Dickey: Building for the future? Really?

If you know where the Giants are going with their youth movement, give them a call. They don’t seem to be able to get a handle on it.

On one hand last week during a media event, owner Peter Magowan spoke about the Giants’ commitment to a stronger farm system, specifically noting a much-needed reorganization of the system.

In the offseason, the Giants brought in John Barr, who had worked with four teams, most recently the Los Angeles Dodgers; Ron Schueler, former Chicago White Sox general manager; and Ed Creech, who was Pittsburgh’s director of scouting. Fred Stanley had already replaced the ineffectual Jack Hiatt as director of player development.

When we talked after his presentation, Magowan also confirmed that the Giants may eat part or all of veteran contracts, if necessary. That will probably only be an issue with Dave Roberts, who is signed through 2009 and needs to be moved — quickly. Ray Durham’s contract is up this year. Randy Winn is signed through 2009, but he’s still a productive player.

But this seeming commitment to a younger team was undermined when manager Bruce Bochy announced that Daniel Ortmeier would not start at first base in Monday’s season opener.

I’m not a big Ortmeier booster. His minor-league numbers don’t give any indication that he will hit for either average or power on the big-league level. But the Giants had built him up as a player who could be a big contributor and then he’s not even in the lineup? This is an all too familiar pattern with the Giants, not giving their younger players a real chance.

And yet …

A member of the organization told me, “I hope the fans don’t get too upset if they see Dave Roberts and Rich Aurilia in the lineup at the start of the season. It will be a much different team two months down the road.”

Let’s hope so. The Giants are badly in need of a makeover. Actually, they should have done this last year when they had a grace period because, with the All-Star Game tied to season tickets, they were going to have a built-in attendance base. They could have put in some younger players, let fans cheer for Barry Bonds’ pursuit of the career home run mark and started to prepare for their future without him. It wasn’t like they were going to seriously contend for a postseason spot.

Ah, well, better late than never.

To seriously commit to a younger team, the Giants have to move their top prospects along swiftly. They’ve done that with young pitchers Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum, but their position players have arrived too late. That’s still happening.

Ortmeier will be 27 in May, Fred Lewis and Rajai Davis are already 27. At that age, there’s little hope of further development. Eugenio Velez, who has been exciting because of his speed, will be 26 in May — and he isn’t good enough to play a position defensively in the majors yet. Only Brian Bocock, who starts at shortstop because Omar Vizquel is on the disabled list, is a legitimate prospect at age 23. Bocock hasn’t played above A-ball and he hasn’t hit much, but he’s a gifted fielder.

So, the Giants have their work cut out for them as they reinvent their team profile, but at least, they’re trying … I think.

Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 andalso writes on www.GlennDickey.com. E-mail him at glenndickey@hotmail.com.

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