Ask BA

Now that I’m in full Prospect Handbook mode, Ask BA will have a reduced schedule through the end of the year. Rather than appearing weekly, it will run on Mondays before our magazine print deadlines (today, Nov. 5 and 19, Dec. 10 and 31).

The good news is that our Top 10 Prospects list are about to start popping up online. We’ll begin with the American League East clubs next Monday.

    What are your thoughts on Shohei Otani, both from a talent perspective and signability? If I interpret the new rules correctly, he's subject to the $2.9 million bonus pool every team has for the international signing period from July 2, 2012 through June 15, 2013. I'm a Rangers fan, and it would appear they're in good position because they were unusually quiet this year (Jairo Beras notwithstanding), and I haven't seen any high-profile signings that would affect their pool. What other teams still have a significant portion of their pool available?

    Michael Bell

    San Diego

    In my continuing quest to get a head start on the competition in my keeper fantasy league, what is your take on Shohei Otani, who has opted to play in the United States rather than Japan?

    Virgil Dahl

    Waterloo, Iowa

    With major league teams limited on how much they can spend on international amateurs, which teams still have bonus pool room left to sign Shohei Otani now that he has declared his intention to come to the United States? Which teams are basically out of contention due to previous spending? Would it benefit Otani to wait until next July 2 to sign in order to maximize his bonus?

    Tim Pann

    Baltimore

Otani was the potential No. 1 overall pick in this week’s Japanese draft until he announced yesterday that he plans to play in the United States. The 18-year-old righthander is extremely athletic and projectable at 6-foot-4 and 190 pounds, and his fastball has been clocked in the upper 90s. He also throws a slider and a splitter, though his secondary pitches and command are still works in progress. After the Dodgers met with Otani in September, assistant GM Logan White told the Japanese press that Otani had the talent to be the top overall choice in the MLB draft.

Under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, teams get $2.9 million with which to sign international amateurs. But unlike the restrictions for exceeding draft bonus pools, which could cost a club its next two first-round choices, the penalties for surpassing international bonus pools aren’t as harsh. A team that blows past its international pool by 15 percent or more would pay a 100-percent tax on the overage and be forbidden to pay an international amateur more than $250,000 during next year’s signing period.

For a player with Otani’s upside, that’s not much of a deterrent. Also consider that in the draft, a player of his caliber would be available only to the teams choosing at the very top. On the worldwide market, all 30 teams are in play. Clubs accustomed to picking at the bottom of the draft may be willing to pay dearly for the opportunity to sign him.

Three teams—the Dodgers, Rangers and Red Sox—have met with Otani in Japan, and he said yesterday that he plans on signing with one of them. We don’t have access to how much money clubs have remaining in their international bonus pools, but Texas appears to have the most among those three teams. (The Rangers’ $4.5 million signing of Beras doesn’t count against the pool because it happened in February.) Boston, which spent a combined $1.36 million on Dominican righthander Jose Almonte, Dominican shortstop Wendell Rijo and Venezuelan lefty Dedgar Jimenez, has the least money among the three clubs.

But as I said, I don’t think cap space is going to matter when it comes to signing Otani. For the same reason, I don’t think he’ll have to wait until next year’s signing period to maximize his money. He’ll need some time to develop, but Otani has a special arm and will get paid accordingly.

    Can you please explain what a team must do to get a draft pick for any free agents they lose?

    Mitchell Cohen

    East Brunswick, N.J.

Though the new CBA radically overhauled the free-agent compensation process, those changes didn’t go into effect last offseason. They’re in play now, however, and we’ll see far fewer compensation draft choices as a result.

In the past, MLB used a convoluted statistical system (explained in detail here) to rank free agents. If their former club offered them arbitration, Type A (rated in the top 20 percent among players in their position group) and Type B (rated in the 21-40 percent range) free agents generated extra draft choices.

The new process is much more streamlined. In order to get compensation, the former team now must offer a free agent a one-year contract equivalent to the average of MLB’s 125 highest salaries in MLB (roughly $13.5 million). Statistical performance no longer matters.

However, a player must spend the entire previous season with an organization to be eligible for compensation. Midseason trade acquisitions such as Zack Greinke, Anibal Sanchez and Ichiro Suzuki will hit the free-agent market with no strings attached.

Clubs will receive less for losing quality free agents than in the past. Previously, Type A free agents yielded the signing team’s first-round pick (with the top 15 choices protected) as well as a supplemental first-round selection. Signing clubs still will surrender their top choice (with only the top 10 picks protected), but it now will just vanish and the former team will get only a selection at the end of the first round.

The end result is that the supplemental first round will be much shorter. The last two drafts averaged 28 sandwich picks and the second round started at No. 61 in both years. In 2013, there will be roughly 31 first-rounders (including a bonus choice for the Pirates after they failed to sign 2012 first-rounder Mark Appel) and six competitive-balance lottery selections before the second round begins at No. 38.

    With Allen Craig seemingly entrenched at first base for the Cardinals, what is Matt Adams' future? Does Craig shift to an outfield corner or does Adams need to get traded to play regularly in the big leagues?

    John Botehlo

    Rockland, Mass.

Few hitters can match Adams’ gaudy statistical résumé. At NCAA Division II Slippery Rock, he set school records for single-season (.495) and career (.453) batting average, erasing marks established by current Phillies international supervisor Sal Agostinelli. Since signing for $25,000 as a 23rd-round pick in 2009, Adams has hit .318/.365/.565 in the minors, including a .329/.362/.624 performance in Triple-A this year.

Unfortunately for Adams, he has too many obstacles to overcome in St. Louis. Whether Craig could move to left or right field is a moot point, because the Cardinals already have Carlos Beltran (signed through 2013) and Matt Holliday (locked up through 2016) on the corners. They also have the best hitting prospect in the minors, Oscar Taveras, who happens to profile best as a corner outfielder and will push for a big league role in 2013.

St. Louis has few major league holes and plenty of minor league talent. That why it’s bidding to return to the World Series and will contend for years to come, but it’s also bad news for Adams. He’ll need a trade or injuries in St. Louis to become an everyday big leaguer. Craig faced the same situation coming into 2012 before seizing an opening created when Lance Berkman succumbed to a calf injury and a pair of knee surgeries.

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