Urban: With Barr, Giants in good shape for MLB draft

June 6, 2011, 7:01 pm
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June 6, 2011

The amount of information now available on amateur baseball players in the United States has done wonders for the MLB draft, which as recently as 10 years ago was no more compelling to casual fans than any given episode of "Dog Whisperer" is to a cat lover.The MLB Network and the league's website have played major roles in increasing interest and visibility, too.But still. Be honest. Baseball's draft is a dud. All the information, bells, whistles, lights and talking heads in the world can't change the fact that, unlike in the NFL and NBA drafts, most of the players being drafted won't be wearing your favorite team's uniform for a couple of years at minimum, probably quite a bit longer.Giants fans have been somewhat spoiled of late when it comes to top picks. Tim Lincecum, Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey -- San Francisco's first-round picks in 2006, 2007 and 2008, respectively -- made it to the bigs quick-like, and last fall they each played a massive role in the city's historic first World Series title.
Yet Lincecum, Bumgarner and Posey were early first-rounders, the result of some less-than-compelling Giants teams in previous years. And while the two most recent No. 1 picks, Zack Wheeler and Gary Brown, appear to have very bright futures, they're still honing their games at Single-A and don't figure to make an impact in San Francisco for a couple of years.This year the Giants have the No. 29 pick in the first round, and if you correctly predict the player with whom they end up out of that slot, head to Reno with a roll of quarters immediately. MLB.com's latest mock draft has them tabbing Brian Goodwin, a "toolsy" outfielder out of Miami-Dade College, and if you know a great deal about young Mr. Goodwin, good for you. Most people know far more about Cesar Millan and his canine magic.So here's how you might want to approach this year's MLB draft, which kicks off today at 4 p.m. PT with coverage of the first round and "sandwich picks," which is draftnik-ese for what you get for losing a free agent: Trust John Barr.Barr is the Giants' draft guru, and he's done a hell of a job in recent years.Think the Giants need to stock up on young arms in preparation for the inevitability of the current rotation's breakup? Think they should focus on snagging as many power hitters as possible? Think a catcher has to be high on the list of wants?Barr might very well feel the same way, but none of that is going to dictate what he does today and tomorrow.Even when the team has an early first-round pick, Barr doesn't act based strictly on need. He goes the best-player-available route, and that's to say the sensible route. The players available in the draft are, for the most part, far too young and far too removed from the ridiculous skill levels present in the high minors and majors for the draft to be anything more than a series of gambles informed by as much information-gathering as possible.It's not all that sexy, but then again, neither is the MLB draft. On the sexy scale, it's Estelle Getty to the NFL's Alyson Michalka.But you know what? That might be a good thing. When you have very little clue as to who you'd like to see your favorite team snag, there's very little room for disappointment.