Ask BA

The 2012 Prospect Handbook is at the printer and the winter holidays are behind us, so Ask BA will resume it’s every-Monday schedule for the foreseeable future. (Today’s Tuesday edition is the result of yesterday’s holiday.)

Our first order of business is to update the 2012 draft order, which has changed since the last Ask BA with the free-agent signings of Michael Cuddyer, Jason Kubel, Aramis Ramirez and Josh Willingham:

First Round

1. Astros

2. Twins

3. Mariners

4. Orioles

5. Royals

6. Cubs

7. Padres

8. Pirates

9. Marlins

10. Rockies

11. Athletics

12. Mets

13. White Sox

14. Reds

15. Indians

16. Nationals

17. Blue Jays

18. Dodgers

19. Cardinals (from Angels for Albert Pujols, Type A)

20. Giants

21. Braves

22. Blue Jays (for failure to sign 2011 first-rounder Tyler Beede)

23. Cardinals

24. Red Sox

25. Rays

26. Diamondbacks

27. Tigers

28. Brewers

29. Rangers

30. Yankees

31. Red Sox (from Phillies for Jonathan Papelbon, Type A)

Supplemental First Round

32. Twins (for Michael Cuddyer, modified Type A, to Rockies)

33. Padres (for Heath Bell, modified Type A, to Marlins)

34. Athletics (for Josh Willingham, modified Type A, to Twins)

35. Mets (for Jose Reyes, Type A, to Marlins)

36. Cardinals (for Pujols)

37. Red Sox (for Papelbon)

38. Rangers (for C.J. Wilson, Type A, to Angels)

39. Astros (for Clint Barmes, Type B, to Pirates)

40. Twins (for Jason Kubel, Type B, to Diamondbacks)

41. Cubs (for Aramis Ramirez, Type B, to Brewers)

42. Padres (for Aaron Harang, Type B, to Dodgers)

43. Pirates (for Ryan Doumit, Type B, to Twins)

44. Rockies (for Mark Ellis, Type B, to Dodgers)

45. Athletics (for David DeJesus, Type B, to Cubs)

46. White Sox (for Mark Buehrle, Type B, to Marlins)

47. Reds (for Ramon Hernandez, Type B, to Rockies)

48. Blue Jays (for Frank Francisco, Type B, to Mets)

49. Dodgers (for Rod Barajas, Type B, to Pirates)

50. Cardinals (for Octavio Dotel, Type B, to Tigers)

51. Blue Jays (for Jon Rauch, Type B, to Mets)

52. Blue Jays (for Jose Molina, Type B, to Rays)

Second-Round Changes

54. Athletics (for Willingham)

55. Padres (for failure to sign 2011 sandwich-rounder Brett Austin)

63. Padres (for Bell)

64. Mets (from Marlins for Reyes)

65. Twins (for Cuddyer)

75. Rangers (from Angels for Wilson)

Third-Round Changes

89. Yankees (for failure to sign 2011 second-rounder Sam Stafford)

Supplemental Third Round

118. Mariners (for failure to sign 2011 third-rounder Kevin Cron)

119. Marlins (for failure to sign 2011 third-rounder Connor Barron)

120. Rockies (for failure to sign 2011 third-rounder Peter O’Brien)

Remaining Compensation Free Agents

Brewers: Prince Fielder (A).

Cardinals: Edwin Jackson (B).

Cubs: Carlos Pena (B).

Phillies: Ryan Madson (A*), Raul Ibanez (B).

Pirates: Derrek Lee (B).

Rangers: Darren Oliver (B).

Red Sox: Dan Wheeler (B).

Reds: Francisco Cordero (B).

A* indicates modified Type A free agent.

Now on to your questions, which deal with the recent frenzy of Hot Stove League activity.

The Padres already had one of the deepest farm systems around, and it got even more crowded after the Latos trade. When I complied my personal overall Top 50 Prospects list for the Handbook—which doesn’t reflect the deal—I put Alonso at No. 41 and Anthony Rizzo (BA’s top-rated San Diego prospect) at No. 42. Grandal was close behind them at No. 46, with Padres No. 2 prospect Rymer Liriano at No. 49.

From my perspective, the reconfigured San Diego Top 10 would start with Alonso, Rizzo, Grandal and Liriano. The rest of the list would be righthander Casey Kelly, second baseman Cory Spangenberg, catcher Austin Hedges, third baseman Jedd Gyorko, righty Joe Wieland and lefty Robbie Erlin. Righties Joe Ross and Keyvius Sampson would fall out of the Top 10. Boxberger, who profiles as a set-up man, would rank in the mid-teens behind guys such as lefty Juan Oramas and third baseman/outfielder James Darnell.

The Latos haul is comparable to what the A’s received for Gonzalez. The Nationals gave up righthanders Brad Peacock (No. 47 on my Top 50) and A.J. Cole (whom I considered but left off my list), catcher Derek Norris and lefthander Tom Milone. Cole may have a higher ceiling than any of the prospects in the two deals, though he’s the furthest away of any of them. Norris has shown impressive power and walk-drawing ability, though he still has to prove he can make enough contact to produce at the plate and receive well enough to stay behind it. Milone is a finesse lefty ready to step into a big league rotation.

    With the Reds' Nos. 3 (Yonder Alonso), 4 (Yasmani Grandal) and 10 (Brad Boxberger) prospects heading to the Padres in the Mat Latos trade, who would fill out an updated Reds Top 10 Prospects list?

    Ben Fullenkamp

    Miamisburg, Ohio

To give everyone a taste of the Prospect Handbook, below are the scouting reports for the three players who would ascend to the Top 10. Second baseman Ronald Torreyes would have been the new No. 10, but he went to the Cubs in the Sean Marshall trade. Managing editor J.J. Cooper wrote the reports.

8. Neftali Soto, 1b

When the Reds drafted Soto in the third round in 2007, he was considered a polished hitter who might not be able to stick at shortstop. Five seasons later, Soto has bounced from shortstop to third base to catcher and finally to first base. His bat has risen to the occasion, as he tied Paul Goldschmidt for the Double-A Southern League lead with 30 homers in 2011 despite missing a month with a broken bone in his left wrist. His plus power started translating into production once he became less pull-happy. He hit 11 homers in 2009, with nine to left field and none to right. Last year, 10 of his 31 blasts were opposite-field shots. Soto’s approach is still undisciplined, as he rarely takes ball four, and some scouts question his ability to handle quality inside fastballs. His value lies mainly in his bat, as he’s a well below-average runner and an average-at-best defender. He has a strong arm, though it doesn’t get much use at first base. Added to the 40-man roster in November, he’s ready for Triple-A.

9. J.C. Sulbaran, rhp

Ever since the Reds’ gave him $500,000 as a 30th-rounder in 2008, Sulbaran has shown some of the better stuff in the system but not the performance to match. Maturity issues have been his biggest obstacle, and blister problems also haven’t helped. In 2011, he finally took some steps forward, posting career bests in ERA (4.60) and strikeouts per nine innings (10.2) in the high Class A California League, a notorious hitter’s haven. Cincinnati managed to get Sulbaran better directed toward home plate in his delivery last year. He still throws across his body but not nearly as much as in the past, and his improved mechanics gave him increased ability to locate pitches to his arm side. After sitting at 89-92 mph with his fastball in previous years, Sulbaran rang up a lot of 93s and 94s and touched 95 in 2011. His fastball has late sink, which makes it more effective. He’s still working on his secondary pitches, an erratic curveball that’s a plus offering at times and a fringy changeup that gives him a chance against lefthanders. Sulbaran has the stuff to be a No. 3 starter if he can continue to improve his command and mound presence. He’ll work on that in Double-A this year.

10. Ryan LaMarre, of

In any other season, LaMarre’s 55 stolen bases would have stood out among Reds farmhands. No one in the system had swiped that many since 1994, but he took a back seat to Billy Hamilton, who led the minors with 103. LaMarre might have been even more prolific if not for a series of minor hamstring injuries. An outstanding athlete, he was the leading tackler on consecutive state-championship football teams in high school and was also a hockey star. He has well above-average speed and shows a feel for getting leads and reading pitchers. LaMarre had a quick bat and shows solid raw power in batting practice, but it hasn’t come through in games. Instead he uses a top-of-the-order approach with good selectivity and an all-fields mentality. He also has a knack for laying down bunts. LaMarre is average defensively in center field with an arm that’s strong enough to let him handle right field as well. He got a taste of Double-A at the end of the season and will head to the Reds’ new Pensacola affiliate to begin 2012. LaMarre’s bat will determine whether he ends up as a regular or a useful fourth outfielder.

    It would be fair to say that the Athletics had one of baseball's poorer farm systems coming into the offseason. Following the Trevor Cahill and Gio Gonzalez trades—and to a lesser extent, the Andrew Bailey deal—would Oakland's system now rank in the top half? How favorably does their new quartet of pitching prospects (A.J. Cole, Sonny Gray, Jarrod Parker and Brad Peacock) stack up against other systems' top fours?

    Dan Thompson

    Bristol, England

Before the A’s added nine prospects in those three trades, their farm system would have ranked among the five worst in the game. That influx of talent will give them a significant boost and pushes them to the middle of the pack. (If I sound vague, it’s because we ranked the systems in the Handbook after the Cahill deal and before the Gonzalez and Bailey transactions. We’ll update those rankings again in the spring.)

Only three other organizations have a quartet of pitching prospects in the same class as Oakland’s. I’d rank them in this order: Diamondbacks (Trevor Bauer, Tyler Skaggs, Archie Bradley, David Holmberg), Mariners (Taijuan Walker, Danny Hultzen, James Paxton, Jose Campos), Athletics (Parker, Peacock, Cole, Gray) and Braves (Julio Teheran, Arodys Vizcaino, Randall Delgado, Sean Gilmartin). Oakland’s has the best No. 4 pitching prospect of any of those groups.

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