This week, the gap narrowed between the two independent American Associations pitchers with early-first-round aspirations. St. Paul Saints righthander Tanner Scheppers wasn't as overpowering Sunday as he was in his first exhibition start, this time allowing five runs on five hits over four innings, though he did show a mid-90s fastball again. Fort Worth Cats righthander Aaron Crow showed better command his second time out, tossing four scoreless innings on Saturday.
Both Crow and Scheppers figure to go in the first 10 picks of the draft. More on their outings will be forthcoming later with a Draft Blog entry from indy league guru J.J. Cooper.
Though he hasn't made any public pronouncements, Scott Boras, Strasburg's advisor, reportedly is comparing his client to Sidd Finch and angling for a $50 million major league contract. While Strasburg may be the best prospect of the draft era, he doesn't have the leverage to get that kind of money.
If Strasburg was on the open market, the bidding could escalate to $50 million or higher. But he's not. Boras also represents Daisuke Matsuzaka, who got a $52 million deal from the Red Sox when they were the only club who had his negotiating rights, but that price was artificially driven by the $51.1 million Boston paid the Seibu Lions for those rights.
There's no obvious path for Strasburg to become a free agent. Even if he headed to Japan, MLB's position would be that he'd have to re-enter the draft when he returned, as was the case for past draftees such as J.D. Drew who initially signed with professional leagues outside the realm of Organized Baseball.
If Strasburg goes No. 1 overall as expected and turns down the Nationals, he'd have to re-enter the 2010 draft. And that's too risky, assuming the Nationals top the previous draft guarantee record of $10.5 million (Mark Prior from the Cubs in 2001). If they offer Strasburg a major league deal worth $15 million or $20 million and hold firm, I bet he accepts it minutes before the Aug. 15 deadline. The total value of the deal could escalate if it extends longer than four or five years (the length of most big league contracts given to draftees), but I don't see why Washington would be compelled to do that.
Let's step into the Baseball America Wayback Machine and take a couple of trips. First, let's head back to the 2002 draft, when we ranked Greinke as the 10th-best prospect available . Here's what we said then:
Few players in the nation have helped themselves as much as Greinke, who entered the year as a potential second- or third-rounder and now figures to go in the first 8-15 picks. An outstanding athlete who's part of a typically strong Clemson recruiting class, he's a legitimate prospect as a third baseman and holds most of Apopka High's career batting records. But teams are focusing on his mound prowess, which includes a 92-93 mph fastball that has touched 96, a plus changeup and a good breaking ball. He commands all three pitches very well, and scouts like his poise and mental toughness. He was named Gatorade's national high school player of the year.
The Royals drafted Greinke sixth overall in 2002, and he spent just one full year and a small part of two others in the minors before making his major league debut in May 2004. Coming into that season, we ranked him as Kansas City's No. 1 prospect and the 14th-best prospect in baseball. Here's our breakdown of his strengths and weaknesses at that point:
Greinke loves the game and has great makeup. He spent time during spring training evaluating players with scouting director Deric Ladnier. He also took to watching opponents take batting practice, learning where hitters liked the ball. Greinke is a constant tinkerer and thinker with impeccable control of an array of plus pitches. He likes developing new pitches and variations of others by adding and subtracting velocity and changing grips. He throws his fastball in the high 80s most of the time, but can rev it up to the mid-90s when he wants. A new grip on his two-seamer makes it dive toward the ground. His slider ranks as a put-away pitch with depth and a hard, late bite. His changeup is his third-best pitch, but still rates as above average. Greinke now throws his curveball with a spike grip for more action.
Greinke doesn't strike out as many hitters as most of the game's other top pitching prospects, but the Royals say that's because he revels in breaking bats and inducing weak contact to create better pitch economy. They say he could rack up more whiffs if he just threw his slider more in two-strike counts. Consistency on his secondary pitches is about the only area Greinke needs to improve. He'd be even more lethal if he located all the different variations in his repertoire on one occasion.
That report still holds up very well today. Greinke adds and subtracts from his pitches better than any major leaguer, giving him a seemingly infinite number of options. His strikeout rate steadily has risen as he has gotten more aggressive about putting hitters away rather than toying with them. Social anxiety disorder temporarily derailed his career, but now he has become the star scouts envisioned seven years ago.
Pirates fans never will forgive former general manager Dave Littlefield's regime for getting scared off by Wieters' asking price and passing on him to take Moskos with the fourth overall pick in the 2007 draft. Yet it's not fair to call Moskos a bust. He's scuffling a little bit in Double-A right now, but I think he'll pitch in the majors, more likely as a reliever than as a starter (his current role). Moving him back to the bullpen may allow him to regain some semblance of the mid-90s fastball and knockout slider he had as a reliever at Clemson.
We ranked Moskos as the No. 8 prospect in the 2007 draft , so Pittsburgh didn't make a horrible reach. That said, the Pirates should have gotten more value out of the No. 4 choice. They really wanted California high school third baseman Josh Vitters, but he went the pick before to the Cubs. Pittsburgh needed a position player badly, and former scouting director Ed Creech lived in Georgia, which was also home to prep outfielder Jason Heyward, who would have been a nice fit. Moskos wasn't even the top college lefthander available on our Top 200 Prospects list—the Pirates could have had Missouri State's Ross Detwiler, who would have been a better choice.