SAN FRANCISCO -- John Barr, the Giants' scouting director, knows something about evaluating catchers. Formerly a Dodgers scouting supervisor, Barr was instrumental in Los Angeles' selection of Russell Martin, who has developed into one of the Major Leagues' premier catchers. So it was meaningful when Barr exulted after the Giants took Buster Posey with the fifth overall selection in Thursday's First-Year Player Draft. The Giants need hitters. The Giants need catchers. They believe that Posey, a junior at Florida State University, can bolster both areas. "When you're trying to build a winning team and continue, this is the type of player that we think can help us achieve that goal," Barr said.
The Giants hadn't used their first-round pick on a position player since 1998, when they selected infielder Tony Torcato. They proceeded to take three more position players in a row: Wichita State third baseman Conor Gillaspie, supplemental round, 37th overall; Texas Tech outfielder Roger Kieschnick (cousin of ex-big leaguer Brooks Kieschnick), third round (82nd); and UCLA shortstop Brandon Crawford, fourth round (117th). San Francisco concluded the Draft's first day by selecting Cal State-Northridge right-hander Edwin Quirarte in the fifth round (147th) and North Carolina State left-hander Eric Surkamp in the sixth round (171st). This marked the first year since 1989 that the Giants took position players with their first four picks. That year's haul consisted of outfielder Steve Hosey (24 games with the Giants in 1992-93), infielder Clay Bellinger (183 games with the Yankees and Angels from 1999-2002), outfielder Jason McFarlin (five Minor League seasons) and catcher-first baseman Mike Grahovac (three Minor League seasons). Barr and general manager Brian Sabean insisted that this emphasis on position players wasn't by design. Each amateur taken, they said, was the highest-ranked player on the Giants' listings when the organization was on the clock. "It was a hitter's year," Sabean said. Barr initially noticed Posey, 21, when he was a junior at Lee County (Ga.) High School. "He was in our consideration for this selection since the day I accepted this position," said Barr, who joined Sabean's staff last offseason. The only player the Giants ranked higher on their Draft board was Vanderbilt third baseman Pedro Alvarez, whom Pittsburgh took second overall. This reflected the urgency San Francisco felt regarding catching. Bengie Molina's contract expires after the 2009 season, when he'll be 35, and Pablo Sandoval, who's batting .370 at Class A San Jose but is unpolished defensively, is the only semblance of a catching prospect in the Minor Leagues.
"We lack depth there, especially at the higher levels," Sabean admitted. Thus, Posey could find himself in San Francisco sooner rather than later. "He's on the fast track and Bengie's clock's winding down," Sabean said. "It's really up to him how soon he wants to get going and how soon he can get here." That could be an issue, given reports that Posey's seeking a $12 million signing bonus -- nearly six times more than the $2.025 million bonus right-hander Tim Lincecum received in 2006, the highest for a Giants draftee, or the $2.1 million they gave undrafted Dominican infielder Angel Villalona that same year. But Sabean downplayed the signability factor. "We'll deal with the other stuff later," he said. Posey, who would not address financial questions during a conference call, said he was "extremely excited" to be drafted by the Giants. Told of Sabean's "fast track" remark, Posey said, "That's a great feeling. Hopefully I can and will be an impact player for the San Francisco Giants for a long time." The right-handed-batting Posey demonstrated a knack for clutch hitting last weekend in NCAA Regional action. With Florida State facing elimination, he hit .500 (8-for-16) with five homers and 13 RBIs in three games as the Seminoles advanced to the Super Regional -- where they'll oppose Wichita State and Gillaspie. That outburst lifted Posey's average to .468 in 63 games with 24 home runs and 86 RBIs. "It's kind of like getting two players in one," Sabean said. "It's very, very difficult to get an all-around catcher, especially a run-producer." Some might say that Posey's nine players in one. A converted infielder, he demonstrated his athleticism by playing all nine positions and hitting a grand slam on May 12 against Savannah State. The Los Angeles Angels drafted him in the 50th round in 2005 as a pitcher-shortstop, and he has been catching full-time for only two seasons. "It wasn't necessarily my idea but when I started it, I came to enjoy the position," Posey said. "I like being involved with each play." Jack Hiatt, the Giants' former farm director who retired last offseason and an ex-Major League catcher, scouted Posey -- along with seven other catching prospects -- and endorsed him. That was more than enough for Sabean. "To me, he's done enough catching," Sabean said of Posey. Posey is one of five finalists for the 2008 USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award, giving annually to the nation's top amateur player. Previous winners include Lincecum (2006) and ex-Giants first baseman Will Clark (1985). For the second year in a row, Posey also is a finalist for the Coleman Company Johnny Bench Award, presented annually to the nation's top collegiate catcher. Moreover, Posey, a finance major whose cumulative grade-point average exceeds 3.8, made the Academic All-America Team assembled by CoSIDA and ESPN The Magazine. Posey was the Giants' highest selection since they took right-hander Jason Grilli with the No. 4 overall pick in 1997. He's also the organization's highest-drafted position player since third baseman Matt Williams went third in 1986. The last catcher San Francisco selected in the first round of the June Draft was Bob Cummings (seventh overall) in 1978. Cummings spent nine years in the Minors and played two games above Double-A.
Giants' top five selections
|5.||C||Buster Posey||Florida St U|
|37.||3B||Conor Gillaspie||Wichita St U|
|82.||RF||Roger Kieschnick||Texas Tech U|
|117.||SS||Brandon Crawford||UC Los Angeles|
|147.||RHP||Edwin Quirarte||Cal St Northridge|
|Complete Giants Draft results >|
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.