Ask BA

Thanks to their current four-game losing streak, the Nationals have reduced their tragic number to one. Any Washington loss or Pirates victory in the final week of the season will clinch the No. 1 pick in the 2010 draft for the Nationals. Washington holds the tiebreaker advantage over Pittsburgh by virtue of having a worse record in 2008.

If the Nationals do get the first overall choice, they’ll join the 2007-08 Rays as the only clubs ever to own it in consecutive drafts. If the American League (odd years) and National League (even years) hadn’t alternated having the No. 1 pick from 1965-2004, the 1973-74 Rangers and 1986-87 Pirates would have had back-to-back No. 1 selections as well.

    Now that MLB has declared Cuban defector Aroldis Chapman a free agent, I assume that just about all of the high-revenue teams will be involved in the chase to sign him. I'm also assuming he'd become just about every team's No. 1 prospect in Baseball America's eyes, but what about the Yankees? Would you rank him ahead of Jesus Montero?

    J.P. Schwartz

    Springfield, Ill.

I won’t be surprised if Chapman gets three times as much as Stephen Strasburg’s draft-record $15.1 million contract. He’s a 22-year-old lefthander with a fastball clocked at 100 mph at the World Baseball Classic, and he’s on the open market—a potent combination. As one scout who saw him at the WBC said, “If you are looking for more than that in a pitcher, you’ll be searching your whole life.”

But here’s the kicker: Chapman never has dominated Cuba’s Serie Nacional. He’s much more of a thrower than a pitcher. Most of Cuban defectors haven’t lived up to their hype, and the last Cuban pitcher to attract this kind of fanfare was Jose Contreras. Contreras has three good seasons and a solid 71-63, 4.63 career, but expectations were that he’d deliver a lot more after signing a $32 million contract with the Yankees.

For me, Chapman would rank in the upper quarter of our 2010 Top 100 Prospects list, but I wouldn’t put him ahead of Montero and he wouldn’t be the No. 1 prospect for several other clubs. I’d take Jason Heyward (Braves), Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner (Giants), Dustin Ackley (Mariners), Mike Stanton (Marlins), Strasburg (Nationals), Brian Matusz (Orioles), Pedro Alvarez (Pirates) and Neftali Feliz, Justin Smoak or Martin Perez (Rangers) ahead of Chapman without a moment’s hesitation. A case also could be made that Chapman shouldn’t be No. 1 over a healthy Jarrod Parker (Diamondbacks), Domonic Brown (Phillies), Desmond Jennings (Rays), Christian Friedrich or Tyler Matzek (Rockies) and Jacob Turner (Tigers).

    As a Royals fan, of course I enjoy having Zack Greinke on the team, but I'd rather have the club be competitive before I die and my kids become permanent Cardinals/Red Sox/Yankees fans. There's just no real point to having Greinke in Kansas City for the next three years of his contract. The farm system won't yield impact players until his deal is about to expire, and he certainly will leave then. Almost every starter eventually hurts his arm throwing 200 innings per year, and Greinke's value couldn't possibly be any higher than it is right now. Dealing him would save the Royals $35 million over the next three years and should bring back as good a haul as Eric Bedard or Mark Teixeira brought. To me, that's far more useful toward building a winner than running Greinke's arm into the ground for three more 90-loss seasons. Where am I wrong?

    Chuck Pattison

    Kansas City, Mo.

On one hand, I agree with Chuck’s underlying premise. The Royals are a bad team and they’re going to be bad for a while. Though the American League Central lacks anything resembling a juggernaut, Kansas City is unlikely to make a run at the playoffs during the remainder of Greinke’s contract and theoretically would have little chance to re-sign him (both from a financial and competitive standpoint) once it expires.

However, I wouldn’t trade Greinke, for three reasons:

•The Royals have so many holes that trading Greinke alone won’t come close to filling them all. And that’s assuming that Kansas City makes a good trade for Greinke, because not every blue-chip prospect pans out. The Rangers are thrilled to have gotten Elvis Andrus and Neftali Feliz in the Teixeira trade with the Braves, but Matt Harrison and Jarrod Saltalamacchia have done little at the major league level and Beau Jones will be a lefty reliever at best. The Orioles got two building blocks (Adam Jones, Chris Tillman) in the Bedard deal with the Mariners, and they may have gotten a third by flipping George Sherrill to the Dodgers for Josh Bell, but Baltimore still has a long way to go.

The last time the Royals traded a superstar, they turned Carlos Beltran into John Buck, Mark Teahen and Mike Wood. Granted, Beltran was three months rather than three years away from free agency, and that trade goes on former GM Allard Baird’s ledger, not Dayton Moore’s. But Moore’s administration hasn’t distinguished itself at the major league level either.

•On the off chance the Royals are going to contend, their best chance would be with Greinke at the front of their rotation. If Kansas City could put together a passable club around Greinke and have him go 20-5, that could get them into the upper 80s in wins. That’s a longshot, sure, but I like those chances better than somehow winning without Greinke.

•What Kansas City does in the short term isn’t going to matter anyway. So if you’re a Royals fan, wouldn’t you at least like to be able to look forward to a Greinke start every fifth day rather than endure 162 mostly joyless games?

    I have two questions regarding Rick Porcello. First, is he the best rookie pitcher in the major leagues since Dwight Gooden in 1984, in terms of performance and talent? Second, if he had gotten past the Tigers and signed with the Yankees in the 2007 draft, do you think there's any chance we would have seen Porcello anywhere close to New York's rotation this year? Given the absurd Joba Rules, I can't imagine Porcello would have been above Double-A.

    Eric Rothfeld

    Livingston, N.J.

How soon they forget. Just three years ago, Porcello’s own team had an elite pitching prospect who turned in a better rookie season, as Justin Verlander went 17-9, 3.63 with 124 strikeouts in 186 innings for the Tigers. The 2006 season saw an unusual number of highly regarded young pitchers turn in strong rookie performances: Matt Cain, Josh Johnson, Francisco Liriano, Scott Olsen, Jonathan Papelbon, Anibal Sanchez and Jered Weaver along with Verlander. Other recent standouts include Joba Chamberlain in 2008 and Brett Anderson and Tommy Hanson this year.

Had Porcello lasted three more picks in the 2007 draft, allowing the Yankees to scoop him up, he wouldn’t have spent the entire season in New York’s rotation, but not because of the Joba Rules. The Yankees simply wouldn’t have been in a position where they had to jump Porcello after he only had 125 pro innings (all in high Class A) under his belt.

Given how well Porcello has pitched in the majors, it’s easy to assume that he would have dominated Double-A hitters this summer. After Chien-Ming Wang faltered at the start of the season and New York turned to the likes of Sergio Mitre to fill the last spot in its rotation, Porcello likely would have been summoned to Yankee Stadium sometime after the all-star break.

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