Urban : Giants can turn things around in draft

Unless you’re the type of hardcore fan who subscribes to Baseball America, you probably don’t get all that worked up over baseball’s draft.

It’s nothing like the NBA or NFL drafts, which get major buzz in the weeks or even months leading up to it. And when fans watch those drafts, they’re getting a glimpse of their teams’ very immediate future. The picks of today are often the starters of tomorrow.

Major League Baseball’s draft, on the other hand, doesn’t get much advance buzz. Were it not for MLB.com and MiLB.com, which provide previews, live coverage and wrapups, there’d be virtually no buzz at all.

MLB’s draft lacks the immediate-gratification factor, too. The picks of today are sent to some dusty sub-suburban outpost tomorrow, sentenced to a life of small paychecks, small hotel rooms and smelly buses. And if they’re lucky, we’ll see them in a couple of years.

But if you’re a Giants fan, this is the year you might want to pay attention. This is the most important draft the Giants have had in years, and they have six of the first 51 picks.

More than anything, this draft is an opportunity for the Giants and general manager Brian Sabean in particular, to start shedding one of the unflattering labels with which they and he have been affixed: Player-development failures.

The most common criticism of the club over the years has been that it doesn’t draft well, it doesn’t develop the players it drafts well and that’s why the Giants always seem to be going to the aging-veteran well.

It’s not an easy argument to counter, particularly when itcomes to position players. Part of the reason poor Pedro Feliz gets hammered so hard by fans is that he’s kind of a symbol of the aforementioned failures — he’s the only home-grown position player in the everyday lineup.

Some of the criticism of the Giants’ player development is flat unfair. The team has developed a number of fine young pitchers; just look at the pitching staff right now. And more so than the NBA and NFL drafts, MLB’s draft is something of a crapshoot even in the early rounds.

Often teams tab a kid coming out of high school because he looks like he might be something special with four years of seasoning. But it’s very tough to project with 17-year-olds. And a 17-year-old with a fat signing bonus? That’s a straight roll of the dice.

And the Giants haven’t exactly been picking from the cream of the crop in recent years. The better the year you have, the lower you draft, and the Giants have had some pretty good years. But last year was not so good. The Giants are higher on the draft ladder, and they have extra picks for losing free agents such as Jason Schmidt.

So check out the draft this year. The first round is even on TV for the first time. And with six of the first 51 picks, the orange and black can get a jump on rebuilding their rep.

Mychael Urban is the author of “Aces: The Last Season On The Mound With The Oakland A’s Big Three — Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder and Barry Zito” and a writer for MLB.com. He also hosts the weekend edition of “Sportsphone 680” on KNBR (680 AM).

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