Happy New Year, everyone. Free-agent activity continues to move more slowly than ever, but free agents Milton Bradley, Brian Fuentes and Mark Teixeira found new addresses in the last two weeks, creating three sandwich picks and the reassignment of a pair of first-rounders.
Below is the updated draft order. Though the Angels signed Fuentes, meaning that they'll surrender their first-round pick for the fourth time in five drafts, they still will get to make four of the top 39 picks next June after losing Teixeira and Francisco Rodriguez. If the Mariners don't come to terms with 2008 first-rounder Joshua Fields, they'll own four of the first 34 selections.
10. Nationals (for failure to sign 2008 first-rounder Aaron Crow)
20. Blue Jays
21. Mariners (if they fail to sign 2008 first-rounder Joshua Fields)
24. White Sox
25. Angels (from Mets for Francisco Rodriguez, A)
26. Angels (from Yankees for Mark Teixeira, A)
28. Mariners (from Phillies for Raul Ibanez, A)
29. Yankees (for failure to sign 2008 first-rounder Gerrit Cole)
30. Red Sox
33. Rockies (from Angels for Brian Fuentes, A)
Supplemental First-Round Picks
34. Mariners (Ibanez)
35. Rockies (Fuentes)
36. Blue Jays (A.J. Burnett, A, to Yankees)
37. Brewers (C.C. Sabathia, A, to Yankees)
38. Angels (Teixeira)
39. Angels (Rodriguez)
40. Reds (Jeremy Affeldt, B, to Giants)
41. Rangers (Milton Bradley, B, to Cubs)
49. Pirates (for failure to sign 2008 second-rounder Tanner Scheppers)
66. Brewers (from Yankees for Sabathia)
76. Yankees (for failure to sign 2008 second-rounder Scott Bittle)
97. Blue Jays (from Yankees for Burnett)
Supplemental Third-Round Picks
104. Astros (for failure to sign 2008 third-rounder Chase Davidson)
Remaining Compensation Free Agents
Ari: Juan Cruz (A), Orlando Hudson (A), Brandon Lyon (B).
Bos: Jason Varitek (A), Paul Byrd (B).
CWS: Orlando Cabrera (A).
KC: Mark Grudzielanek (B).
LAA: Jon Garland (B).
LAD: Derek Lowe (A), Manny Ramirez (A).
Mil: Ben Sheets (A), Brian Shouse (B).
Min: Dennys Reyes (B).
NYM: Oliver Perez (A).
When I put together my personal Top 50 Prospects list for inclusion in the 2009 Prospect Handbook, I listed six first basemen, including four in the Top 20: Hosmer at No. 12, Anderson at No. 13, the Marlins' Logan Morrison at No. 14 and Smoak at No. 19. (By comparison, Anderson was my highest-rated first baseman the previous year, checking in at No. 29.) The other two were the Giants' Angel Villalona at No. 32 and Alonso at No. 39.
As regular readers of Baseball America know, I've been on the Anderson bandwagon as long as anyone, and he also has proven himself at a higher level (Double-A) than any of the others. So how to explain why I put Hosmer ahead of him? They generate power with less effort than the other top first-base prospects, and they both excel at using the opposite field. Hosmer and Anderson will provide similar offense, but Hosmer is a better athlete and has the athleticism and arm strength to play the outfield, giving him more defensive value.
With Billy Butler and Mike Jacobs in the majors and Ryan Shealy and Kila Ka'aihue knocking on the door, the Royals have more first basemen than they can possibly use. They'll play Hosmer at first base to start the 2009 season, but I see him moving to an outfield corner down the road. All of the other first-base prospects should stay put.
The short answer is that the Ask BA list was solely my opinion, while the organization lists that appear in the magazine and the Handbook are a collaboration between the writer and editors. While I'm the primary editor of the Handbook, I don't rule with an iron hand. With the Royals, you can make a case for either Hosmer or Moustakas at No. 1. J.J. Cooper, who put our Royals list together, believed more in Moustakas and supported his argument well.
That said, I'll take Hosmer. It won't be by a huge margin, but Hosmer will provide more offense. Though Moustakas currently plays third base and Hosmer plays first base, Hosmer will offer as much or more defensive value in the long run. Moustakas has a thick lower half and could play his way off the hot corner sooner than expected.
More than ever before, the draft will be a priority for MLB in the next CBA talks. The current agreement expires in December 2011, and MLB has realized that trying to informally slot bonuses can only do so much to keep draft costs down. The owners would like to institute mandated bonuses based on draft position, something the union has steadfastly refused to accept. Because draft picks are used as free-agent compensation, the union has a voice in any changes to the draft rules.
Though draftees aren't members of the MLBPA, the union hasn't wanted to put a cap on their potential earnings while refusing to do the same for major leaguers. But I wonder if MLB can find an attractive carrot to give the union, either to wipe out free-agent compensation (and theoretically, the MLBPA's right to have a say-so in the draft rules) or to get the MLBPA to sign off on a formal slotting system.
The current system of free-agent compensation doesn't work on several levels. If it's supposed to act as a deterrent and depress salaries, it doesn't. If it's supposed to help a team overcome the loss of a star like C.C. Sabathia or Mark Teixeira, a pair of high draft picks can't do that. In many cases, teams are reluctant to offer a free agent arbitration (a requirement to receive compensation) and receive nothing when he departs. And the system used to rate the players and determine which ones are worthy of compensation is just plain goofy. For example, the ratings would have us believe that Darren Oliver is more valuable than Carl Crawford.
I think we're more likely to see the current free-agent compensation process scrapped rather than tweaked in the next CBA. I've made the same suggestion David makes above, that sandwich picks be awarded on a net basis. Rather than giving the Angels two supplemental first-rounders for losing Teixeira and Francisco Rodriguez, I'd give them just one because they also signed Brian Fuentes. (I'd let them keep the first-round picks from the Yankees and Mets, and they'd still give up their first-rounder to the Rockies.)
I don't have a problem with the Yankees selecting twice before the Blue Jays get a choice from New York for Burnett. The Yankees can't lose the 29th and 76th choices, which they get for failing to sign first-rounder Gerrit Cole and second-rounder Scott Bittle in the 2008 draft. I have no problem with those picks being protected from free-agent compensation. It's just unfortunate from Toronto's perspective that Burnett was only the third-best free agent that New York signed, so the Jays only get the Yankees' third-rounder.