Ask BA

Ask BA will return to its usual Thursday slot next week, now that the Draft Preview has gone to the printer. There’s still more work to be done, including our detailed state-by-state lists, and we’ll be bombarding you with draft information at as we prepare for the proceedings to kick off on June 6.

Today, we offer you John Manuel’s overview of the subpar crop of talent, my first attempt at projecting how the first round will unfoldPremium and a chat with Alan Matthews. There’s much, much more to come.

And if you have any questions you want to run by Ask BA, you know the e-mail address: Don’t forget to include your full name and hometown.

    I was wondering what happened to New York high school righthander Dellin Betances. Before the season started, he was projected as a first-round pick. Now I don't hear anything about him. Also, do you see the Dodgers going after high school players with their first three picks?

    Ray Villa
    Los Angeles

The 6-foot-9 Betances, who pitches at Grand Street High in New York City, isn’t generating first-round buzz but likely will go in the second to fourth round. Here’s Aaron Fitt’s scouting report from our Draft Preview:

The towering Betances commands attention on the mound and has flashed big stuff to match his size. He had scouts buzzing when he showed low- to mid-90s velocity in last year’s Aflac game, when he needed just nine pitches to retire the heart of the West’s lineup.

But Betances struggled to regain that velocity in the cold weather early this spring, pitching in the high 80s and topping out at 91. He’s gotten stronger as the season has gone along, pitching back in the 92-93 mph range and touching 94 while occasionally flashing a plus 12-to-6 curveball with sharp downer action. A former basketball player, Betances has good feet and is athletic, but his windup has a lot of moving parts’"he appears to duck his head in order to get his arm over the top’"and he struggles to repeat his delivery from a straight over-the-top arm slot.

Betances has thrown plenty of innings between two different leagues this spring, thanks to a work schedule overseen by summer coach Mel Zitter, who has helped create plenty of hype about Betances along with his agents, the Hendricks brothers. Despite their best efforts, he’s too raw and risky for the first round, but whoever takes him could end up with a pitcher scouts compare to Daniel Cabrera.

As for the Dodgers, scouting director Logan White isn’t beholden to high school players. It may look that way, because he drafts a lot of them, but that’s more the result of the industry increasingly pursuing college talent. With more and more teams going in that direction, the top high school players don’t go as high as they should.

The frontrunners for Los Angeles’ No. 7 choice are a pair of high school pitchers, Texas lefthander Clayton Kershaw and Virginia righthander Jeremy Jeffress. But if the University of Houston righthander Brad Lincoln were to fall to the Dodgers, they’d snap him up. As for picks No. 26 and No. 31, Los Angeles will take the highest players on its draft board after seeing how the top of the draft unfolds.

    How's Yavapai (Ariz.) JC third baseman/shortstop Milton Loo doing this spring? The Reds still control him, and I'm wondering if they're trying to sign him before the June draft.

    Pat Wachs
    Ithaca, N.Y.

A ninth-round pick by Cincinnati in the 2005 draft, Loo can sign with the Reds between the time his season ends at Yavapai and May 29. When John Manuel was covering the West for our Draft Preview, Loo intrigued him more than any other player. Here’s what John wrote:

Loo was the first prep player picked out of Hawaii in 2004, and he has been the best prospect in Arizona’™s wood-bat junior-college conference the last two seasons. He led Yavapai to a 49-10 record and No. 2 national ranking into early May, though he wasn’™t the team’™s best player statistically.

Loo, whose native island of Molokai is so small and rural that it has no stoplights, entices scouts with five-tool potential. Though his present power remains below average, his ability to cover the plate, make consistent, hard contact and repeat his short stroke make hitting his best tool. His raw power could profile him for third base. He moved to that position at Yavapai, but scouts agree he could play short or any other infield position as a pro thanks to above-average arm strength, excellent athleticism, good range and solid infield actions. After a rough start, he became an above-average defender at third in a short time this season.

If Loo’™s effort and performance were more consistent, he’™d rank among the top position players available. He’™s a plus runner and solid baserunner, but he doesn’™t run out ground balls as often as scouts want to see. After being bothered by a strained thumb and gimpy ankle in 2005, Loo missed time late in the 2006 season when his elbow flared up. It was diagnosed as nerve irritation and he returned to DH in the postseason. Loo’™s durability will factor into whether or not the Reds’"who offered him a reported bonus of more than $200,000 last summer’"make another enthusiastic run at Loo.

    Where do you see Florida high school shortstop Adrian Cardenas going in the draft? Could the Red Sox take him in the supplemental first round because of their lack of middle-infield depth at the lower levels? Outside of Luis Soto, they're lacking young power and Cardenas seems to have big-time power potential.

    Devin Scott
    Schenectady, N.Y.

Cardenas is on the same Monsignor Pace High (Miami) team as Chris Marrero, who entered the season as the top-rated high school position player in the nation, and he’s outperforming him. Cardenas has set a Dade County record for homers.

Still, the supplemental first-round seems a little high for Cardenas. He’s more of a second-rounder, projecting as an offensive second baseman in the mold of Todd Walker. That said, there’s so much uncertainty in this draft that we’ll see some surprises in the late first and sandwich rounds.

Alan Matthews handled our Southeast coverage for the Draft Preview, and here’s his breakdown for Cardenas:

No player in Florida took a bigger leap forward this spring than Cardenas, a hard-nosed throwback with good makeup and feel for the game. He’s savvy and bright, and he even plays the piano. He has parlayed his spot in his high school lineup in front of Chris Marrero into one of the most impressive high school seasons in south Florida this decade. He hit safely in 29 of his first 37 at-bats with eight home runs, broke a Dade County record for homers and was batting .630-17-56 as Monsignor Pace headed to Florida’s Final Four in the 4-A playoffs.

Cardenas has good strength and a short, compact lefthanded swing. He allows balls to travel deep in the hitting zone before driving them to all fields. He should hit 10-15 home runs annually in the big leagues with a .275-.295 average. He won’t make it there as a shortstop, however, which hinders his value.

He’s a fringe-average runner and his lower half has some stiffness. Most scouts believe he profiles at second base fine, though others insist he’ll wind up in left field. His hands are average, as is his arm at second base. Cardenas could be taken as early as the supplemental round, and he shouldn’t make it out of the second round, where he is expected to sign.

If you enjoyed those scouting reports, we have plenty more coming. We’ll present 97 more just like that when we unveil our Top 100 Prospects on Monday, and 100 more when we reveal the rest of our Top 200 on Tuesday.

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