Ask BA

One of the themes of this year’s draft is the lack of position-player talent. That’s even more evident at the key up-the-middle positions, particularly catcher and shortstop.

Most of the catchers on our Top 200 Prospects list Premium fall into one of two categories, sluggers who are questionable behind the plate (such as high schoolers Hank Conger and Max Sapp and Pepperdine’s Chad Tracy) or good defenders with less-than-inspiring bats (such as UC Riverside’s Jeff Dunbar and prepsters Torre Langley and Jason Hagerty). The best catcher who’s solid both offensively and defensively may be Lehigh’s Matt McBride, who checks in at No. 154 on the Top 200.

The best shortstop in the draft could be Texas high schooler Kyle Drabek, but he’ll be drafted as a righthanded pitcher. Our Top 200 features one shortstop who’s a cinch to stay there as a pro: Florida prepster Marcus Lemon, whose iffy bat led to his No. 120 ranking. The college ranks don’t have a single true pure shortstop. Some team may pop Kent State speedster Emmanuel Burriss in the first round if they believe he can stay at short, but the consensus is that his arm will dictate a move to second base.

    I am just curious if you've heard anything on possible movement by the Mets to sign draft-and-follow righthander Pedro Beato of St. Petersburg (Fla.) JC. As New York doesn't have a first-round pick, I would hope they would be willing to pay seven-figure bonus that Beato now figures to garner in light of his tools. Any idea if the Mets will or will not sign this guy?

    Daniel Wexler
    New York

    Are the Mets likely to sign Pedro Beato, or will he end up in the draft again?

    Lance A. Willis

I talked to someone with another team today who said he had heard that the Mets and Beato were getting closer to a deal. The expectation from other teams is that New York will sign him, especially considering that he’s a first-round talent in a year in which it doesn’t have a first-round pick. It’s not like money is much of an object to the Mets, anyway.

We ranked Beato as the No. 13 prospect on our Top 200 and he’d likely go in the second half of the first round if he re-entered the draft. He had Tommy John surgery during his junior season at Brooklyn’s Xavieran High, and the Mets took him in the 17th round last year as a draft-and-follow.

That proved to be an astute decision, as he has shown three plus pitches at times this spring. Beato has a hard sinker that sits around 90 mph and touches 96. He also has a sharp 84-85 mph slider and a promising changeup. He has a strong build at 6-foot-5 and 210 pounds, and his biggest need is to improve his mechanics and, by extension, his command. At age 19, he has plenty of time to figure that out.

    I'm still trying to understand how sitting out last year could possibly help Luke Hochevar's draft status this year. He fell all the way to the Dodgers in 2005 because teams were scared of his price tag. He agreed to a $2.98 million bonus with Los Angeles, then reneged on it and is asking for $4 million and a major league contract. What makes him think teams will submit to that, especially after all the questions about his makeup that arose from how he handled negotiations?

    Brian Davis

It is a bit hard to understand, isn’t it? A year ago, the Diamondbacks included Hochevar among their candidates for the No. 1 overall pick (but were leaning to Justin Upton all the way), and the Rockies explored taking him with the No. 7 choice. But when Hochevar indicated he wouldn’t sign for No. 7 slot money ($2.3 million) and wanted to be treated in “the top pitchers class,” he fell to the Dodgers at No. 40. Straight out of the Scott Boras playbook, Hochevar never mentioned a dollar figure, but the top pitchers in the 2004 and 2005 drafts signed big league contracts worth an average of $4.63 million dollars.

There was little give-and-take between the Dodgers and Hochevar during the summer, and on Labor Day weekend he switched agents to Matt Sosnick and agreed to a $2.98 million bonus. Before he signed the contract, however, Hochevar went back to Boras, reneged on the deal and accused the Dodgers of trying to coerce him into a bad deal. Because of that, questions about Hochevar’s makeup have arisen, as Brian alluded to. Los Angeles technically controls his rights until midnight on Monday, but it’s impossible to come up with a scenario where he signs with the Dodgers without either side losing considerable face.

Despite all that, teams expect that some club will give Hochevar the major league deal he wants. In three starts (including one exhibition) for the independent Fort Worth Cats, Hochevar has shown the plus fastball and slider he had in the past. While his command and delivery aren’t at their best, they’re in good shape considering his long layoff. We’ve ranked him the No. 8 prospect in this draft. Even if he slides because of signability or makeup concerns, by the middle of the first round he’s going to look very attractive compared to the remaining talent on the board.

In my initial first-round projection Premium, I had Hochevar going fifth to Seattle. I still continue to hear the Mariners associated with Hochevar more than any other club, though they didn’t have a scout at his most recent outing. Other teams who have been mentioned as having possible interest are the Tigers (No. 6), Diamondbacks (No. 11) and Rangers (No. 12).

    Rice righthander Eddie Degerman had one of the best seasons in college baseball this year. Where do you see the senior being drafted?

    Judith Parish

Degerman is one of the more interesting stories in the draft. He has a stiff, straight-over-the-top delivery that scouts compare to an Iron Mike pitching machine, and it has scared off many coaches and scouts alike. He spent his first two years in college at UC Irvine without getting into a single game. After playing in a summer college league with Rice players Colin Matheny and Adam Morris, he transferred at their behest to Rice.

Degerman spent 2004, his redshirt sophomore season, in the Owls bullpen, then went 8-1, 3.28 with 117 strikeouts in 99 innings as a weekend starter a year ago. But his stuff was fairly average and his delivery remained a concern, so he lasted until Boston selected him in the 41st round. The Red Sox still control his rights because he’s a fifth-year senior, but Rice’s season won’t end in time for them to sign him before the draft.

Degerman’s numbers stack up against anyone in NCAA Division I this spring. He has gone 11-1, 1.80 with a 136-43 K-BB ratio in 105 innings, and opponents are batting just .170 with three homers against him. His best pitch is still his high-70s curveball, and his fastball has climbed to 89-92 mph from 87-90 a year ago. He also uses a slower version of his curveball as a changeup.

He may not look pretty, but his unorthodox mechanics make him very deceptive and tougher to hit. On talent alone, the consensus is that he’s a fifth- to 10th-rounder. Degerman won’t cost much as a fifth-year senior, so a team looking to save money could push him a couple of rounds up on their draft board.

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