Since the last Ask BA three weeks ago, there have been several free-agent signings that have affected the 2012 draft order. Here's where we stand as of today:
13. White Sox
17. Blue Jays
19. Cardinals (from Angels for Albert Pujols, Type A)
22. Blue Jays (for failure to sign 2011 first-rounder Tyler Beede)
24. Red Sox
31. Red Sox (from Phillies for Jonathan Papelbon, Type A)
Supplemental First Round
32. Padres (for Heath Bell, modified Type A, to Marlins)
33. Mets (for Jose Reyes, Type A, to Marlins)
34. Cardinals (for Pujols)
35. Red Sox (for Papelbon)
36. Rangers (for C.J. Wilson, Type A, to Angels)
37. Astros (for Clint Barmes, Type B, to Pirates)
38. Padres (for Aaron Harang, Type B, to Dodgers)
39. Pirates (for Ryan Doumit, Type B, to Twins)
40. Rockies (for Mark Ellis, Type B, to Dodgers)
41. Atheltics (for David DeJesus, Type B, to Cubs)
42. White Sox (for Mark Buehrle, Type B, to Marlins)
43. Reds (for Ramon Hernandez, Type B, to Rockies)
44. Dodgers (for Rod Barajas, Type B, to Pirates)
45. Blue Jays (for Frank Francisco, Type B, to Mets)
46. Cardinals (for Octavio Dotel, Type B, to Tigers)
47. Blue Jays (for Jon Rauch, Type B, to Mets)
48. Blue Jays (for Jose Molina, Type B, to Rays)
55. Padres (for failure to sign 2011 sandwich-rounder Brett Austin)
58. Padres (for Bell)
59. Mets (from Marlins for Reyes)
69. Rangers (from Angels for Wilson)
89. Yankees (for failure to sign 2011 second-rounder Sam Stafford)
Supplemental Third Round
112. Mariners (for failure to sign 2011 third-rounder Kevin Cron)
113. Marlins (for failure to sign 2011 third-rounder Connor Barron)
114. Rockies (for failure to sign 2011 third-rounder Peter O'Brien)
Remaining Compensation Free Agents
Athletics: Josh Willingham (A*).
Brewers: Prince Fielder (A).
Cardinals: Edwin Jackson (B).
Cubs: Carlos Pena (B), Aramis Ramirez (B).
Phillies: Jimmy Rollins (A), Ryan Madson (A*), Raul Ibanez (B).
Pirates: Derrek Lee (B).
Rangers: Darren Oliver (B).
Red Sox: Dan Wheeler (B).
Reds: Francisco Cordero (B).
Twins: Michael Cuddyer (A*), Jason Kubel (B).
A* indicates modified Type A free agent.
The final stages of the 2012 Prospect Handbook beckon, so this will be the last Ask BA of 2011. Happy holidays to everyone, and I'll be back to answer more of your questions in 2012.
He hasn't been as hyped as fellow Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, and he can't match Cespedes' flair for YouTube promotion, but some teams believe Soler is the better prospect. He's a 19-year-old athlete with five-tool potential.
Six-foot-3 and 205 pounds, Soler has explosive bat speed and power potential. He also has plus speed and arm strength and profiles as a classic right fielder, though he runs well enough to play center. Because of his youth, he'll need some time to develop, but he should be worth the wait.
The 2010 draft had a clear top three prospects in Harper, Taillon and Machado. I'm not sure Soler would have gone ahead of any of them. The Pirates insist they would have taken Taillon over Harper had they picked first rather than second, and five-tool players are harder to find at shortstop (Machado) then in the outfield.
The less-than-stellar performance record of high-profile Cuban defectors might have worked against Soler, too. All that said, he would have been more attractive then steady middle infielder Christian Colon (No. 4, Royals) or lefthander Drew Pomeranz (No. 5, Indians).
As for the 2012 Top 100 Prospects list, Soler is somewhat similar to Royals outfielder Bubba Starling, the fifth overall pick in the 2011 draft. Starling has the advantages of being more athletic and a better bet to stay in center field. I'd see both of them sitting in the 11-20 range on our next Top 100.
Soler is four years younger and more talented than Leonys Martin, another Cuban outfielder who signed a $15.6 million major league contract with the Rangers in April. Once Soler is cleared to sign with a major league team, he's expected to top Martin's deal.
The new CBA provides for a $2.9 million international cap for each team for the 2012-13 signing period, which doesn't start until July 2. As long as Soler signs before then, he won't be subject to the cap. And even if he were, he's talented enough and the penalties for busting the cap are so light (a 100-percent tax on the overage and a prohibition on signing any international player for more than $250,000 in the next signing period) that I bet several clubs would be willing to exceed the $2.9 million.
Parker ranked just fourth on our stacked Diamondbacks Top 10 Prospects list, behind righthanders Trevor Bauer and Archie Bradley and lefty Tyler Skaggs. But he'll vault to No. 1 on our Athletics Top 10, ahead of Gray and Choice.
Both Parker and Gray are relatively short righthanders with big arms. Parker throws a little bit harder, as he operates in the mid-90s with his fastball. Both have devastating breaking balls, with Gray's curveball rating a slight edge over Parker's slider, which was more dominant before he had Tommy John surgery in October 2009. His changeup is better than Gray's, and Parker also has a little better chance to remain a starter in the long run. Parker also has proven himself more at higher levels, though Gray, the 18th overall pick in the 2011 draft, pitched very well in five Double-A starts in August.
A former first-round pick like Parker and Gray, Choice led the high Class A California League with 30 homers in 2011, his first full pro season. He's the best bat in the Athletics system, but I'd take the two righthanders over him.
The rules for Triple-A and Double-A Rule 5 picks are simple: There are none. Pay your $12,000 (for Triple-A choices) or $4,000 (for Double-A selections), and the player is yours, no strings attached.
It's almost impossible for an organization to lose a player it values in the minor league phases. It has 40 spots on its major league roster and 38 more on its Triple-A roster to keep a player out of the Triple-A phase, and an additional 37 on its Double-A roster to shield him from that phase.