The graph below depicts first round position player draft picks by the Giants that have played at least some time in the majors. The larger the bubble, the greater the career WAR. Because you can actually play at a level below replacement (Hello, Mr. LeMaster) and score in the negatives, I’ve differentiated between positive WARs (orange bubbles) and negative WARs (outlined orange bubbles).
Note: The WAR totals are based on careers, not just the time they spent with the Giants. It’s why Will Clark checks in at 57.6 wins above replacement, even though he only accrued 37.5 wins as a Giant. Keep in mind that these are 1st round position player draft picks that have played at least 1 game in the majors. We’re missing draft busts like Arturo McDowell (1998) who never played a game in the majors. I removed Conor Gillaspie from the data because of his weird pre-draft deal. It’s possible that he’ll make the majors eventually, but I thought he was bending the rules a little to make this list.
Year Name Pos WAR 1985 Will Clark 1B 57.6 1986 Matt Williams 3B 43.9 1968 Gary Matthews OF 30.5 1988 Royce Clayton SS 16.3 1967 Dave Rader C 3.8 2008 Buster Posey C 2.8 1965 Al Gallagher 3B 1.9 1992 Calvin Murray OF 1.4 1969 Mike Phillips SS 0.1 1980 Jessie Reid 1B 0 1984 Alan Cockrell OF -0.1 1982 Steve Stanicek 1B -0.1 1998 Tony Torcato 3B -0.2 1994 Dante Powell OF -0.2 1990 Adam Hyzdu OF -0.2 2001 Todd Linden OF -0.3 1994 Jacob Cruz OF -0.3 1989 Steve Hosey OF -0.4 1990 Marcus Jensen C -0.7 2006 Emmanuel Burriss SS -1.2 1988 Ted Wood OF -1.2 1973 Johnnie LeMaster SS -7.4
It’s easy to see why Buster Posey has been such a Big Deal™ — he’s by far the best first round position player that the Giants have taken since Royce Clayton. That’s not to say that Clayton and Posey have the same upside, they are very different players, but in Buster’s short time in the majors, he’s been the first Giants’ pick to post a positive career WAR since Calvin Murray’s illustrious career 1.4 wins. Posey was infamously preceded by such position player picks as: Emmanuel Burris (-1.2 wins), Todd Linden (-0.3 wins), and Tony Torcato (-0.2 wins). Clayton was more of a WAR compiler, anyways. He posted some league average seasons with the Giants (+2 wins in 1993, +2.4 wins in 1994) but he ended up playing for what seemed like an eternity. He finished his career with 17 seasons of play, going to show that if you can field shortstop, you’ll almost always have a chance to play in the majors.
Will Clark and Matt Williams are probably the best position player draft picks, regardless of round, in franchise history. In back-to-back years the Giants picked up two very talented players that became core pieces for Giant teams of my youth. To me, for the longest time, the Giants were Clark and Williams. Outside of the first round, the Giants have picked up some other very good position player talent; in these non-first rounds the Giants picked up players like: Chili Davis (11th round, 37.2 career WAR), Jack Clark (13th round, 55 career WAR), and Bill Mueller (15th round, 22.6 career WAR). Even though he only played 5 seasons with the Giants, Gary “Sarge” Matthews had a successful career. He won the Rookie of the Year Award in 1973 while on the Giants. He places at #3 on our list for best career WAR by a Giants first round pick with 30.5 wins.
The Giants had two first round picks in 1990 and whiffed on both of them, drafting Adam Hyzdu (-0.2 wins) and Marcus Jensen (-0.7 wins). When looking at this list, you have to talk about LeMaster. He was seven full wins worse than replacement level over his career. LeMaster, the player who once wore ‘Boo’ on the back of his jersey, was the 6th overall pick in the 1973 Draft. The light-hitting shortstop owns a career batting line of: .222/.277/.289 across 12 major league seasons. You’ll notice his ‘bubble’ on the graph, it’s by far the largest negative career WAR for any first rounder picked. Mr. LeMaster, I salute you, sir.
If there’s any interest, I’ll follow this graph up with a look at pitching talent picked in the first round by the Giants.