Ask BA

There’s an
awful lot going on at BaseballAmerica.com these days. We just enjoyed the
Futures Game and provided plenty of coverage here,
as well as in our
Prospects Blog
and my
latest magazine column

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The
signing deadline is Friday, and I’ve been busy tracking the signings in our
Draft Blog
and our
Draft Database
, plus my Twitter feed (@jimcallisBA). July also
means the start of the summer international signing period, and Ben Badler has
stayed on top of all that news in the
International Affairs section of our website
and also in our
Prospects Blog
.

Of course, we’re providing our usual in-depth minor
league coverage all over the website. I hope you’re enjoying all of the action
as much as we do bringing it to you.

 

    Could
    you rank these first-round pitchers in the order from most to least likely to
    sign: Kevin Gausman (Orioles), Mark Appel (Pirates), Lucas Giolito (Nationals)?

    Brian Oliver

    Alexandria, Va.

Most draft prognosticators, including me, though Appel would go
No. 1 overall, but his camp couldn’t get on the same page financially as the
Astros, and he slid to No. 8. Giolito had a chance to be the first high school
righthander selected with the top pick before he injured his elbow in March and
lasted until No. 16. Gausman beat them both out for the distinction of being
the first pitcher drafted when he went fourth overall.

Only three days remain before the signing deadline, and not
coincidentally, there were reports yesterday that both Appel and Gausman were
pessimistic about turning pro. That’s par for the course, though there’s a lot
less deadline drama this year with the new bonus pools limiting what teams can
spend. I rank their likelihood of signing by 5
p.m. ET on Friday in this order: Gausman, Giolito, Appel.

Gausman has added leverage as an eligible college sophomore, but
he takes a risk if he returns to Louisiana State and re-enters the
2013 draft. That class isn’t overly impressive, making it possible though no
lock that he would go higher than No. 4 next year. His pick carries an assigned
value of $4.2 million, and the Orioles currently can go to $4.32 million
without paying any draft tax and to $4,661,545 without forfeiting their 2013
first-rounder.

It still isn’t clear if Giolito’s family ever lowered its
expecations from the $5 million or so he would have commanded had he stayed
healthy and gone in the top three picks as originally expected. What we do know
is that the Nationals can boost his $2,125,000 pick value to as high as
$3,034,510 without losing a first-round choice. Given the uncertainty that
still surrounds the UCLA recruit’s elbow, $3 million seems like a fair
compromise between the talent and risk involved.

The Astros and Appel’s adviser Scott Boras both deny reports
that he turned down a $6 million offer before the draft and insist no specific
proposal was made. For Appel to match the $4.8 million that Houston paid top pick
Carlos Correa, the Pirates would have to give up its 2013
and 2014 first-round selections, which won’t happen. The
assigned value of the No. 8 choice is $2.9 million and Pittsburgh has no intention
of surrendering one first-rounder to land Appel, so that draws a line at $3,837,575.
It’s possible the Bucs could create a little more cash with discounts on their
unsigned fourth- and eighth-rounders.

Boras Corp. advisees aren’t afraid to roll the dice by not
signing. Only 12 first-round or sandwich picks declined to turn pro in the last
10 drafts, and four of them were Boras guys: Luke
Hochevar, Gerrit Cole, LeVon Washington and James Paxton. All four got more
money than they would have made in their first draft, even though Cole was the
only one who performed up to his previous standard. Appel could try to follow
that same path, either by returning to Stanford for his senior year or heading
to independent ball.

I’d be surprised if Gausman didn’t sign but could see Giolito
and Appel going either way. I’m always optimistic when it comes to signings,
and I think it makes sense for all three pitchers to sign for the bonuses their
teams can pay them without losing a future first-rounder. I think there’s a
good chance that happens.

 

    What's
    the story on Jae-Hoon Ha? I had never heard much about him before the Futures
    Game, where he had a homer and a single. Is he the starting center fielder of
    the future for the Cubs?

    Matt
    Mallian

    Cary, N.C.

Ha delivered the most shocking blow of the Futures Game, a
two-run homer to the opposite field off a 95-mph fastball from Pirates
righthander Gerrit Cole, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 draft. In 143
Double-A games over the last two seasons, Ha has gone deep just six times.

Originally signed as a catcher out of Korea in 2008, Ha
developed the yips making throws to second base and moved to the outfield. He
stands out most for his quality defense in center field, where his plus speed
and outstanding jumps give him plenty of range. He has a short righthanded
stroke and has leveled off in Double-A (.267/.321/.371) after showing some pop
in the lower minors. His speed has yet to translate into basestealing.

While he’s still just 21, Ha may not make enough offensive
impact to be a big league regular. On the Cubs’ center-field depth chart, Ha
ranks behind Albert Almora, Brett Jackson and Matt Szczur, though he’s the best
defender of that group.

 

    After
    drafting Marcus Stroman, Matt Smoral, Tyler Gonzales and Chase DeJong in the
    first two rounds this year to go with what they already had on hand, the Blue
    Jays seem to have one of the deepest crops of young pitching in baseball. How
    would you rank their top pitching prospects? Where in that list does the talent
    drop off from future No. 1, 2 or 3 starters to back-of-the-rotation guys? And
    which of their prospects are more likely to end up in the bullpen down the
    road?

    Ian
    Stewart

    Toronto

The Blue Jays may have more quality pitching in their farm
system than any team, though most of it is at least a couple of years away from
making a big league impact. Here’s how I’d stack up their 10 best mound
prospects:

 

1.
Aaron Sanchez, rhp

Misses
bats with mid-90s fastball and curve, just needs command.

2.
Noah Syndergaard, rhp

A
little less dynamic but more polished than Sanchez.

3.
Daniel Norris, lhp

$2
million second-rounder from 2011 can touch 96 mph with his fastball.

4.
Marcus Stroman, rhp

Jays
stole most electric arm in 2012 draft with 22nd overall pick.

5. Justin Nicolino, lhp
Classic
finesse southpaw has quality changeup, best command in system.

6.
Matt Smoral, lhp

Slid
from mid-first round to 50th pick in 2012 after breaking bone in his foot.

7.
Adonys Cardona, rhp

Can
hit 94 mph, set record for Venezuelan pitchers with $2.8 million bonus.

8.
Roberto Osuna, rhp

Lacks
projection but reaches mid-90s and commands three pitches.

9.
Tyler Gonzales, rhp

2012
sandwich pick repeatedly touched 97, showed big league slider in spring.

10.
Kevin Comer, rhp


Projectable
athlete has good life on fastball, feel for secondary pitches.

 

It’s
possible to dream on all of these guys and envision them becoming at least No.
3 starters, though Nicolino and Comer will have to add more velocity to profile
that well. Sanchez and Syndergaard definitely look like frontline starters, and
Norris has flashed that ability in his 15 innings in pro ball.

The main
reason Stroman slid in the June draft is that he’s 5-foot-9, leading a lot of
teams to pigeonhole him as a reliever and making them reluctant to select him
early in the first round. He’s very athletic and may have the durability to
make it as a starter, so I wouldn’t peg him as a closer just yet. Gonzales is
wiry and has a lot of effort in his delivery, making him the most likely member
of this group to wind up in the bullpen.

 

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