The Giants haven't produced an All-Star position player since Matt Williams two decades ago, but they believe that Buster Posey has an excellent chance to end the drought.
The club took Posey, a junior catcher from Florida State, with the fifth overall pick in the 2008 amateur draft Thursday.
Posey was an All-American shortstop as a freshman but took to a conversion behind the plate. He batted .471 this season and was considered one of the top offensive and defensive prospects in the country.
The Giants admired Posey's all-around athleticism and weren't scared off by his bonus demands, which are reportedly in excess of $12 million. He was highly considered for the top pick by Tampa Bay, which instead chose high school shortstop Tim Beckham.
Giants General Manager Brian Sabean said Posey was the second name on the Giants' board behind Vanderbilt infielder Pedro Alvarez, who went to the Pittsburgh Pirates with the second pick.
"He's going to be a run producer with the bat," Sabean said of Posey, "so it's kind of like getting two players in one. It's very, very difficult to get an all-around catcher, especially a run producer."
Sabean referenced Bengie Molina's contract, which expires after next season, and hinted that the Giants would not look to extend him.
"(Posey) is on the fast track and Bengie's clock is winding down," Sabean said. "It's really up to him how soon he wants to get going and how soon he can get here."
The Giants gave former farm director Jack Hiatt a list of the top eight catchers to scout and he wrote up a glowing recommendation on Posey, who is listed at 6-foot-1 and 205 pounds.
"Jack Hiatt, I trust with my life," Sabean said. "He was duly impressed."
A right-handed hitter, Posey has less pure power potential than other bats available to the Giants, including South Carolina switch hitter Justin Smoak and Miami slugger Yonder Alonso. But those two players are limited to first base, and Sabean is known to prize athleticism.
"Smoak is going to be a good major league player," Sabean said. "We were looking for the best all around player. We thought we got one of them."
Sabean wouldn't say that Posey profiles as a middle-of-the-order bat, but that he would contribute offensively.
"He's far more advanced than he gets credit for by people who have no business evaluating him," Sabean said.
The Giants face an Aug. 15 deadline to sign Posey or they will receive the same pick in next year's draft. Posey could report to the short-season club in Salem-Keizer (Ore.) if he signs quickly, but Sabean said he expects a protracted negotiation with agent Casey Close.
The Giants have not awarded a major league contract to a draftee, but Sabean didn't rule out that possibilty, either.
"You have to react to what other teams are doing around us," said Sabean, who hasn't selected so high since the club took pitcher Jason Grilli fourth overall in 1997. "You have to be open-minded."
This draft was the first for Giants scouting director John Barr, who was hired away from the Los Angeles Dodgers over the winter. Barr has a track record identifying athletic catchers; he took Russell Martin in the 17th round of the 2002 draft and the Dodgers converted him into an All-Star backstop.
"He brings a leadership that Russell brings," Barr said of Posey. "He also can make a difference in a game with his offense or his defense, which Russell can do. I don't want to compare them, but we look at him and feel he can help a team win."
Posey is still playing with his college team; Florida State faces Wichita State this weekend in a best-of-three series to determine which team goes to the College World Series.
Posey was drafted out of high school with a 50th round pick by the Angels, but there was little question among scouts at the time that he was headed to Florida State. Barr said he has tracked Posey since he was a junior shortstop in high school.
"It shows how good an athlete he really is," Barr said of Posey's conversion to catcher. "They were weak behind the plate and he strapped it on. It also talks about makeup as a team player. He put the team in front of personal achievements."
Posey has pitched in relief for Florida State as well and has a "plus-plus arm," according to Barr.
The Giants had an organizational need at catcher; Pablo Sandoval is not far along defensively at Single-A San Jose and last year's supplemental first-rounder, Jackson Williams, is seen as a good catch-and-throw backup down the line.
Two coveted high school players went off the board in front of the Giants' pick, with Beckham going to the Tampa Bay Rays with the first overall selection and Florida first baseman Eric Hosmer going third to the Kansas City Royals.
University of San Diego left-hander Brian Matusz became the first pitcher taken in a draft class weak on impact arms, going to the Baltimore Orioles with the No. 4 overall pick.
The Giants waited though the top picks, knowing the Rays, Pirates and Royals all had considered taking Posey.
"It's one of the greatest days of my life and I'm excited about getting started," Posey told ESPN. "I've had a couple years to catch now and I really enjoy the position."