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The Indianapolis Colts are expected to take quarterback Andrew Luck with the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft. Righthander Mark Appel opened the year as Baseball America's top-rated draft prospect and still is on the short list to go No. 1 to the Astros. If both Luck and Appel headline their respective drafts, Stanford would become the first college ever to produce the top picks in baseball and football in the same year.

Since the baseball draft began in 1965, only six times has a college had a top-five baseball and football pick in the same year. The last time it happened was five years ago, when both Clemson and Georgia Tech accomplished the feat:

Year College MLB Pick NFL Pick
1972 Oregon Dave Roberts (1st) Ahmad Rashad (4th)
1976 Arizona State Floyd Bannister (1st) Mike Haynes (5th)
1988 Auburn Gregg Olson (4th) Aundray Bruce (1st)
1997 Florida State J.D. Drew (2nd) Peter Boulware (4th)
2007 Clemson Daniel Moskos (4th) Gaines Adams (4th)

Georgia Tech Matt Wieters (5th) Calvin Johnson (2nd)

Ask BA will take next week off before returning on April 2. I'm looking forward to answering your questions again in two weeks.

    Following up on last week's Ask BA question about the prospects with the best individual hitting, power and speed tools, who makes your top five list of those who grade as above average in both power and speed? Royals outfielder Bubba Starling is one guy who jumps to mind. Does Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper have that kind of speed?

    Steve Clark
    Bridgeport, Conn.

Many scouts think Harper will lose a half-step or so as he fully matures physically, and while he presently has above-average speed, they project him as more of a 55 runner on the 20-80 scouting scale down the line. So if we require players to be at least a future 60 in each category, that takes him out of the running. Here's my top five:

Best Power/Speed Prospects
1. Mike Trout, of, Angels
2. Bubba Starling, of, Royals
3. George Springer, of, Astros
4. Yoenis Cespedes, of, Athletics
5. Rymer Liriano, of, Padres
Just missed the cut: Jordan Akins (Rangers), Joe Benson (Twins), Brett Jackson (Cubs).
Missed with 55 power: Jake Marisnick (Blue Jays), Brandon Nimmo (Mets).
Missed with 55 speed: Bryce Harper (Nationals), Tim Wheeler (Rockies), Christian Yelich (Marlins).

    You mentioned in last week's Ask BA that the Astros could move Jarred Cosart to closer because of his health and command issues. That got me to wondering: What is a top closer's value relative to a starting pitcher? At what point does a starter's value diminish to where he has more value as a closer? If Cosart could be a No. 3 starter, would it be better for Houston to make him a closer, or should it only make that move if it looks like he'll never be a consistent starter?

    David Horowitz
    New York

The short answer is that it comes down to innings. A solid starter is going to provide his team 180-200 innings or more, while a closer might work 60 innings, not all of which will come in high-leverage situations. It's one thing if you think you might have a truly elite closer—but outside of Mariano Rivera, how many guys are automatic year after year?—but otherwise you're going to want the starter, even if he fits in the middle of your rotation and not at the front.

This is why many big league closers entered pro ball and spent much of their minor league careers as starters. Teams move a pitcher to the bullpen only after it becomes clear that he won't make it in the rotation, which might be because of a limited repertoire, inconsistent command or health and delivery issues.

Cosart has the pure stuff to become a No. 1 starter, though he'll have to get more consistent with his secondary pitches, improve his command and show he can stay healthy. The Astros will give him every opportunity to do so, with the bullpen only a fallback possibility at this point. Even if he maxes out as a No. 3 starter, that still would be preferable to trying to make him a closer.

    I love the new BA Grades in the 2012 Prospect Handbook. Padres outfielder Rymer Liriano is a 65/High, and I think he would have been one of the biggest jumpers had the BA Grades existed in 2011. What would he have been in the 2011 Handbook? Since you just introduced the grades this year, I'm betting that you haven't thought about how they would change from year to year. Would you baseline one year and adjust a player up or down from the previous year, or start with a blank canvas with no reference to the previous year? What would you expect to be a typical progression for a player: only his risk changing, small five-point movements in his realistic ceiling, or major swings in both as many prospects are still young?

    Jeff Anderson
    Brooklyn Park, Minn.

Assigning grades to 900 players in the Handbook was a laborious process, and as soon as we started, we began thinking about how much easier it will be in future years when we have the previous grades to use as a starting point. They aren't locked in stone by any means, but they can serve as a baseline. I'd anticipate that most players would tend to have small changes, either in terms of five points of realistic level or one level of risk, and in a few cases both. I'd anticipate that anything more dramatic would be associated with a breakthrough or collapse in performance, or a serious injury.

I agree that Liriano would have had one of the more dramatic rises from the 2011 to 2012 Handbooks. In 2010, he hit a .231/.288/.342 with three homers and 31 steals while striking out about four times for every walk. His physical tools were evident but his skills were lacking, and my guess is that we would have slapped a 55/Extreme on him (though a more pessimistic 50/Extreme would have been possible as well). Last season, he batted .298/.365/.465 with 12 homers, 66 steals and two whiffs for every free pass, and his stock jumped accordingly. I'll bet when we do the 2013 Handbook, there will be precious few players who add 10-15 points of realistic ceiling and reduce their risk by a level.

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