06/04/2002 1:43 pm ET
Giants go with high school pitcher
By Josh Rawitch / MLB.com
SAN FRANCISCO -- Continuing their trend of selecting pitchers in the first round of the First-Year Player Draft, the Giants selected right-hander Matthew Cain from Houston High School in Tennessee with the 25th overall selection, marking the fourth straight year they have used their first pick on a right-handed pitcher and seventh time over the last eight years.
"We just try and stockpile pitching every year, and we've found that it's the staple of your organization," said former big-league hurler and current Vice President of Player Personnel Dick Tidrow. "You've got 10, 11 or 12 on your team in the big leagues, and you need three or four good ones for one to make it [to the Major Leagues], so we figure we'll go out and get as many quality guys and as much quantity as we can."
Cain, who will turn 18 on Oct. 1, got a call early Tuesday morning from his advisors after they had spoken with the Giants. That came as a surprise to Cain, who had been speaking previously with the Dodgers, Braves and Cubs, but when he said he'd be willing to forego his scholarship to the University of Memphis, San Francisco made him their first pick.
"I was real excited," said Cain, who listened to the draft on MLB.com. "I really thought that I was going to be a sandwich pick because that had been the talk."
But the Giants think more highly of the pitcher, whose fastball ranges from 89-94 mph with sinking action and complements his above-average curveball and a slider. He has been compared to Arizona right-hander Rick Helling, a former 20-game winner.
"The kid caught your eye right away because he repeated his delivery," said Lee Elder, who scouted Cain. "He throws strikes, and his ball had a lot of movement. I think the thing that was an asset, unlike most high school kids or even college pitchers, is that he got a little bit better every time out.
"He has a chance, with his delivery being so repetetive, to go a long way."
The 6-foot-3, 185-pound pitcher was one of 16 high school players selected in the first round, more than the college selections (13) and junior college choices (1). He was rated as the top prospect in Tennessee and 38th-best overall by Baseball America.
"After his junior year, we thought this kid could be scary by the time he's done with his senior year," said his high school coach, Lane McCarter, who saw Cain post a 1.03 ERA with 83 strikeouts in 62 innings last season. "With Matt, you could just tell that he was really filling out and getting taller and getting bigger. Once he gained that composure on the mound, he really took off."
Though he might not have been the highest-rated player available when the Giants took him, he was their highest-rated pitcher and was considered relatively easy to sign.
"It's kind of a no-brainer right now ... if everything works out right," said Cain of turning pro and passing on his scholarship.
Now it falls in the hands of Giants brass and Athletic Resources Management, the firm that will represent Cain.
"Their concern was, 'Did he have unreasonable demands,'" said Len Hardison, who along with Kyle Rote Jr. will negotiate on behalf of Cain. "That was the way [assistant GM] Ned [Colletti] put it, and I said we weren't going to try to break any records. One of the reasons Matt selected us was that we weren't trying to hold teams hostage."
Last year's 25th overall pick, Bobby Crosby, signed for $1.35 million with the Oakland A's.
"I was worried about the hype, everyone telling me I had a million-dollar arm," said Cain. "I didn't want to drop to the third round. I would have looked stupid. That was my biggest fear."
Now it's just a matter of time before the hand on that arm is used to sign a million-dollar contract.
Josh Rawitch covers the Giants for MLB.com and can be reached at email@example.com. Jim Masilak of gomemphis.com contributed to this article. This story was not subject to the approval
of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
Large frame. Good pitcher's body. Sturdy lower half, similar to Rick Helling. Very quick, live arm with average velocity. Fastball bores in on righties with sinking life. Balls jumps out of hand. Slider occasionally has proper rotation on three-quarter plane. Also throws straight change. Live arm and stuff. Good mound presence.