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By Jim Callis

Nov. 24, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving!

When I put together the free-agent compensation list in the last edition of Ask BA, I inadvertently omitted Red Sox second baseman Tony Graffanino. I've gone back and added him, and I don't think anyone else is missing.

Assuming teams will automatically offer arbitration to free agents who sign before the Dec. 7 arbitration deadline, one pick already has changed hands. For losing Scott Eyre (Type A) to the Cubs, the Giants will receive a supplemental first-round choice and Chicago's second-rounder. The Cubs can't lose their top pick, No. 13, because it falls in the upper half of the first round.

It's not official yet, but Chicago reportedly has signed another Type A reliever, Bob Howry. Howry has a higher Elias rating (77.318) than Eyre (70.611), so the Indians would get the Cubs' second-rounder and the Giants would have to settle for the Cubs' third-rounder. Like the Giants, the Indians also would receive a supplemental first-rounder. San Francisco's sandwich pick would come first because it picks ahead of Cleveland in the regular order.

    Would Hanley Ramirez or Anibal Sanchez figure into the Marlins Top 10 Prospects list? Where would they be ranked?

    Paul Dumond
    Madawaska, Maine

    Where would Hanley Ramirez and Anibal Sanchez rank in the Marlins Top 10 now that the trade for Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell looks to be going through?

    Steve Liddell
    Orlando

    If you didn't have to figure in positional needs or salary, just overall value, who would you rather have? Hank Blalock and John Danks/Thomas Diamond; or Hanley Ramirez, Anibal Sanchez and Jesus Delgado?

    Thom Gentz
    Ann Arbor, Mich.

We haven't written up the deal at Trade Central yet because it's pending the players passing physicals, but barring a surprise, the Red Sox will acquire Beckett and Lowell from the Marlins for Ramirez, Sanchez and Delgado. Additionally, physicals are all that's holding up another Florida trade that would send Carlos Delgado to the Mets for Yusmeiro Petit and Mike Jacobs. Needless to say, you'll see a very revamped Marlins Top 10 in the 2006 Prospect Handbook.

We're still sorting it all out, but here's how I'd line up Florida's Top 10:

1. Jeremy Hermida, of
The game's No. 2 outfield prospect, behind only Delmon Young
2. Hanley Ramirez, ss (from Red Sox)
Impressive tools but has yet to have a breakout season to match
3. Anibal Sanchez, rhp (from Red Sox)
Gets the nod over Olsen because he's closer to having three big league pitches
4. Scott Olsen, lhp
One of the better lefty pitching prospects in the entire minors
5. Yusmeiro Petit, rhp (from Mets)
Stats are more spectacular than his stuff, but has proven himself through Double-A
6. Josh Johnson, rhp
Though relatively unheralded, could crack Florida's rotation in spring training
7. Chris Volstad, rhp
The first and best of five pitchers the Marlins drafted before the second round in 2005
8. Aaron Thompson, lhp
Three-pitch lefty is extremely polished for a pitcher just out of high school
9. Josh Willingham, c/1b
Can't catch regularly in majors but should get more playing time with Carlos Delgado gone
10. Mike Jacobs, 1b/c
Ranked No. 4 on Mets list after hitting 11 homers in 100 big league at-bats

From a pure talent standpoint, I'd take Blalock and Danks, but you have to remember that trades aren't made in a vaccum where positional needs and salaries don't exist. Blalock will make $14 million over the next three seasons when the Marlins are looking to save money, and he plays third base, where Florida wants to move Miguel Cabrera to create room for Hermida in the outfield. Blalock's production also has leveled off, and while he's good he's not as promising as he looked in 2003.

The Marlins had a huge hole at shortstop, and there wasn't a better shortstop on the market than Ramirez. The Angels aren't trading Brandon Wood, the Diamondbacks aren't dealing Stephen Drew and the Dodgers' Joel Guzman will have to change positions. Ramirez fills a need better and is much cheaper than Blalock, while Sanchez and Jesus Delgado are quality arms.

    Aside from Devil Rays outfielder Elijah Dukes, who were you most surprised was excluded from the 40-man rosters turned in last week? Also, a procedural question: Could a team take Indians righthander J.D. Martin and have him ride the 60-day disabled list all season without having to offer him back to Cleveland? If so, wouldnt you have to be out of your mind not to do that?

    David Jay
    San Diego

Actually, Dukes isn't eligible for the major league Rule 5 draft. Though he was a third-round pick in 2002, Dukes signed a 2003 contract and won't have to be protected until after the 2006 season.

As for the "surprise" part of the question, I just looked at the 71-page list of Rule 5 eligibles and my eyes are glazed over. In a lot of cases, unprotected players aren't being disparaged as prospects. It's just that their clubs don't think another team can afford to keep them on a big league roster for an entire season.

Outfielder Vince Sinisi signed for a $2.07 million bonus in 2003 but injuries and an ineffective Double-A performance meant that he couldn't make the 40-man roster two years later. Cardinals righthander Blake Hawksworth was one of my favorite pitching prospects in the lower minors in 2003 but he's barely been healthy since the middle of that season. I can't say either's availability shocked me, but their names caught my eye. It's not a good sign for the Reds that their top two pitching prospects from a year ago, Richie Gardner and Thomas Pauly, were hurt to the extent that Cincinnati didn't think they merited protection.

Among the guys who could get a look in the major league Rule 5 draft are: lefty reliever Russ Rohlicek (Cubs); righthanders Rafael Rodriguez (Angels), Billy Sadler (Giants), Bob Zimmermann (Angels); catcher John Jaso (Devil Rays); first basemen Ryan Mulhern (Indians) and Brandon Sing (Cubs); and outfielders Adam Boeve (Pirates) and Jason Cooper (Indians). Twins righthander David Shinskie had a 7.22 ERA in 2005, but he also had arguably the best arm on a very talented low Class A Beloit staff and might get a bite.

It's also worth noting that righthander Angel Garcia, whom the Devil Rays took from the Twins with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2004 Rule 5 draft, is available again. Tampa Bay couldn't keep him and returned him to Minnesota.

With injured players such as Martin, a team can't just stash them on the disabled list all season and retain their rights. A Rule 5 draftee must spend 90 days on the active roster before he can be demoted without being exposed to waivers. The Red Sox face that situation with 2004 draftee Adam Stern, who didn't quite make it to 90 days this year.

For you Rule 5 aficionados, we'll do our annual online preview as it gets closer to the Dec. 8 draft.

    Baseball America has rated shortstop Elvis Andrus as the No. 3 prospect in the Braves system, but as someone who has kept a close watch on Atlanta's prospects, I must admit I never had heard of him. I understand he was signed recently, but why is he ranked so high (above Yunel Escobar, for instance), and how might he fit into the Braves' shortstop plans?

    Jamie Hamer
    Bermuda

The reason Jamie probably hasn't heard of Andrus is that he signed out of Venezuela in January and spent all of his first pro season in Rookie ball. He played most of the season at age 16 and was extremely impressive. As he matures physically, he has the potential to hit for power and average while playing a quality shortstop.

Escobar, a second-round pick in June, is also a very talented shortstop and should beat Andrus to Atlanta because he's six years older. But Andrus will compete for a job in low Class A next year at age 17 and will provide a formidable challenge to Escobar when he's ready. Ranking him No. 3 on a deep Braves list involves a lot of projection, but that's how much we believe in Andrus.

Nov. 17, 2005

Can anyone stop Brandon Wood? He's now at 58 homers and counting, with 43 during the regular season, a record 14 in the Arizona Fall League and another in the opening round of the Olympic prequalifying tournament. If he stepped right into the Angels' lineup next year, probably at third base rather than shortstop, it really wouldn't surprise me at all.

    Do you guys have the full list of Elias Rankings for this year? Could you please parse it down into one of your handy-dandy charts of Type A, B, and C free agents?

    Jason Mastaitis
    New York

I can, and I will. But first, I'll give you the three-paragraph free-agent compensation primer.

The Elias Sports Bureau compiles rankings of all major leaguers by position, based on their performance over the previous two seasons. If teams offer arbitration to a free agent and lose him to another club, they'll receive compensation if he's classified as a Type A (top 30 percent at his position), Type B (31-50 percent) or Type C (51-60 percent) player.

For a Type A player, the compensation is the signing team's first-round pick plus a supplemental first-rounder. For a Type B, it's the signing team's first-round choice. For a Type C, 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. If a club signs multiple free agents within the same category, its earlier pick goes to the team which lost the higher-rated player. Also, Type C players who have been free agents in the past don't yield any compensation.

Here's your list:

Type A
Wilson Alvarez (LAD), Brad Ausmus (Hou), A.J. Burnett (Fla), Jeromy Burnitz (ChC), Royce Clayton (Ari), Roger Clemens (Hou), Jeff Conine (Fla), Johnny Damon (Bos), Octavio Dotel (Oak), Erubiel Durazo (Oak), Scott Eyre (SF), Kyle Farnsworth (Atl), Rafael Furcal (Atl), Brian Giles (SD), Tom Gordon (NYY), Tony Graffanino (Bos), Mark Grudzielanek (StL), Ramon Hernandez (SD), Trevor Hoffman (SD), Bob Howry (Cle), Todd Jones (Fla), Paul Konerko (CWS), Matt Lawton (NYY), Braden Looper (NYM), Kevin Millar (Bos), Bengie Molina (LAA), Matt Morris (StL), Bill Mueller (Bos), Mike Piazza (NYM), Joe Randa (SD), Al Reyes (StL), Kenny Rogers (Tex), B.J. Ryan (Bal), Rudy Seanez (SD), Julian Tavarez (StL), Ugueth Urbina (Phi), Billy Wagner (Phi), Larry Walker (StL), Jeff Weaver (LAD), Rondell White (Det), Bob Wickman (Cle), Tim Worrell (Ari).

Type B
Antonio Alfonseca (Fla), Rich Aurilia (Cin), Paul Byrd (LAA), Hector Carrasco (Was), Elmer Dessens (LAD), Cal Eldred (StL), Juan Encarnacion (Fla), Shawn Estes (Ari), Carl Everett (CWS), Julio Franco (Atl), Nomar Garciaparra (ChC), Alex Gonzalez (Fla), Todd Greene (Col), Chris Hammond (SD), Scott Hatteberg (Oak), Rick Helling (Mil), Roberto Hernandez (NYM), Jason Johnson (Det), Jacque Jones (Min), Al Leiter (NYY), Esteban Loaiza (Was), Kenny Lofton (Phi), Brian Meadows (Pit), Jim Mecir (Fla), Jose Mesa (Pit), Dan Miceli (Col), Kevin Millwood (Cle), Jamie Moyer (Sea), Mike Myers (Bos), Rafael Palmeiro (Bal), Todd Pratt (Phi), Felix Rodriguez (NYY), Reggie Sanders (StL), J.T. Snow (SF), Sammy Sosa (Bal), Russ Springer (Hou), Frank Thomas (CWS), Brett Tomko (SF), Michael Tucker (Phi), Daryle Ward (Pit), Jarrod Washburn (LAA), Bernie Williams (NYY), Preston Wilson (Was), Eric Young (SD).

Type C (first-time free agents only)
Joey Eischen (Was), Scott Elarton (Cle), Abraham Nunez (StL).

I'll track the compensatory draft picks throughout the offseason. Teams have until Dec. 7 to offer arbitration to players, who have until Dec. 18 to accept.

    The Devil Rays just reinstated Josh Hamilton from the restricted list. Are we seeing the start of a comeback? I sure hope so, as he has unreal talent and probably still would be one of the better hitters in the minors despite his troubles and layoff.

    Mike Axisa
    Chico, Calif.

The Devil Rays did add Hamilton, the No. 1 overall pick in the 1999 draft, to their 40-man roster this week, but it was just a procedural move. He still remains under indefinite suspension by Major League Baseball for violations of the drug policy. It's also possible Tampa Bay could remove Hamilton to make room for other prospects before tomorrow's deadline to finalize the roster, in which case another team could claim him on waivers.

Hamilton is still just 24, but he hasn't played since 2002 and has had so many off-the-field problems that I can't see him ever getting back on the path that seemed to be leading him toward stardom. I'd frankly be surprised if he played baseball again.

    Here in Greenville, we have just learned that the Red Sox' local low Class A affiliate will be named the Greenville Drive. This is after the initial nickname, the Greenville Joes (in honor of native son Shoeless Joe Jackson) was denied by Major League Baseball. Can you confirm that? Apparently as long as Jackson is on the ineligible list, Greenville can't name its team after him. Sounds like a reach to me. I thought "Greenville Joes" sounded pretty good.

    Jim Guza
    Greenville, S.C.

Jim is correct. The Joes nickname was by far the most popular of those tested by Greenville, which settled on the name Drive instead. But Minor League Baseball, not Major League Baseball, shot down the team name because Jackson is on baseball's permanent ineligible list.

That would have been a cool nickname, and a marketing bonanza as well. But I can see Minor League Baseball's point. If Jackson is banned, why should a team honor him with its nickname? And before I get barraged by emails proclaiming Jackson's innocence, the bottom line is that he's banned. Buck Weaver deserves reinstatement before Jackson does.

Nov. 11, 2005

I've been on the phone a lot in the last couple of days—hence the delay in finishing Ask BA—and though they haven't been related to the general manager carousel, they always seem to lead to a discussion of the searches by the Dodgers and Red Sox. The same two names keep coming up, Kim Ng in Los Angeles and Dayton Moore in Boston.

Moore wasn't a well-known quantity outside of baseball circles when Josh Boyd (now a scout with the Padres) ranked him No. 1 on our last list of the game's best GM prospects in December 2003. Josh also mentioned Ng in a separate list of up-and-comers. Paul DePodesta (No. 4), Tim Purpura (No. 5), Josh Byrnes (No. 10) and Jon Daniels (another up-and-comer) already have been hired.

    Regarding your Top 20 list from last week, I have a couple of questions. Will Stephen Drew really be starting in Arizona, if not on Opening Day then soon afterwards? Does their absence from your list mean that Billy Butler and the Anaheim Three (Brandon Wood, Howie Kendrick, Kendry Morales) are going to spend all or most of 2006 in the minors? I think that all four of them, especially Butler because he's got nobody blocking his arrival, have the ability to have success in the majors this year. The same goes for Alex Gordon, but that one is really going out on a limb.

    Rob Castellano
    Brewster, N.Y.

When I ran my list of the 20 best long-term prospects who would establish themselves in the majors in 2006, it drew a lot of interest (more than I expected) and also created some confusion. That's not my overall top prospects list, and it's not my overall top prospects list of guys who will appear in the majors next year. It was my Top 20 based on guys I believe will receive significant playing time next year.

I prepared both a 2006 and a 2007 list for Ron Shandler's annual First Pitch Arizona symposium, and honestly, you could make a case for a lot of the guys winding up on either list. Had I known Paul DePodesta was getting fired as Dodgers general manager, I probably would have put Chad Billingsley on the 2006 list because DePodesta's replacement might not be as chastened by what happened to Edwin Jackson. The Cubs may rush Felix Pie to the majors this year, but I think they shouldn't, so I put him on the 2007 list. And so on.

Rob is correct in surmising why Butler, Wood, Kendrick and Morales weren't on the 2006 list. I like them all very much but I don't think they're going to play a lot in the big leagues next year. Butler won't turn 20 until after the season starts, doesn't have to be added to the 40-man roster and has no defensive home yet, so I think he'll spend most of 2006 in the upper minors. Gordon is a better bet to get big league at-bats, but I put him on the 2007 list as well.

Wood, Kendrick and Morales are blocked not only by incumbent big leaguers (Orlando Cabrera, Adam Kennedy, Darin Erstad) but also quality prospects a step ahead of them (Erick Aybar, Alberto Callaspo, Casey Kotchman). They probably could help the Angels in 2006, and I could see a scenario where Wood keeps on raking and forces his way into the lineup at third base, but my guess is they don't become major contributors until 2007.

Several of you asked, so my 2007 list is below. Again, it's a ranking of long-term value, limited to players I think will establish themselves in the majors in 2007:

1. Justin Upton, ss, Diamondbacks
Probably not a shortstop but could be next Ken Griffey Jr.
2. Brandon Wood, ss, Angels
Forcing his way atop Los Angeles' collection of shortstop prospects
3. Ian Stewart, 3b, Rockies
An elite hitter in Coors Field is very enticing
4. Alex Gordon, 3b, Royals
A better hitter than Billy Butler and actually can play third base, too
5. Lastings Milledge, of, Mets
Will New York have traded one of the minors' top five-tool talents by then?
6. Hanley Ramirez, ss, Red Sox
Has yet to put up stats to match his prodigious tools
7. Chad Billingsley, rhp, Dodgers
Has better chance to get 2006 look after Paul DePodesta's firing
8. Joel Guzman, of, Dodgers
Keeps reminding scouts of Juan Gonzalez, could be on trading block
9. Troy Tulowitzki, ss, Rockies
Better than Bobby Crosby and gets his stats enhanced by altitude
10. Howie Kendrick, 2b, Angels
Pitchers still haven't figured out a way to get him out
11. Mike Pelfrey, rhp, Mets
Top pitching prospect in 2005 draft still has yet to sign
12. Jered Weaver, rhp, Angels
He's good but he's not Mark Prior, and watch that G/F ratio
13. Jeff Clement, c, Mariners
May need just three seasons to eclipse Dan Wilson's career HR total
14. Billy Butler, dh, Royals
He can rake but he'll wind up at DH in short order
15. Daric Barton, 1b, Athletics
Gifted hitter, but some questions about his power and position
16. Nick Markakis, of, Orioles
Best player in Orioles system that's finally making some progress
17. Chris Young, of, White Sox
Better prospect than the more-publicized Brian Anderson
18. Ryan Braun, 3b, Brewers
May wind up in center field but should mash wherever he plays
19. Felix Pie, of, Cubs
My concern is that he gets rushed before his skills catch up to his tools
20. Kendry Morales, 1b, Angels
Hopefully for him, Los Angeles' fascination with Darin Erstad will have ended

    I'm very interested in the future of the Marlins rotation. I read the scouting reports on BA's Florida Top 10, and wondered what you expected from Scott Olsen, Chris Volstad and Taylor Tankersley for the 2006 season. Will any of them, other than Olsen, be in the 2006 rotation? Also, is there any concern about Olsen's elbow? I have not been able to find too much information on the subject.

    Roy Schonberg
    Mount Laurel, N.J.

Dontrelle Willis, Josh Beckett and Jason Vargas all will be back in the rotation next year, so that's a good start for the Marlins. That leaves them with two spots to fill, and of the guys you mentioned the only real candidate is Olsen. Olsen has better stuff than Vargas, and he pitched well in three of his four big league starts. Shortly after getting sent back down to Double-A, Olsen went on the disabled list with elbow inflammation. He should be fine with rest, and while any kind of arm injury raises a red flag, this one doesn't appear to be serious.

Volstad, the top pick (16th overall) in a banner Marlins 2005 draft, is fresh out of high school. While he's polished for his age, he's not close to being ready to contribute to a big league contender. He's at least two or three years way. Tankersley is getting groomed for a bullpen role, where his average fastball and solid slider could be a better fit.

If Florida looks for another in-house option to fill out the back of its rotation, Josh Johnson could be the man. He ranked No. 3 on our Top 10 list, sandwiched between Olsen and Volstad, and got a cup of coffee in September. If Olsen and Johnson do round out the Marlins rotation, they'd have one of the youngest groups of starters in the majors. Beckett would be the old man at 26 next year.

    My favorite team, the Giants, has a first-round pick it can't forfeit. However, what happens if they lose Type A free agent Scott Eyre after offering him arbitration and sign someone else's similarly eligible Type A free agent from a team with an unprotected first-rounder? Will they have to forfeit the choice they gain from Eyre or just their second-rounder?

    Dave Fox
    Decatur, Ga.

With free-agent season also comes free-agent-compensation-question season at Ask BA. I'm currently tracking down the list of all potential Type A, B and C free agents and will try to present that in the next Ask BA.

A team's free-agent gains and losses are treated as separate transactions for compensation purposes. If the Giants sign another Type A free agent who was offered arbitration, they'll only lose their second-rounder. But if they offer arbitration to Eyre and lose him, they'll get a first-rounder back unless the signing team finished with a record in the lower half of baseball. They won't have to give up the other team's pick, even if it's higher than their second-rounder.

The Giants also would gain a sandwich pick between the first and second rounds for losing Eyre in that situation, and that's where I think the rules should be changed. I don't have a problem with a team gaining or losing a first- or second-rounder in Type A transactions, and I think it's good to protect choices in the upper half of the first round because they're valuable and the teams with them are usually downtrodden.

But I think the bonus picks in the sandwich round should be tied to the club's net gain/loss of Type A free agents. Last year, the Red Sox parted ways with three Type A free agents and signed two. They picked up three supplemental first-rounders for Orlando Cabrera, Derek Lowe and Pedro Martinez, but they didn't lose any for Edgar Renteria for David Wells. If I was in charge of the rules, they'd get one sandwich-rounder (for a net loss of one Type A) rather than three.

Nov. 3, 2005

There won't be a regular edition of Ask BA this week because I'm traveling to make my annual appearance at Ron Shandler's annual First Pitch Arizona symposium, which packs plenty of baseball discussion and Arizona Fall League games into one weekend.

This year, I'm speaking on the subject of the 20 best long-term prospects for 2006 and 2007, listed in the year in which they'll first make an impact at the major league level (and not ranked on the basis of their production during that season). So in lieu of a normal Ask BA, I'll present my Top 20 for 2006:

1. Delmon Young, of, Devil Rays
Needs a little more time in Triple-A, but not much more
2. Prince Fielder, 1b, Brewers
Legitimate 40-homer threat makes Lyle Overbay expendable
3. Stephen Drew, ss, Diamondbacks
Could be Opening Day starter 11 months after signing
4. Jeremy Hermida, of, Marlins
My gut feel is that he outperforms Jeff Francoeur in long run
5. Conor Jackson, 1b, Diamondbacks
Has best pitch recognition among baseball's elite prospects
6. Francisco Liriano, lhp, Twins
Giants threw game's best pitching prospect into A.J. Pierzynski deal
7. Matt Cain, rhp, Giants
Underhyped because he pitched in same leagues as Felix Hernandez
8. Carlos Quentin, of, Diamondbacks
Prototype right fielder may break into Arizona lineup in center
9. Ryan Zimmerman, 3b, Nationals
Washington got exactly what it wanted with No. 4 pick in 2005 draft
10. Andy Marte, 3b, Braves
Atlanta would be best off with Marte at third and Chipper Jones in left
11. Justin Verlander, rhp, Tigers
Showing more polish and savvy in pros than he did at Old Dominion
12. Andy LaRoche, 3b, Dodgers
Los Angeles doesn't have a better option for the hot corner
13. Jon Papelbon, rhp, Red Sox
Finished season as Boston's top setup man, should shift to rotation in 2006
14. Jason Kubel, of, Twins
Don't forget about this gifted hitter who missed all of 2005 with knee surgery
15. Scott Olsen, lhp, Marlins
Better stuff, higher ceiling than Jason Vargas
16. Anthony Reyes, rhp, Cardinals
Would rank higher if he could make it through a whole season healthy
17. Dustin Pedroia, 2b, Red Sox
Uncanny hand-eye coordination makes him more dangerous than expected
18. Yusmeiro Petit, rhp, Mets
Doesn't have the stuff to quite back up his sterling minor league numbers
19. Justin Huber, 1b, Royals
No longer a catcher, still projects as regular because of his bat
20. Dustin Nippert, rhp, Diamondbacks
Won Southern League ERA title in return from Tommy John surgery

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