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The 2011 draft order is getting closer to being finalized. The Rays have lost a pair of Type A-rated relievers in Rafael Soriano (Yankees) and Grant Balfour (Athletics), picking up four draft picks in the process. They now own three first-rounders, six supplemental first-rounders and two second-rounders. The only potential Type A compensation free agent remaining on the market is Carl Pavano, who looks destined to return to the Twins.

Career saves leader Trevor Hoffman retired, leaving Aaron Heilman (Diamondbacks), Felipe Lopez (Red Sox) and Chad Qualls (Rays) as the last three potential Type B compensation free agents. Qualls reportedly is close to a deal with the Padres, which would give Tampa Bay a seventh sandwich pick.

Here’s the draft order as it stands today:

First Round
1. Pirates
2. Mariners
3. Diamondbacks
4. Orioles
5. Royals
6. Nationals
7. Diamondbacks (for failure to sign 2010 first-rounder Barret Loux)
8. Indians
9. Cubs
10. Padres (for failure to sign 2010 first-rounder Karsten Whitson)
11. Astros
12. Brewers
13. Mets
14. Marlins
15. Brewers (for failure to sign 2010 first-rounder Dylan Covey)
16. Dodgers
17. Angels
18. Athletics
19. Red Sox (from Tigers for Victor Martinez, Type A)
20. Rockies
21. Blue Jays
22. Cardinals
23. Nationals (from White Sox for Adam Dunn, Type A)
24. Rays (from Red Sox for Carl Crawford, Type A)
25. Padres
26. Red Sox (from Rangers for Adrian Beltre, Type A)
27. Reds
28. Braves
29. Giants
30. Twins
31. Rays (from Yankees for Rafael Soriano, Type A)
32. Rays
33. Rangers (from Phillies for Cliff Lee, Type A)
Supplemental First Round
34. Nationals (Dunn)
35. Blue Jays (for Scott Downs, Type A, to Angels)
36. Red Sox (Martinez)
37. Rangers (Lee)
38. Rays (Crawford)
39. Phillies (for Jayson Werth, Type A, to Nationals)
40. Red Sox (Beltre)
41. Rays (Soriano)
42. Rays (for Grant Balfour, Type A, to Athletics)
43. Diamondbacks (for Adam LaRoche, Type B, to Nationals) 44. Mets (for Pedro Feliciano, Type B, to Yankees)
45. Rockies (for Octavio Dotel, Type B, to Blue Jays)
46. Blue Jays (for John Buck, Type B, to Marlins)
47. White Sox (for J.J. Putz, Type B, to Diamondbacks)
48. Padres (for Jon Garland, Type B, to Dodgers)
49. Giants (for Juan Uribe, Type B, to Dodgers)
50. Twins (for Orlando Hudson, Type B, to Padres)
51. Yankees (for Javier Vazquez, Type B, to Marlins)
52. Rays (for Joaquin Benoit, Type B, to Tigers)
53. Blue Jays (for Miguel Olivo, Type B, to Mariners)
54. Padres (for Yorvit Torrealba, Type B, to Rangers)
55. Twins (for Jesse Crain, Type B, to White Sox)
56. Rays (for Randy Choate, Type B, to Marlins)
57. Blue Jays (for Kevin Gregg, Type B, to Orioles)
58. Padres (for Kevin Correia, Type B, to Pirates)
59. Rays (for Brad Hawpe, Type B, to Padres)
Second-Round Changes
65. Phillies (from Nationals for Werth)
73. Blue Jays (from Angels for Downs)
74. Rays (from Athletics for Balfour)
Third-Round Changes
None
Supplemental Third Round
120. Mariners (for failure to sign 2010 third-rounder Ryne Stanek)
Remaining Type A Compensation Free Agents
Starting Pitchers: Carl Pavano (Min).
Remaining Type B Compensation Free Agents
Third Basemen: Felipe Lopez (Bos).
Relief Pitchers: Aaron Heilman (Ari), Chad Qualls (TB).

Ask BA will get a week off next Monday and return on Jan. 31. Keep the questions coming, and between now and then, you can get shorter answers out of me via Twitter (@jimcallisBA).

    How often does a prospect gets ranked No. 1 after just his first full pro season? Why so much love for Angels outfielder Mike Trout, who's just a kid? I know the upside is incredible, but come on, he spent most of the year in low Class A.

    Dionisio Belliard
    Santo Domingo, D.R.

Baseball America hasn’t settled on the No. 1 prospect for our 2011 Top 100 Prospects list yet. I ranked Trout No. 1 on my personal Top 50 in the 2011 Prospect Handbook, but Will Lingo and John Manuel both went with Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper—who’s younger than Trout and hasn’t played a professional game.

I had Harper No. 2, which is where Will and John put Trout, so barring some unforeseen developments, one of them will rank as BA’s choice as the game’s top prospect. When we make that decision, we focusing on talent and don’t bother with checking IDs. Trout has a chance to win batting and stolen base titles while winning Gold Gloves in center field, and Harper has historic raw power and more athleticism than you might think. Their physical ability and track record (even if it’s against Class A or junior college competition) sticks out to me more than their age.

If Harper ranks No. 1, he’ll be the fourth player to do so immediately after his draft year, following Todd Van Poppel (1991), Brien Taylor (1992) and J.D. Drew (1999). If it’s Trout, he’ll be the seventh prospect to grab the top spot after his first full pro season, joining Steve Avery (1990), Alex Rodriguez (1994), Andruw Jones (1996), Josh Hamilton (2001), Mark Teixeira (2003) and Matt Wieters (2009). For Rodriguez, Teixeira and Wieters, their first full pro season was also their pro debut.

Looking at those lists just reinforces my original thought: Worry about talent rather than age.

    Who primarily ranks the players on the organization Top 10/Top 30 Prospects lists? Is it the local writer, combined with scouts from the team and Baseball America writers?

    Allen Buller
    Portland, Ore.

The lists are solely the creation of Baseball America editors and writers. While we do talk to teams to get information, they have no say in where the players rank on the Top 10s or Top 30s. We may ask their opinion about where they think a prospect fits or who should be No. 1, but the final decision rests with us. And just to be clear, though clubs do break down players in their own farm system, we always crosscheck that information with several sources outside the organization. That gives us a more objective viewpoint.

The way the Top 10/Top 30 process usually works is that in the midst of their research, the writer will run a preliminary list by Baseball America’s editors. Based on our knowledge of the players, we’ll suggest moving guys up and down, adding and removing prospects from the list. After the writer sends in his writeups, we sometimes make further adjustments.

We tinker with the lists endlessly, trying to get them just right. At the same time, we do try to respect the work the writer puts in. Prospect rankings aren’t cut and dried, and there are times when I don’t agree with the writer but find myself in the minority compared to the rest of our staff. For instance, if I had written our Angels Top 10, I would have opted for second baseman Jean Segura over righthander Tyler Chatwood as the No. 2 prospect. But Matt Eddy works as hard as anyone on his Top 10s, he preferred Chatwood and our staff didn’t feel as strongly as I did about Segura, so we went with Chatwood.

    With the Phillies' signing of Cliff Lee and the subsequent chatter about whether they now have the greatest major league rotation of all time, it got me thinking. What minor league team had the best rotation in terms of how those pitchers' careers panned out?

    Mike Richman
    Chico, Calif.

This relates to perhaps my favorite Ask BA question of all time, one I spent several weeks researching in 2002. I eventually came up with a Top 20, which can be found here (scroll down to May 3). My choice for the all-time best minor league pitching staff was the 1964 Portland Beavers. Here’s what I wrote:

It’s hard to understand how the Indians could have endured a 41-year postseason drought, considering all of the pitching talent they developed in the 1960s. The greatest minor league pitching staff ever was Cleveland’s 1964 Portland affiliate, which had Tommy John (6-6, 4.26), Luis Tiant (15-1, 2.04), Sam McDowell (8-0, 1.18), Steve Hargan (11-9, 3.46) and George Culver (4-2, 1.18). That’s four players who combined for 14 All-Star Game selections—Hargan made it 1967, his first full year as a starter—and Culver, who made 335 appearances in the majors. Looking at it another way, it’s 793 big league victories, which I believe is a record.

If I didn’t pick this team, I would have picked the 1963 Jacksonville Suns, another Cleveland farm club, which had John, Mike Cuellar, McDowell and Sonny Siebert. That foursome has 754 wins, 16 all-star berths and half of a Cy Young Award. Also on hand was Ted Abernathy, who had 148 saves in the majors but was six appearances short of qualifying. The 1962 Charleston Indians were another permutation, with John, Tiant and Siebert, a stronger top three than Jacksonville had.

The 1957 San Diego Padres, also part of the Indians system, had Mudcat Grant, Gary Bell and Hank Aguirre—three more all-stars, 341 more wins. Cleveland’s Fargo-Moorhead club that same year boasted Jim Perry (215 wins, three all-star selections, one Cy Young) and Ron Taylor (491 games, 72 saves).

So what happened? The Indians essentially gave everyone away before they hit their primes. Outside of getting Graig Nettles when they traded Tiant to the Twins, and stealing Gaylord Perry from the Giants for an almost-done McDowell, Cleveland almost never got as much value as it gave up. The worst transactions were sending John, along with a young Tommy Agee and all-star catcher John Romano, to the White Sox for cult hero Rocky Colavito, and swapping Jim Perry straight up for Jack Kralick. I’m not sure if Cuellar ever was Indians property, as he was released by the Reds after 1961, spent 1962 pitching in his native Mexico and begin 1963 with the Tigers’ Knoxville affiliate. But Cleveland could have kept him if it had wanted, as he stayed with Jacksonville when it became a Cardinals club in 1964 and worked his way up to St. Louis.

 

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