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If you have a question, send it to askba@baseballamerica.com. Please include your full name and hometown if you'd like your letter to be considered for use in an upcoming column. Also, please understand that we can't respond to every question.

By Jim Callis

Dec. 29, 2004

There haven't been any free-agent signings requiring compensation since the last Ask BA, so I won't run the huge chart again. There are only five more compensation free agents on the market: Type A Carlos Beltran, Derek Lowe and Odalis Perez; and Type B Brent Mayne and Gregg Zaun.

Happy New Year!

    It looks like there are two possible trade scenarios brewing between the Yankees and Diamondbacks. Scenario One: Randy Johnson for Javier Vazquez; prospects Melky Cabrera, Abel Gomez and Brad Halsey; $12-15 million. Scenario Two: Johnson for Vazquez; prospects Eric Duncan and Dioner Navarro; $5-7 million. In your opinion, which scenario makes the most sense from the Yankees' perspective?

    Noel Hirsch
    Hartsdale, N.Y.

It sounds like we'll know which scenario the Diamondbacks will choose in the next few days. If I'm the Yankees, and I get to pick between these two options, it's no contest. I'm going with Scenario One.

New York's farm system is extremely thin. Duncan is clearly the Yankees' top prospect, and Navarro, even after a disappointing 2004, is superior to any of the farmhands in Scenario One. A potential middle-of-the-order slugger (Duncan) and potential starting catcher (Navarro) are better than a promising but possible tweener outfielder (Cabrera), a raw lefty who hasn't pitched above low Class A (Gomez) and a dime-a-dozen southpaw (Halsey). Duncan and Navarro are much more valuable than the difference in cash to New York, which could use them in other blockbuster deals.

While getting Johnson definitely would upgrade the Yankees, it won't guarantee them a championship and is another example of their short-sighted thinking. To get him, New York would be trading its only young starter of value and further weakening an already frail system. The Yankees keep trying to fix holes with their bankroll, but at some point soon they're either going to reach their limit or have eight-figure salaries at every position in their lineup and rotation.

    I was wondering if teams ever return Double-A and Triple-A Rule 5 picks? How many Double-A and Triple-A Rule 5 picks have actually turned into major leaguers?

    Brian Pelowski
    New York

Unlike with major league Rule 5 picks, there are no restrictions with Double-A and Triple-A Rule 5 choices. Their new teams are free to assign those players anywhere they want without having to offer them back to their former clubs.

The pickings are very slim, as might be expected considering that anyone protected on a major league or Triple-A roster—that's a total of 78 players—isn't eligible for the Triple-A phase. The pool for the Double-A phase is even shallower.

I did a quick scan of the minor league Rule 5 drafts from this decade and came up with five players who reached the majors: Nate Bland (Astros from Mets, 2002), Graham Koonce (Athletics from Padres, 2001), Aaron Miles (White Sox from Astros, 2000), Jorge Sosa (Mariners from Rockies, 2000) and Eric Valent (Mets from Reds, 2003). Bland was the only Double-A pick in that group, while Valent had played briefly in parts of three major league seasons before he was drafted. The most interesting selection was Sosa, an outfielder in the Colorado system who successfully converted to pitching in the Seattle organization—only to be lost in the major league Rule 5 draft the following year.

    I've been following Greg Jacobs' career since he played independent ball in Long Beach. How do you rate his chances of ever playing in the majors, either as a corner outfielder or a DH?

    Mark Rubin
    Cypress, Calif.

Jacobs has one of the most interesting résumés in the minors. The Angels drafted him in the 13th round in 1998 as a lefthander out of Cal State Fullerton, and he pitched his way to high Class A before getting traded to the Diamondbacks for future considerations (read: nothing) in 2001, then getting released by Arizona and Houston in a span of three months. With no other options for 2002, he hooked up with the Long Beach Breakers of the independent Western League—as an outfielder.

Jacobs showed he could hit, winning the batting title at .380 while adding 18 homers and 91 RBIs in 85 games for good measure. Charley Kerfeld, who managed the Chico Heat club that beat Long Beach in the final round of the playoffs, also doubled as a Mariners scout and signed Jacobs for Seattle. Jacobs has continued to put up gaudy numbers as a hitter in Organized Ball, batting .332/.398/.521 with 24 homers and 139 RBIs in 234 games.

At 28 Jacobs is too old to project as having a long big league career, though he should get at least a cup of coffee. He's one-dimensional, as his speed and outfield defense are lacking, but he has proven himself at every level and could help the Mariners off the bench. Maybe he can be Seattle's 2005 version of Bucky Jacobsen.

Dec. 23, 2004

We've had some more free-agent signings, so I've updated the compensation draft picks, with the most recent moves in bold. With the Mariners landing Adrian Beltre, their second-round pick now goes to the Dodgers, and the Diamondbacks have to settle for Seattle's third-rounder for Richie Sexson.

Roger Clemens accepted arbitration, so he'll either sign with the Astros or retire. And shortly after this edition of Ask BA was posted, Jason Varitek re-signed with the Red Sox, so he also comes off the pending compensation list.

First Round
17. Yankees (from Phillies for Type B Jon Lieber)
22. Marlins (from Giants for Type A Armando Benitez)
23. Red Sox (from Angels for Type A Orlando Cabrera)

28. Cardinals (from Red Sox for Type A Edgar Renteria)
29. Marlins (from Yankees for Type A Carl Pavano)

Supplemental First Round
31. Diamondbacks (for Type A Richie Sexson)
32. Rockies (for Type A Vinny Castilla)
33. Indians (for Type A Omar Vizquel)
34. Marlins (for Benitez)
35. Padres (for Type A David Wells)
36. Athletics (for Type A Damian Miller)
37. Angels (for Type A Troy Percival)
38. Twins (for Type A Corey Koskie)
39. Dodgers (for Type A Adrian Beltre)

40. Braves (for Type A Jaret Wright)
41. Red Sox (for Type A Pedro Martinez)
42. Cardinals (for Renteria)
43. Marlins (for Pavano)
44. Red Sox (for Cabrera)

45. Cardinals (for Type A Mike Matheny)
46. Mets (for failure to sign Philip Humber*)
47. Devil Rays (for failure to sign Jeff Niemann*)
48. Orioles (for failure to sign Wade Townsend)
49. Angels (for failure to sign Jered Weaver*)
50. Diamondbacks (for failure to sign Stephen Drew*)
(*First-round pick still eligible to sign with club.)

Second Round
53. Dodgers (from Mariners for Beltre)

54. Rockies (from Nationals for Castilla)
55. Athletics (from Brewers for Miller)
56. Twins (from Blue Jays for Koskie)
59. Red Sox (from Mets for Martinez)
60. Angels (from Tigers for Percival)
65. Yankees (from White Sox for Type B Orlando Hernandez)

72. Cardinals (from Giants for Matheny)
78. Padres (from Red Sox for Wells)
79. Braves (from Yankees for Wright)

Supplemental Second Round
81. Marlins (for Type C Mike Redmond, signed with Twins)
82. Twins (for Type C Henry Blanco, signed with Cubs)

Third Round
85. Diamondbacks (from Mariners for Sexson)

86. Twins (from Nationals for Type B Cristian Guzman)
104. Indians (from Giants for Vizquel)
110. Cubs (from Red Sox for Type B Matt Clement)

Remaining free agents requiring compensation if they switch teams:

Type A: Carlos Beltran (Hou), Derek Lowe (Bos), Odalis Perez (LA).
Type B: Brent Mayne (LA), Gregg Zaun (Tor).

Happy holidays, everyone.

    Where would Dan Meyer rank on the A's Top 10? Do you see him beginning the season in Triple-A? What do you see as his upside?

    Jim Schubert
    Milwaukee

    Would the new A's prospects (Daric Barton, Dan Haren, Dan Meyer) have ranked in the Oakland Top 10 had the list been published after the big trades?

    Simon Boisvert
    Montreal

    Where would Daric Barton and Dan Meyer rank on the A's Top 10, and where do the trades of Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder put their farm system as a whole in comparison to the rest of the league? I don't know if Kiko Calero, Dan Haren and Charles Thomas still are considered prospects, but Oakland now seems to have a stocked system.

    Dave Molchan
    San Jose

    Can you give your opinion on the A's recent trades and tell us approximately where the new prospects would fit into the Oakland Top 10?

    Jeff Siegel
    New York

    Where would newly acquired Daric Barton, Dan Haren and Dan Meyer rank on the A's Top 10?

    Jonathan Hulgan
    Baton Rouge

    BA's Braves Top 10 list appeared on the website three days after Dan Meyer went to Oakland in the deal for Tim Hudson. Meyer was the Braves' No. 4 prospect entering the 2004 season and followed with a solid, promising year. Where might he have ranked among Braves prospects if the trade hadn't materialized?

    Larry Swindell
    Moraga, Calif.

    Just in case you haven't received 200 other e-mails requesting this, I'd like to know how the recent Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder deals would impact the A's Top 10.

    Dan Troy
    Davis, Calif.

    After the recent trades of Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder, where would Daric Barton and Dan Meyer have ranked on the A's Top 10?

    Dan Thompson
    Melbourne, Australia

    Where do the A's new acquisitions fall on their Top 10? And what shot does Oakland have at the division title with Anaheim and Seattle retooling?

    Mike Kaufman
    Davis, Calif.

    With the trades of Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder, the A's got a boatload of prospects. Where would Daric Barton, Dan Haren and Dan Meyer rank on the Oakland Top 10?

    Sal Baxamusa
    Cambridge, Mass.

And the winner of "Most Popular Ask BA Question For 2004" goes to . . .

Let's get the most popular version of those questions out of the way first. When the 2005 Prospect Handbook comes out, Barton will be the No. 2 prospect, sandwiched between outfielders Nick Swisher and Javi Herrera. Meyer will be No. 4, behind Herrera and ahead of righthander Joe Blanton. Haren has too many major league innings to meet our definition of a prospect any longer, but it he still qualified, I'd put him just ahead of Meyer.

Now for the lightning round to answer all the other queries:

• It looks like the A's are expecting Meyer to make their Opening Day rotation. Despite a 2.79 ERA, he didn't exactly dominate Triple-A last season, so it's possible that he'll need more time at that level. With a 91-93 mph fastball, a tight slider and an improving changeup, he has a ceiling as a No. 2 starter and the realistic possibility of becoming a No. 3. No question, he's one of the best lefty prospects in the game.

• Like Haren, Calero and Thomas no longer qualify as prospects. Adding Barton and Meyer certainly ratchets up the A's system a few notches. We haven't started our organization rankings yet, but eyeballing the American League very quickly, I'd put Oakland fifth behind Anaheim and Tampa Bay (who have more impact talent), and Cleveland and Minnesota (who have more depth).

• In the issue we just completed, I wrote my column on the A's trades. While it's very possible that Hudson and/or Mulder have peaked and that Oakland was wise to trade them a year too early rather than a year too late, I think they're placing a lot of faith in Blanton, Haren and Meyer all coming through. The odds are that one of them will be as good as they looked in the minors, and that the other two will be somewhat disappointing. Calero and Juan Cruz will help the bullpen, Thomas is a complementary player and Barton has a sweet bat but no certain position. The A's have won primarily because of their starting pitching, and now they're rolling the dice with their rotation.

• Before the trade, Meyer ranked sixth on our Braves Top 10. Jose Capellan (since traded to Milwaukee) was third, and Meyer sat between righthanders Kyle Davies and Anthony Lerew.

• Oakland still has a shot to win the American League West, but I'd pick Anaheim to repeat in 2005. I wouldn't say the Angels are "retooling" by any means. They're trying to get stronger. The A's look like an 85-90 win team to me, and I don't think that will be enough. Texas probably will take a step back next season, but Seattle will be improved.

    With the Red Sox signing Edgar Renteria to a four-year contract, where does that leave their No. 1 prospect, Hanley Ramirez? Do you think Renteria moves to third base in a couple of years, or will Ramirez become trade bait?

    Richard Preciose
    Allenwood, N.J.

I never bought the premise that with Ramirez destined to arrive in the majors in 2006, the Red Sox would seek a stopgap solution at shortstop who would just keep the position warm for their No. 1 prospect. Boston has a chance to win another World Series this year, and they're not going to weaken that by ignoring the present and focusing too much on the future. Renteria was the best free-agent shortstop on the market, and the Red Sox upgraded themselves at that position by signing him. Four years and $40 million might seem excessive, but Boston also has money to burn.

With the Red Sox, any prospect who joins the lineup has to be able to produce right away. Their massive payroll means they shouldn't have to rebuild anytime soon. Instead of counting on Ramirez to pull his weight in 2006, Boston now can ease him into the lineup. Renteria's presence shouldn't be an issue until 2007. At that point, if Ramirez is a better defender than a 31-year-old Renteria, Renteria likely would move to second base. If Renteria has a better glove, Ramirez could slide over to second or third (where he still would have more than enough bat).

It's also very possible that Ramirez will be used as the key to a blockbuster trade. He's one of the best prospects in baseball, and the Red Sox could help their big league club considerably if they were willing to trade him.

Dec. 15, 2004

My emailbag continues to overflow with free-agent compensation questions, so I'll update the list of picks that have changed hands and the supplemental picks that have been created to this point. Some of these deals haven't been officially announced, but all have been reported as completed.

First Round
17. Yankees (from Phillies for Type B Jon Lieber)
22. Marlins (from Giants for Type A Armando Benitez)
28. Cardinals (from Red Sox for Type A Edgar Renteria)
29. Marlins (from Yankees for Type A Carl Pavano)

Supplemental First Round
31. Diamondbacks (for Type A Richie Sexson)
32. Rockies (for Type A Vinny Castilla)
33. Indians (for Type A Omar Vizquel)
34. Marlins (for Benitez)
35. Padres (for Type A David Wells)
36. Athletics (for Type A Damian Miller)
37. Angels (for Type A Troy Percival)
38. Twins (for Type A Corey Koskie)
39. Braves (for Type A Jaret Wright)
40. Red Sox (for Type A Pedro Martinez)
41. Cardinals (for Renteria)
42. Marlins (for Pavano)
43. Cardinals (for Type A Mike Matheny)
44. Mets (for failure to sign Philip Humber*)
45. Devil Rays (for failure to sign Jeff Niemann*)
46. Orioles (for failure to sign Wade Townsend)
47. Angels (for failure to sign Jered Weaver*)
48. Diamondbacks (for failure to sign Stephen Drew*)
(*First-round pick still eligible to sign with club.)

Second Round
51. Diamondbacks (from Mariners for Sexson)
52. Rockies (from Nationals for Castilla)
53. Athletics (from Brewers for Miller)
54. Twins (from Blue Jays for Koskie)
57. Red Sox (from Mets for Martinez)
58. Angels (from Tigers for Percival)
70. Cardinals (from Giants for Matheny)
76. Padres (from Red Sox for Wells)
77. Braves (from Yankees for Wright)

Supplemental Second Round
79. Marlins (for Type C Mike Redmond, signed with Twins)
80. Twins (for Type C Henry Blanco, signed with Cubs)

Third Round
84. Twins (from Nationals for Type B Cristian Guzman)
102. Indians (from Giants for Vizquel)

Remaining free agents requiring compensation if they switch teams:

Type A: Wilson Alvarez (LA), Carlos Beltran (Hou), Adrian Beltre (LA), Orlando Cabrera (Bos), Roger Clemens (Hou), Derek Lowe (Bos), Odalis Perez (LA), Placido Polanco (Phi), Jason Varitek (Bos).

Type B: Matt Clement (ChC), Orlando Hernandez (NYY), Brent Mayne (LA), Ron Villone (Sea), Gregg Zaun (Tor).

Type C: Todd Greene (Col).

    I guess I can understand why the Cubs wouldn't protect Andy Sisco, Luke Hagerty, Chadd Blasko and Jae-Kuk Ryu from the Rule 5 draft if their 40-man roster was full. But Chicago had five openings on its 40-man roster. What could have been the Cubs' thinking in failing to protect these young pitching prospects?

    Phil Stenholm
    Tempe, Ariz.

    Why didn't the Cubs didn't protect Andy Sisco and Luke Hagerty? By my count, the Cubs only had 35 players on their 40-man roster. Why wouldn't they protect five more players? If you drop someone from your 40-man roster, do they become a free agent? Is there some strategy as to why you don't want to add a player to your 40-man roster too soon?

    William Strons
    Wheaton, Ill.

    What's up with general manager Jim Hendry and the Cubs? Why didn't they protect Luke Hagerty and Andy Sisco? Do they honestly think guys like John Koronka, Will Ohman, Carlos Vasquez and Mike Wuertz have more ceiling?

    Doug Cartwright
    Madison, Wis.

Sisco, Hagerty, Blasko and Ryu all had physical problems in 2004. Sisco bulked up and got tight, and for most of the year his stuff was way down. Hagerty was coming back from Tommy John surgery in 2003, Blasko had a shoulder operation and Ryu was bothered by elbow and back problems. (Blasko, incidentally, didn't have to be protected because he signed a 2003 contract when he turned pro.) The Cubs must have figured that with those setbacks their pitchers wouldn't be attractive to other clubs in the major league Rule 5 draft.

Guess again. Sisco was the second player picked, going to the Royals, while the Orioles took Hagerty sixth and traded him to the Marlins.

What would have been the downside of protecting five more players on the 40-man roster? Not much. The Cubs would have started the option clock ticking on anyone else they protected, meaning they'd have to stick in the majors by Opening Day 2008 or risk being lost on waivers. If that would have been an issue for any of those pitchers in 2008, it also would mean that their careers weren't really headed anywhere at that point.

Teams continue to add to their 40-man rosters as they sign free agents and make trades. If space becomes an issue, they can remove players from the roster by putting them on waivers. The Cubs will make additions to their roster, and they obviously decided to risk losing players in the Rule 5 draft now rather than on waivers later.

The Cubs, like all teams, don't base their 40-man decisions entirely on ceilings. They also have to consider how likely players are to reach those ceilings, and how soon they can contribute at the major league level. Ohman and Wuertz could play significant roles in Chicago's bullpen, and Koronka has an outside chance of doing so. No doubt, a fully healthy Sisco and Hagerty have higher ceilings than that group.

Remember, however, that just because Sisco and Hagerty got drafted, that doesn't mean the Cubs won't get them back. Before either lefty can be sent to the minors, he must clear waivers and then be offered back to Chicago for half of the $50,000 draft price. Of the 20 players taken in the 2003 major league Rule 5 draft, 10 returned to their original clubs.

    I'm a big Brewers fan and I love the Dan Kolb trade. My question to you is about the rumored Tim Hudson trade to the Dodgers, which would send Edwin Jackson and Antonio Perez to the Athletics. If you were Milwaukee GM Doug Melvin, would you trade Ben Sheets to Los Angeles for Jackson and Perez right now? Will Sheets' trade value be greater after the 2005 season? Who would you want from the Dodgers' point of view, Hudson or Sheets?

    Andrew Rouse
    Salisbury, N.C.

I'm not a GM, but I do play one in Ask BA from time to time. I still believe in Edwin Jackson despite his disappointing season, and I think Antonio Perez could be a decent second baseman (or at least a good utilityman) in the major leagues. But if I'm running the Brewers, I wouldn't trade Sheets for those two guys right now.

Sheets is starting to get expensive—he's due for a big raise in arbitration after making $2.45 million in 2004—which is always a concern in Milwaukee. But he's one of the best pitchers in the majors and the Brewers control his rights for at least two more years. Believe it or not, they could be on the verge of contention at that time, and it might make sense to sign him to a long-term extension. Whether Jackson can become as good as Sheets remains to be seen, and Milwaukee doesn't need Perez with Rickie Weeks on the way.

Sheets' trade value will be even greater at midseason, when clubs won't have the option of free agency to find big league starters. Last summer, the White Sox gave up a young big league catcher (Miguel Olivo) and two good prospects (Jeremy Reed, Mike Morse) to get Freddy Garcia from the Mariners, while the Mets included Scott Kazmir in a trade for Victor Zambrano. If Garcia and Zambrano can command that kind of talent, Sheets should be able to command more than Jackson and Perez.

From the Dodgers' perspective, I'd rather have Sheets than Hudson. For one, he's a better pitcher. He's also three years younger and unlike Hudson, he won't be a free agent after the 2005 season. Sheets is also a better health risk. I know at least one team that could afford Hudson is worried about the condition of his hip. There are no medical red flags with Sheets, who should be healthier after offseason back surgery.

    I've been following the Ask BA commentary on free-agent compensation. The question I've always wondered about: How is the order for the supplemental picks determined?

    John DeHart
    Redondo Beach, Calif.

That's a good question. When I was putting together the free-agent compensation charts last winter, I thought the supplemental picks went in the order of the Elias Sports Bureau rankings. That would seem to be the most equitable way, giving the team that lost the best player the best supplemental pick.

But that's not the case. For the most part, the supplemental rounds go in the same order as the regular rounds. So the Diamondbacks, who own the No. 1 overall pick, also wrapped up the first supplemental choice (No. 31) when Richie Sexson signed with the Mariners.

The only exceptions are that all of the free-agent compensation picks come before the unsigned first-round-pick compensation choices (and those teams go in the order they drafted the unsigned players). And among the free-agent compensation picks, every team must pick once before any club can pick twice. The Marlins lost two Type A free agents (Armando Benitez, Carl Pavano), but instead of getting the 34th and 35th choices, they get the 34th and have to wait before all the teams losing Type A free agents pick once before getting the 42nd selection.

Dec. 8, 2004

Free-agent compensation is the hot topic du jour at Ask BA. You wouldn't believe how many emails I've gotten about the status of Henry Blanco and Jon Lieber, so let's get right to it . . .

    Can you update the list of Type A, B and C free agents to indicate which ones were offered arbitration and what they'll yield in terms of compensation if they change teams?

    Mitchell Cohen
    East Brunswick, N.J.

Yesterday was the deadline for teams to offer their free agents arbitration, which they had to do in order to qualify for compensation. For a Type A player (one whose performance over the last two years, as determined by Elias Sports Bureau rankings, puts him in the top 30 percent at his position), the compensation is the signing team's first-round pick plus a supplemental first-rounder. For a Type B (31-50 percent), it's the signing team's first-round choice. For a Type C (51-60), it's a supplemental second-rounder.

However, if the signing team picks in the upper half of the first round, that choice is protected and it loses its second-round selection instead. Also, Type C players who have been free agents in the past don't yield any compensation.

There already have been 10 free-agent signings that will require compensation. Additionally, there are still five teams who haven't signed first-round picks from the 2004 draft, and each will receive a supplemental first-rounder next year if they can't get those deals done. So let's start by looking at choices that have changed hands or been added to the supplemental rounds at this point:

First Round
17. Yankees (from Phillies for Type B Jon Lieber)
22. Marlins (from Giants for Type A Armando Benitez)
29. Braves (from Yankees for Type A Jaret Wright)

Supplemental First Round
31. Rockies (for Type A Vinny Castilla)
32. Indians (for Type A Omar Vizquel)
33. Marlins (for Benitez)
34. Athletics (for Type A Damian Miller)
35. Angels (for Type A Troy Percival)
36. Braves (for Wright)
37. Mets (for failure to sign Philip Humber*)
38. Devil Rays (for failure to sign Jeff Niemann*)
39. Orioles (for failure to sign Wade Townsend)
40. Angels (for failure to sign Jered Weaver*)
41. Diamondbacks (for failure to sign Stephen Drew*)
(*First-round pick still eligible to sign with club.)

Second Round
45. Rockies (from Nationals for Castilla)
46. Athletics (from Brewers for Miller)
51. Angels (from Tigers for Percival)
63. Indians (from Giants for Vizquel)

Supplemental Second Round
72. Marlins (for Type C Mike Redmond, signed with Twins)
73. Twins (for Type C Henry Blanco, signed with Cubs)

Third Round
77. Twins (from Nationals for Type B Cristian Guzman)

By my count, there are 22 remaining free agents who will require compensation if they switch teams:

Type A
Wilson Alvarez (LA), Carlos Beltran (Hou), Adrian Beltre (LA), Orlando Cabrera (Bos), Roger Clemens (Hou), Corey Koskie (Min), Derek Lowe (Bos), Pedro Martinez (Bos), Mike Matheny (StL), Carl Pavano (Fla), Odalis Perez (LA), Placido Polanco (Phi), Edgar Renteria (StL), Richie Sexson (Ari), Jason Varitek (Bos), David Wells (SD).

Type B
Matt Clement (ChC), Orlando Hernandez (NYY), Brent Mayne (LA), Ron Villone (Sea), Gregg Zaun (Tor).

Type C
Todd Greene (Col).

The Red Sox and Dodgers stand to gain the most extra draft picks, though they're expected to re-sign a few of their free agents. Boston has four Type A players: Orlando Cabrera, Derek Lowe, Pedro Martinez and Jason Varitek. Los Angeles has three Type A free agents in Wilson Alvarez, Adrian Beltre and Odalis Perez, plus one Type B in Brent Mayne. Among the Type A free agents not offered arbitration because their clubs were afraid they might accept it: Carlos Delgado (Blue Jays), J.D. Drew (Braves), Steve Finley (Dodgers), Jeff Kent (Astros) and Magglio Ordonez (White Sox).

    I have followed Mariners outfield prospect Chris Snelling for a while. He showed a lot of promise early and got called up to Seattle in 2002 at age 20, but he has run into knee and wrist problems ever since. Where do you see Snelling's career going? I really hope he can get rid of the injury bug.

    Bob Romoga
    Cleveland

There have been two constants in Snelling's career since he signed out of Australia in 1999. He has hit everywhere he has gone, putting up career averages of .319/.398/.486 in 353 minor league games, and he has been hurt in each of the last five seasons. His litany of injuries include a broken left hand and ligament damage in his left wrist in 2000; a stress fracture in his right ankle in 2001; a broken right thumb and a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in 2002; tendinitis and then a torn meniscus in the same knee in 2003; and a deep bone bruise in his right wrist in 2004.

Snelling is so aggressive and wants to play so badly—his bone bruise came from when he swung a bat too much trying to get ready for the season—but he needs to tone it down so he can stay on the diamond. I have no doubt he'll hit for average in the majors, but he may have a 15-homer ceiling and that may not be enough to win him a left-field job. The Mariners have several outfield options in the majors and upper minors, so he needs to seize his next opportunity. Snelling might have established himself as an everyday player in 2002 had he not blown out his knee in his eighth big league game.

    Can you give me a quick scouting report on Astros righthander Robert Stiehl? Does he have anywhere near the stuff he had pre-injury? His strikeout and walk rates were both very impressive for someone who hadn't been in live competition in almost four years. I assume he still has some upside as a reliever and will be on the Astros Top 30 list.

    Kevin Roberts
    Spring, Texas

Stiehl rocketed up the draft charts in 2000 after he moved from catcher and hit 97 mph in his first start at El Camino (Calif.) JC. The Astros took him 27th overall and projected him as the next Troy Percival, who also was a catcher during his amateur career.

He got off to a very good start as a pro, posting a 1.92 ERA and 79 strikeouts in 69 innings, but his shoulder gave out while he was pitching in the rotation as low Class A Lexington in 2001. Stiehl required rotator-cuff surgery, then reinjured his shoulder during rehab and required another operation. He missed all of 2002 and worked just three innings in 2003.

Stiehl, who turns 24 tomorrow, put up a nifty 74-21 strikeout-walk ratio in 62 innings at Lexington this year. He also had a 4-5, 4.09 record and allowed a .246 opponent average. But his arm hasn't bounced back to where it once was.

Though he has worked diligently in his rehab, Stiehl's fastball now sits at 88-90 mph and occasionally touches 92 mph. He has been able to fool low Class A hitters with a good curveball and his changeup is coming along, but he no longer looks like a power closer in the making. The Astros love his makeup and will give him every opportunity to succeed, but he won't make my Top 30 list in the 2005 Prospect Handbook.

Dec. 1, 2004

Not that I get to vote, but here's who I'd pick off the Hall of Fame ballot. I'd choose eight guys: two no-brainers (Wade Boggs, Ryne Sandberg), four solid choices (Bert Blyleven, Goose Gossage, Bruce Sutter, Alan Trammell) and two guys I'm sort of on the fence with but would give the benefit of the doubt (Jack Morris, Jim Rice).

I like to think my Cooperstown standards are very high, and I don't think I'm undermining them by advocating all eight of these players entering the Hall. Baseball already has the most exclusive hall of fame among the major sports, and these guys wouldn't cheapen the honor.

    I have two questions concerning BA's less-than-flattering comments about Peter Angelos and his interfering on Draft Day 2004. First, given the lack of success of Orioles first-round and supplemental first-round picks from 1998-2002, can you blame Angelos? Second, as we know, three of BA's top prospects entering the draft (Jered Weaver, Stephen Drew and Chris Nelson) slid considerably. It seems to me that 10-15 teams passed up on at least two of these guys if not all three, and surely several other teams had one of these three as the best available player besides Baltimore. Perhaps other teams had better communication between their owner and those drafting, or those drafting had a better understanding or acceptance of their draft budget, but I would be shocked if you told me that Baltimore was the only franchise that didn't select the player at the top of its draft board. So why is it BA calls out Angelos, who may have spent more money than any owner on the drafts from 1998-2002?

    Adam Forster
    Clifton, N.J.

There's no disputing that Baltimore's track record with first-round and supplemental first-round picks from 1998-2002 is not good. Just take a look at the names—Rick Elder, Mamon Tucker, Mike Paradis, Rich Stahl, Larry Bigbie, Keith Reed, Josh Cenate, Scott Rice, Brian Roberts, Beau Hale, Tripper Johnson, Chris Smith, Mike Fontenot, Bryan Bass, Adam Loewen—and little more needs to be said. There are a lot of busts, a few guys with a chance to be decent big leaguers and one very high-ceiling lefty with a torn labrum (Loewen). Total cost in bonuses: $20,907,500.

And it's obviously Angelos' right as the owner to decide how much of his money to spend and how to spend it. But he also deserves the blame for the first-round fiasco with Wade Townsend in 2004, and isn't guiltless for some of the past picks who flamed out.

Recently fired Tony DeMacio had perhaps less autonomy than any scouting director in the game. Many of Baltimore's first-round picks were compromise decisions involving several club officials, some of whom had little scouting expertise, and many of them were chosen because they'd be willing to sign for less than slot money. It's Angelos' fault for fostering that kind of atmosphere, so even though he wrote the checks he also was part of the problem.

With this year's draft, the Orioles were never seriously on Weaver, BA's top-rated prospect who fell to the Angels at No. 12 because he reportedly wants an eight-figure big league contract. Baltimore was believed to have some interest in Drew, BA's top-rated position player, but decided it didn't want to give him a major league deal in the high seven figures. He dropped to the Diamondbacks at No. 15. Several other clubs backed away from both players, as Adam notes.

DeMacio and his staff wanted to take Nelson, who didn't slide because of his bonus demands. He signed for slot money ($2.15 million) after going to the Rockies, who picked right after the Orioles. Nelson had a chance to go as high as No. 4 to the Devil Rays, and he ultimately lasted until No. 9 because there was a run on pitching at the top of the draft.

Angelos didn't want Baltimore to take a high schooler, and he wanted a college pitcher who would sign for no more (and preferably less) than MLB's slot recommendation of $2.2 million. As misguided as basing a decision on demographics may be, I won't dispute Angelos' right to run the club as he sees fit. But it's indefensible for Angelos to relay those wishes to DeMacio after the draft already had begun.

Not only did DeMacio find out minutes before he'd pick that Nelson was off limits, they also were supposed to choose a player who would accept certain financial parameters—with no opportunity to discuss those parameters with him beforehand. Had they been given time to do their homework, the Orioles scouting department probably would have learned that Townsend wasn't going to react well to a lowball $1.85 million offer (the same bonus Baltimore's 2003 first-rounder, Nick Markakis, took in a predraft deal as the No. 7 overall pick). They could have opted for Thomas Diamond, Bill Bray, David Purcey or whomever. I like Townsend more than those other pitchers, and don't fault DeMacio for choosing him. But it sure would have been nice for a floundering team to be able to sign the eighth overall choice.

    I was wondering why Mark Teahen was left off BA's Arizona Fall League Top 20 Prospects list. He's just 23, and he finished third in the AFL in hitting (.385) and on-base percentage (.453), plus sixth in RBIs (25). He plays a premium defensive position well and hits. I know he doesn't project to hit 40 homers a year, but there should be more to a prospect than just raw power.

    Craig Weddle
    Sun Prairie, Wis.

When we put together our AFL Top 20, we did more than just look at how the players performed in Arizona. The caliber of pitching in the AFL is not good, and you can't rush to judgment on a guy just because he puts up big numbers. Since the AFL created an official MVP award in 2002, the winners have been Ken Harvey, Jason Dubois and Chris Shelton. Our No. 1 prospects during the same time have been Mark Teixeira, B.J. Upton and Delmon Young. Which group would you rather build around?

Our prospect lists are based on a combination of a player's ceiling and the likelihood that he'll reach that ceiling. AFL performance is a very small part of our AFL prospect rankings. Contrary to what may be believed in some corners of the Internet, we don't ignore statistics. But you can't forget about tools and skills either, and a player's track record in the minors is much more important than how he did in Arizona, unless he has made some significant adjustment or progress.

Teahen may open next year as Kansas City's third baseman, but I see him topping out as an average big league third baseman at best. He not only doesn't project to hit 40 homers a year, he may struggle to hit more than 10-15. He hit 14 in 139 minor league games last year, and that was while playing in some very favorable hitting environments. Though managers ranked him the best defensive third baseman in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League this year, he's more competent than spectacular.

If all goes well, Teahen may be the next Joe Randa. That would make him a useful player, but not a cornerstone. No matter what it may say in "Moneyball," Teahen isn't going to be the next Jason Giambi.

    After the Nationals signed Vinny Castilla (a Type A free agent) and Cristian Guzman (a Type B), how do their lost draft picks get split up? Assuming the former teams offer arbitration, Colorado should get a first-rounder and a supplemental, while Minnesota should get a first-rounder. So who gets what?

    Christian Ruzich
    Julian, Calif.

When a team signs more than one Type A or B free agent and forfeits multiple draft picks as compensation, which club gets which choice is determined by their Elias Sports Bureau status and ranking. Castilla (Type A and 76.720) came out ahead of Guzman (Type B and 59.091), so the Rockies are entitled to the higher selection. Because the Nationals choose in the upper half of the first round, that pick is protected. So Colorado will get Washington's second-round pick (as well as a supplemental first-round pick) and Minnesota will get its third-rounder. That's subject to change, of course, should the Nationals land more free agents.

The chronology of the transactions doesn't matter. The Giants signed Omar Vizquel 16 days before they grabbed Armando Benitez. Both are Type A free agents, with Benitez (85.478) outranking Vizquel (66.234). So the Marlins wind up with San Francisco's first-rounder (No. 22 overall) and the Indians got bumped down to the Giants' second-rounder. Florida and Cleveland also receive supplemental first-round choices.

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