Ask BA

The signing deadline is behind us, so it’s all prospect lists all the time at Baseball America. We’re working on Top 10s for summer collegiate leagues, then it’s on to Top 20s for the each minor league and finally Top 30s for each organization as we build up to the the 2012 Prospect Handbook. We’ll also squeeze in Draft Report Cards in October and Top 100 lists of college and high school prospects for the 2012 draft before the end of the year.

So if you love prospects, we’ll give you plenty of reasons to love Baseball America in the next four months.

    Now that all the signings have been finalized, who had the top five drafts, in order?

    John Havok

    Lethbridge, Alb.

John asked this question in last Wednesday’s draft chat, and though I fired off a quick reply, I wanted to give it some more thought. So I’ve stolen his question for Ask BA, spent more time perusing it and determined my final answer:

1. Nationals. With three of the first 34 selections, Washington got the best player in the draft at No. 6 (third baseman Anthony Rendon), as well as one of the most electric arms (righthander Alex Meyer) and one of the best athletes (outfielder Brian Goodwin). The Nationals also figured out a way to sign lefthander Matt Purke, who entered 2011 as BA’s third-rated draft prospect behind Rendon and Gerrit Cole, then fell to the third round after shoulder problems. Washington’s draft was top-heavy, but lefthander Kylin Turnbull (fourth round) and righthander Taylor Hill (sixth) give them two more solid college arms.

2. Diamondbacks. No team landed as much pitching as Arizona, which used two of the top seven selections on righthanders Trevor Bauer and Archie Bradley. Bauer should be the first player from the 2011 draft to reach the majors, perhaps in September. The Diamondbacks also grabbed lefthander Andrew Chafin (supplemental first) and righties Anthony Meo (second), Evan Marshall (fourth) and Kyle Winkler (10th).

3. Red Sox. Boston signed six of our Top 100 Draft Prospects, and I believe that’s as many or more than any team except for the Rays and Padres. If the Red Sox had picked high enough to grab one of the seven elite players in this draft, I would have put them No. 1 on this list. They have nothing to complain about after snapping up righthander Matt Barnes and catcher Blake Swihart in the first round, then lefthander Henry Owens and outfielder Jackie Bradley in the supplemental first. Boston didn’t stop there, also getting toolsy outfielder Williams Jerez (second), changeup artist Noe Ramirez (fourth), speedy Mookie Betts (fifth) and projectable lefty Cody Kukuk (seventh).

4. Pirates. No team ever spent as much on one draft as Pittsburgh did on its top two choices. Cole (No. 1 overall) had the best pure arm available, and supposedly unsignable outfielder Josh Bell (second) may have had the highest offensive ceiling. The Pirates didn’t make as much noise after those two, though they did get one of the better college bats in first baseman Alex Dickerson (third) and a pair of projectable righthanders in Tyler Glasnow (fifth) and Jake Burnette (seventh), then spent a ninth-round-record $1.2 million on physical righty Clay Holmes.

5. Rays. Tampa Bay had a record 12 picks in the first two rounds, and it started off with two nice talent values in righthander Taylor Guerrieri at No. 24 and outfielder Mikie Mahtook at No. 31. After that, I thought the Rays sacrificed some ability in order to make sure they could sign all of their top choices. I would have preferred to see them take the best guys available and sign as many of them as possible, yet it’s also impossible to deny that they wound up with nine players from our Top 100: Guerrieri, Mahtook, shortstop Brandon Martin (supplemental first), third baseman Tyler Goeddel (supplemental first), outfielder Kes Carter (supplemental first), lefthander Grayson Garvin (supplemental first), outfielder Granden Goetzman (second), righty Lenny Linsky (second) and outfielder Johnny Eierman (third).

    I noticed that five draftees this year received big league contract. Could you explain what that means? Do players who sign a major league deal get any special perks that Gerrit Cole might not after receiving a straight bonus as the No. 1 overall pick?

    Rob Kane

    Wellesley, Mass.

In this year’s draft, Danny Hultzen (No. 2, Mariners), Trevor Bauer (No. 3, Diamondbacks), Dylan Bundy (No. 4 Orioles), Anthony Rendon (No. 6, Nationals) and Matt Purke (third round, Nationals) all signed for big league deals rather than an up-front bonus. Those contracts allow the team to spread the bonus over the life of the contract, which often can make the money more palatable to the club and to the commissioner’s office.

There are several benefits to signing a major league contract. The player immediately goes on the 40-man roster and becomes a member of the MLB Players Association and gets the associated benefits, such as an automatic invite to major league spring training and MLBPA licensing money. Unlike a standard bonus contact, a big league deal can’t be voided up to 90 days later for issues related to a pre-existing injury.

The deals usually include split major and minor league salaries, which give the player more money than he would normally make as a pre-arbitration-eligible big leaguer and also give him the opportunity to add to his guaranteed money if he makes it to the top quickly. For example, Bauer received a $3.4 million bonus and $4.4 million in total guarantees from Arizona. But if he spends most of 2012-14 in the majors as expected, he’ll collect close to $7 million.

Additional incentives can be included, too, while they’re prohibited in a standard bonus contract. The annual average value on a major league deal also affects the minimum a team can offer him when it expires.

Cole signed for a record $8 million bonus and reportedly turned down a five-year, $8.5 million big league contract from the Pirates, while Hultzen opted for such a deal from the Mariners. Which is better depends on how you look at it.

Hultzen got a higher guarantee, though MLB values the net present value of Cole’s deal as $275,000 higher. Then again, if Hultzen makes the big leagues to stay by Opening Day 2013, he’ll collect at least $10.8 million. But if Cole arrives in Pittsburgh for good at the same time, he’ll add major league salaries on top of his bonus. In the end, they look too close to call for me.

    What do you think about Cardinals first baseman Matt Adams? He's putting up impressive numbers this year but there was little known about him prior to this season. Is he really a top prospect?

    Adam Connolly

    Summerside, P.E.I.

Putting up impressive numbers is nothing new for Adams. He set school records for single-season (an NCAA Division II-leading .495 in 2009) and career (.454) batting average at Slippery Rock (Pa.) He batted .355/.400/.547 between Rookie and short-season ball after signing as a 23rd-round pick, then .310/.355/.541 in low Class A last year. He hasn’t slowed down in 2011, jumping to Double-A and hitting .313/.373/.599.

Adams is an all-bat prospect, and those guys have to hit to make it to the major leagues, and they have to hit when they get there. So far, so good. The 6-foot-3, 230-pounder doesn’t run well and is no more than an adequate defender, but he consistently makes hard contact with a short stroke from the left side. You won’t see him on our overall Top 100 Prospects list next spring, but he is one of the Cardinals’ top farmhands and could be the team’s successor to Albert Pujols if Pujols departs as a free agent. He’s a definite prospect.

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