Draft Chat With John Manuel

John Manuel: OK, sorry I'm a bit late, had a draft call . . . Let's get to it.

    John (Philadelphia): Hey John, thanks for taking our questions. The Phillies dont pick until the 75th pick in this years draft. What do you see the Phillies doing with their first pick? Their farm system is in need of corner infielders, are there any of those available who maybe impact players in the future? Thanks

John Manuel: The Phillies had all those extra picks last year and seemed to do well with them. I'd see the Phils keeping with their high-risk, high-reward approach. They also seem to have had some success recently with non-consensus college guys, college guys with tools who didn't perform in college. Michael Taylor and Mike Stutes leap to mind. If you're looking for someone who fits that bill, I'll throw out some names such as SS/RHP Austin Adams out of NAIA Faulkner (Ala.), who has two potential plus pitches but gave up 56 hits in 46 NAIA innings and struck out just 42. He may not be the guy at 75 but that's a guy I could see them taking.

    Jon (Lexington, KY): Any chance James Paxton slides to the Cubs and would they take him?

John Manuel: Paxton definitely could be there at 31. He's a tough guy to get a read on. At his best, he's got sick stuff, but how often has he been at his best? How can a lefty who throws up to 97 and at times has good command of both his fastball and average-to-plus curve have a roughly 6.50 ERA in college? You can make a case for him in the first 15 picks, because he's Canadian & has a fresh arm, turns 21 in November (making very young for a college draft pick) and has a special arm. But he also has never made it through a full season without some kind of physical setback, including a mild knee issue this year. I don't think he'll be there at 31, but he's not a lock to be off the board at that stage.

    JAYPERS (IL): Hi, John. Thanks for taking our questions. I see in your Draft Scouting Report for Mike Minor that it's a big question mark as to where he goes, and in which round. However, many of the other scouting reports I've read about him are confident that he's still a 1st rounder. What leads you to believe differently?

John Manuel: Our scouting reports don't necessarily take into account WHERE a player will get drafted; we report the scuttlebutt, and I think Minor's going to go in the first round. It's just hard to say he's a lock first-round talent the way he's thrown this year. His fastball's fringy, 86-89 mph. At times he's showing no plus pitch, or just average command; if you believe in him as a first-rounder you need to see plus pitchability, the changeup has to be a plus pitch, and it would be nice to see his slider be solid-average as it has been in the past. Our reports are that his slider & curve are both fringy for the most part this year. That said, he threw very well in front of a lot of heat yesterday at the SEC tournament, showed the pitchability, etc. He *should* be better than Jeremy Sowers, but I don't think he's done anything to merit going as high as Sowers did, a Vandy LHP who went No. 6 overall in '04. Minor would seem a perfect fit at No. 3 for the Padres, he's exactly what Grady Fuson looks for in a pitcher as an LHP who 'hits the mitt' and has a good change, but the Padres have to get more upside than Minor provides at 3.

    Kyle (Middletown): What has caused Scott Bittle's stock to drop from a second rounder last year to a probable 4th rounder this year? How does he project in the big leagues, back of the rotation starter or set up man?

John Manuel: Bittle's a huge wild card. He hasn't pitched in, what, three weeks? Ole Miss went 2-and-bbq in the SEC tourney, so he won't pitch this week. Maybe the time off helps, but it sounds like he's back in the bullpen if he pitches at all this year, according to coach Bianco at Ole Miss. I'd put him in the pen, rush him to the majors and let him throw cutters 'til his arm can't take it anymore. Sadly for Bittle he may already have reached that point. His college stats are as good the last two years as anyone who didn't leave their last start with back cramps.

    Ben (Leland Grove): As he comes from a wealthy family, what makes $6M the price to dissuade Donavan Tate from playing college football, and do you think this is merely a Boras tactic?

John Manuel: Two HS players who were somewhat comparable, Justin Upton and last year Tim Beckham, both got money in that vicinity. Upton spread his bonus over 5 years as a football possibility, and Beckham was the top HS position player on some boards last year (due to bat + SS, though I think a lot of clubs had Eric Hosmer ahead). Both those guys got $6 million plus, so that's logical as a price. That said, Boras doesn't talk money in the media, which is wise of him to do. That's informed speculation but it's also persistent info that is out there on Tate. Personally, I think he's going 3 to SD.

    Brett (Seattle, WA): If Ackley falls to us, how would you compare him to Ichiro? (I realize he'd be playing CF as opposed to RF.) Who has more power between the two? Better hitting abilities?

John Manuel: Brett, I wrote a column on Ackley the other day, and he has some similarities to Ichiro in some ways. If he's lucky enough to have a big league career anywhere like Ichiro's that would be outstanding, but at times he shows the hitting skills to be a regular batting champ; Ichiro has two I believe. At times, he has an Ichiro-type of approach in that he's almost running before he's out of the box. That's how scouts get ridiculous times that lead them to erroneously call him an 80 runner. He's more of a 60-65 runner, 70 underway. He's stayed back more this year, he's adopted a bit more of a power approach, and he's leading the ACC with 19 home runs right now. For me, he's answering any power questions that were there. It's like he can do whatever he wants offensively. This is kind of what my column was about. He's hard to get a comparison on, he's not Ichiro, he's not Tony Gwynn, but those are guys that you could try to match him up with. Maybe that's too lofty; scouts don't like to comp amateurs to HOFers. But I could see Ackley having a tremendous, long career as a regular batting-title contender.

    John (Pensacola, FL): Does the position breakdown on the website replace the top 200? When will the prospect listings by states be up?

John Manuel: No, we had a lengthy top 200 meeting the other day, we're writing up the 101-200 scouting reports that didn't go into the position writeups. With the draft pushed back this year, we decided not to put out our top 200 a full month before the draft, but we wanted to get more than 100 scouting reports into our Draft Preview. That just became Draft Preview, Part I.

    JAYPERS (IL): Which third baseman has the best chance to stay at the hot corner? There don't seem to be a lot to choose from in your scouting reports.

John Manuel: Might not be a guy this year; I'd say Dominguez has the best chance but he has an awful lot of swing and miss. I am a bigger fan of Kyle Seager than most; I could see him having a Bill Mueller type of career. He may not fit the classic profile but that dude can hit, and he's better at 3B than scouts thought he'd be. Jeff Kobernus of Cal also isn't a classic profile guy, and we listed him at 2b but he could be a 2b or 3b. I think there's a split camp on Kobernus vs. Seager, Seager's hit tool is better, Kobernus has him beat for power and speed, defense & arm are probably a push.

    John (Pensacola, FL): Brandon Monk, a former Braves 7th rounder who made it to High A, is redshirting at Columbus State. How prevalent in college baseball are former pro players, and are they eligible to sign at any time?

John Manuel: Rare. We did a story on a similar situation at Columbus State last year on C.J. Bressoud. Division II has legislation called amateur deregulation where you can regain amateur status; D-I didn't pass it. Here's that story we did in early 2008: http://www.baseballamerica.com/online/college/news/2008/265718.html

    Kiko (Honolulu, Hawaii): Where in the draft do you see the 3 kids from Sacramento State going? Tim Wheeler, Hunter Martinez, and Blake Crosby?

John Manuel: Crosby's 24, so if he goes it won't be high and it will be as a budget, senior sign kind of deal. Despite his family bloodlines and fine season, he's not really a prospect. Wheeler's going to go first round, he performed in the Cape and followed it up with a big spring, he may go in the first 15 picks. I've not heard any helium on Martinez but he is a lefty-hitting middle infielder who has had a nice year.

    Greg (Finland): Wazzu Cougars are having a solid season in the Pac 10, who will be drafted and when?

John Manuel: I thought I'd be getting Carolina Hurricanes questions from Finland. War Jussi Jokinen . . . anyway, Matt Way is the team's top prospect, he didn't sign with the Giants last year as a 36th-rounder and has made a nice transition from relief to the rotation, going 8-4, 2.39. He's mostly a fastball-changeup lefty, which plays well as a starter, and his fringy slider has been good enough this year. The change is his best pitch; he'll be a single-digit pick and is a good value as a senior. The other top guys are RHPs Chad Arnold, a redshirt sophoimore who has had control issues but throws a heavy ball; little-used reliever Seth Harvey, who has thorwn just 20 innings but threw 92-94 mph last summer in the West Coast League; and senior C Greg Lagreid, who has decent catch-and-throw skills and it hitting better than ever this year. At best those are 8-15 round guys.

    Ian (Atlanta GA): Are the Braves willing to pony up the reported $6 million it will take to sign Tate in case he falls to # 7, or is he not going to fall past SF?

John Manuel: I don't see that happening; Atlanta has other targets such as Zach Wheeler and Alex White.

    Greg (Finland): 1st draft for new Mariners GM, I can see taking Ackley with the 2nd pick but what do you see them doing from there? Best player available or some surprises?

John Manuel: Jack Zduriencik has had his share of draft surprises over the years. I wouldn't call Ackley a lock at 2 at all, but that's where we'd go with the No. 2 pick. As for the rest of it, in Zduriencik's time with the Brewers, they were big on workouts. Good pre-draft workouts moved guys up their board; they weren't worried about consensus. Good workout guys tend to be big arms, velocity/arm strength guys, as well as speed or tools hitters who lack refinement. I would expect some of those patterns to persist with Tom McNamara and crew running the draft further on down.

    Andy (Philly): If you're running a draft, do you pick Max Stassi or Wil Myers? Why?

John Manuel: Good question! Sounds like Myers has more upside, but Stassi is a safer bet. In this draft, I'll take the bigger bat in Myers and worry about his position later. That said, I'm a Stassi fan, in terms of makeup, swing, savvy and solid if not flashy tools.

    Andy (Philly): Who will slide in a similar way to Tim Melville did a year ago?

John Manuel: Jim Callis gave some good candidates on the Draft Blog today, and Jacob Turner — this year's Melville as the top pitcher in Missouri and also a UNC signee — is the best candidate. I could see Kentrail Davis being a tough sign considering he had a difficult year and is tough to profile but is in a thin, thin year for college bats. I could see Chris Dwyer of Clemson falling; he's got more leverage than the average bear as a 21-year-old freshman and he's been erratic. Robert Stock is another; he'd be a 20 year old senior. If he doesn't get what he was expecting he could definitely return for another year at USC.

    Andy (Philly): Has Drew Storen solidified his spot as the best draft-eligible reliever? And what's up with Jason Stoffel this year?

John Manuel: I don't think any college reliever has established himself as the sure No. 1 reliever. The best relievers are guys currently starting in college, such as Rex Brothers and Kyle Heckathorn. There's a chance those guys could start, but either one also could have two 70 pitches in the pen. Sam Dyson also is a classic relief candidate with a 98 mph fastball that can be really straight at times. Among guys relieving in college, though, Storen has edged Stoffel, who might just have draftitis, which he battled as a prep senior. Tough also to be a closer on a bad team. Alex Wilson and Joe Kelly are other options, and right now Kendal Volz of Baylor is pitching in relief, a role he excelled in last summer with Team USA. He might improve his falling stock if he pitches well in relief this week in the Big 12 tourney.

    Bryan (San Francisco): Where do you see UCSB's Joe Gardner going? I heard he strained an oblique against Long Beach and won't pitch again. How will that affect his draft status?

John Manuel: Our reports indicate it is a pinched nerve, and he's been told not to throw for two or three weeks, which is about to expire. He's a lower slot sinker-slider guy, so I don't know that he's more than a 5th-7th rounder. I'm a fan, disappointed that the Gauchos didn't have a better year. It's good for college baseball when Jim Rome is interested in college baseball, which only happens (a) when someone gets hit by a lot of pitches and (b) when the Gauchos are good. NEXT.

    Andy (Philly): Have there been any more notable players sign with Scott Boras recently? And how does James Paxton's agreement with Boras affect his draft stock?

John Manuel: Paxton, Brian Godwin and LeVon Washington are the latest trio that I've heard about. Washington is a tough, tough case, he's a plus-plus runner with a bum shoulder who might be the best hitter in Florida. I think he's going to be a first-rounder Boras Corp. or not. Some clubs just won't deal with Boras at all, which to me is bad for those clubs; Boras Corp. represents good players more often than not. This year, six of our top 15 players are Boras Corp. clients. I'd hate to pick in the top 15 and not be able to take six of the top players on my draft board.

    Andy (Philly): Where do you see Robbie Shields going in June? Has he answered any of the questions about his long-term position this year?

John Manuel: Yeah, Shields isn't going to play shortstop, he's a 2B, and he hit just five homers this spring. Put him down for "stock down" considering some of the hype he garnered in the Cape.

    Andy (Philly): Is Mychal Givens a shortstop or pitcher? Which one do you think he'll get drafted at?

John Manuel: Shortstop, because he projects as a reliever as a pitcher. He's got a chance to go supplemental 1st or second round, like half of the rest of Florida.

    Andy (Philly): Where are you hearing Angelo Songco might go in June?

John Manuel: Anywhere in the first four rounds. He's not a fluid athlete but he's a pretty polished and fairly powerful college bat, and there aren't many of those. He hit in the Cape, and then he followed up on it; that's when the Cape matters, for me. He's patient, has power and is a passable LF defensively. He'll get over-drafted, like a lot of solid but not spectacular college hitters this year, because there are so few college hitters that scouts like. The solid ones won't last long.

    Andy (Philly): Who takes a chance on Luke Bailey and where?

John Manuel: Now there's a Georgia kids the Braves might take, perhaps third or fourth round. The first day of the draft ends after round three, so we'll be watching hard to see who is left on the board at the end of round three, there will be deals made that night and early morning on the 10th. The fourth round really should be a lot of fun.

    Jeremy (Las Cruces): Any idea if Max Walla is going to get drafted? I know he is the best player in New Mexico, but sometimes guys out here get overlooked. What do you think?

John Manuel: You nailed it Jeremy, our Conor Glassey is handling the West but he likes Walla and has him on top of our NM board. He has been overlooked; it's just hard to crosscheck prep bats in that part of the country. He'll be a workout kind of guy, if he lands some workouts.

    Andy (Philly): Does Brad Boxberger have the talent to succeed as a starting pitcher in the pros?

John Manuel: He does, but teams seem quite impatient with pitchers like him these days. He's not a groundball guy, he's a flyball pitcher, and seems to be profiling better in the bullpen for most scouts. I like him as a solid starter because he's a three-pitch guy and has some deception in his delivery. That said, he closed effectively in the Cape, where a lot of national guys saw him. That seems to stick in a lot of teams' reports.

    Andy (Philly): What are the chances D.J. LeMahieu goes high enough to sign as a sophomore-eligible?

John Manuel: One of the draft's most divisive players, at least at BA. He has his defenders (cough*JIM CALLIS*cough) but if he's a 2b or 3b, scouts want to see more power. And he's most likely not a SS. I could see him getting drafted lower than he thinks. I don't know what he thinks of being moved off SS, but that might make him not want to go back to LSU, you know? I'd play for Paul Mainieri, seems like a heckuva guy, but then Paul didn't move me off SS.

    Andy (Philly): How badly has Brett Jackson's performance hurt his draft stock?

John Manuel: I think it has hurt some, but there just aren't a ton of other college bats rushing to fill the void. He swung and missed a lot in the Cape too, but he's a CF with tools, not many of those around. I'd take a chance on him in the supp-to-2nd but he's fallen behind other college OFs such as Tim Wheeler and AJ Pollock on most boards.

    Andy (Philly): Does Grant Green really have the pop for 15-20 homers? Kid's been a dud power-wise with the metal bat (15 homers in over 600 ABs at USC).

John Manuel: That's a case of the Cape trumping everything else for scouts; he hit 6 in 161 ABs last summer, and scouts saw the thunder in his hands and forearms then. This guy had draftitis in 2006 and I think he's got it again. I don't think it's dreaming too much to put 15 HRs on this guy, that's 50 power basically. I think Green will be fine, but he's not Longoria. Few are, and remember, Longoria had very little hype out of HS or Rio Hondo JC, only getting some as a sophomore when Tulo got hurt and he subbed in at short. He's the best of that trio by a longshot.

    Brian (Phoenix, AZ): Who will be the first Arizona high school player in the draft this year?

John Manuel: Probably C Tommy Joseph, who gets some Mike Napoli comps, with RHP Jake Barrett in the mix as well. We've hit a down patch in Arizona preps, it would seem, the last couple of years, there's no Tim Alderson or Kyle Lobstein this year, but this year looks similar to '06, when Jason Jarvis, Charles Brewer, Dillon Baird and Khris Davis were the top preps. I could see the last three guys go as single-digit guys from college this year though.

    Andy (Philly): How high does Kent Matthes go after his incredible senior season? Does a team with multiple early picks take him and sign him for under-slot?

John Manuel: Andy keeps asking good questions . . . I like Matthes, think he'll go third round, and your scenario frankly makes sense. His track record isn't super, he never controlled the K zone prior to this year, but his 2009 season is pretty impossible to ignore, and he's not some SEC slug, he's an athlete with a RF arm. It's not a knockout arm but it's average to plus; he should be able to at least play left if not stay in RF. That's an attractive package.

    Matt (NY): Do the Marlins go with more pitching at #18 and if so who will they go with?

John Manuel: They certainly could, they filled up on hitters the last two years, and this draft has more pitchers to take. We put them together with Chad James, exploiting the obvious Oklahoma connection the Marlins have with Stan Meek & Co. They are the ultimate best player available org. I have a lot of respect for them on the draft, they aren't perfect but they stick to their approach and have often had tremendous results, such as Chris Volstad and Mike Stanton.

    Johnny (Gainesville): What's your opinion on guys like Borchering, Maddox and LeVon Washington? Any chance Sully can bring any of them to Gainesville?

John Manuel: It's a great class but Sully needs to lose some of them, or he'll be over 11.7 scholarships. He'd got a great chance to get Maddox on campus as his stock has fallen, but the other two are probably first-round guys and won't be Gators. You're probably getting Mr. No-No, Patrick Schuster, if that's any consolation.

    tom (atlanta): what do pro scouts look for in a high school hitter?

John Manuel: Present strength so they can go out and hit now; projection in the body so they can hit later; ability at premium defensive position (so they can move down the defensive spectrum, if necessary, as they fill out; speed. HS 1Bs have to truly mash to go high, which is what makes Eric Hosmer and Prince Fielder ('02 first-rounder) so special & unusual. On the run tool, college baseball has very little in the way of speed, at least in terms of players who can hit and can run. Most of those guys get signed out of high school, which is another reason Dustin Ackley stands out so much.

    Eric (Dallas): Given Donovan Tate's current baseball skill level, do you believe he is worthy of being a top 10 pick in this year's draft? How does Tate compare to some of the other mega-athlete's in the draft like Everett Williams, Mike Trout, and Jared Mitchell?

John Manuel: Yes, he's at the front of the mega-athlete group. He does it the easiest, and he has explosiveness as well. His current baseball skill level is high for a high school player; he's not raw. He can hit, but he's a high school kid, he's going to need time in the minors. He's definitely worthy of top 10; he could be worthy of No. 3 in this class, but I'd take Ackley and of course Strasburg ahead of him.

    Tyler (Jupiter): David Holmberg seems like one of the lesser talked about left-handed high school pitchers in the draft. What is his status like?

John Manuel: Tough to gauge, because he has fringy present velocity but good secondary stuff. Frankly I never know what to do with those guys. If his curve were the better secondary pitch, I'd be more enthusiastic about the future velo; it takes hand speed to spin a breaking ball, and hand speed usually equates to projection in terms of fastball velocity. But, it sounds like some scouts like the change better, while others like the curve. I think he's got a 50-50 shot of going to Florida.

    Eric (Dallas): What is the status of Tanner Sheppers' shoulder? Is he having an MRI done that will be sent out to all the MLB teams?

John Manuel: His agents sent an exam from Dr. Lewis Yocum to clubs with a clean bill of health, but that also seems to imply that teams won't get to do their own medical exam before the draft. That makes sense from Scheppers' standpoint, but it makes it harder for a club. I'm of two minds on Scheppers, and today I'm more in the Crow camp, but ask next week and I might be on the Scheppers bandwagon. I am a fastball command joker and that edges me toward Crow, but Scheppers is more electric.

    Fred (Ohio): Hi- Where do you believe North Carolina HS pitcher Madison Younginer will be drafted? Do most scouts consider him a starter or a reliever? Thanks!

John Manuel: He's from South Carolina, and he could go late first to the right team that has seen him well. I think he'll go higher than we have him based on a good pre-draft workout. He's flashed two 60 pitches if not better, I think teams would want to try him as a starter. It's rare to get guys written off as relievers out of HS; Jason Knapp and Tim Alderson are two I've talked about in recent drafts and both are doing just fine as starters so far.

    Fred (Ohio): What are your thoughts on Richie Shaffer's draft prospects?

John Manuel: Got a Scheppers update from BA indy guru JJ Cooper . . . Scheppers hit 98 again in his last start Saturday and starts again tonight. JJ also is taunting me that Scheppers pitched off the fastball more in his last start and had more fastball control than usual, which almost immediately moves me back to the Scheppers camp . . . Schaffer is a power guy, power arm, power bat, but he had a hamate injury that sapped him of power this spring. The consensus is he'll wind up at Clemson, because it's hard enough to scout prep hitters, and now you're scouting a prep hitter who basically hit one-handed this spring. Good luck with that.

    Travis (Montclair, NJ): Whats the read on Dillon Baird? top 5 rounds?

John Manuel: Not quite, not a true defensive home for the former Yavapai RoughRider. Can't believe that team didn't make it out of regionals . . . c'mon RoughRiders! Anyway, Baird does have lefty power and a nice track record, we're thinking 6-to-10 is more likely.

    Brad (Lake Orion, MI): Any rumors on who the Detroit Tigers will take at #9? And will they be aggressive like they were in the 2007 draft or stick to slot as they did in 2008?

John Manuel: People suspect they will go above slot at least once, if Jacob Turner por ejemplo falls to them at 9. But it's hard to imagine they'll do that often, considering the economy in Detroit right now; that would be a very enlightened, long-term view to take, and right now they have Jim Leyland managing, so that's not how the Tigers operate.

    Ryan (spring): What is the status of Berry and Ojala of the Rice Owls in the Draft? What is the latest on Strasburg leaving early yesterday?

John Manuel: Strasburg's back cramps are pretty much that, back cramps. San Diego State should make regionals, so expect him to get one more start at least (and probably no more than one). Berry and Ojala had helium earlier this spring but their injury problems plus Rice's track record with pitchers seems to be sending them down draft boards. I wouldn't be shocked if they both are back with the Owls next year, just thinking about past history. It's hard to sign Rice juniors; they get a lot of seniors back even when those guys are single-digit picks.

    Joe LeCates (Easton, MD): If the Padres complete (or have completed at the time of this) a trade to move Peavy would that suggest at this time that they definitely take a College Pitcher at #3?

John Manuel: Interesting question. It could, hadn't thought that until you wrote it. I'd still call Minor a reach at 3, and I actually like Mike Minor as a pitcher. But if I had to take a college pitcher at 3, I'd go with Alex White, or they could take one of the indy ball guys. Any of those moves, or Kyle Gibson, would make more sense than Mike Minor, for me.

    Jason (Texas): With so many impressive HS catchers in this years draft: bailey, zuzino, madoox, stassey, elander, phillips, which do you believe has the best overall tools? Any way some of these guys will sneak into the first round or will they be second day picks?

John Manuel: You didn't mention perhaps the two most interesting guys, Wil Myers (best bat of that group) and Steve Baron, probably the best defensive C in the draft, 50-60 glove (depending on the scout), 60-70 arm strength, more of a 60 but the occasional 70 pop times when he cheats a bit. Stassi is at the top of our C board among HS players; Zunino might be headed to college; Elander isn't in our top 25 of HS catchers, nor is Phillips.

    alexei (vt): The Orioles did draft Scheppers before; Yoakum states his shoulder is fine, he's hitting high 90's, his stuff is rated second only to Strasburg and he would sign for slot; leaving more money to play with dropped talent in the later rounds. Would they draft him again at 1-5 or go with Matzek, Crow, Gibson or Greene?

John Manuel: O's would be a good spot if he has signed the re-draft papers; not sure if he has or not, but they have a glaring need for arms. We have heard them linked to Alex White, but there are college pitchers to be had at 5, and it would behoove the O's to dip into that pool.

    Matt (Atlanta): How can Andy Oliver still be drafted so high with such bad numbers and 1 pitch?

John Manuel: He's shown more than one pitch at times, he's flashed a good curve in the past, though he's using a slide piece now. If you have one pitch, it's good if it's a plus fastball. If he commands a fastball with plus velo, everything else will play up. AT worst, you might have Alan Embree, who had a nice career.

    Jesse (Los Angeles): Hi John, I know you guys are extremely busy with the draft right around the corner. How is Cody Decker from UCLA looking right now, he has a ton of power (20 homeruns)and is hitting for a good averageand has only 1 error on the season. He had an off year last year but bouced back his senior season, does being a senior hurt him? What round would you project? Thanks for all your hard work!

John Manuel: You're welcome. I just can't see teams getting excited about Decker, I think of him as a nice college player and that's about it. He should be a fine Double-A DH one day. Not trying to be harsh, but I just don't think he's a prospect. Sorry, Jesse.

    Joe (Philadelphia): I have watched Ryan Buch pitch since he was in high school, and he always struggled with location. I saw him pitch against modest competition last summer in Johnstown, and only last until about the fourth or fifth inning before the other team began to hit him. The NEC is a very weak conference, and when he faces good competition it takes the order one time around before they can get hard hits. He still struggles with command of his fastball, and I feel his secondary stuff is below average. How can he be rated a second round talent ahead of some of the great pitchers in more competitive conferences? There are some D2 and D3 schools that are in more competitive conferences then the NEC.

John Manuel: He's backing up, Joe. Aaron Fitt just talked to a couple more scouts today and Buch had three or four starts where he was on, and now he's gone a bit backwards again. He's not a consensus 2nd-round guy, and Aaron just came to my office before the chat to tell me we should move Buch down our board. Such is the draft. At his best, he's been better than you saw him; I talked to one scout this spring about Buch and he was enthusiastic about him. So he has done it; but your points are all sound points.

    Greg Pappas (Baltimore): Long time admirer and fellow draftnik here... How do you personally rank Crow, White, Gibson and Scheppers at this juncture? The talent seems similar among them.

John Manuel: Greg, I'm a sucker for a Greek last name and flattery . .. I am a White guy. I have no problem with the split, and he's shown the plus slider in the past, though he's lost his feel for it now. It's in there. He competes, he's athletic . . . I'm an Alex White guy. I'd go White-Crow-Scheppers-Gibson. Jim C. and I have had some throw-downs on Kyle Gibson this month, several of them. I'm not as high on Gibson as he is, very fair to say that. He'd give you a different order, and I think 30 clubs would have every permutation of those 4 guys.

    Altoona (Altoona, PA): Will the Angels draft "best player available" as always or bend towards need like a couple outfielders? If so, who?

John Manuel: The Angels' "need" is just talent, the system has thinned in recent years. I bet they go heavy in Florida, because (a) that's where the talent is, and (b) Tom Kotchman is the dean of FL scouts and owns that state, and he works for the Angels. They also have not shied away from Boras clients, sometimes for better (Jered Weaver) and sometimes for worse (not signing Matt Harvey in '07).

    jeff (chicago): how do you compare strasburg to tommy hanson? does strasburg have a clearly higher ceiling than hanson? what about compared to types like price and kershaw?

John Manuel: Good question. What makes Hanson is, he had fastball command FIRST, then he started throwing harder and his secondary stuff came together. Strasburg is in some ways similar, and he has fastball control, but not command. Hanson in fact has lost some command as his stuff has become nastier; it's just harder to control 96 than it is 89. Neither of those guys were showcase stars; they were prospects in some ways, they showed talent, but neither had enough present stuff to get serious draft looks. Now look at them. I have a hard time taking anyone over Hanson, whose minor league roomy, Kris Medlen, debuts in the majors tonight. I also pretty much always link Medlen & Hanson in my head. I'm guessing the consensus is that Strasburg is better than Hanson, but Hanson's pretty frickin' good.

    Terry (South Dakota): What's your hunch regarding the A's pick at #13.

John Manuel: We hear them on Mike Minor at 13 and also Tyler Matzek, having reports of Billy Beane and David Forst in to see Matzek.

    Nick (Albany): Hi John, thanks for the chat. I know I'm looking forward to the 2010 draft, but which shortstop do you like better, Fullerton's Christian Colon or Rice's Rick Hague? Hague's high strikeout numbers have to be concerning, and does Colon have the tools to be a top prospect? Thanks!

John Manuel: I'm on the Colon tip these days; I was not when he was in HS, and I was dead wrong.

    Kevin (San Diego): Aside from Strasburg, does Alex Whit have the best pure stuff in this draft? I was real surprised he was rated the second best right hander when Gibson and Crow are more consistenent and have better command.

John Manuel: White's stuff is better than Gibson and Crow's, in that he pitches off the fastball more than Gibson (who pitches off his slider too much for my liking), and has secondary stuff superior to that of Crow. Also, White is a plus athlete, plus compete, very good track record. But pure stuff? Scheppers is better than these other guys in pure stuff. Amond HS guys, Jacob Turner has better stuff as well, and Shelby Miller is in that discussion. Kyle Heckathorn and Rex Brothers too.

John Manuel: OK, everybody, that's two-plus hours, and there are still 250 questions in the queue. Sorry I didn't get to all of them, but thanks for being patient, and Andy from Philly, dude, take your ritalin or something. That's a lot of questions! See you next week.