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Going Deep: Buck Martinez

Alan Schwarz -Premium Content

As the pieces of the upcoming World Baseball Classic gradually fall into place, one of the biggest appeared at the Winter Meetings: the Team USA manager will be Buck Martinez, the current ESPN analyst and former manager of the Blue Jays. The prospect of managing the greatest collection of talent in the history of baseball, with names like Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Derek Jeter and more, has left the garrulous Martinez anything but speechless. I sat down with Martinez to discuss his evolving juggernaut and any plans to bribe the Rocket out of retirement.

Majors | #2006#Column

Going Deep: George Brett

Alan Schwarz -Premium Content

The day when the Hall of Fame balloting gets announced is about phone calls: mainly, to the lucky former players who learn they'll be in Cooperstown forevermore. But this year the most notable phone call for me was the one to Hall of Famer George Brett, who after stepping off a plane in Boston wanted to know the voting results. I had the pleasure of getting his immediate and candid thoughts on Bruce Sutter's selection, his continuing vigil for Goose Gossage and Bert Blyleven, and whether his old pal John Schuerholz ever has a shot.

Majors | #2006#Column

Going Deep: Darrell Miller

Alan Schwarz -Premium Content

I've seen it. Really. While in Los Angeles on business, I stopped by Major League Baseball's new Urban Youth Academy in Compton, an immense (and long-overdue) step in revitalizing inner-city baseball. When it officially opens on Feb. 28, after more than five years of planning, the $10 million facility will allow thousands of youngsters a chance to learn baseball from former pros and play games on big league quality fields, complete with stands and lights. All for free. Its director is Darrell Miller, the former Angels catcher and farm director, who gave me a walking tour of the still under construction complex in late January. Among the dirt and cinderblocks lies the future of urban baseball.

Majors | #2006#Column

Going Deep: Mike Marshall

Alan Schwarz -Premium Content

ike Marshall fashions himself a baseball pariah. The 63-year-old former ironman pitcher—who in 1974 pitched in 208 innings over 106 games to set records for a major league reliever—now coaches amateur pitchers at his facility in Zephyrhills, Fla., using such unconventional methods and criticizing other pitching experts so vehemently that he claims his students are blackballed by major league organizations. Few dispute that Marshall, who owns a doctorate in exercise physiology from Michigan State and has done tremendous other research on pitching arms and injuries, has some interesting ideas. I spoke with Marshall about those ideas, the contentiousness with which he shares them, and his vow to change pitching forever.

Majors | #2006#Column

Going Deep: Dontrelle Willis

Alan Schwarz -Premium Content

If the World Baseball Classic has a face, it is not the anticipatory gaze of the baseball beancounters, or the worried mug of general managers everywhere. It is that of Dontrelle Willis. No player from any country has expressed more unbridled joy for participating in the upcoming extravaganza. (His "I just hope I make the team!" at last year's all-star press conference pierced the hearts of even the most cynical scribes.) With the event finally at hand, I talked with Willis about pitching for his country, his role on Team USA and the revamped Marlins, and scoring freebies from HBO.

Majors | #2006#Column

The 31st Team, 2006 Edition

Premium Content

This year's edition of the Prospect Handbook contained a record 902 scouting reports—we crammed 2005 first-round picks Justin Upton and Mike Pelfrey into the appendix after they signed late—but there still were plenty more where those came from. Every year, a few reports end up on the cutting-room floor. Players get bumped out of the book for a variety of reasons, such as trades or injuries. Then there's a case like the Marlins, who spent the offseason trading veterans for prospects, leading us to revise their top 30 list several times. Below are 42 players, listed alphabetically, who were in the Handbook at one point but didn't make the final cut. We like to call them "The 31st Team."

Minors | #2006#Column

Trading Mulder, Hudson Shows Guts

Tracy Ringolsby -Premium Content

Billy Beane had to make his most challenging decisions as a general manager this offseason. He still had the rotation nucleus that has allowed the Athletics to be a factor in the American League West despite one of the lower payrolls in baseball. However, he also had to deal with reality. He dealt Tim Hudson to Atlanta and Mark Mulder to St. Louis, receiving a package of prospects in both deals.

Majors | #2005#Column

Pros Took Big Bite Out Of Clemson’s Banner Class

Jim Callis -Premium Content

If baseball was like football, and players were required to spend three years in college before becoming draft-eligible, Clemson wouldn't rank sixth in the Atlantic Coast Conference and 36th overall in our College Preview. The Tigers also wouldn't be shut out on our preseason All-America teams. Here's what our first team would look like.

Minors | #2005#Column

NL Talent Found Beyond The Top 10s

Jim Callis -Premium Content

Here's an all-star team of National League prospects who couldn't quite make the Top 10 cut. Last year's version of this column included five players who graduated to Top 10 status this time around: Rockies third baseman Jeff Baker, Cubs outfielder Jason Dubois, Braves outfielder Kelly Johnson, Tigers first baseman/catcher Chris Shelton and Diamondbacks catcher Chris Snyder.

Minors | #2005#Column

Top 100 Offers More Evidence In Talent Debate

Jim Callis -Premium Content

The prevailing wisdom these days is that college players are a better investment than high schoolers. The number of prepsters taken in the first 10 rounds of the draft is rapidly shrinking, from 46 percent of the picks in 2000 to 39 percent in 2002 to 30 percent (believed to be an all-time low) last year. At the same time, however, high school players dominate the top of our Top 100 Prospects list. They claim 14 of the first 20 spots, compared to three each for college and international signees. A year ago, the prep influence was more pronounced, as the top 20 included 18 high schoolers versus one collegian and one foreigner.

Minors | #2005#Column

No. 1 Picks Rarely Overcome Bad Debuts

Jim Callis -Premium Content

Player-development and scouting officials agree almost unanimously that you can't read too much into a player's first-year stats. But an examination of the debuts for other No. 1 overall selections reveals that Matt Bush's struggles are a bad omen.

Minors | #2005#Column

Don’t Read Too Much Into College Stats

Jim Callis -Premium Content

When Bill James developed his Minor League Equivalencies in the mid-1980s, translating minor league stats into big league numbers, he didn't venture below Double-A or mess with pitchers because the future performance records didn't hold up. Yet now some teams are putting faith into statistics from a level of baseball light years removed from Double-A.

Minors | #2005#Column

D’Backs, Angels, Get Their Men Without Panicking

Jim Callis -Premium Content

Scott Boras has a reputation for squeezing every last penny out of clubs when it comes to free agency and the draft. So other teams were thrilled when the Diamondbacks and Angels held firm in negotiations with their 2004 first-rounders, Boras clients Jered Weaver and Stephen Drew. Even while coming within minutes of the May 30 midnight Eastern signing deadline, Arizona and Los Angeles held firm to offers that had been on the table for months. In the end, Drew and Weaver decided to turn pro rather than take their chances in the 2005 draft.

Minors | #2005#Column

Hochevar Doesn’t Get Past No. 17 In Our Draft

Jim Callis -Premium Content

With 30 scouting directors putting their opinions on the line in the first-year player draft, it's time for me to do the same. I've put together my own 10-round mock drafts since 2003, based on BA's scouting reports and signability information. This year, I randomly drew the 17th slot in each round. Because the supplemental first round lasts 18 picks this year, I decided I should get in on that action with the No. 35 selection.

Minors | #2005#Column

Upton Stays Behind To Work On Glove

Jim Callis -Premium Content

The Devil Rays have no doubts that B.J. Upton will be an impact hitter at the major league level. But they wanted him to start this season in Triple-A to hone his defense, and he has remained in Durham all year, making him eligible for a return trip to the Futures Game in July.

Minors | #2005#Column

Crazy Eights Compelling In Own Right

Jim Callis -Premium Content

The first round of the baseball draft hogs most of the attention. The most talented players go in the top 30 picks and command the largest bonuses. But when the first round is completed, there still are 49 rounds and nearly 1,500 picks remaining. And some of those rounds can be just as enthralling. Take the eighth round, for instance. The best-ever eighth-rounder was the stunningly gifted Eric Davis, followed by Charlie Hough. There must be something about the eighth round and knuckleballers, because Tim Wakefield (selected as a first baseman) went there as well.

Minors | #2005#Column