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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

Jan. 30, 2004

The 2004 Prospect Handbook is just about out the door to the printer, cause for great celebration in Durham, N.C., and Winnetka, Ill. I'll be taking some time off to recuperate, so there will be no Ask BA next week, but let's get to some questions to tide you over.

    Who has the higher ceiling, Alexis Rios or Delmon Young? Who will hit for more power?

    Brad Grant
    Chicago

Rios and Young are arguably the two best outfield prospects in the game, though I'd also put Grady Sizemore in there with them. Though Rios is more athletic, runs better and has a chance to play center field, I'd pick Young over him both for overall ceiling and power. Rios can do more things but Young will be a more dangerous hitter, and that's ultimately what they're going to be judged on.

Rios is starting to show more home run power and had a monster winter in Puerto Rico, but he doesn't quite have the same pop that Young does. Once they get established in the majors, I could see Young hitting .300 with 40 homers annually, and Rios batting .320 with 30 longballs.

    I was wondering if there will be many potential high draft picks in June who will commit to major college football programs? Who will be going the Roscoe Crosby/Cedric Benson route versus the Joe Mauer/Jeff Francoeur path? I'm specifically interested in the baseball potential of Lincoln High (Tallahassee, Fla.) righthander/center fielder Joe Bauserman, who signed with Ohio State as a quarterback.

    Joe Falconi
    Columbus, Ohio

We just completed our AL Central Top 10 Prospects/Early Draft Preview issue, and draft guru Allan Simpson's preseason Top 100 High School Prospects list contained six players who are football recruits:

Rank  Player, Pos., Hometown                       College (Pos.)
20    Mike Rozier, lhp, Stockbridge, Ga.           North Carolina (QB)
26    Joe Bauserman, rhp, Tallahassee, Fla.        Ohio State (QB)
30    Tate Casey, rhp, Longview, Texas             Florida (TE)
38    Matt Tuiasosopo, of/rhp, Woodinville, Wash.  Washington (QB)
84    D.T. McDowell, rhp/of, Atlanta               Nebraska (QB)
94    Ryan Pond, 3b, Chesapeake, Va.               North Carolina State (QB)

The best football prospect of the bunch, according to national recruiting experts, is Tuiasosopo, whose brother Marques is a quarterback with the NFL's Oakland Raiders. Marques also was a highly regarded baseball prospect coming out of high school, but went to Washington to play football. I'd suspect that Matt would be the toughest player to sign out of the above group, while the others probably could be persuaded to turn pro if the bonus money is right.

Bauserman currently projects as a second- or third-round pick in June. Though he plays both ways at Lincoln, he'll be drafted as a pitcher. He's a strong 6-foot-2, 220-pound righty with an effortless delivery. He has a low-90s fastball and a decent curveball. It doesn't have tremendous break, but he throws it fairly hard and commands it well.

Though he's the only quarterback who has verbally committed to be part of Ohio State's 2004 recruiting class, Bauserman reportedly won't file a letter of intent on national signing day (Feb. 4). He wants to see where he'll go in the baseball draft, and if he joins the Buckeyes it likely will be for the 2005 season.

    Do you agree with the assumption that Southern California catcher Jeff Clement easily can be the first pick in the 2005 draft? He's already the fourth-ranked prospect in his college class (assuming Micah Owings turns pro this year), he hit .298/.402/.649 last year as a freshman, and he appears to be at least decent defensively. When you factor in the premium position that he plays along with his power potential, I don't see how any team with a catching need could pass him up in the draft. The 2005 draft is a long ways off, but if his offensive production continues to improve and he stays healthy, you have to believe he's the top prospect, right?

    Jeff Grover
    Melbourne, Fla.

Clement is certainly a contender to be the No. 1 pick in 2005, but I certainly wouldn't use the word "easily" in that regard. Georgia Tech shortstop Tyler Greene, Stanford first baseman/outfielder John Mayberry Jr. and Baylor righthander Mark McCormick also are in the mix. So are high schoolers such as Virginia shortstop Justin Upton and Georgia lefty Miers Quigley.

Clement has outstanding lefthanded power, launching a national-record 75 homers in high school and 21 more as a freshman last year. To go No. 1, he'd have to prove that he can catch at the big league level. Right now, he's viewed as an adequate defender with a decent arm. He threw out 26 percent of basestealers last year for the Trojans.

Assuming that the union allows the owners to change the draft order to be based solely on reverse order of winning percentage with no regard to league, Detroit is a heavy favorite to own the No. 1 pick in 2005. In 1999, the Tigers spent the third pick and $6.75 million on Eric Munson, another Southern California catcher with a profile very similar to Clement's. Munson has developed much more slowly than expected, and that alone might dissuade Detroit from taking Clement at No. 1. Also, while teams almost always take the best available player with their early picks, the Tigers might look for something other than a catcher if they close their $40 million dollar proposal with free agent Ivan Rodriguez.

Jan. 23, 2004

We're making a big push to finish the Prospect Handbook, so unfortunately there will be no Ask BA today. We'll return with a fresh edition next week.

Jan. 16, 2004

Does anyone really believe that there's spirited competition for Greg Maddux' services? The only thing more far-fetched is the idea that Ivan Rodriguez entered the offseason hoping he'd wind up in Detroit. If I were running the Cubs, I'd give Maddux and agent Scott Boras a deadline and move on, rather than be played in a bidding war that doesn't exist.

    Who has a higher ceiling as a hitter, Joe Mauer or Justin Morneau? While Mauer looks like a Jason Kendall type, maybe with a higher average and slightly more pop, when Morneau is on the top of his game, he resembles Jason Giambi. I'd much rather have a hitter like Giambi than like Kendall. Is Mauer clearly ahead of Morneau offensively, or is the gap closer than most people realize?

    Mike Marinaro
    Tampa

I answered a question from someone worried about Mauer's lack of power in the Sept. 20 Ask BA. Mauer may have just nine homers in 277 pro games, but he's a magician with the bat. He always has been quite young for his league, yet he has a career .330 average with significantly more walks (129) than strikeouts (101). Power is often the last tool to develop, and as Mauer learns to loft more pitches and pull more pitches, he'll hit more homers. The Twins believe he has the pop to hit 35-40 homers annually if he wanted to focus on power, though he'll probably be a guy who hits for a very high average and hits 20 homers.

Mauer was 20 last season, when he hit .338/.398/.434 while splitting time evenly between high Class A and Double-A. When Morneau was 20 in 2001, he tore up low Class A and then batted .272/.359/.396 in high Class A (53 games) and Double-A (10 games).

I think both will be stars for the Twins, so I'm not knocking Morneau. If I have to slap numbers on them, I see Mauer hitting .310/.400/.500 and Morneau hitting .280/.360/.540 in their primes. That would make Mauer a slightly more valuable offensive player, and when you factor in their positions and how good Mauer is defensively, he's clearly the better prospect.

    I'm curious about Matt Mauck's minor league stats. I know he was drafted by the Cubs. I would like to know why things didn't work out in baseball. His decision to switch to football certainly was a good one.

    D.L. Huyck
    Prosperity, S.C.

Mauck was the Cubs' sixth-round pick in 1997 out of Jasper (Ind.) High. Incidentally, eight rounds later Chicago picked Antwaan Randel El. He went on to star at quarterback at Indiana before becoming a wide receiver for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Mauck spent four years in the Cubs system, putting up these numbers:

Yr  Team           AB  HR  RBI   AVG   OBP   SLG
97  AZL Cubs (R)  144   1   19  .285  .386  .417
98  AZL Cubs (R)  125   1   16  .240  .372  .376
99  Lansing (A)   298   8   59  .221  .336  .359  
00  Lansing (A)    99   2   13  .152  .232  .273

    TOTALS        666  12  107  .228  .339  .362

Drafted as a third baseman, Mauck converted to catching in 1998. His performance at the plate declined each year until he decided to give up on baseball in June 2000. That epiphany came at low Class A Lansing, which also happens to be the site of Michigan State, which had signed him as a quarterback out of high school. Nick Saban, the Spartans coach who had recruited him, had recently taken the job at Louisiana State, and Mauck contacted him.

Saban gave Mauck a scholarship, and after redshirting as a freshman, he compiled an 18-2 record that ranks as the best ever by a Tigers quarterback. He led LSU to a share of the 2003 national title, throwing a school-record 28 touchdown passes. He just declared himself eligible for the NFL draft, in which he likely will go in the middle rounds. Mauck is just 6-foot-1 and will be 25 on draft day, not typical numbers for an NFL quarterback, but he's a good athlete with a strong arm.

    While it's common knowledge that John Olerud began professional baseball as a two-way player, pitching and playing first base, I would like to know if he ever played the outfield. I seem to remember that when Olerud's path at first base was blocked by Fred McGriff, the Blue Jays flirted with converting Olerud to an outfielder, perhaps in instructional league or in spring training. Could you confirm this and, if so, tell me when this experiment occurred?

    Jeffrey Marcil
    Hong Kong

Olerud never played the outfield and I don't think the Jays ever considered the idea. One of my first big stories at Baseball America was a feature on Olerud, and I spent some time at his first instructional league camp. While he did spend some cursory time on the mound, Toronto knew Olerud had a special bat and was preparing him to join their big league lineup.

At that time, the Jays had George Bell and Junior Felix on their outfield corners, Glenallen Hill and Mark Whiten trying to break into the majors, plus Derek Bell in the upper minors. They felt comfortable with their outfield situation, and Olerud's lack of speed would have severely limited his range out there. He spent 1990 as a platoon DH and backup to McGriff, then took over at first base when Toronto traded McGriff to the Padres in the offseason.

Jan. 9, 2004

I'm not going to get sucked into discussing Mr. Self-Serving, Pete Rose, so let's update the draft-pick compensation chart. Since the last time I ran it, David Wells (Type A) double-crossed the Yankees to sign with the Padres and B.J. Surhoff (Type B) re-signed with the Orioles. So here's where we stand today:

First Round
22. Twins (from Mariners for Eddie Guardado)
23. Yankees (from Astros for Andy Pettitte)
24. Athletics (from Red Sox for Keith Foulke)
25. Twins (from Cubs for LaTroy Hawkins)
28. Dodgers (from Yankees for Paul Quantrill)
29. Royals (from Giants for Michael Tucker)
30. Rangers (from Braves for John Thomson)
Supplemental First Round
31. Athletics (for Foulke)
32. White Sox (for Bartolo Colon)
33. Yankees (for Pettitte)
34. Twins (for Guardado)
35. Athletics (for Miguel Tejada)
36. Twins (for Hawkins)
37. Royals (for Raul Ibanez)
38. Yankees (for David Wells)
39. Dodgers (for Quantrill)
40. White Sox (for Tom Gordon)
41. Blue Jays (for Kelvim Escobar)
Second Round
42. Yankees (from Padres for Wells)
49. Athletics (from Orioles for Tejada)
53. White Sox (from Angels for Colon)
63. Royals (from Mariners for Ibanez)
69. White Sox (from Yankees for Gordon)
Third Round
83. Blue Jays (from Angels for Escobar)

That should be it. Friend of Ask BA Mark Peel pointed out to me that Type C players who have previously been free agents won't require compensation, so I removed Eddie Perez after erroneously placing him on the list above. Type C outfielders Orlando Palmeiro (Cardinals) and John Vander Wal (Brewers) are in the same situation and won't garner compensation if they head elsewhere.

    After Oklahoma State third baseman Josh Fields made Baseball America's preseason All-America first team, does he project to go high in the 2004 draft? Are there any indications he would give up playing football and sign with whomever drafted him, or would he return for his senior season?

    Russ Oates
    Whitestone, N.Y.

That Fields made the first team, which was chosen in conjunction with major league scouting directors, reflects well on his ability. But it also reflects that it's a down year at the hot corner, because he projects as more of a fourth- or fifth-round pick than as a first-rounder.

Fields batted .358-12-55 in 58 games as sophomore year. His best tool is his hitting ability, and he crushes lefthanders and shows average power to all fields. He's still raw as a baseball player because he has divided his time with football. He has good hands and a strong arm at third base, but Oklahoma State is planning on using him at first base in 2004. That won't help his draft status.

Fields has starred at quarterback for the Cowboys, setting a career record for touchdown passes (55) and a Cotton Bowl record for yards (307) in two years as a starter. But he's not a huge NFL prospect. I talked to Pro Football Weekly's draft expert, Nolan Nawrocki, who had Fields ranked 16th on a list of junior quarterback prospects. Nawrocki didn't think Fields would get drafted in the NFL if he came out early this year and at best would be a late-round pick in 2005. Listed at 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds, which might be generous, Fields doesn't have NFL size.

At the Cotton Bowl, Fields said he'd weigh baseball versus football if and when he got drafted in June. If a baseball team drafts him early enough, my guess is that he'd sign. But he's not going to be a guy who just jumps at any offer he gets to turn pro.

    As a Rangers fan I have to be realistic when it comes to our pitching, so I was wondering where Texas will be picking in the 2004 draft? I have heard that it will be one of the best pitching drafts of all time. Is that true? I know it's early, but who might be available when the Rangers' pick come around?

    Zack Wristen
    Abilene, Texas

The Rangers had the fifth-worst record in the American League, just like they had in 2002, and they'll pick 10th in the 2004 draft. Pitching is definitely the strength of this crop, but it's too early for me to call this one of the best pitching drafts of all time. The lack of standout position players makes the pitchers look relatively stronger. BA draft guru Allan Simpson's most recent first-round projection had 20 pitchers going in the 30 first-round picks.

In the first round, teams almost always take the best player available, regardless of need. That said, it's a safe bet that Texas is going to focus on pitching. Scouting director Grady Fuson prefers college players, though he did spend the No. 9 pick in 2003 on Texas high school lefty John Danks. Among the college arms who could be available to the Rangers are Rice righthanders Wade Townsend and Philip Humber, Vanderbilt lefty Jeremy Sowers and Virginia Commonwealth righty Justin Orenduff. Fuson loves pitchability, which cold make Sowers especially attractive. If he's tempted by a high school pitcher again, he might opt for a homestate product again in righty Homer Bailey (LaGrange High).

Texas also owns the No. 30 pick as compensation from the Braves for free agent John Thomson. If the Rangers want to go after a college pitcher with that choice, the candidates could include righty Matt Durkin (San Jose State) or lefties Tyler Lumsden (Clemson), J.P. Howell (Texas) and David Purcey (Oklahoma).

    Any update on Matt Whitney's recovery from his leg injury? He had a promising first year and showed a pretty strong upside. What's his long-term outlook?

    Pat Leneghan
    Columbus, Ohio

Whitney was a supplemental first-round pick in 2002 and hit .286/.359.537 with 10 homers and 33 RBIs in 45 games at Rookie-level Burlington that summer. He was so impressive that the Indians mentioned Manny Ramirez when discussing Whitney's offensive potential. But he broke his leg in two places while playing basketball last February and missed all of 2003 while having two surgeries. The Indians hope that he'll be almost ready for full activity at the start of spring training.

Whitney can become an all-around star at third base. He's a good athlete who eventually should have power to all fields and above-average defensive ability. He'll probably make his return in low Class A, where he spent six games in 2002. Though missing an entire season was a setback, he's still just 19 and has plenty of time to get back on the fast track.

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