I knew there was disparity in the number of early-round draft picks teams had, but I didn't realize how much until a club official sent me some research his team put together. In the last six drafts, there have been a total of 1,049 selections in the first five rounds, an average of 35 per team. Because of free-agent compensation, the total choices for the clubs run the gamut from the Blue Jays (46), Padres (46), Rays (43), Diamondbacks (42) and Red Sox (42) at the top to the Cubs (28), Orioles (28), Athletics (30), Royals (30) and Yankees (30) at the bottom.
Of course, the clubs make their own decisions as to which of their free agents to offer arbitration (a requirement for receiving compensation) and which ones to sign (knowing when it will cost them a draft pick). But it's still odd to see that San Diego and Toronto have averaged three more choices per year than Baltimore and Chicago over the last six drafts.
No word has leaked out as to whether free-agent compensation will be addressed as part of changes to the draft in the next collective bargaining agreement. Here are the alterations I would make:
1. Overhaul the rating system, which is too simplistic (as I detailed in the Feb. 3, 2009 Ask BA). Relievers in particular are overvalued, as any bullpen arm with a pulse is rated as Type A (top 20 percent in a position group) or Type B (21-40 percent) and yields some form of compensation.
2. Eliminate compensation for Type B free agents altogether. Eighteen of them produced supplemental first-round picks in the 2011 draft: Adam LaRoche, Pedro Feliciano, Octavio Dotel, John Buck, J.J. Putz, Jon Garland, Juan Uribe, Orlando Hudson, Javier Vazquez, Brad Hawpe, Kevin Gregg, Yorvit Torrealba, Jesse Crain, Joaquin Benoit, Miguel Olivo, Kevin Correia, Randy Choate and Chad Qualls. They weren't as valuable as the draft picks their former clubs received in return.
3. Base the sandwich picks on the net number of free agents lost rather than the raw total. For instance, the Rangers saw Type A free agent Cliff Lee depart and got the Phillies' first-rounder in return. Texas signed Type A free agent Adrian Beltre and gave up its own first-rounder to the Red Sox. That's fine. But the Rangers also got a supplemental first-rounder for Lee despite landing as many Type A free agents as it lost.
My changes would have shaved the supplemental first round from 27 selections to four in 2011, and they'd more accurately reflect the value of what teams lost to free agency. We'll see what happens in the new CBA, which could be unveiled in the near future.
Stanton is the clear No. 1 choice, as he's the youngest player of the five established big leaguers and easily had the best 2011 season. In his first full year in the majors, he ranked fifth in the National League with 34 homers and eighth with a .537 slugging percentage.
I'm giving Heyward a mulligan for his dismal .227/.319/.389 year. He's just 21 and still has tools to be a formidable hitter. Stanton deserves the edge because of how much better he was this season, but Heyward still could be the superior all-around hitter in the long run and I'll take him over the rest of group.
Bruce's power and prototypical right-field tools put him third on my list. I'll give Rasmus the nod over Brown because he has proven more in the big leagues and is a capable center fielder. Neither of them produced as hoped in 2011, but like Heyward, they're both better than they showed.
The baseball tournament is ongoing, with the gold-medal game between Canada and the United States set for tonight at 8 p.m. ET. Team USA ended Cuba's streak of 10 straight Pan Am baseball titles over 40 years with a 12-10 victory in the semifinals yesterday. John Manuel has provided tournament updates on our Prospect Blog and will follow the game tonight on Twitter via @johnmanuelba.
USA Baseball has used a squad of minor leaguers for the World Cup in Panama (where Team USA reached the bronze-medal game but was rained out against Canada) and the Pan Am Games, which were staged three days apart. There are more journeymen than prospects, with top performers including Marlins second baseman Joe Thurston (.436/.500/.600 between the two tournaments), Red Sox outfielder Brett Carroll (.357/.449/.595, including a 9-for-14 performance at the Pan Am Games), Astros lefthander Andy Van Hekken (3-0, 1.29 in three starts) and Mariners righty Scott Patterson (three saves, 1.29 ERA in eight appearances).
Team USA's best prospect was Blue Jays catcher Travis d'Arnaud, who went 3-for-16 in four games before tearing ligaments in his left thumb and requiring surgery. Other prospects of note include Cubs outfielder Brett Jackson (.400/.450/.571), who has had just one at-bat at the Pan Ams because he's banged up; Diamondbacks outfielder A.J. Pollock (.255/.356/.392); and Tigers lefty Drew Smyly (2-0, 0.00 in three starts).
I don't think it's fair to blame the disappointments of the White Sox on Hahn. Williams runs Chicago's baseball operations with a forceful personality, and he's ultimately going to make the final decisions. It's impossible to know which of the Sox's good and bad moves Hahn endorsed or cautioned against. Likewise, it's not Hahn's fault that Jerry Reinsdorf is by far the stingiest owner when it comes to the draft.
That said, it's very difficult to know how much credit or blame to give to any non-GM when it comes to a team's moves. What makes Hahn stand out as a GM candidate is his diverse background.
He spent two years as an associate with what is now known as Legacy Sports Group and earned degrees from Michigan, Harvard Law School and Northwestern's Kellogg Graduate School of Management. He handles much of the negotiating for the White Sox and is involved in all phases of baseball operations as Williams' right-hand man. Hahn also has a sterling reputation for working well with other members of Chicago's front office, as well as agents and executives from other teams.
In addition to his administrative skills, Hahn also is a capable evaluator. The White Sox media guide credits him for playing a key role in such moves as inkng Esteban Loaiza to a minor league contract, claiming Bobby Jenks off waivers, trading for Quentin and signing 2010 first-round pick Chris Sale.