In the days before the Giants signed Mike Morse, I was thinking about just how long it had been since the team had developed its own really good left fielder. By “developed,” I mean drafted, or signed as an international free agent. Barry Bonds, for example, drafted and developed by the Pittsburgh Pirates, would not count. “Really good” means someone who at least once put up a four-win season as measured by Baseball Reference’s WAR. I use that metric because I’m used to BR’s Play Index, and it’s easier for me, not because I have a preference for BR’s WAR over Fangraphs’ WAR or Baseball Prospectus’s WARP.
Thinking about how long it’s been since the Giants developed a left fielder got me to thinking similar thoughts for the other positions around the diamond. What players, developed by the Giants, most recently had four-win seasons at each position? Here’s a list:
Still with the team
Pitcher –Tim Lincecum (last season with 4+ WAR: 2011)
Matt Cain’s last 4+ WAR season was 2010, although he came close in 2011 – 3.7 – and 2012 – 3.9. Madison Bumgarner had 3.8 WAR in 2013. The Giants are known for their homegrown pitching right now, but before Lincecum and Cain, their last All-Star quality homegrown pitcher was Ed Halicki in 1977.
Catcher – Buster Posey (5.2 in 2013, and he put up 7.4 in 2012)
Third Base – Pablo Sandoval (6.0 in 2011)
First Base – Will Clark (5.2 in 1991)
Second Base – Robby Thompson (6.3 in 1993)
The Giants have had a tough time developing second basemen, and it was Thompson’s ’93 season, along with the seeming bad blood between Will Clark and Barry Bonds, that made them choose the 31-year-old second baseman over Will Clark when they both were free agents.
Shortstop – Chris Speier (4.2 in 1975)
Left Field – Ken Henderson (4.1 in 1970)
A third of the teams in baseball haven’t developed a four-win left fielder in at least two decades. That’s a surprise. The last for the Pittsburgh Pirates was Barry Bonds (9.0, 1992).
Center Field – Chili Davis (5.1 in 1984)
Right Field – Chili Davis (4.1 in 1986)
Chili Davis is the guy at two different positions. Didn’t the Giants see his value? After he had that 1986 season, the Giants let him go and replaced him with Candy Maldonado, who had a crucial defensive brain-lock in the 1987 NLCS. Why would the Giants just let Davis go? He was 27 and fit perfectly with the “You Gotta Like These Kids” theme. He signed with the Angels for three years and $3 million. That’s was bake-sale money, even then. He would have 11 more productive seasons. Not that I’m bitter.
The Giants certainly have troubles developing outfielders, don’t they?