Ask BA

Short answers to questions that I get asked a lot . . . Do I think Kenny Rogers really just had dirt on his hand? No, I’d vote for pine tar . . . Do I stick with my pre-Series prediction that the Tigers will beat the Cardinals? Yes, if they ever get back on the diamond . . . Will A-Rod get traded this offseason? No.

I also had several questions about the draft changes in the new collective bargaining agreement, and below are some longer and more thoughtful answers to those.

    If I understand the new collective bargaining agreement, a team that fails to sign a draft choice will receive the same pick in the following year’s draft. Suppose the Devil Rays have the first pick in the 2007 draft but don’t particularly like their options. What’s to prevent the Rays from selecting a player it has no intention of signing so as to get the top pick again in 2008? I know this is a bit of a longshot, but think about 2000 and 2001. Would you rather have had Adrian Gonzalez or held out a year for Joe Mauer or Mark Prior?

    Tim Stephens
    Proctorville, Ohio

    With the new CBA, I’m worried that teams will not their top picks when the draft is weak, thinking they will have nearly the same pick in a stronger draft the following year. Do you think this may happen?

    Paul Dumond
    Madawaska, Maine

In the past, a team that failed to sign a first-round pick received a supplemental first-round selection as compensation. Now teams that can’t land a pick in the first two rounds get a choice after that pick in the next year’s draft, and an unsigned third-rounder will yield a supplemental third-round selection.

I don’t think it’s going to change much in the way teams approach the first three rounds of the draft. There are basically two types of players who fall in the draft. Using the 2006 draft as an example, there are the Andrew Millers, elite prospects who want huge money and slide within the first round, and there are the Lars Andersons, borderline first-rounders for a few clubs who want first-round money and fall deep in the draft. I don’t think either situation will change.

I don’t see teams playing chicken with the Millers, spending early-first-rounders on them and trying to sign them for slot money. That’s going to result in not signing the player and then waiting an extra year to sign a talent comparable to what they could have drafted. In 2000, the Marlins made Gonzalez the No. 1 choice in large part because he took a below-market bonus, and it’s unlikely they would have given Mauer or Prior well above slot money in 2001. Same thing with the Padres taking Matt Bush No. 1 in 2004: If they weren’t going to give Stephen Drew $6 million dollars, why should we think they’d give it to Justin Upton a year later?

The only change I really see, and it will be subtle, is that if a team really likes a Lars Anderson (or Aaron Miller or Matt Latos, to choose two more examples from this year’s draft), it may pop him in the third round to make sure it locks up the rights to negotiate with him, figuring that it can recoup nearly the complete value of that pick with a supplemental third-rounder the following year. That’s not as big a hit as deferring a first-rounder for a year, and I still don’t think we’ll see this happen very often. In the early rounds, teams will continue to stick with players they believe they can sign.

    What does the new labor deal mean in terms of draft compensation for departed free agents? I heard it was going to be completely eliminated, and now I read about it being merely altered. Does this mean teams that don’t like to spend a lot, such as the Marlins, now will consider signing more of their big-name free agents?

    Jason Debney
    Burbank, Calif.

Rumors sprung up late in the summer that free-agent compensation was going to disappear, but that didn’t happen. Type A free agents, which now comprise the top 20 percent of players at a position rather than the top 30 percent, still will command a first-round pick from the signing club (unless it’s one of the first 15 choices) and a supplemental first-rounder. Type B free agents, now the 21-40 percent group rather than the 31-50 percent group, will yield a supplemental first-rounder rather than the first-round pick from the signing club (with the same first-15 restriction). The Type C class, which was the 51-60 percent class and brought back supplemental second-round choices, has been eliminated.

As with the first question, I don’t think any of this will lead to significant changes. Teams don’t worry about giving up a draft pick too much when they’re signing or re-signing free agents. There’s no change with Type A compensation, so smaller-revenue clubs don’t have any more or less motivation to try to re-sign their big name guys.

One alteration that would have made a lot of sense would have been to base the supplemental first-rounders on the net Type A and B free agents lost. If at team signs two and loses two, the system would be fairer if it didn’t reward the club with two bonus choices.

    What’s your take on White Sox lefthander Heath Phillips? His numbers look good, but you don’t hear much about him.

    Scott Vales
    Chicago Ridge, Ill.

To steal a line from Hank Williams Jr.: Are you ready for some prospects? It’s officially Prospect Season at Baseball America, as we’re working on the Top 10 Prospects list for the American League East teams in our current issues. As usual, we’ll extend those lists to 30 prospects per club in the 2007 Prospect Handbook.

Just to whet your appetite, I’ll give you a sneak preview of our scouting report on Phillips, written by Phil Rogers. To find out where he ranks on our White Sox list, well, you’ll just have to wait for the AL Central issue.

Born: March 24, 1982. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 205. Drafted: Lake City (Fla.) CC, D/F 2000 (10th round). Signed by: Larry Grefer/Doug Laumann.

Background: Some players are worth waiting for, and Phillips could be one of those. The guy long considered Mark Buehrle Lite appeared among on the White Sox’ Top 30 in Baseball America’s annual rankings in 2002 and ’03 but disappeared in recent years, his results unimpressive and his tools marginal. Phillips went both unprotected and uninvited to big league camp by the Sox after 2005, and went unclaimed by the other 29 organizations. Then he reeled off a huge season, winning 16 times, including two victories for Team USA in the Olympic qualifier in Cuba and another in the Triple-A All-Star Game. It was enough to even impress his neighbors in Evansville, Ind., the (Don) Mattinglys.

Strengths: Phillips loves a challenge, as he demonstrated by pleading unsuccessfully with Davey Johnson to let him face Cuba on three days’ rest in the championship game in Havana. He also knows how to pitch, changing speeds off his 86-88 mph fastball and hitting spots. He has learned a cut fastball that he can sink. His curveball is a serviceable pitch. Like a young Buehrle, he works fast and takes advantage of baserunners who stray too far from first, picking off 20 in Triple-A.

Weaknesses: Phillips’ lack of big league stuff has made him a hard sell at organization meetings through the years. He doesn’t have a true out pitch. His changeup can be one at times but he often lacks the pop on his fastball to set it up. He gets in trouble when he tries to muscle up on hitters and his fastball straightens out. He can be forced to nibble when he falls behind hitters.

The Future: It’s hard to see how the White Sox can let Phillips get away without getting a true read on his ceiling, but they had not given him serious roster consideration in his six years in the organization. Another organization may snap him up if the Sox don’t add him to their 40-man roster by November.

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