I'm getting a lot of questions about when we'll post our annual Top 100 Prospects list. It will appear online on Feb. 17.
I'm receiving nearly as many queries as to who will top the list, Braves outfielder Jason Heyward or Nationals righthander Stephen Strasburg. I honestly don't know the answer to that one, because I don't know which way the consensus among our staffers leans.
For an accompanying feature, 11 of us are going to draft 30-man farm systems. We whipped through the first 20 rounds today, and it was brutal as expected. I started off by getting Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez with the eighth overall pick, then had my heart broken by losing Mariners outfielder Dustin Ackley and Red Sox outfielder Ryan Westmoreland right before I could have snared them with my next two choices.
Strasburg would be the answer to both pitching questions, but because I can't use him for both, I'll pick him as the best bet to attain 2,500 strikeouts. His overpowering stuff and fine command will allow him to miss a lot of bats. I have Rangers righthander Neftali Feliz ranked as the No. 2 pitching prospect but there's a decent chance that he winds up in relief, so I'll choose Orioles lefthander Brian Matusz as the most likely to reach 200 wins. He's so polished that he should be a rotation mainstay for years to come.
As with Strasburg among the pitchers, Heyward is clearly the best prospect among position players. His bat stands out more than his power—though both are impressive—so I'll tab him as our man for 2,500 hits. Yankees catcher Jesus Montero also has a notable combination of hitting ability and power, and he's my pick for 400 homers. I rate Marlins outfielder Mike Stanton as the third-best prospect in baseball, behind Strasburg and Heyward, with his all-around brilliance giving him the nod over Montero and Alvarez. But I believe in the bats of Montero and Alvarez a little more than I do in Stanton's, so I'll choose Alvarez for 1,250 RBIs.
Rays outfielder Desmond Jennings is an easy choice for 400 steals. He has the on-base ability, pure speed and basestealing knowledge to wreak havoc on the bases.
Our college guru, Aaron Fitt, has reported extensively on the Paxton situation, in a subscriber-only story here and repeatedly on our College Blog. After the Blue Jays failed to sign the lefthander, the 37th overall pick in the 2009 draft, Beeston told The Globe and Mail that he negotiated directly with Paxton's adviser, Scott Boras—which would be a violation of NCAA rules.
Kentucky won't allow Paxton to play until he submits to an interview with NCAA officials. Paxton's request for a temporary injunction was shot down by a Kentucky circuit court judge, and Paxton has filed an appeal with the Kentucky Court of Appeals. As of now, the Wildcats are scheduled to open their season at the Caravelle Resort Tournament on Feb. 19 and don't plan on playing Paxton until the situation is resolved. If the NCAA later were to rule Paxton ineligible, Kentucky could be forced to forfeit any games in which he appears.
On at least one occasion, a team purposely turned in a player to the NCAA. After failing to sign 1992 second-round pick A.J. Hinch, White Sox vice president of scouting and minor league operations Larry Monroe told the NCAA that agent Steve Caruso negotiated directly with the team. The NCAA ultimately decided that it couldn't prove whether Caruso did with or without the knowledge of the Hinch family, a determination made more difficult when Hinch's father Dennis died of a heart attack in February 1993.
I don't think Beeston was trying to get Paxton in trouble, and it's still unclear how the NCAA found out about his remarks. (It's more likely that another school forwarded The Globe and Mail story to the NCAA than the NCAA happened to be scanning the newspaper's website.) I bet Beeston will be more circumspect with his comments in the future, but I doubt that any agents or draftees will hold them against him or the Blue Jays.
We rated Brentz as the 15th-best prospect available in our Early Draft Preview, which will be posted online soon. The Cubs may not get a crack at him, because they select 16th and the shortage of college bats means that Brentz likely will go higher than we have ranked.
Brentz should have power with wood bats. From talking to scouting directors while putting together the reports on our All-America team as well as our College Best Tools package, I sensed that they regard his power a little more highly than his hitting ability. He has a tremendously quick bat, though he sometimes gets a too homer-conscious, overswinging and pulling too many pitches. He's more than just a masher, too, as he has solid speed and a plus arm that Middle Tennessee State also uses on the mound.