Ask BA: Does Clint Frazier Draw Mike Trout Comps?

I’m off next week, so there won’t be another Ask BA before the regular season starts on March 31 with the Rangers visiting the Astros. So let’s get my predictions for the 2013 season on the record today. I’m calling a repeat of the 2011 World Series:

AL East: Rays, Yankees, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Orioles.AL Central: Tigers, Indians, Royals, White Sox, Twins.

AL West: Rangers, Angels, Mariners, Athletics, Astros.

AL Wild Cards: Angels, Yankees.

AL Pennant Winner: Rangers.

NL East: Braves, Nationals, Phillies, Mets, Marlins.

NL Central: Cardinals, Reds, Pirates, Brewers, Cubs.

NL West: Giants, Dodgers, Diamondbacks, Rockies, Padres.

NL Wild Cards: Nationals, Reds.

NL Pennant Winner: Cardinals.

World Series Winner: Cardinals.

Clint Frazier

Clint Frazier (Photo by Alyson Boyer Rode)

How realistic are Mike Trout comparisons for Clint Frazier? Do you think he has a legitimate chance of going No. 1 overall in the upcoming draft?

Chris Kurtz
Rocklin, Calif.

An outfielder from Loganville (Ga.) HS, Frazier may have moved ahead of crosstown rival Austin Meadows of Grayson HS as the top high school prospect in this year’s draft. But any Trout comparisons are a bit much and he probably won’t be the top choice in the 2013 draft.

However, neither of those statements should be construed as a knock on Frazier, who delivered two homers when he matched up against Meadows last week. He looks like a future star.

Based on his major and minor league performance to date, Trout could be a once-in-a-generation type of talent. He’s a 6-foot-1, 220-pounder with top-of-the-line speed and hitting skills, not to mention at least above-average power and center-field ability. While Frazier is more highly regarded than Trout was at the same point in his career, Frazier doesn’t have the same tools. He’s a 5-foot-11, 185-pounder who’s more of a plus hitter and projects as a future plus runner who eventually may move to right field. That still makes Frazier a very talented player, even if he pales somewhat in comparison to someone who batted .326/.399/.564 with 49 steals as a 20-year-old rookie last year.

As good as Frazier is, he’d be an atypical No. 1 overall pick. In the 48 previous drafts, only three righthanded-hitting prep outfielders have gone No. 1: Jeff Burroughs (1969, Senators). Shawn Abner (1984, Mets) and Delmon Young (2003, Devil Rays). Abner had a similar profile to Frazier and wound up as one of the biggest No. 1 choice busts in draft history. I believe Frazier is in the Astros’ mix for the top selection in June, but at this point I expect Houston to opt for a college pitcher.

Where would Rubby de la Rosa fall on Baseball America’s Red Sox Top 10 Prospects list? He seems to be the talk of their spring-training camp, getting praise from even Pedro Martinez. I saw de la Rosa ranked No. 3 on the Dodgers Top 10 two years ago. Did his Tommy John surgery drop him out of the Sox Top 10?

Andrew T. Blighton
Brookline, Mass.

When the Red Sox traded Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Nick Punto to the Dodgers last August, they not only cleared $261 million in salary obligations, but they also managed to get de la Rosa and fellow righthander Allen Webster in a five-player package. Executives from other teams continue to marvel that Boston pulled all that off, especially with the way de la Rosa and Webster have looked this spring.

De la Rosa pitched 61 big league innings for Los Angeles in 2011, exhausting his prospect and rookie eligibility, which is why he hasn’t appeared on a Top 10 since. While he has had inconsistent results in big league camp this spring, his stuff has the Red Sox excited. He has sat in the mid-90s with his fastball, his sharp curveball has made hitters look silly at times and his fading changeup has shown promise as well.

Shortstop Xander Bogaerts and center fielder Jackie Bradley are Boston’s two best prospects, and de la Rosa would fit with Matt Barnes and Webster as their top minor league pitchers. I gave Barnes a slight edge over Webster on our Red Sox Top 10 in October, but I’d flip that today. I’d put de la Rosa ahead of Barnes, because he’s got a deeper repertoire and he’s more advanced, though you really could argue those three in any order.

I saw that the Royals are moving Luke Hochevar to the bullpen. Why was this guy drafted No. 1 overall in 2006? I don’t see elite stuff. Did he lose it?

Gifford Gould
Ocean Township, N.J.

Hochevar had one of the stranger sagas among No. 1 overall picks. As a junior righthander at Tennessee in 2005, he ranked as the second college pitcher and No. 6 overall on Baseball America’s Draft Top 200. He was on the Diamondbacks’ short list for the top choice before they selected Justin Upton. The Rockies strongly considered Hochevar at No. 7 but couldn’t nail down his asking price and went with Troy Tulowitzki.

Hochevar fell all the way to No. 40 to the Dodgers, and then things really got wacky. Little progress was made in three months of negotiations between Los Angeles and Scott Boras before Hochevar switched agents to Matt Sosnick on Labor Day weekend. He agreed to a $2.98 million bonus, then returned to Boras, reneged on the agreement and accused the Dodgers of trying to force him into a bad deal.

Hochevar opted not to return to the Volunteers, allowing him to continue negotiating with Los Angeles until a week before the 2006 draft, though further talks proved fruitless. In the spring of 2006, he joined the Fort Worth Cats of the independent American Association, where he showed a 90-97 mph fastball and a mid-80s slider. He didn’t hold his stuff for as long or command it as well as he did in 2005, faults that were attributed to his long layoff. Baseball America rated him the eighth-best prospect availablePremium, though only the sixth-best college-age arm.

The Royals owned the No. 1 overall pick in 2006, and word was that GM Allard Baird preferred North Carolina lefthander Andrew Miller, BA’s (and the consensus) top prospect. But Baird got fired a week before the draft and was replaced by Braves assistant GM Dayton Moore. Moore didn’t take over until after the draft to avoid any conflict of interest because he had been part of Atlanta’s draft plans.

I’ve never believed that Moore would take over a team without having any input into the No. 1 choice, and I’ve never understood how there would be any conflict because Atlanta didn’t pick until No. 24. In any case, rumors were that Moore liked Texas center fielder Drew Stubbs but Kansas City chose Hochevar. He signed a major league contract that included a $3.5 million bonus and $5.25 million in guarantees.

While Hochevar was undeniably talented, I viewed him as a stretch as a No. 1 overall pick in 2006. If the Royals were set on a college arm, there were better ones available. We ranked Miller, Tim Lincecum, Brad Lincoln, Greg Reynolds and Joba Chamberlain ahead of Hochevar, and Max Scherzer and Brandon Morrow right behind him. And after seeing how Hochevar handled his negotiations, I wondered how he’d be able to deal with the pressure of pitching in the big leagues.

Seven years later, Hochevar has outperformed Miller and Reynolds, but that’s about the best that can be said for him. He has gone 38-59, 5.39 in 132 games (128 starts) with Kansas City, and the underlying numbers are just as ugly: 771 innings, 825 hits, 95 homers, 257 walks, 531 strikeouts. While he still shows arm strength, he lacks command and an out pitch and he never has found consistent success. Though he once looked like a potential frontline starter, those hopes are gone.

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