Ask BA

My first reaction to the news that catching prospect Robert Stock will enroll a year ahead of schedule at Southern California was that it was a mistake. He’s giving up his senior year of high school and a chance to go in the upper half of the first round of the 2007 draft, and why rush things?

But the more I think about it, more power to Stock. He wanted to get at least a huge chunk of his college education out of the way before entering pro ball, and now he can do that and be eligible for the draft as a college junior in 2009 rather than 2010. Yes, he’s taking a risk, but if he’s as good as scouts believe he is, a seven-figure bonus will be waiting for him three years from now.

    I was looking at the Top 100 Prospects list for 2006, and I have to ask: Why was Jered Weaver rated so low, at No. 57? He has been dynamic in the majors, going 9-0, 1.95 in 12 starts. Everyone is riding Francisco Liriano and Justin Verlander, but Weaver has been even better.

    Rob Jones
    Ventura, Calif.

Obviously, we liked Weaver a lot and have for a while. We ranked him as the top prospect in the 2004 draft and put him in the middle of our Top 100 after his pro debut.

Why didn’t he rank higher? A combination of factors.

His pure stuff was solid but not spectacular, paling in comparison to the likes of Liriano and Verlander. In 2005, Weaver showed an 86-90 mph two-seam fastball with very good movement, an 91-93 mph four-seamer, a slider and changeup. His superb command and control enhance his stuff, but it’s not overwhelming. Some scouts thought he had a better chance to turn out as No. 3 starter than as a No. 1.

Weaver’s statistics in his pro debut were similar: good in context, but not spectacular. He had a 95-26 K-BB ratio in 76 innings, but he also had a 3.91 ERA. Meanwhile, Liriano topped the minors with 204 strikeouts and posted a 1.78 ERA in Triple-A, while Verlander led the minors with a 1.29 ERA in his pro debut. Weaver also had the second-lowest groundball/flyball ratio in the minors, leading to some concern that he could be vulnerable to homers in the majors.

Weaver and fellow 2004 draftee Stephen Drew had the longest holdouts in draft history that ended with a signing, agreeing to terms just a week before the 2005 draft. Angels officials say Weaver’s stuff has moved up a notch this year now that he has put that layoff further behind him.

I’d still take Liriano and Verlander over Weaver. But Weaver certainly has narrowed the gap to a razor-thin margin.

    What can you tell us Blue Jay fans about 17-year-old Venezuelan outfielder Yohermyn Chavez? Chavez remains a mystery, but from what I’ve heard the only Jays position player who can touch his ceiling is 2006 first-round pick Travis Snider. Chavez is the youngest player in the system, signed a six-figure deal last year and already has made the move to North America. With scouting reports so hard to find, how good are Chavez’ tools?

    Boris Gacic
    London, Ont.

Don’t forget about Triple-A outfielder Adam Lind, whose bat gives him a plenty of ceiling. But Chavez indeed is one of the most intriguing position players in the Jays system.

Six-foot-3 and 180 pounds, he’s mostly projection at this point because of his age and the fact that he’s at Rookie-level Pulaski, six rungs removed from the majors on Toronto’s organizational ladder. He’s batting .301/.406/.398 with eight extra-base hits (all doubles) and 18 RBIs in 29 games, having missed time with a wrist injury.

Chavez is more of an offensive player than a five-tool force. His swing has improved and he’ll have more power once he gets stronger. His speed and arm are average, so while he won’t be a center fielder or basestealing threat, he should be at least a decent right fielder.

    I see where Cowboys coach Bill Parcells has said that Drew Henson won’t make his team this year. If Henson no longer can find work in the NFL, can you conceive a scenario where he may give baseball a shot one more time? Would there be any takers?

    Eric Rothfeld
    Livingston, N.J.

Once considered Dallas’ quarterback of the future, Henson fell to No. 4 on their depth chart this summer. Much as in baseball, his performance didn’t come close to matching his considerable tools. The Cowboys reportedly have tried to trade him without any success and are expected to just release him in the next couple of days.

It’s conceivable another NFL team would pick Henson up if it didn’t have to surrender a draft pick in trade to do so. He’s still a 6-foot-4, 233-pounder with plenty of arm strength.

If that doesn’t happen, Henson could return to the diamond. He always professed more love for baseball than football, and it would come down to whether he wanted to continue chasing that dream, which has become more improbable, or get on with his life. If he wishes to play baseball, his size, athleticism and power potential would merit a low-risk investment from some club. The Michigan native would be a natural minor league signing for the Tigers.

Unlike many two-sport players who flee baseball at the first sign of adversity for perceived greener pastures elsewhere, Henson stuck with the sport until the Yankees agreed it was best for all involved that he move on. But by trying to play both sports for as long as he did, he cost himself valuable development time in both and undermined his chances for success. Had he picked either baseball or football rather than both out of high school, Henson could have been a superstar.

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