I took last week off from Ask BA while focusing on the draft, and I'll be gone next week with my sons at the College World Series. My CWS predictions (made before the Series started; you'll just have to trust me) were Louisiana State over Cal State Fullerton in the Saturday bracket and Arizona State over Texas in the Sunday bracket, with the Tigers winning it all. I say this just about every year, but if you're a baseball fan, making the pilgrimage to Omaha is well worth it. This will be the 21st CWS I've attended, and it's still my favorite baseball event.
I'll go out on a limb and say that first baseman Chris Marrero and catcher Derek Norris won't be able to hold off Strasburg. The only way Strasburg won't rank atop our Nationals Top 10/30 lists in the offseason is if he doesn't sign with Washington. Besides Strasburg, there are only four other first-rounders who clearly will be their organization's top prospect as soon as they sign: Mariners outfielder Dustin Ackley (the No. 2 pick), Padres outfielder Donavan Tate (No. 3), Tigers righthander Jacob Turner (No. 9) and Rockies lefthander Tyler Matzek (No. 11).
Two other first-rounders have a chance because their clubs have no obvious top prospect. Athletics shortstop Grant Green (No. 13) and White Sox outfielder Jered Mitchell (No. 23) could rank No. 1 if they have strong debuts and no one goes off in their organization's upper minors. The Angels' top spot could be there for the taking, but I don't see outfielders Randal Grichuk (No. 24) and Mike Trout (No. 25) pulling that off.
There are several other situations where a talented first-rounder just doesn't figure to beat out a talented minor leaguer. These include Rangers lefthander Matthew Purke (No. 14) vs. first baseman Justin Smoak, Indians righthander Alex White (No. 15) vs. catcher Carlos Santana and Cardinals righty Shelby Miller (No. 19) vs. third baseman Brett Wallace.
Last year, I predicted that eight first-rounders would rank as No. 1 prospects, but just five made the final cut, including only one of the first six picks: Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez (No. 2), Reds first baseman Yonder Alonso (No. 7), White Sox shortstop Gordon Beckham (No. 8), Astros catcher Jason Castro (No. 10) and Twins outfielder Aaron Hicks (No. 14).
I think Strasburg will sign with the Nationals at the Aug. 17 deadline, which will give Harper a new bonus record to shoot for. He's leaving high school after two seasons to enroll at the CC of Southern Nevada, which will make him draft-eligible next June.
Scouts say Strasburg is the best prospect in draft history, and Harper will give him a run for his money. The only other prospect who ever received as much hype before his sophomore season was Justin Upton, who went on to become the No. 1 overall pick in the 2005 draft. Harper is considered a better prospect than Upton, because he has a superior bat and plays catcher, the scarcest position for talent.
Picking between the two is difficult. One guy is a 20-year-old college righthander who has accomplished just about everything possible as an amateur, and the other is a 16-year-old high school catcher. If I could only have one of them, and I had to choose who would have the better career, I'd go with Strasburg. He's going to help a big league club two to three years sooner than Harper will, and he has proven himself against much tougher levels of competition.
The 16-45 Nationals currently lead the Diamondbacks by 9½ games in the race for the worst record in baseball and the top pick in the 2010 draft. Washington could land Strasburg and Harper in consecutive drafts, and if Scott Boras gets his way, could pay a combined $100 million or more to sign them.
Cardullo had a breakout junior season for the Seminoles, becoming their first first-team All-America shortstop since Dick Howser in 1957-58. After starting just 10 games in his first two years at Florida State, he hit .376/.479/.612 with 10 homers and 20 steals. He set an NCAA postseason record with seven hits in a rout of Ohio State in the regionals.
But from a pro standpoint, Cardullo is more of a good college player than a good prospect. The 6-foot, 198-pounder doesn't have a plus tool and projects as a second baseman or utilityman at the next level.
Cardullo will get a chance to play pro ball, but teams obviously didn't feel that his asking price was in line with how they viewed his potential. If clubs think they have no chance to sign a player, they often won't bother to draft him.