Ask BA

The David Price era with the Rays began Sunday, as he made his big league debut by working 5 1/3 innings of middle relief against the Yankees. Price retired the first six batters he faced before serving up a Derek Jeter home run, and he wound up allowing two runs on three hits while striking out four and walking none. He sat in the mid-90s with his fastball and gave hitters fits with his slider as well.

Tampa Bay has no plans to put Price in its rotation, though it plans on giving him a start in a doubleheader against the Orioles next week. If he continues to look as good as he did yesterday, I’d think long and hard about giving him a playoff start in place of Edwin Jackson and Andy Sonnastine.

    Back in the spring, you wrote a column
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    discussing how much different the first 10 picks in the 2007 draft would look if it had been held 11 months later. What do you think the top of the 2006 draft would look like now?

    Jason Debney
    Burbank, Calif.

I wrote at the time about how much had changed in less than a year, and if I was writing that column again just four months later, the picks would look much different again. Price was in the midst of being sidelined for two months by an elbow strain, but he’s fully healthy now and I doubt the Rays would pass on him to take Matt Wieters at No. 1, as I surmised at the time of the column. Other players such as Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas and Giants lefthander Madison Bumgarner have boosted their stock since the first month of the season.

The outlook for 2006 draftees is a little clearer because we have had two full seasons to evaluate them, but their futures are far from written. If the 2006 draft were held with teams knowing what we all know today, the Royals wouldn’t be looking at Luke Hochevar or Brad Lincoln with the No. 1 overall choice. They’d be considering the players who went third and 10th overall.

1. Royals. Tim Lincecum, rhp (originally went to Giants, 10th overall)
After taking Alex Gordon second overall in 2005, Kansas City would opt for a No. 1 starter over another cornerstone third baseman (Evan Longoria).
2. Rockies. Evan Longoria, 3b (Rays, third overall)
Longoria would make it two straight Long Beach State stud infielders for Colorado in the first round, following Troy Tulowitzki.
3. Rays. Joba Chamberlain, rhp (Yankees, 41st overall)
With Longoria off the board, the Rays would turn to Chamberlain, who fell out of the top 10 picks in 2006 because of medical concerns.
4. Pirates. Clayton Kershaw, lhp (Dodgers, seventh overall)
Rather than take another pitcher who would need surgery (Lincoln), Pittsburgh would get a younger, healthier ace.
5. Mariners. Brandon Morrow, rhp (Mariners, fifth overall)
Seattle has no complaints with Morrow, who made an almost immediate impact on its bullpen and now is transitioning to its rotation.
6. Tigers. Max Scherzer, rhp (Diamondbacks, 11th overall)
Both pitchers cost a lot to sign, and it says here that Scherzer will deliver a better return than the arm Detroit invested in (Andrew Miller).
7. Dodgers. Travis Snider, of (Blue Jays, 14th overall)
Unable to get Kershaw, Los Angeles would pick up a nice consolation prize in Snider, the best high school hitter in the draft.
8. Reds. Brett Anderson, lhp (Diamondbacks, second round)
Miller might be the best option at this point, but Cincinnati likely wouldn’t meet his price tag. Lars Anderson and Matt LaPorta would be attractive hitters but wouldn’t fit positions of need, so the Reds would move on to the next pitcher on the board.
9. Orioles. Lars Anderson, 1b (Red Sox, 18th round)
Baltimore wasn’t willing to go over slot at the time and was intent on taking a hitter. The best available would be Anderson, who went from a potential sandwich pick to the 18th round because he asked for a $1 million bonus.
10. Giants. Andrew Miller, lhp (Tigers, sixth overall)
Lincecum would be long gone, but San Francisco could have Miller, who was considered the best prospect in the entire draft at the time.

    How much incentive do the Mariners have to go over slot to sign first-round pick Joshua Fields? If he doesn't sign, they probably could pick up a similar college closer who's nearly ready for majors with the compensation pick at No. 22 next year, couldn't they? With their own pick in the top five and the possible compensation picks for Fields and pending free agent Raul Ibanez, Seattle could have a nice selection of early draft choices next year, giving its new general manager a big jump on the rebuilding process.

    Phil Meneely
    Philadelphia

The Fields negotiations are currently at a stalemate. The Mariners are holding firm on a slot offer of $1.5 million, while the Scott Boras Corporation maintains that teams were told all along that it would take $2 million to sign the reliever.

What’s interesting is that both sides have leverage. From Seattle’s standpoint, as Phil suggests, it can get a player of similar value with a compensation choice next year. While Fields is close to big league ready, he’s not an elite talent who plummeted to No. 20 overall because of signability.

Fields, however, could help his case by pitching well in an independent league next spring and then playing the Mariners against the possibility of losing him when he re-enters the draft. Scherzer did that, and the Diamondbacks gave him $4.3 million in guaranteed money and another $1.5 million in easily reachable incentives when Boras took the club right up to the deadline to sign him before the 2007 draft.

The $500,000 difference between the two sides is paltry in the grand scheme of things, but neither seems willing to compromise.

    What do you think of Travis Hafner playing for Akron in the Double-A Eastern League playoffs? I have heard the Bowie players weren't happy about it and frankly, I don't blame them. I understand about a player needing to rehab, but this doesn't seem right to me.

    James Sergent
    North East, Md.

Hafner had been on a rehab assignment in Triple-A, but when the International League season ended, the Indians sent him to Akron to get some more work in. Hafner appeared in two games in the EL division series and hit crucial home runs in both. His grand slam provided the margin of victory in a 6-2 win in Game Three, and his two-run shot in the first inning sparked the Aeros to a 5-1 victory in the clinching Game Four.

The foremost purpose of minor league teams is not to win games or championships, but to prepare players for the major leagues. So on that level, the Indians’ decision is understandable. However, Cleveland was out of the American League playoff race at the time, and cutting Hafner’s tuneup two games short wouldn’t have made a significant difference. The Indians should have shown more discretion and respected the integrity of the EL playoffs.

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