We had a slight thawing of the free-agent market last week, with Derek Lowe signing with the Braves for four years and $60 million. Lowe is a Type A free agent, but Atlanta's first-round pick is protected from compensation (for just the second time in the last 18 drafts) because it falls in the upper half of the round. The Dodgers will receive a supplemental first-rounder (currently No. 36) and the Braves' second-rounder (currently No. 50) for the loss of the Lowe.
Below is the updated draft order, and the list of 13 remaining compensation free agents.
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. Dodgers (Derek Lowe, A, to Braves)
37. Blue Jays (A.J. Burnett, A, to Yankees)
38. Brewers (C.C. Sabathia, A, to Yankees)
39. Angels (Teixeira)
40. Angels (Rodriguez)
41. Reds (Jeremy Affeldt, B, to Giants)
42. Rangers (Milton Bradley, B, to Cubs)
49. Pirates (for failure to sign 2008 second-rounder Tanner Scheppers)
50. Dodgers (from Braves for Lowe)
67. Brewers (from Yankees for Sabathia)
76. Yankees (for failure to sign 2008 second-rounder Scott Bittle)
98. Blue Jays (from Yankees for Burnett)
Supplemental Third-Round Picks
105. 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: Manny Ramirez (A).
Mil: Ben Sheets (A), Brian Shouse (B).
Min: Dennys Reyes (B).
NYM: Oliver Perez (A).
I'd rather have Escobar, though there's not a big difference between the two. They're similar offensive players, with Escobar having more power and Andrus being a better basestealer. They're both very good defenders, with Escobar maybe rating a slight edge. Andrus is nearly two years younger than Escobar and they've both made it to Double-A at this point, so Andrus may have more room for improvement. Then again, Escobar is still very young at 22.
When I put together my personal Top 50 Prospects list for the 2009 Prospect Handbook, I listed two shortstops ahead of Escobar (No. 27) and Andrus (who didn't make my cut, and in retrospect I may regret that decision). I put the Rays' Tim Beckham at No. 11 and the White Sox' Gordon Beckham at No. 23. Tim Beckham is a shortstop in the traditional mold like Escobar and Andrus, and I think he'll be more of an offensive threat than they will, especially in the power department. Gordon Beckham has more pop than any of them, though he's more of an average defender than a plus with the glove.
I wouldn't compare Andrus or Escobar to Reyes, who debuted in the majors the day before he turned 20. He has more dynamic speed and significantly more strength. If Andrus and Escobar continue to develop, you could dream that they could become the second coming of Reyes, but that's not too realistic.
I'll take Shortstops for $200, Alex . . . DeJesus profiles better as a shortstop, though Rafael Furcal has a firm hold on that job after re-signing with the Dodgers for three years and a $30 million. With Blake DeWitt, Mark Loretta and Tony Abreu available at second base, DeJesus probably faces a full season in Triple-A.
He profiles better at shortstop because he's solid enough to handle the defensive responsibilities, making him more valuable there. While he's coming off his best offensive season, having hit .324/.419/.423 and led the Double-A Southern League in on-base percentage, I'm not sure he'd give a team the extra offense it would want in a second baseman. He has a chance to hit at the top of the lineup if he continues to show that kind of bat and offensive ability, but he's not going to hit for much power or steal many bases.
In the 2000-07 drafts, 64 college players signed in the upper half of the first round. Kenny Baugh, Brad Lincoln, Joe Saunders and Wade Townsend all missed their first full pro seasons with injuries, while Chris Smith battled shoulder problems and pitched a few innings in Rookie ball before getting diagnosed with a torn labrum. Of the 59 healthy players, all but three opened their first full seasons in high Class A or above.
The three exceptions were back-to-back Pirates righthanders, John Van Benschoten and Bryan Bullington, along with Stubbs. Van Benschoten was more of an outfielder in college and was transitioning to a full-time pitcher. Bullington, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2002 draft, signed late and was making his pro debut in 2003. Stubbs had more questions about his bat than any of the recent high college picks.
All nine of the college players chosen in the top 15 picks in 2008—Pedro Alvarez, Brian Matusz, Buster Posey, Yonder Alonso, Gordon Beckham, Jason Castro, Justin Smoak, Jemile Weeks, Brett Wallace—should open this season at high Class A or above. Most of them probably will begin the year in Double-A.
College players drafted in the upper half of the first round almost always are advanced prospects expected to move quickly, and that's not a new development. I checked the top 15 picks in the 1968, 1978 and 1988 drafts, and 16 of the 18 collegians started their first full season in high Class A or above.