It was announced last night that John Barr had been replaced as the Giants director of scouting and draft advisor. Michael Holmes comes over from Oakland to take on the role. Barr oversaw 11 drafts during his tenure, and saw plenty of mixed results. Here’s a quick look at each of those draft classes.
2008 | 5th Pick
#1 Buster Posey | 41.3 bWAR
#1S Connor Gillaspie | 1.0 bWAR
#3 Roger Kieschnick | -1 bWAR
#4 Brandon Crawford | 23.3 WAR
#13 Juan Perez | 0.4 WAR
Barr’s first draft class was easily his best, as he landed two future franchise icons and Gillaspie, who eventually returned to provide the organization with a couple magical October moments. As pitchers go, Eric Surkamp was the only one who logged any significant innings, albeit with nearly -2 career WAR. Still, Posey & Crawford alone make this one of the best draft classes in franchise history.
2009 | 6th Pick
#1 Zack Wheeler | 6.3 WAR | Traded
#2 Tommy Joseph | -0.9 WAR | Traded
#3 Chris Dominguez | -0.3 WAR | DFA
#5 Brandon Belt | 22.7 WAR
#12 Chris Heston | 0.9 WAR | Traded
Wheeler for Beltran didn’t work out. Joseph for Pence did. Belt became one of Barr’s greatest success stories. Between Posey, Crawford, and Belt, that’s nearly 90 combined WAR accrued from Barr’s first two classes. Factor in the rings, and that’s a legendary way to introduce yourself as a scouting director. Again, not much in the way of pitching, aside from Heston’s no-hitter at Shea.
2010 | 24th Pick
#1 Gary Brown | 0.1 WAR | DFA
#2 Jarrett Parker | 1.4 WAR | DFA
#3 Carter Jurica | Never made majors
#5 Heath Hembree | 1.9 WAR | Traded
#11 Adam Duvall | 5.9 WAR | Traded
This is where things started to get a little rough. Picking in the 20’s isn’t easy, but Brown’s fall from grace was a blow for the organization. The silver lining was Hembree bringing back Jake Peavy, but again the Giants got nothing in the way of pitching from this class (Mike Kickham and Brett Bochy were among the only “noteworthy” arms drafted).
2011 | 26th Pick
#1 Joe Panik | 7.0 WAR
#1S Kyle Crick | 1.9 WAR | Traded
#2 Andrew Susac | 0.4 WAR | Traded
#6 Josh Osich | -1 WAR
#7 Ray Black | -0.4 WAR
#9 Derek Law | 1.1 WAR
#12 Kelby Tomlinson | 1.9 WAR | DFA
Lots of MLB contributors unearthed in this class, but few who have been able to sustain their success at the highest level. The Giants don’t make the 2014 playoffs without Panik, who could really use a bounceback this season. Crick, Susac, and Kelby are all out of the organization, and it’s fair to be concerned about the futures of Osich and Law. Health willing, Black might be the only hope of getting some positive pitching contributions from this class, though Susac did help to bring Will Smith back.
2012 | 20th Pick
#1 Chris Stratton | 0.5 WAR
#2 Martin Agosta | Never made majors
#3 Mac Williamson | 0.5 WAR
#4 Steven Okert | 0.2 WAR
#5 Ty Blach | 2.6 WAR
#10 Trevor Brown | -0.2 WAR | DFA
#18 Matt Duffy | 8.7 WAR | Traded
Duffy has been the jewel of this class so far, and four of the top five picks are still on the current 40-man roster. Blach is the most accomplished among those four to date. Last year may have been Stratton’s make-or-break season, while I think we can say the same for Mac (who is out of options) this year. Again, drafting in the 20’s is hard, but Barr no doubt was hoping for more success out of his top picks.
2013 | 25th Pick
#1 Christian Arroyo | -0.2 WAR | Traded
#2 Ryder Jones | -1.1 WAR
#3 Chase Johnson
#9 DJ Snelten | -0.3 WAR | DFA
Arroyo’s gone, while Jones is still on the 40-man. Johnson seems to be as well, despite reports that he had been DFA last month. There’s a couple of players still fighting their way through the minors, but overall this class is looking like a disaster. No player from this group owns a positive WAR, and at this point the club just has to be hoping either Evan Longoria can turn things around, or Zaidi can find a team who will swap him for an established starter.
2014 | 14th Pick
#1 Tyler Beede | -0.3 WAR
#2 Aramis Garcia | 0.3 WAR
#3 Dylan Davis
#4 Logan Webb
#5 Sam Coonrod
#8 Austin Slater | 0.3 WAR
This one, like the 2010 pick of Gary Brown, has to sting some. In a class full of blossoming starting pitchers (Aaron Nola, Carlos Rodon, Jack Flaherty, Sean Necomb, Kyle Freeland, Touki Touissaint), the Giants look like they’ll be lucky if they can turn Beede into a big league reliever. Garcia was a nice surprise in September, while Webb and Coonrod were protected on the 40-man this winter. If Slater can find some power and turn himself into a utility option, the Giants could be looking at some decent production out of this class despite their 1st round pick’s struggles.
2015 | 18th Pick
#1 Phil Bickford | Traded
#1S Chris Shaw | -0.4 WAR
#2 Andrew Suarez | 0.3 WAR
#3 Jalen Miller
#6 Steven Duggar | 1.1 WAR
Like Beede before him, Bickford was a former 1st round pick who failed to sign with Toronto. He’d posted video game numbers at a JuCo that summer, but had questions about his makeup, and whether he could develop a third pitch. Well, since being traded to Milwaukee, he’s been suspended for a second positive drug test, and pitch strictly in relief in high A this year. The rest of the class looks like it has some nice upside potential, with Duggar & Suarez playing meaningful roles for the Giants last season, and Shaw showing some MLB power late in the year.
2016 | 18th Pick
#2 Bryan Reynolds | Traded
#3 Heath Quinn
#4 Matt Krook | Traded
#5 Ryan Howard
#7 Garrett Williams
This Giants lost their first round pick for signing Jeff Samardzija, but still felt like they got first round talent in Reynolds, who they traded last offseason. Krook is gone too, part of the package for Longoria. Quinn and Williams both played in the AFL this fall, with Williams pitching some of his best ball in two years and quinn struggling mightily. Howard looks like a potential MLB utility/bench player.
2017 | 19th Pick
#1 Heliot Ramos
#2 Jacob Gonzalez
#3 Seth Corry
2018 | 2nd Pick
#1 Joey Bart
#2 Sean Hjelle
#3 Jake Wong
Much too early to make any judgements about either of Barr’s final two classes, except to say it’ll be interesting to watch how the different philosophies play out. 2017 was as prep heavy as Barr had ever gone at the top of a class, while 2018 literally couldn’t have been more focused on collegiate players. Obviously, the Giants hope Ramos and Bart can be part of their next “wave” of homegrown talent.
Overall Thoughts: It’s pretty clear after reviewing his body of work, Barr did a lot of good for the organization. He had a keen eye for offensive talent, securing future everyday players in four of his first five drafts (Posey, Crawford, Belt, Panik, and Duffy), a really impressive feat. Drafting Buster (which took guts, as many teams were shied away by his reported signing demands) was one of the single most impactful decisions this franchise has ever seen, and for that Barr’s work should be remembered fondly.
After that, however, things really went downhill fast. Gary Brown began a string of first round draft picks who just didn’t (or haven’t) lived up to their pedigree. This shows up most on the pitching side, where the Giants have only seen decent MLB returns from four of Barr’s starting pitchers (Heston, Blach, Stratton, and Suarez). People try to blame the team’s struggles on a lot of things, from poor signings, to failed trades, and even ill-advised extensions. To me, player development is the underlying cause of all of it. Consider that between 2010 and 2016, 10 of the 33 players the Giants took with their first three selections are no longer with the organization. Of the other 23, only Panik, Suarez, and Blach to some extent have established themselves as expected regular contributors on the current roster… and even that may be in question this winter. You look at that stretch, and it’s pretty easy to see the Giants haven’t gotten the production they hoped for.
Not all of this is on Barr. Drafting a player is just the first step in a long journey, and prospect development plays just as big, if not a bigger role in building a strong farm system. But if Barr is going to get credit for his successes, he must also take his share of the blame for the ones that didn’t work out. Drafting is very hard, especially when a team goes 10 years between top 10 picks. But in the end, I agree with Zaidi’s assessment that a new direction was needed at the top of the scouting department.