The Giants landed Jonathan Sanchez in the 2004 June draft. He was the next-to-last (29th) pick of the 27th round, making him the 820th player chosen. Only four other players of the forty-nine chosen that year by the Giants have played in the majors: John Bowker, Clay Timpner, Geno Espineli, and Kevin Frandsen. The highest pick (#70, round 2) was Eddy Martinez-Esteve. The Giants forfeited their first-round pick in compensation for Michael Tucker. Justin Verlander and Jered Weaver were first-rounders that year and Dustin Pedroia and Hunter Pence second-rounders. In 2003, the Giants had a compensation pick in the first round from the loss of Jeff Kent. They selected David Aardsma (#22) out of Rice University, two spots ahead of a high-schooler, also from Texas, named Chad Billingsley. The Giants later bundled Aardsma with Jerome Williams for LaTroy Hawkins. So much for the budding aces! Aardsma seemed like a smart choice at the time--his Owls had just won the CWS with him earning two wins and two saves. That's the way the ball bounces, eh? Nate Schierholtz showed up on the Giants radar in the 2nd round (#63), and picked after Billy Sadler, Pat Misch, and Ryan Sadowski in the 24th round (#723) was The Bearded One himself, Brian Wilson. Notables from the 2003 draft class include Rickie Weeks, John Danks, Nick Markakis, and Aaron Hill.
Bruce Bochy calls him "Willie" and he debuted in 2006 and was given the closer's job in 2008. He started to shine in 2009, cutting down the hits, homers, and walks, and in 2010 he put it all together, whiffing 93 of 311 batters and nailing down 48 saves (leading the NL). In 11-2/3 innings in the post-season he allowed five hits, four walks, one run, and struck out 16, garnering a win and six saves. FanGraphs called it a 2.6 WAR season. 2011 was not so kind to Willie, with an oblique injury derailing his spring. His walks and hits went up and his strikeouts went down. He made 57 appearances, fewest since 2007, finishing 45 games with 36 saves. FanGraphs said it was worth only 0.6 WAR. His two-year $15M deal pays him $8.5M for 2012. His fourth and final arb year is 2013 and he's a free agent in 2014. Tim Lincecum and Santiago Casilla are in the same boat.
You have to figure the organization is going to expect a lot more than 0.6 WAR from Willie and His Beard this coming season. It was clear he was not up to snuff this past season. Wilson is almost two years younger (he turns 30 in March) than Jonathan Papelbon, who was chosen in the 2003 draft as well (4th round), and the new Phillie sets the standard for closers not named Mariano Rivera. Craig Kimbrel, the Braves 23-year old rookie, was the best in the NL in 2011, with guys like John Axford (29 in April) and J.J. Putz (35 in June) a tad lower in the rankings but playing big roles on playoff teams nonetheless. The Giants need Willie to recapture that 2010 magic and be one of the elites again. I'm thinking that a nice, long off-season with lots of healing will be just the ticket.
Fear the Beard!