When the Giants made the decision to sign Jeff Samardzija in December, 2015, the organization forfeited the rights to the No. 18 pick in the 2016 MLB Draft.
Hindsight is always 20/20, but it doesn’t take perfect vision to see how the Giants could have benefited from prioritizing their farm system.
After watching veterans like Matt Cain and Jake Peavy break down, the Giants tried to extend their championship window with the additions of Samardzija and Johnny Cueto and took a calculated gamble by surrendering a coveted draft pick. A front office led by Bobby Evans had even-year magic on its mind, and without homegrown talents ready to step into the rotation, the Giants waved the free agency wand.
The Giants didn’t make their first 2016 draft selection until the 59th pick, when they chose outfielder Bryan Reynolds out of Vanderbilt. The organization’s initial evaluation of Reynolds was solid, as he’s one of a limited number of 2016 draftees who has already reached the major leagues.
The Giants, however, had a better evaluation of Reynolds when he was in college than they had on the switch-hitter when he was in their farm system.
San Francisco sent Reynolds and reliever Kyle Crick to the Pittsburgh Pirates in January, 2018 in a trade that brought pending free agent Andrew McCutchen to the Giants. The deal robbed the Giants of a potential homegrown starting outfielder and eight months later, McCutchen was suiting up for the Yankees while the Giants were gearing up for one of the worst Septembers in franchise history.
After being promoted from Triple-A in April, Reynolds is batting .325 with a .926 OPS in his first 77 major league at-bats with the Pirates while the Giants have cycled through eight different starting left fielders in 47 games.
The Samardzija signing and the McCutchen trade are the types of decisions clubs make when they’re “all in” on winning, but a decision Evans made when the Giants were losing –and losing big– created hope for the Class of 2016.
In July, 2017, Evans traded utility player Eduardo Núñez to the Red Sox in exchange for pitching prospects Shaun Anderson and Gregory Santos.
Less than two full years later, Anderson is auditioning for a spot in the Giants’ starting rotation.
The right-hander was a closer at the University of Florida, but groomed as a starter after Boston selected him in the third round of the 2016 draft with the No. 88 overall pick.
Thirty-nine pitchers were drafted ahead of Anderson that year, but only two – Padres lefty Eric Lauer and Cardinals right-hander Dakota Hudson – have reached the major leagues. Three of his teammates who started for the Florida Gators were chosen ahead of Anderson, but it was the reliever who was first to break into the big leagues.
Thanks to an impressive four-pitch mix, an ultra-competitive demeanor and a fearless mentality on the mound, Anderson has the potential to outperform the vast majority of pitchers chosen ahead of him. The Giants, who will not receive contributions from a top-two round pick, are the team that will benefit.
“He’s got an edge to him,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “He competes so well. That’s what I like about him. I’m getting to know him, I got to know him this spring and he’s a competitor.”
Anderson made his second career start for the Giants on Tuesday against the Braves, tossing five-plus innings while limiting a tough Atlanta lineup to two earned runs. The right-hander has yet to earn a decision in two outings, but the Giants have won both games he’s pitched.
Against a Braves team that features several of the game’s most promising young hitters, Anderson worked both sides of the plate effectively and struck out outfielders Ronald Acuña, Jr. and Austin Riley with his changeup.
“The (changeup) has always been a pitch that I feel good with,” Anderson said. “I usually go to my slider because I feel comfortable with it but we were mixing in everything with Buster.”
It’s too soon to know whether Anderson will develop into a rotation fixture for the Giants, but three years after forfeiting the right to pick in the first round, the organization is receiving contributions from a third round selection who beat nearly every pitcher chosen before him to the major leagues.
Menez impressing in Double-A
The Giants have a handful of 2016 draftees who have shown intriguing potential in the minor leagues and 14th round selection Conner Menez is at the top of the list.
Menez, a Hollister, Calif. native, was a non-roster invitee to spring training who has posted a 2.38 ERA in eight starts this season for Double-A Richmond. A left-hander with a motion that’s similar to Madison Bumgarner’s, Menez could be in line for a promotion to Triple-A in the near future if he continues to build off a strong start to the year.