Ask BA

It has been all quiet on the draft front. No first-rounder has signed since Cam Bedrosian on July 2, and no sandwich pick has turned pro since Taijuan Walker and Mike Olt on June 18. Twenty of the 32 first-rounders and nine of the 18 sandwich-rounders have yet to agree to terms.

Most of the unsigned top picks will get over-slot bonuses that won’t be officially announced much before the Aug. 16 signing deadline. But we should start to see some deals in the $500,000 range over the next couple of weeks, a prelude to the big contracts at the deadline. As usual, we’ll report on significant transactions in our Draft Blog, and note all signings (and all six-figure bonuses) in our Advanced Draft Database
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    Over the past few seasons, Matt Wieters has been largely regarded as the best young catching prospect in baseball, and Jesus Montero, Buster Posey and Carlos Santana were all ranked right behind him in various orders. How would you rank the four now, given that Wieters has struggled the most out of that group this year?

    Eli Johnson
    Berkeley, Calif.

Though Wieters hasn’t made the immediate major league impact expected of him
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, I’d still take him over Montero, Posey and Santana. Wieters still should be the best all-around catcher of the group.

Wieters has as strong and accurate an arm as any of the other catchers, and he’s a better receiver than the others. While he’s batting just .245/.315/.357 this season, he has made significant strides with his plate discipline and he’s still a switch-hitter with as much power as the rest of the group.

Montero may be the best all-around hitter in the long run, but he’s not going to stick at catcher and he’s having a so-so year in Triple-A while Posey and Santana are scalding the ball in the majors, so I’d rank Montero fourth in this crowd. Posey and Santana are very close, and I go back and forth on them all the time. Posey is more athletic and has a chance to be a little better defender, but I believe Santana will be the more dynamic offensive player.

    Going into this year's draft, I couldn't help but be excited as an Angels fan. It was the second draft in a row they had five choices before the second round, and most of last year's top picks already have started to thrive. This year, though, I feel somewhat disappointed. It's still early and Kaleb Cowart hasn't even signed, but I like the 2009 crop better. Would you agree that Mike Trout, Tyler Skaggs and Garrett Richards are better than any of Los Angeles' first-round or sandwich picks this year?

    Brandon McCreary
    San Diego

I think Brandon is selling Cowart short, but I do agree with his overall premise that the Angels got more talent in their first five picks in 2009 than they did in 2010. Just check out where we ranked them on our predraft Top 200 Prospects lists.

In 2009, the Angels spent first-round choices on outfielders Randal Grichuk (No. 58 on our Top 200) and Trout (No. 22), and sandwich picks on lefthanders Skaggs (No. 26) and Kehrer (No. 104) and righthander Richards (No. 137). Their average rank was 69th, and Richards significantly boosted his stock in the three weeks after we unveiled our Top 200.

This year, Los Angeles used first-round selections on righthander/third baseman Cowart (No. 12), righthander Cam Bedrosian (No. 56) and outfielder Chevez Clarke (No. 97), and supplemental first-rounders on shortstop Taylor Lindsey (unranked) and outfielder Ryan Bolden (No. 141). Even if we give Lindsey credit for ranking 200th, the average rank of those five would be 101st in a weaker overall draft talent pool.

The early returns on the 2009 draftees make the disparity between the two groups look wider. Trout can stake a claim to being the best prospect in the game and the 2010 Minor League Player of the Year, while Skaggs and Richards have looked very good in low Class A.

Cowart has the potential to be the best pitcher the Angels drafted in the last two years, however, provided they can persuade him that he has a brighter future on the mound. While the 2010 crop may pale in comparison to the 2009 group, Bedrosian has a plus fastball and three potential solid secondary pitches, and Clarke and Bolden are loaded with raw tools.

    Is Astros outfielder J.D. Martinez a real prospect? Can you give us a brief report on him?

    Michael Mazzella
    Houston

Martinez isn’t a blue-chipper and will have to continue to prove himself as he advances, but the 20th-round pick from the 2009 draft is a prospect. After winning the short-season New York-Penn League batting title with a .326 average in his pro debut, he hit .359/.428/.593 at low Class A Lexington this spring before earning a two-level promotion to Double-A Corpus Christi a few days ago.

At 22, Martinez was old for low Class A, so Double-A will be a better test of his ability. He has a lot going for him at the plate, with a short swing, good bat speed and solid pop and plate discipline. He’s a decent athlete whose best position may be left field, which means his bat will have to carry him. But he’s undoubtedly one of the best hitting prospects in the Astros system.

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