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11/27/09 11:00 AM ET

Giants' system wins while developing

Posey, Bumgarner lead pack of successful prospects

There's that scene in "Bull Durham," when Nuke LaLoosh says, "I like winning. You know, it's better than losing..." LaLoosh, of course, was a pitcher in the Minor Leagues, where winning is nice but development is more important.

NL East

AL East

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AL Central

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AL West

In the world of the San Francisco Giants, however, they've been able to have the best of both worlds over the past few years, perhaps more than any other organization. They've had a stream of young players go through their system and up to the big leagues to the point where the team that surprised many by hanging around the playoff race into September was carried largely by homegrown talent.

There's been a renewed commitment over the past few years, both via the Draft and international scouting, to rebuild what had been a fairly barren Minor League cupboard. Previously, Draft picks were shunned in favor of big free-agent signings. That began to change in 2006, the Draft that brought the Giants two-time Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum, among others. They've been stockpiling talent ever since.

This group of young talent didn't just shoot through the system and arrive on the scene in San Francisco. They showed up with an expectation to win that perhaps didn't exist in this system in the recent past.

"Winning in the Minor Leagues helps create an environment for development," Giants vice president of baseball operations Bobby Evans said. "It's not necessarily a measure. It's one way to evaluate the strength of the system, but it's far from the only way. Developing players in a winning environment is important because you want to develop players who expect to go the ballpark every day to win. And that hopefully carries all the way through to the big leagues."

The 2009 season was no different in pairing winning and development. The system's .603 winning percentage topped all of baseball, and they've never finished lower than fourth in the past four years. Four teams made the playoffs and two -- San Jose in the California League and Salem-Keizer in the Northwest League -- won titles.

But this isn't just a matter of stacking rosters with over-experienced talent to beef up winning percentages. The Giants have legitimate talent up and down the system. They were deep enough, particularly on the pitching front, to make deals to bring in Freddy Sanchez and Ryan Garko to help with the playoff push.

Two of the best prospects in all of baseball got a taste of the bigs in September, and both Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey could be there to stay at the start of the 2010 season. That duo signifies that the best may be yet to come in San Francisco.


MLB.com's Preseason Picks

Buster Posey, C: He was the obvious pick. Posey not only hit .325/.416/.531 with 18 homers and 80 RBIs in his first full season, but the 2008 first-round pick did so while making a double-jump, from the Class A California League to Triple-A.

Tim Alderson, RHP: Readers of the preview were told to flip a coin between Alderson and Bumgarner to pick a Pitcher of the Year. Alderson went 7-2 with a 3.65 ERA with the Giants. That's not too bad, but not award-worthy. Then Alderson got traded to the Pirates in the Freddy Sanchez deal in July.

MLB.com's Postseason Selections

Buster Posey, C: Posey hit .326/.428/.540 in the California League but didn't slow down when he moved up two levels, hitting .325/.416/.531 in 35 Pacific Coast League games before getting called up to San Francisco. It was his ability to handle that leap that earned him this honor over California League standouts like Thomas Neal.

Madison Bumgarner, LHP: There was some internal debate about giving Dan Runzler the nod after his ridiculous season in relief, but, in the end, it was hard to look past Bumgarner's accomplishments and not give him the award for the second year in a row. While his strikeout rate did take a hit, he led the organization and finished third in all of the Minors with a 1.85 ERA, holding hitters to a .211 batting average before being called up to make his big league debut. The fact that he did most of that at age 19 didn't hurt.

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.