Buster Posey. Tim Lincecum. Madison Bumgarner. Matt Cain.
Clearly, the San Francisco Giants have a stellar history of drafting potential superstars. Each one of those names played an integral part in the organization's two World Series championships as well as its developing dynasty.
Every year, the draft is a literal lottery. Sometimes you hit the mother lode, sometimes you come up empty. While the Giants have done an admirable job drafting soon-to-be successful Major Leaguers, they have also drafted some royal busts.
Let's begin back in 1979. San Francisco selected right-handed pitcher Rick Luecken out of Spring Woods High School. Luecken was chosen as the 18th overall draft pick—high on the list of prized prospects.
How did Luecken do in a Giants uniform? Well, he never donned the orange and black at all, as the Giants failed to sign him—and received no compensation for their first-rounder. Still, San Francisco dodged a bullet, as Luecken never excelled in his professional career. After the Giants failed to sign the right-hander, he was drafted by the Mariners out of Texas A&M in 1983, and ended up eventually playing for the Kansas City Royals, the Atlanta Braves, and the Toronto Blue Jays.
This may sound like a multi-year, moderately successful Major League career. However, Luecken only appeared in 56 games at the Major League level (baseball-reference.com), and was even involved in a clubhouse incident with then-manager of the Braves, Bobby Cox.
Fast-forward to 1993. As a point of reference, shortstop Alex Rodriguez was the first overall pick in the class of '93, going to the Seattle Mariners. Meanwhile, the Giants held the sixth overall pick in the draft, and targeted pitcher Steve Soderstrom out of Fresno State University.
Unlike Luecken, Soderstrom not only signed with the Giants, but eventually made his Major League debut with the team in 1996. His MLB career was short-lived: Soderstrom lasted only ten days in a San Francisco Giants uniform. During that span, Soderstrom started three games and posted a 5.27 ERA.
Then, we come to the 2003 draft. The Giants selected right-handed pitcher Craig Whitaker straight out of high school with the 34th overall pick. Whitaker spent nine seasons in the minor league system, never making a single MLB appearance. In 2012, Whitaker posted a 9.28 ERA with Triple-A Fresno, solidifying a career that just could never take-off.
Not every case can be defined as a "bust" due to the draftee—just look at Zack Wheeler. Wheeler was drafted sixth overall by the Giants in 2009, and instantly became one of the organization's top prospects. In 2010, Wheeler pitched in single-A and posted a 3.99 ERA. More impressively, he struck out 70 in 58.2 innings pitched.
Wheeler's success in the minors continued—until he was traded to the New York Mets in exchange for veteran Carlos Beltran in 2011. Giants GM Brian Sabean needed a seasoned veteran with offensive value to push the team into the playoffs, and the Mets were looking to rebuild with younger, up-and-coming talent.
Well, Beltran ended up being a rent-a-player who left after the offseason after the Giants missed the 2011 playoffs. Wheeler, meanwhile, could make his Major League debut as early as June 12th, as reported by the New York Daily News:
"Wheeler — the Mets’ prized pitching prospect — is closing in on his major-league debut, possibly making his first start as early as June 12 vs. the Cardinals in Flushing."
And, given the Giants' recent rotation woes, Wheeler's absence becomes more of a dagger to the heart. Even if he isn't starting rotation ready, his arm in the bullpen would have allowed Chad Gaudin to take over the hole left by an injured Ryan Vogelsong.
Wheeler wasn't a draft bust—but getting rid of him ended up being the wrong move.
Nobody can predict the future, even if we, the fans, expect our team's front office to possess magical foresight. Unfortunately, they do not, and sometimes draft picks just do not live up to expectations.
Here's hoping the Giants pick the next Posey, and keep their prospects to themselves this coming draft.