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In case you missed it, Ben Badler unveiled an interesting breakdown of the hardest-throwing prospects, according to the reports in the 2008 Prospect Handbook. And if you'll allow me to plug another area on our site, our College Preview coverage is underway with our Top 25 rankings, even if the NCAA Division I season won't start until Feb. 22.

Now on to your questions . . .

    Would you rank the No. 1 prospects for each team when all the lists come out? It would be interesting to see how they stack up, because obviously some teams' No. 2 and 3 prospects are better than other clubs' No. 1s.

    Kevin Creagh
    Glenshaw, Pa.

The new Prospect Handbook is in our hands (and hopefully yours, if you've ordered from us) and the issue with the American League West Top 10s has been sent to the printer, so now's as good a time as any. The rankings consider the No. 1 prospects in the systems as of today. For instance, Carlos Gonzalez was a Diamondback in the NL West issue and the Handbook, but he's an Athletic for the purposes of this list.

1. Jay Bruce, of, Reds (1)
2. Clay Buchholz, rhp, Red Sox (2)
3. Joba Chamberlain, rhp, Yankees (3)
4. Evan Longoria, 3b, Rays (4)
5. Clayton Kershaw, lhp, Dodgers (5)
6. Mike Moustakas, ss, Royals (6)
7. Colby Rasmus, of, Cardinals (7)
8. Cameron Maybin, of, Marlins (8)
9. Travis Snider, of, Blue Jays (9)
10. Franklin Morales, lhp, Rockies (11)
11. Rick Porcello, rhp, Tigers (13)
12. Brandon Wood, ss/3b, Angels (14)
13. Matt Wieters, c, Orioles (15)
14. Angel Villalona, 3b/1b, Giants (19)
15. Fernando Martinez, of, Mets (23)
16. Matt LaPorta, of, Brewers (25)
17. Andrew McCutchen, of, Pirates (27)
18. Carlos Gonzalez, of, Athletics (28)
19. Jordan Schafer, of, Braves (31)
20. Jeff Clement, c, Mariners (32)
21. Chris Marrero, 1b/of, Nationals (35)
22. Elvis Andrus, ss, Rangers (37)
23. Adam Miller, rhp, Indians (38)
24. Josh Vitters, 3b, Cubs (43)
25. J.R. Towles, c, Astros (47)
26. Chase Headley, 3b, Padres (50)
27. Jarrod Parker, rhp, Diamondbacks (NR)
28. Carlos Carrasco, rhp, Phillies (NR)
29. Nick Blackburn, rhp, Twins (NR)
30. Aaron Poreda, lhp, White Sox (NR)

The numbers in parentheses indicate where I ranked the players on my personal Top 50 overall prospects list in the Handbook. As you can see, four teams didn't put a prospect on my Top 50, though I agonized over leaving Jarrod Parker off and Carlos Carrasco narrowly missed the cut. If the White Sox hadn't made the Nick Swisher trade, Gio Gonzalez would have been 24th on the list, but he went from No. 1 in Chicago to No. 2 in Oakland.

The highest-ranking No. 2 prospect for a team was Reds righthander Homer Bailey, who came in at No. 10 on my Top 50. The top No. 3, 4 and 5 prospects were all Devil Rays: lefty Jake McGee (No. 17), righty Wade Davis (No. 18) and shortstop Reid Brignac (No. 26).

    If a team has a top-five pick, it obviously has a lot of urgent needs to fill. Why then, would a team picking in the top five, or even the top 10, draft a high school kid? Chances are, the kid won't be ready for at least three or four years. Shouldn't a team with a top-five pick go after a college player who presumably should be ready for the majors sooner?

    Tim Carroll
    Richmond, Va.

I couldn't disagree more. If a team is picking near the top of the draft, it usually isn't in a quick-fix solution. What matters most is drafting the best available player and not worrying about how long it will take to get him to the majors.

There's also a misconception that college players rocket to the majors while high schoolers dawdle for years in the minors. That's just not true. Though the collegians are three or four years older than prepsters, they only get to the big leagues, on average, about 18-24 months quicker. The very best high school players advance very quickly.

In the 2001-05 drafts, 11 high schoolers went in the first five picks. B.J. and Justin Upton both reached the majors in the midst of their second full pro seasons. Delmon Young could have done the same had the Rays not decided to keep him from accumulating service time toward arbitration and free agency. Joe Mauer began his third full season in the big leagues. Gavin Floyd and Adam Loewen got there within three years of signing.

Upton was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2005 draft and the only high schooler in the first nine picks. But the first round also included Cameron Maybin, who already has played in the majors, and Jay Bruce and Colby Rasmus, who could be Opening Day starters in 2008.

To be fair, there have been top-five prep picks who have disappointed, such as Floyd; Chris Gruler, Clint Everts and Mark Rogers, all pitchers who got hurt; and Chris Lubanski and Matt Bush, who were overdrafts. But there have been plenty of underachieving college top-five choices as well. That's just the nature of the draft.

    Please explain to me why teams are given picks in this year's draft for failure to sign last year's draft choices? Isn't that a risk you take with each pick? Which rounds qualify for this? It makes no sense to me.

    Dan Arace
    El Dorado Hills, Calif.

MLB doesn't hand teams the compensation pick to give them a consolation prize. Rather, it's to strengthen the bargaining position of clubs, plain and simple. Otherwise, players and agents would have more leverage, as teams would have to make sure they signed their picks or else get absolutely nothing.

As I mentioned in the Jan. 13 Ask BA, the rule was a response to Pete Incaviglia's holdout in 1985. He didn't want to play in Montreal after the Expos drafted him eighth overall, and he signed only after extracting an agreement that he'd be traded immediately to the Rangers.

Starting in 1986, teams received a supplemental first-round choice in the next draft if they failed to land their first-rounder. That came into play immediately, as the Red Sox gambled with the No. 14 overall choice. They took Brockton (Mass.) High outfielder Greg McMurtry, who had a price tag of $225,000 (which would have set a draft record at the time) and a football scholarship from Michigan. McMurtry didn't sign, played both sports for the Wolverines and ultimately spent five years in the NFL as a wide receiver. Boston got the No. 32 choice in 1987 and selected Bob Zupcic.

As draft bonuses have continued to rise, MLB has looked for ways to give more bargaining power to the teams. Thus the compensation rules changed again, starting with the 2007 draft. Teams that don't sign a pick in the first two rounds now get the choice after the corresponding selection in the next draft. Clubs that don't get a deal done with a third-rounder get a supplemental third-rounder.

The new rules will result in six extra choices in the 2008 draft. The Braves (pick No. 69a) and Red Sox (No. 84a) failed to sign their second-rounders last year, while the Phillies (No. 106), Astros (No. 107), Padres (No. 108) and Angels (No. 109) couldn't lock up their third-rounders.

« Jan. 18 Ask BA