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I wonder if Team USA's lack of success in two World Baseball Classics will lessen the International Olympic Committee's belief that its baseball competition hasn't featured legitimate talent because the United States has won the gold medal just once in five Olympics.

    Following up on the question from the last Ask BA discussing Matt Harvey as the leading candidate to go No. 1 in next year's draft, could you predict the top five picks for 2010? Your comment on Harvey makes me think it's not going to be a stellar draft, but maybe I'm just comparing everyone to Stephen Strasburg.

    John Davis
    Washington D.C.

The 2010 draft isn't stacking up as a stellar draft. Harvey is the projected No. 1 overall pick at this point, and he's not in the same class of a David Price or Matt Wieters from 2007, a Tim Beckham or Pedro Alvarez from 2008, a Strasburg from 2009 or a Bryce Harper or Gerrit Cole from 2011. He's not having an inspiring sophomore season (3-1, 5.32) at North Carolina, and Duke just shelled him for seven runs in two innings yesterday. His delivery isn't the prettiest, either, but scouts still love his fastball, curveball and body (6-foot-4, 225 pounds), so he's still the top candidate.

At this point, it appears pitching will dominate the top of the 2010 draft. After Harvey, college righthander Anthony Ranaudo (Louisiana State; more on him below), Brandon Workman (Texas) and Kyle Blair (San Diego) are lining up as the next three picks, follow by a prep righthander: Jameson Taillon (The Woodlands, Texas, HS), by a nose ahead of A.J. Cole (Oviedo, Fla., High).

Most of the top college position players for 2010 are off to slow starts this spring, and the best of them looks like slick-fielding Cal State Fullerton shortstop Christian Colon. The top high school position prospect is Aycock High (Pikeville, N.C.) shortstop Connor Narron, whose father Jerry played and managed in the big leagues.

    For the last few years you've identified a handful of players from Baseball America's Top 100 Prospects list whom you expect to make the biggest jumps in the upcoming season. I've always found this insightful. Can you please identify your picks to do so in 2009?

    Stephen Giles
    Charlotte

Stephen is being kind. In the past, I've forecast breakouts for such players as Lars Anderson, Jay Bruce, Colby Rasmus and Travis Snider, but I wasn't as accurate in my predictions a year ago. Undaunted, I'll try again.

Three players from the upper half of the Top 100 list who could jump to elite status in 2009 are Rays shortstop Tim Beckham (No. 28), Diamondbacks righthander Jarrod Parker (No. 29) and Cardinals third baseman Brett Wallace (No. 40). The best candidates to make a significant leap from the bottom half of the Top 100 are Cubs third baseman Josh Vitters (No. 51), White Sox third baseman/outfielder Dayan Viciedo (No. 61), Pirates outfielder Jose Tabata (No. 75), Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman (No. 87) and Mariners righthander Phillippe Aumont (No. 93).

Going off the board for breakout candidates who didn't crack the Top 100, I'll take Rangers outfielders Engel Beltre and Julio Borbon, Dodgers righty Ethan Martin, Rays righty Jeremy Hellickson, Rays lefty Matt Moore, Royals lefty Mike Montgomery and Royals righty Tim Melville.

    Are Georgia first baseman Rich Poythress and Louisiana State righthander Anthony Ranaudo on the short list of early College Player of the Year candidates? What are their draft outlooks?

    Brian Pessin
    Athens, Ga.

If Stephen Strasburg keeps pitching like he has in his first five starts for San Diego State—4-0, 1.57 with a 74-7 K-BB ratio in 34 innings—no one will wrest the College Player of the Year award from him. That said, Poythress and Ranaudo have been quite impressive and should at least be first-team All-Americans.

Poythress has batted .420/.525/.778 with eight homers, 35 RBIs and nearly twice as many walks as strikeouts (17 to 9) while leading No. 6 Georgia to a 19-2 start. Ranked No. 21 on our preseason Top 100 College Prospects list Premium, he has hit his way into the first round of the draft. He has a very good approach at the plate and power to all fields.

Ranaudo has gone 2-1, 2.01 through five starts, with a 51-9 K-BB ratio and a .178 opponent average in 31 innings, a big reason why Louisiana State is ranked No. 2 at 17-5. We rated him No. 15 on our Top 50 sophomores list Premium before the season, but as I mentioned above, he has improved his stock so much that he should be one of the first picks in the 2010 draft. He's a 6-foot-7, 231-pounder who shows three plus pitches at times and good command as well. Aaron Fitt, our college guru, was very impressed when he watched Ranaudo square off with South Carolina's Sam Dyson last Friday.

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