Ask BA

Whoa. The video of Delmon Young throwing his bat at an umpire after a disputed called third strike was worse than I expected. There’s no doubt he threw the bat at the umpire, and while he could have thrown it harder, it had plenty of velocity on it. The minors’ top prospect is suspended indefinitely pending an investigation by the International League.

The IL, or whoever ultimately makes the call on Young, needs to come down on him hard. He wasn’t far off from hitting the umpire in the head. This is worse than Pete Rose shoving Dave Pallone in 1988, and Rose got a 30-day suspension for that. This is worse than failing a steroid test, which comes with a 50-day penalty for a first offense.

Young has had problems with umpires before, drawing a three-game suspension for bumping one in 2005. That can’t be ignored. Suspending him for 75 days would cost him half the season and maybe force him to start growing up. It also would send the message that attacks on umpires, replacement or otherwise, won’t be tolerated.

    Mets outfielder Fernando Martinez is off to a strong start at low Class A Hagerstown as a 17-year-old, hitting .323/.408/.538 with one homer, eight RBIs and three steals in 17 games. If Martinez were a high school senior right now, where would he likely be drafted in June?

    Jason Phillips

Martinez signed for $1.4 million out of the Dominican Republic last summer. Though he was a free agent then and would be restricted to negotiating with one team in the draft, he’d do better this June.

In a draft crop that’s very thin on position players and is getting the worst early reviews since the 2000 bunch, Martinez would be coveted. Realistically, he’s at least three years away from the major leagues, so that might keep him from going No. 1 overall, but he’d likely be one of the first five or 10 picks. He’s better than any high school position player available, and you could argue him against the top college position players. Martinez has a higher ceiling than Long Beach State third baseman Evan Longoria, and scouts believe he’s a safer bet to hit than Texas outfielder Drew Stubbs.

Martinez already is an advanced hitter and he also has above-average power potential. With solid speed and a strong arm, he projects as a quality all-around right fielder. For the sake of comparison, he’s outperforming the other 17-year-old phenoms in the South Atlantic League, Braves shortstop Elvis Andrus (.221/.279/.284) and Yankees outfielder Jose Tabata (.329/.342/.452).

    Because of their physical stature and electric stuff, I always look at Tigers righthander Justin Verlander and project what he’s doing in the big leagues to see what type of pitcher Mets righty Mike Pelfrey will become. Is that a fair comparison? Who has the better stuff and who will be the better pro?

    Michael Frank

That’s an interesting comparison. Verlander had the best pure stuff in the 2004 draft, when he was the first pitcher selected (No. 2 overall), while Pelfrey was the best pitcher available last year and would have been the first taken if not for signability concerns (he went at No. 9).

They do have a lot in common. They have similar builds, with Pelfrey slightly taller (6-foot-7 vs. 6-foot-5) and heavier (210 pounds vs. 200). Both can light up radar guns. Verlander hit 101 mph against the Mariners on Sunday and usually operates at 94-97 mph, a couple of ticks quicker than Pelfrey. Their changeups are comparable, and Pelfrey’s may have a little more potential because he uses his more often.

The biggest difference between the two is the quality of their curveballs. Verlander has a power breaking ball that qualifies as a true plus pitch, while Pelfrey’s curve is an average offering. Neither pitcher has any red flags on their medical history and both throw strikes, so the edge goes to Verlander because of his curve.

    Cardinals lefthander Jaime Garcia had another solid start last night for low Class A Quad Cities, and after 25 innings he has allowed seven runs on 17 hits and seven walks to go with 26 strikeouts. Pretty impressive for a 19-year-old making his pro debut. You mentioned in the 2005 Draft Report CardsPremium that he had one of the best curveballs among Cardinals draftees. Is he a legitimate prospect or just a soft-tossing lefty tearing up the low minors with good control and a solid breaking ball?

    Dan Johnson
    St. Louis

Garcia is one of my favorite sleepers from the 2005 draft. Scouts first noticed him as a two-way star for the Mexican junior national team, and he attended Sharyland High (Mission, Texas) so he could enter the 2004 draft. There apparently was some confusion about his eligibility, and the Orioles didn’™t take him until the 30th round. Disappointed at his draft status and piddly bonus offer, Garcia not only didn’t sign but he also returned to Mexico and stopped training.

Joe Almaraz, the area scout who recommended Garcia to Baltimore, joined the Cardinals that offseason. He didn’t forget about Garcia, who had fallen out of shape and saw his fastball dip to the low 80s. St. Louis took a flier on Garcia in the 22nd round last June and signed him to a 2006 contract.

Garcia is back in peak condition again and he’s anything but a soft tosser. His fastball has sat at 91 mph and topped out at 93 this spring, and his curveball has the makings of becoming a true out pitch. When he’s on, his curve has nasty, late bite. He doesn’t use his changeup much at this point, and that will become a point of emphasis later this year. He’s quickly establishing himself as one of the better pitching prospects in the Cardinals system.

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