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While the Hall of Fame interests me, I can't get too worked up about it. Rickey Henderson obviously belongs. I'm not sure I would have voted for Jim Rice, but he doesn't ruin Cooperstown. I would have voted for Bert Blyleven and Tim Raines, who didn't get in, but that won't keep me up at nights. As upset as some people get about the inclusions and exclusions, baseball still has the most meaningful Hall of Fame of any of the major sports.

I've been getting a lot of questions about the 2009 Prospect Handbook, which is expected to ship next week. If you haven't ordered one yet, here's an incentive to do so directly from us. Everyone who buys the book from Baseball America will get a bonus insert with detailed scouting reports on each team's No. 31 prospect, to accompany the Top 30s that appear in the book.

    I enjoyed reading your list of the American League's top 10 prospects in the Dec. 22 Ask BA. Who do you think are the 10 best prospects in the National League?

    Ernie Monaco
    Milford, N.J.

When I put together my overall Top 50 for the Handbook, the top two choices were easy: Rays lefthander David Price and Orioles catcher Matt Wieters. After that, it got more murky, though I eventually settled on Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez as my No. 3 prospect, making him tops on my NL list.

1. Pedro Alvarez, 3b, Pirates
Spring injury, summer holdout overshadow his devastating hitting ability.
2. Madison Bumgarner, lhp, Giants
Showed much more polish than expected in first full season, led minors with 1.46 ERA.
3. Colby Rasmus, of, Cardinals
The best player developed by St. Louis since Albert Pujols is ready for the majors at 22.
4. Buster Posey, c, Giants
Has the tools to become the NL's version of Joe Mauer.
5. Tommy Hanson, rhp, Braves
Displayed four plus pitches at times while blowing away Arizona Fall League hitters.
6. Logan Morrison, 1b, Marlins
The best hitter in the minors who hasn't received the hype he deserves.
7. Jason Heyward, of, Braves
It's still unfathomable how he lasted 14 picks in the 2007 draft.
8. Dexter Fowler, of, Rockies
Colorado has done a fine job of developing the once-raw Fowler.
9. Cameron Maybin, of, Marlins
Strikeouts are still a concern, but there's a lot of Andre Dawson in him.
10. Mike Stanton, of, Marlins
Hit 39 homers in first full season after turning down a shot to play two sports at USC.

    Where would you rank Athletics righthander Michael Inoa, White Sox third baseman/outfielder Dayan Viciedo and Red Sox righty Junichi Tazawa on your Top 100 Prospects list?

    Rob Dorsey
    Silver Spring, Md.

On my personal Top 50 in the Handbook, Inoa was the only one of the three to make the cut, checking in at No. 50. He has tremendous upside as a 16-year-old who's 6-foot-7, 205 pounds and already touches 94 mph, but he's also so raw and has so much to prove that I couldn't rank him higher.

Viciedo nearly made my Top 50, and I'll rank him in the 51-60 range when the BA editors get together to hash out the Top 100 list in the spring. He has huge power and will be nearly big league-ready as a 20-year-old this year, though his conditioning and the sketchy track record of Cuban defectors are concerns.

Tazawa is intriguing but I wouldn't include him among the 100 best prospects in baseball yet. He has the potential to have two or three plus pitches with command, and he might be a mid-rotation starter. But he also might max out as a setup man, and we'll see have to see how he adapts to a slightly larger baseball, which has given Daisuke Matsuzaka problems at times.

    Is there a limit to when a team can get compensation for losing a Type A or B free agent? For example, if Manny Ramirez signs after the draft in June, does his new team still owe the Dodgers a draft pick? Would Los Angeles get a 2010 choice or be left with nothing?

    Tom Chen
    Boston

    If Jason Varitek doesn't get a contract offer before the season starts, when can he take a job with a team without costing it a draft pick as free-agent compensation? The start of the season, the day after the June draft or the start of 2010?

    M. John Rafferty Jr.
    Fort Walton Beach, Fla.

This scenario never has come to pass, though it could have last year when Type B free agent Mike Piazza entered the season unsigned and didn't officially retire until May 20.

I checked with an MLB source and a couple of team sources, and they were 99 percent sure that once the draft passes, a team would lose any compensation. Ramirez is a lock to sign before the 2009 draft begins on June 9, but it's conceivable that Varitek might still be without a team. There doesn't appear to be much of a market for Varitek, especially with a club having to give up a first-round pick (unless it's a top-15 choice) to sign him.

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