Ask BA is shifting from Friday afternoons to Monday mornings, so now you can start off your week by having your questions answered. This Tuesday, we'll post our midseason draft update, and to whet your appetite, let's start off with a couple of draft-related queries.
Tim, who plays at Griffin (Ga.) High, and Gordon, who plays at Georgia (and isn't related to Tim), entered the year as the top two shortstop prospects in the draft and have maintained their status. Tim is still the better prospect and a candidate to go No. 1 overall to the Rays, though Gordon has closed the gap, moving from the back of the first round to a possible top-10 selection.
Tim is the best high schooler available, a potential five-tool athlete who should have no problems staying at shortstop as a pro. He's one of the better prep shortstop prospects in the last decade, though scouts consider him a notch below the Uptons, B.J. and Justin.
Though Gordon led the Cape Cod League with nine homers last summer, scouts still weren't raving about his power because he played in the league's best hitter's park at Yarmouth-Dennis. They're bigger believers after the show he's put on this spring, when he has hit .419 with 15 homers in 30 games and been college baseball's best player.
The question with Gordon is whether he can play shortstop in the majors, and clubs are split on the issue. Curiously, there's little waffling on either side. Those who think he can remain at shortstop don't appear to have reservations about it, while those who don't think he has no chance. There are enough teams that do believe in his defensive ability that if the draft were held today, he'd go in the upper half of the first round.
Tim projects to be better than Gordon with every tool except power, and he might catch him in that regard as well. That upside makes him more attractive. Gordon will get to the big leagues quicker, which will endear him to some teams, but the only way he'll get drafted ahead of Tim is if signability becomes an issue.
First, my standard caveat on speculation two months in advance of the draft: The following is an educated guess, not any inside scoop. Teams haven't started zeroing in on guys yet.
The four players who have separated themselves from the rest of the pack—Vanderbilt third baseman Pedro Alvarez, San Diego lefthander Brian Matusz, Missouri righty Aaron Crow and Tim Beckham—all figure to be gone by the time the Reds pick. The next two players on our midseason Top 50 list are first basemen, Florida high schooler Eric Hosmer and South Carolina's Justin Smoak, but Cincinnati already has a long-term first baseman in Joey Votto.
The Reds took catcher Devin Mesoraco with their 2007 first-rounder, so they won't go for another backstop (Florida State's Buster Posey or California prepster Kyle Skipworth) with their top choice this year. The only position player who would make much sense is Gordon Beckham, and I think Cincinnati is more likely to select a pitcher. The three top candidates at this point are all righthanders: Tulane's Shooter Hunt, Fresno State's Tanner Scheppers and Holt High's (Wentzville, Mo.) Tim Melville. Eastern Kentucky lefthander Christian Friedrich could factor into the mix, but I like the righties more.
Jocketty won't have much influence on the Reds' draft. As general manager of the Cardinals, he wasn't very involved in St. Louis' drafts, and Cincinnati lets scouting director Chris Buckley pretty much run his own show.
Friday is easily the best shortstop prospect in the Pirates system, and he does have the chance to develop into an eventual big league starter. He's more of a decent to solid regular than a potential all-star, however.
A third-round pick last June, he's a line-drive, get-on-base type with not much power to offer. He'll need to show more plate discipline than he did in his pro debut (10 walks, 33 strikeouts in 156 at-bats at short-season State College), but that wasn't an issue when he starred at Rice. Friday has above-average speed, though he won't be a huge basestealing threat, and he's a good defender. His overall game reminds me of Jason Bartlett's.
The Pirates do have a couple of sleepers at shortstop in Angel Gonzalez and Andury Acevedo. But they're a long way from being able to contribute in the majors, and not being able to crack our Top 30 Prospects list for the 26th-rated farm system isn't a promising sign.