SAN FRANCISCO -- Dick Tidrow is the Giants' ultimate gold digger, who with his legion of scouts combs America for baseball nuggets -- not with a pickax or pan, but with keen eyes and a notebook.
As San Francisco's vice president of player personnel, Tidrow is guru for next week's First-Year Player Draft, and though he has his critics, few can argue with the team's success in acquiring new players, analyzing trade possibilities and its achievements since Tidrow came aboard in 1997.
As the Giants prepare for the draft on Monday and Tuesday, the word is out: It'll be a cross-your-fingers scenario for the club, which doesn't have a first-round choice.
The club's 29th pick in the first go-round went to the Kansas City Royals for outfielder Michael Tucker, and the Giants must start with the 29th selection in the second round (70th choice overall).
San Francisco general manager Brian Sabean says he trusts Tidrow's judgment, but knows that the draft will be a guessing game.
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"It's a crapshoot in every round," said Sabean. "Every year is a challenge. In the bottom of the second round, you will wait for how it falls and try to get the best player possible. Tidrow says it's not a good draft for position players, and the chances of getting an impact fielder is not going to happen."
The Giants were fortunate to have tabbed six non-pitchers in their first 10 picks last season and can focus this year on business as usual -- arms. They took reliever David Aardsma as their No. 1 last year -- he's already seen Major League action -- while 19-year-old Matt Cain, the top 2002 selection, is pitching lights-out at Class A San Jose.
"From what Dick says, the quality is there for high school and college pitchers," said Sabean. "We're known for our pitching depth, but you always have to go with the best available player."
That's the tricky part. Alas, there are no soothsayers, no wizards with crystal balls. The future is unknown. Still ... "You never know," says Sabean, "where you'll find a diamond in the rough. The picks come in so many shapes and forms."
Bobby Evans, the Giants director of minor league administration, says the farm system has a good mix of young talent and won't be hurt if the emphasis will be on pitching in the draft.
"We've done well in the draft and have pretty good pitching, but we have more young hitters than some people think," he said. "The draft this year will definitely be challenging."
Past five No. 1 picks
2003 David Aardsma, RHP
2002 Matt Cain, RHP
2001 Brad Hennessey, RHP
2000 Boof Bonser, RHP
1999 Kurt Ainsworth, RHP
Picking players with potential is one thing, but the next step is vital as well.
"You're always optimistic you'll have good choices, but the greatest challenge is signability," says Sabean.
Still, the GM insists he trusts Tidrow and the Giants scouts. While it's important for selectees to be nurtured on the minor league farms until they're ready for the big-time -- outfielders Todd Linden and Dan Ortmeier are prime examples -- picks are also utilized in the club's usual mid-summer and offseason trades.
With San Francisco having a string of successful seasons, the game plan is working.
"[Success] is a testament to our staff's ability to evaluate talent," said Sabean.