Ask BA

Sorry about the lack of an Ask BA last week. Predraft coverage took precedent, and I never found enough time away from the draft phones to get to your questions. But we’ll make up for that today.

In a column I wrote for our last issue (it hasn’t been posted online yet), I tried to show the relative strengths of the drafts this decade by combining all the talent pools and then projecting how a first round would have unfolded, given the buzz on the prospects at the time. I didn’t have room to go beyond 15 picks in my column, so I’ll unveil the entire Top 30 here:

1. Mark Prior, rhp, Southern California (2001, Cubs No. 2).
2. Mark Teixeira, 3b, Georgia Tech (2001, Rangers No. 5).
3. Justin Upton, ss, Great Bridge HS, Chesapeake, Va. (2005, Diamondbacks No. 1).
4. Joe Mauer, c, Cretin-Derham Hall, St. Paul, Minn. (2001, Twins No. 1).
5. B.J. Upton, ss, Greenbrier Christian HS, Chesapeake, Va. (2002, Rays No. 2).
6. Delmon Young, of, Camarillo (Calif.) HS (2003, Devil Rays No. 1).
7. Rickie Weeks, 2b, Southern (2003, Brewers No. 2).
8. Alex Gordon, 3b, Nebraska (2005, Royals No. 2).
9. Jered Weaver, rhp, Long Beach State (2004, Angels No. 12).
10. Jeff Niemann, rhp, Rice (2004, Devil Rays No. 4).
11. Stephen Drew, ss, Florida State (2004, Diamondbacks No. 15).
12. Scott Kazmir, lhp, Cypress Falls HS, Houston (2002, Mets No. 15).
13. Andrew Miller, lhp, North Carolina (2006, Tigers No. 6).
14. Troy Tulowitzki, ss, Long Beach State (2005, Rockies No. 7).
15. Bryan Bullington, rhp, Ball State (2002, Pirates No. 1).
16. Matt Harrington, rhp, Palmdale (Calif.) HS (2000, Rockies No. 7).
17. Bobby Brownlie, rhp, Rutgers (2002, Cubs No. 21).
18. Adam Loewen, lhp, Fraser Valley Christian HS, Surrey, B.C. (2002, O’s No. 4).
19. Brad Lincoln, rhp, Houston (2006, Pirates No. 4).
20. Mike Pelfrey, rhp, Wichita State (2005, Mets No. 9).
21. Kyle Sleeth, rhp, Wake Forest (2003, Tigers No. 3).
22. Lastings Milledge, of, Lakewood Ranch HS, Palmetto, Fla. (2003, Mets No. 12).
23. Cameron Maybin, of, T.C. Roberson HS, Arden, N.C. (2005, Tigers No. 10).
24. Justin Verlander, rhp, Old Dominion (2004, Tigers No. 2)
25. Ryan Zimmerman, 3b, Virginia (2005, Nationals No. 4).
26. Xavier Nady, 3b, California (2000, Padres No. 49).
27. Joe Borchard, of, Stanford (2000, White Sox No. 12).
28. Luke Hochevar, rhp, Tennessee (2005, Dodgers No. 40/2006, Royals No. 1).
29. Tim Lincecum, rhp, Washington (2006, Giants No. 10).
30. Gavin Floyd, rhp, Mount St. Joseph HS, Severna Park, Md. (2001, Phillies No. 4).

    The Cubs took Clemson outfielder Tyler Colvin with the 13th overall pick, though Baseball America ranked him as just the draft’s 170th best prospect. However, he apparently was rising fast. Was this pick as big of a reach as it seemed? Is Colvin at least a respectable first-rounder?

    Justin Riddick

The pick wasn’t as big of a reach as the difference between where Colvin went and where we ranked him on our Top 200 Prospects list Premium might have made it seem. Colvin was generating positive momentum when we put the Top 200 together two weeks before the draft, and his stock continued to rise.

Colvin is an athletic 6-foot-3, 190-pounder who hits lefthanded and has solid tools across the board. In a bad year for college outfielders, he was rated the second-best (behind only Texas’ Drew Stubbs) by several clubs. I know of at least one other club that would have considered taking him late in the first round, and my first phone call this morning was from a scout from a third team that thought Colvin was an astute pick at No. 13.

I’ll be curious to see if Colvin signs for slot money (last year’s No. 13 choice, Brandon Snyder, got $1.7 million from the Orioles). If Colvin signs at a discount, I wonder if that somehow ties into the choice of Notre Dame righthander/wide receiver Jeff Samardzija in the fifth round. The Cubs, who don’t have any picks in between, may try to entice Samardzija to give up football after he plays in the fall by dangling a multimillion-dollar carrot in front of him. And it’s possible that they’ll try to appease Major League Baseball by saving money in the first round.

Maybe I’m overthinking it. I wouldn’t have taken Colvin at No. 13, and if I decided I had to have a college bat there I would have taken Wake Forest third baseman Matt Antonelli. But Chicago’s Tim Wilken may have the best track record of any scouting director out there–that’s a project I need to tackle some day–and I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt for now. The other thing to remember is that the Cubs didn’t pick again until the fifth round, so even if they thought Colvin would last longer, they didn’t have the luxury of waiting for him.

Colvin’s situation is similar to that of Bowling Green State outfielder Nolan Reimold a year ago. He didn’t make our Top 200 because he went into a slump trying to impress crosscheckers as we were putting it together, yet he went in the second round to the Orioles. And he has looked like a bargain ever since.

    What did you think about Dallas Buck going to the Diamondbacks as a third-round pick. I personally think Buck should get healthy, go back to Oregon State for his senior season and possibly be a Top 15 pick next season, assuming his stuff returns. At worst, I imagine he’d go in the third round again. Might he return to Oregon State, or is it a pretty done deal that he’ll sign?

    Derick Handley
    Salem, Ore.

I’ll be surprised if Buck doesn’t sign with the Diamondbacks. He wants to cut his losses and get started in pro ball.

Buck projected as an early first-rounder coming into the year, and while he has continued to perform well for the Beavers, his stuff has been down and a lot of clubs fretted about his elbow. His sinker went from 89-91 last year to the mid-80s for much of 2006, and an MRI showed a sprain of his ulnar collateral ligament.

Arizona took him with the 86th pick in the draft, a slot typically worth $440,000. Look for the Diamondbacks to sign him at a discount, perhaps a little bit more than half that amount, because of the health concerns. That’s probably the best deal that’s out there, and more than he might get if he returns to Oregon State. If his stuff doesn’t bounce back and/or the condition of his elbow deteriorates further, he’ll be sunk in next year’s draft. He also will have had zero leverage as a senior.

It’s a good gamble with the chance to pay off well for the Diamondbacks. More than most scouting directors, Mike Rizzo sets up his draft board and worries about ability a lot more than signability. A lot of teams were concerned about Missouri righthander Max Scherzer’s elbow, but Rizzo gladly pounced on him with the No. 11 choice in the draft. He also got a lot of value with Georgia righty Brooks Brown at No. 34 and Oklahoma high school lefty Brett Anderson at No. 55.

    What are the profiles on Chris Tillman and Tony Butler? I keep hearing that they’re projectable and have high ceilings. Assuming they sign, along with Brandon Morrow do they instantly become the top pitching prospects in the weak Mariners system?

    Kyle Crocker
    Moscow, Idaho

The Mariners were hurting for pitching prospects before the draft, which is why they spent their top five selections and eight of their first nine on arms. Morrow, a flamethrowing California righthander who went fifth overall, immediately becomes their top pitching prospect as soon as he signs. Tillman, a second-round righthander from Fountain Valley (Calif.) High, and Butler, a third-round lefty from Oak Creek (Wis.) High, will rank among Seattle’s best minor league arms when they come to terms. Both are ultraprojectable at 6-foot-7 and already have solid stuff.

Tillman had a so-so spring, but when he’s going good he’ll show a 90-94 mph fastball and a hard 12-to-6 curveball. He falls in love with his splitter and needs to show more consistency, but he’s loaded with talent. So is Butler, the top southpaw in the upper Midwest. He pitched in the high 80s for most of the spring, though there were reports he suddenly burst into the low to mid-90s right before the draft. His curveball shows some promise as well.

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