This was about the time the Giants still had Barry Bonds and were not too concerned about developing their farm system. Their focus was on keeping talent at the major league level to give Bonds a World Series. This was also before all the steroid focus and Bonds becoming a villain. He had just come off a season of hitting 46 homeruns after hitting a major league record 73 in 2001. The team had also won their first NL championship since 1989 but they again failed to win a World Series. Bonds batted .471 with 4 homeruns in the World Series, hitting eight of his total nine playoff homeruns in 2002 for the seven years he has made a playoff appearance. Below are the top ten Giants prospects from 2003 as selected by Baseball America.
1. Jesse Foppert RHP - Jesse started 21 games in 2003, but his ERA was 5.03. He only got four more appearances the following two years before his major league career ended. He toiled in the Giants minor league system until 2009 before calling it a career.
2. Kurt Ainsworth RHP - Elbow injuries limited his career. He was a first round pick in 1999. He shared 22 major league starts between the Giants and Orioles between 2001 to 2004 but a 5.19 ERA and ailing arm ended his career.
3. Jerome Williams RHP - Jerome was also a first round pick in 1999. He looked like a superstar after his rookie season when he went 7-5 with a 3.30 ERA in 2003. He struggled for four years after that and then dropped out of the major league radar, pitching in Independent Leagues and going to Taiwan to pitch for the Uni-President Lions in 2010. The Angels found him again in 2011 and brought him back to the major leagues after a four year absence. He has yet to repeat the numbers from his rookie season, but his second spin through the majors has been better than the first.
4. Francisco Liriano LHP - The Giants included him with Joe Nathan and Boof Bonser in the A.J. Pierzynski trade in 2003 with Minnesota. A.J. played for the Giants for only one year while Nathan and Liriano turned into pretty good pitchers. Like Williams, the best year for Liriano was his rookie year when he went 12-3 with a 2.16 ERA, making his only All star team and finishing third in the rookie of the year voting. This year he signed a free agent contract with the Pirates and has been excellent (16-8, 3.02) leading them to their first winning season and playoff appearance in 20 years.
5. Todd Linden OF - The Giants made Todd their first round pick in 2001. He was a fourth outfielder type for four years with the Giants and one with the Marlins. After 2007 he went to Japan to play two years for the Rakuten Golden Eagles. He attempted to return to the Giants in 2012 without success.
6. Boof Bonser RHP - He was the one player in the A.J. Pierzynske trade who did not have an impact in the major leagues. Francisco Liriano and Joe Nathan were the two others. Boof got 60 starts with the Twins between 2006 and 2008 with little success. His ERA kept getting worse with each subsequent year until the third year when it was at 5.92. In 2010 he tried to salvage his career with the Boston Red Sox and Oakland Athletics but his 6.12 ERA was the worst of his career. He signed a minor league contract with the Cleveland Indians in 2013.
7. Fred Lewis OF - A player with lots of tools who could never string them together. He spent seven years as a fourth outfielder type that would get opportunities to start when injuries hit. For all his speed he never stole more than 21 bases or hit in double digits in homeruns. In 2013 he left for Japan to play for the Hiroshima Carp.
8. Ryan Hannaman LHP - Ryan never got past A ball in his five year minor league career.
9. Lance Niekro 1B/3B - The son of Joe and the uncle of Phil, he chose the bat to make his major league identity. That bat only saw 535 major league plate appearances between 2003 and 2007, finishing with OBPs at less than .300. In 2008 he tried to make a comeback as a knuckle ball pitcher but his ship had sailed and it lasted just one year.
10. Erick Threets LHP - He hit 103 miles per hour with his fastball in instructional league but a lack of command and declining velocity on his fastball led to only 21 major league appearances, all in relief. He currently plays for the Long Island Ducks.
Other prospects who made a significant impact in the major leagues.
11. Matt Cain RHP - His career was overshadowed by two time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum. When Lincecum began to struggle Cain turned into their ace. He has made three All Star teams and has had 30 or more starts eight years in a row. The 2013 season was one of his worse when he saw his ERA creep up to 4.00 after a 16-5, 2.79 2012 season.
28. Cody Ransom SS - He has had a nice 11 year major league career as a utility player. The most plate appearances he has had in one year has been 282, much more than his .213 career average.
NR Kevin Correia RHP - Never considered much of a prospect because of an inability to light up the radar Kevin has put in 11 major league seasons as a starter. In his last five seasons he has had at least 26 or more games started. His highest win total has been three 12 win seasons.
NR Clay Hensley RHP - He had a 2006 season with the Padres where he got 29 starts and 11 wins and two seasons after that where he appeared in 60 or more games. For the 2013 season he has signed a minor league contract with the Reds to be released and signing another minor league contract with the Brewers.
2003 draft picks who had a significant impact in the major leagues.
They had three first round picks, gave one away by signing free agent Ray Durham and had success for their pick David Aarsma for losing Jeff Kent to free agency. Aardsma gave the Giants only 11 games of relief before he was traded with Jerome Williams to the Cubs for LaTroy Hawkins in 2005. Aardsma pitched for the Mets in relief in 2013. The other first round pick Craig Whitaker never saw the major leagues. Second round pick Nate Schierholtz played six years for the Giants as a fourth outfielder before bolting for the Cubs in 2013 and playing in a career high 137 games. He hit .251, 21, 68 that year. Their 24th round pick Brian Wilson became their closer, playing in three All Star games and leading the Giants to a World Series victory in 2010. An arm injury forced him to miss the 2012 Giants World Series celebration, but he recently signed with the Dodgers and hopes to lead them to victory. Doug Fister was a 49th round pick but not signed. He has had some good seasons pitching for the Detroit Tigers.