draft efforts. Barr said he wished the three local players all the best, and the Giants went on to pick shortstop Joe Panik from St. John's University, later adding right-hander Kyle Crick in the compensation round.

"We were watching the board, and there were a lot of players from the Bay Area that went before we even selected," Barr said Monday. "Did we like them? We sure did. But the position players that were there had value, and Panik is a guy we've seen a lot. ... We see him as a player who can stay up the middle and be an offensive player."

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By the time the Draft was over Wednesday afternoon, San Francisco had selected 51 players. Barr said before the Draft he was impressed with the depth of this year's pitching prospects, and that was reflected in the 21 right-handed pitchers the Giants took over the course of the three-day event. They also chose 11 infielders, seven outfielders, eight left-handers and four catchers. Of the 51 players, a whopping 35 played at the collegiate level, six played in junior college, and 10 are straight out of high school.

"We thought it was a pitching-heavy Draft, but the position players that were there, we thought they had value," Barr said.

Barr was quick to point out that Panik's selection meant nothing for current Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford, who quickly ascended into the Majors and has almost immediately made himself into an everyday player the past few weeks. It's likely that Panik will settle into a role at second base anyway, and Barr said he could ideally turn into a two-hole hitter. Exactly when that will happen, however, remains to be seen -- another key part of the Giants' Draft philosophy.

Draft Central

"I won't ever speculate on how far a player is," Barr said. "Everybody goes through it at their own pace, so I think the first thing we do is we get him out, we get him into the system and we'll see how it works out. When he's ready to develop and come on up here into the big leagues will be when he gets here."

While Panik's potent bat and solid defensive ability at the middle-infield spots make him a polished pick who will contribute sooner rather than later, the Giants also added a great deal of firepower and versatility on Day 2.

They started off with catcher Andrew Susac out of Oregon State, who is more renowned for his defense behind the plate than his productivity as a hitter, and quickly picked up one of the Draft's purest power hitters in USC's Ricky Oropesa.

The selection of Susac was particularly noteworthy given the season-ending injury to catcher Buster Posey and the rampant second-guessing and outcry for Posey to change his position when he returns next year. Posey and manager Bruce Bochy have repeatedly said there are no plans to make the reigning NL Rookie of the Year Award winner anything but a catcher, but that didn't stop the speculation the Giants would draft another catcher of the future.

On Monday, Barr denied those rumors, saying Posey's situation "was never under a discussion," nor do the Giants consider any players on the disabled list when making their selections. Instead, they strictly adhere to a best-player-available philosophy -- pick their highest-rated player, no matter the experience level or position.

"You still have to end up accumulating talent. That's the key," Barr said. "You're accumulating talent within your Minor Leagues so you give your general manager, Brian Sabean, the flexibility to either bring somebody up or use them as trades to fill in spots. It's not so much, 'What do we need today?' It's really, you're bringing talent into the organization, and the greater the talent you have in your Minor Leagues, the better your big league team will be."

With the rest of their early picks, the Giants stayed close to home. Four of their first five picks on Day 2 were from the Pac-10 Conference: Susac, Oropesa, Arizona left-hander Bryce Bandilla (fourth round) and Oregon State lefty Josh Osich. Add in UCLA lefty Mitchell Beacom (627th overall) and USC righty Andrew Triggs (657th overall), and San Francisco picked as many Pac-10 players on Day 2 as it did prep school athletes.

"I was talking to [Susac] before, and it's kind of ironic that we got picked in the same spot," Oropesa said Tuesday. "That's pretty cool, playing with him in the Pac-10 and we'll get to develop together in the Minor Leagues, and hopefully one day in the pros."

With their 26th-round pick, the Giants took Joseph Biagini, whose father, Rob, played briefly in the club's Minor League system in 1982.

One notable selection in the final rounds was the 49th-round pick of second baseman Benjamin Sosnick from the Jewish Community High School of the Bay. In addition to being one of the 10 high school players taken by the Giants, Sosnick's brother, Matt, is the agent of Scott Cousins, the Marlins utility man who collided with Posey on the controversial play that ended the catcher's season.

Adam Berry is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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