Ask BA

Thursday was a good day for fans of the knuckleball. The Brewers promoted journeyman Jared Fernandez, doubling the total of knuckleballers in the majors. (The Red Sox’ Tim Wakefield had been all by himself.) In the minors, White Sox righthander Charles Haeger continued his string of six straight starts without giving up more than one earned run at Triple-A Charlotte. He’s now 3-0, 0.68 with a .191 opponent average, no homers allowed and a 31-20 K-BB ratio in 40 innings. Unfortunately for him, Chicago has no openings in its rotation and Brandon McCarthy ahead of him in line waiting for one.

    Where do you think Stanford righthander Greg Reynolds will go in the draft? I know his numbers don't necessarily jump out at you, but I also know that teams love his size, stuff and potential.

    Ryan Gordon
    San Francisco

Reynolds will go in the first round in June. He’s a 6-foot-7, 225-pound righthander with two plus pitches in his low-90s fastball and his curveball, not to mention an effective changeup. He was lights out against Arizona State last weekend, pitching a complete-game three-hitter in front of several scouts. That performance has spurred talk that he could go in the first 10 picks.

That’s too high for my taste, and I left him off my list of the draft’s top 20 prospects in the April 20 Ask BA. While Reynolds has a prototype pro body and good stuff, he doesn’t dominate with his stuff as much as he should. In 12 starts this spring, he has gone 4-3, 3.66 with a .247 opponent average and a 67-21 K-BB ratio in 79 innings. He has gone 10-7, 4.53 with 133 strikeouts in 157 innings in three years at Stanford. Against wood bats in the Cape Cod League last summer, he didn’t come close to averaging a strikeout per inning (34 in 53).

Reynolds throws strikes, but his command isn’t as good as his control. He pitches up in the strike zone too often, making him more hittable than he should be, and he sometimes falls in love with his curveball too much. It’s easy to look at his physical ability and envision a frontline starter, but I think he’s going to be more of a No. 3 or a No. 4. The strength of this draft is college pitchers, and there are several with quality stuff and a better idea of how to use it. I’d take Reynolds in the 21-30 range.

    Of the top three shortstop prospects in the minors (Stephen Drew of the Diamondbacks, Troy Tulowitzki of the Rockies, Brandon Wood of the Angels), which one is the best pure hitter, best power hitter and best defender? Do all three look to stick at shortstop, or is their best position elsewhere on the diamond?

    John Eder

Those three stud shortstops split those three attributes evenly among them.

Drew is the best pure hitter, as evidenced by stepping right into pro ball last year after a long layoff and batting .320 with 14 homers in 65 games between high Class A and Double-A. He hasn’t slowed down at all, hitting .339 with six homers in Triple-A this season. He should become a .300-plus hitter in the majors, while Tulowitzki (if he were in a neutral park) and Wood project as .280 hitters.

Wood, who led the minors with 43 homers and the Arizona Fall League with a record 14 last year, is the best power hitter. He picked up where he left off, going deep in his first game this year and eight times in his first 27 contests. Both Drew and Tulowitzki have above-average power that’s well above average for a middle infielder.

Tulowitzki is the best defender, with plus range, arm strength and instincts. Drew and Wood are more average with the glove. Both are good enough defensively to stick at shortstop, and Drew probably will. Wood could move to third base becaue of the Angels’ needs, as he has enough bat to play there and they also have Orlando Cabrera and Erick Aybar at shortstop.

    In recent Ask BAs, you talked about the glut of outfielders in both the Diamondbacks and Devil Rays systems. In my opinion, it will be hard for either team to put all of their best prospects on the same 25-man roster. This leaves certain talented players up for trades, where they might be wasted on one team but could fill a hole on another. For example, White Sox righthander Brandon McCarthy for Devil Rays shortstop B.J. Upton, or Phillies righthander Gavin Floyd for Royals slugger Billy Butler. What are your best prospect trade ideas?

    C.J. Keller
    Prattville, Ala.

I liked this question so much that I used it for my column in the latest edition of Baseball America. I came up with a couple of blockbusters, but I don’t want to steal all of my own thunder, so those will have to wait until the column is posted online sometime next week. But I will share one of my smaller deals: Indians catcher Kelly Shoppach for Giants second baseman Kevin Frandsen.

Shoppach went from Boston to Cleveland in the Coco Crisp trade, but he’s still stuck in purgatory. Once trapped behind Jason Varitek, he’s now trapped behind a better and younger catcher in Victor Martinez.

Given the chance to play regularly, which he won’t get with the Indians, Shoppach could hit .260 with 20 homers, a fair number of walks and solid defense. That would make him a godsend in San Francisco, where Mike Matheny’s bat is on life support. Matheny is also 35 and the Giants have no viable catching prospects on the horizon.

While Frandsen, a gamer with solid tools, is the heir apparent if San Francisco doesn’t bring Ray Durham back for 2007, speedster Marcus Sanders is the best second-base prospect in the system. Though Sanders won’t be ready for a couple of years, it’s easier to find a second baseman than a catcher. The Indians have a bigger need at second, where Frandsen would be as effective (and more cost-effective) than pending free agent Ron Belliard.

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