Ask BA

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I'd bet that if David Price never took the mound again, the Rays still would be thrilled that they spent the No. 1 overall pick and $8.5 million on him in 2007. Wow.

    In the midst of my faithful reading of the weekly ESPN chat Premium—which I love, thank you for that—I was blissfully working my way through the lightning round when you dropped a bombshell on me. Brian Matusz and Chris Tillman over Madison Bumgarner and Tim Alderson? It was like Mike Tyson in his prime crushed me with an uppercut.  And as I foggily read more, you then rated Trevor Cahill and Brett Anderson over Bumgarner and Alderson as well.  At that point I needed to crush my pinkie with pliers just to retain consciousness. While I can kind of understand the Athletics duo over the Giants pair . . . the Orioles hurlers?!? You owe me some reasoning on this because I've already lost a finger over this whole mess.

    Rick Rogers
    Portland, Ore.

One thing to remember about the lightning round is that it's quick answers off the top of my head, without room for explanation. Which is why Rick came to Ask BA.

I'd rate all three of those lefty-righty combos very close to each other, and there's not much to separate them. Bumgarner has the best pure stuff of the three lefthanders, but I like Matusz and Anderson nearly as much as prospects because they have quality three-pitch arsenals and plenty of polish. If I could pick just one, I'd take Bumgarner, but Matusz and Anderson are close behind him.

I like Alderson, too, but I'd rather have Cahill or Tillman. Alderson is very advanced for a young pitcher, but so are Cahill and Tillman, and they have more overpowering stuff. In any case, we're talking about six of the very best pitching prospects in the game, and there's no shame in coming in third among these pairings. I hope that pinkie heals nicely.

(Update: I was only asked to compare these duos to each other, not to the rest of baseball. After receiving an avalanche of e-mail, I'll rank the top lefty-righty combos in the next Ask BA.)

    What is the status of A's seventh-round pick Brett Hunter? At the beginning of the college season, he seemed poised to have a huge year, but injuries caused him to fall in the draft. Where does it look like he'll start the 2009 season, and do you think it is reasonable to see him in the major league bullpen late in the year because Oakland loves young prospects?

    Ryan Dimmitt
    Woodland Hills, Calif.

I suspect that this is the same Ryan Dimmitt who played with Hunter at Moorpark High . . .

As for Hunter, he's not all the way back to where he was when he projected as a possible top-10 pick in the 2008 draft. After starring with Team USA in the summer of 2007, he touched 99 mph in fall practice and opened the college season with two stellar starts. In the second of those two outings, he threw a 97-mph fastball on his 98th and final pitch of the game.

Hunter, however, missed nearly three months afterward with elbow soreness, and topped out at 92 mph when he returned at the end of Pepperdine's season. After he slid in the draft, he spent the summer with Team USA and sat at 89-92 with his fastball, peaking at 95 mph on occasion. He signed for a seventh-round-record $1.1 million in mid-August, then made three brief minor league appearances before reporting to instructional league.

In Arizona, Hunter's velocity crept up some more, as he pitched in the low 90s more often and hit 94-96 mph more regularly than he had since hurting his elbow. His hard breaking ball also showed improvement, and the A's also worked on refining his unorthodox mechanics. The next step for him will be a trip to Hawaii Winter Baseball.

I think the A's will play it cautiously with Hunter, getting him back to 100 percent rather than trying to rush him. He'll probably start 2009 with one of their low Class A affiliates, and there's really no reason to try to push him to Oakland in a hurry.

Even if Hunter eventually has to face the worst-case scenario (Tommy John surgery), the track record of pitchers coming back from elbow reconstruction is strong and he's a tremendous value for a seventh-round pick.

    If a team with an unprotected pick signs two Type A free agents in the same offseason, which clubs gets its first-round choice? For instance, if the Yankees sign C.C. Sabathia and Mark Teixeira, would the Brewers or Angels get the No. 26 selection?

    Adam Somberg
    Florham Park, N.J.

If a team signs two Type A free agents, the team that lost the player with the highest rating (as determined by Elias Sports Bureau number-crunching, based on a formula agreed to by the owners and players) gets the higher compensation pick. It doesn't matter which free agent signs first or which of the teams jilted by the free agent has a worst record.

The Elias ratings usually become public shortly after the World Series ends. Once they're available, we'll run the list of Type A and B free agents. We'll also update changes to the draft order as free agents sign throughout the offseason.

We get several questions about free-agent compensation every year, so here's a quick refresher course:

Type A players rate in the top 20 percent of all players in their position group—catchers; first basemen, outfielders and DHs; second basemen, third basemen and shortstops; starting pitchers; and relief pitchers—and Type B players rate in the 21-40 percent bracket.

Type A free agents yield the signing team's first-round choice and a supplemental first-rounder as compensation, while Type Bs bring back only the sandwich-rounder. Clubs who finished in the bottom half of the major league standings can't surrender their first-round selection, and compensation picks for failure to sign draftees from the previous year can't be lost either. A club must offer arbitration to a free agent in order to receive compensation for him.

Oct. 13 Ask BA