We're slaving away on our annual Draft Preview issue, and there will be plenty more draft coverage on the web, so you get an abridged Ask BA today. Pitching performances to watch this weekend: Tim Lincecum makes his second big league start tonight, and Max Scherzer makes his first official start for the independent Fort Worth Cats on Saturday. Speaking of Scherzer . . .
This is still more informed speculation than anything close to being set in stone, as teams still are working on signability and bearing down on their targets at the top of the draft. I'm starting to hear rumblings that more teams in the top 10 may be willing to exceed slot money. The Royals are worried about talent and not money at No. 2. The Pirates would really like a hitter at No. 4, and the best hitters available may all be Scott Boras clients. Orioles owner Peter Angelos never has splurged much on the draft, but Baltimore picks at No. 5 and then not again until No. 130. Not having second- or third-round picks saves the O's $900,000 in slot money they could pour into their top choice.
Here's my most educated guess as of today:
1. Devil Rays: David Price, lhp, Vanderbilt.
Tampa Bay has narrowed its focus to three players, and other clubs would be shocked if they don't take Price.
2. Royals: Max Scherzer, rhp, Fort Worth Cats.
Guessing that the Luke Hochevar scenario repeats itself, though Scherzer still has thrown in just one game so far.
3. Cubs: Josh Vitters, 3b, HS/California.
Scouts continue to rave about Vitters' bat, and Chicago's interest hasn't waned.
4. Pirates: Matt Wieters, c, Georgia Tech.
Pittsburgh needs bats, not pitchers, and Boras may not scare them away from the top college position player.
5. Orioles: Ross Detwiler, lhp, Missouri State.
Wieters and North Carolina State righthander Andrew Brackman could be fits if money isn't a concern.
6. Nationals: Rick Porcello, rhp, HS/New Jersey.
There's a natural connection with scouting director Dana Brown, who lives in New Jersey.
7. Brewers: Mike Moustakas, 3b/c, HS/California.
Milwaukee has done well recently taking hitters high in the draft (Prince Fielder, Rickie Weeks, Ryan Braun).
8. Rockies: Jason Heyward, of, HS/Georgia.
Also could be tempted by a college lefty such as Detwiler or Clemson's Daniel Moskos.
9. Diamondbacks: Daniel Moskos, lhp, Clemson.
Has moved into Clemson's rotation and shown he can stay in that role as a pro.
10. Giants: Beau Mills, 3b/1b, Lewis-Clark State (Idaho).
Putting up crazy numbers for an NAIA powerhouse, with .468-30-105 totals through 52 games.
The more I see Ryan Theriot, the more I'm impressed. Even after his hot September, I still saw him as more of a utilityman than as a regular player. But he's continuing to hit this year, to the point where he has grabbed a starting job and I'm beginning to think I've underestimated him. He still has just 242 career big league at-bats, so we're not talking about a large sample size, and he's neither big (5-foot-11, 175 pounds) or young (27). He's not going to maintain his career .318 batting average, but I can see him hitting .275/.350/.400, stealing some bases and continuing to serve as a catalyst for the Cubs.
Theriot's ascent to the majors wasn't an easy one. He sparked the championship game-winning rally at the 2000 College World Series for Louisiana State before signing with the Cubs as a third-round pick in 2001. Because Chicago had 2000 first-rounder Luis Montanez playing shortstop in low Class A, Theriot went straight to high Class A and batted a soft .204. That prompted the Cubs to have him try switch-hitting, an experiment that produced a .256 average over the next three seasons. After he went back to batting solely righthanded, Theriot hit .304 in Triple-A in 2005 and 2006.
Defensively, he has the tools to stick at shortstop. His arm and range are solid, and his instincts help his tools play up in the field just as they do on the bases. At this point, we know Cesar Izturis isn't going to hit. If I were running the Cubs, I'd put Theriot at shortstop and try to find an offensive second baseman. Eric Patterson could be ready to take over that role in the near future.