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Following up on the lead question from last week’s Ask BA, Vanderbilt’s David Price did not throw his fourth straight complete game in his much-anticipated matchup against fellow lefthander Nick Schmidt of Arkansas last Friday. Price worked six innings, but he did throw 125 pitches while receiving no decision in an 8-7 Razorbacks win. The pitching lines: 6-6-5-4-4-8 for Price and 7-6-5-3-4-8 for Schmidt. Price now has thrown an estimated 500 pitches over his last four starts.

The workload doesn’t bother me when it comes to his long-term future, unless the Commodores ride him this hard all season long. He faces another tough challenge this week, pitching against No. 1 South Carolina and Harris Honeycutt (6-0, 1.42) tonight. Price remains the favorite to go No. 1 overall in the June draft to the Devil Rays. He has been more dominant (5-0, 2.79, 79-13 K-BB in 52 IP) than Georgia Tech catcher Matt Wieters (.311/.439/.528, 5 HR in 27 G, 22% CS behind the plate) and North Carolina State righthander Andrew Brackman (4-2, 3.79, 38-15 K-BB in 40 IP). And unlike those guys, Price isn’t advised by Scott Boras, which should make him easier to sign.

    You keep using this phrase about Daisuke Matsuzaka: “one of the 10 best pitchers in the world.” OK, OK, so maybe you’re right. But who are the other nine?

    Andy Utschig
    Paramaribo, Suriname

Andy is correct, I have been using that phrase a lot, most often in my weekly chats. I think the first time I broke it out was in a column last fallPremium, right after the Red Sox locked up his rights for $51.1 million.

At the time, I ran through all the big league starters to determine how many guys could beat Matsuzaka’s combination of age (26), stuff (perhaps as many as seven quality pitches, even without the mystical gyroball) and track record (consistent dominance in Japan’s major leagues, the Olympics and the World Baseball Classic). I don’t have my original list, but I have gone through the same exercise again. I didn’t include anyone over 30 (sorry, Chris Carpenter), injured (Francisco Liriano) or without more than one year of big league success (Justin Verlander and Co.).

The rest of my Top 10, listed alphabetically: Jeremy Bonderman, Roy Halladay, Felix Hernandez, Scott Kazmir, Roy Oswalt, Jake Peavy, Johan Santana (the clear No. 1 overall), Brandon Webb and Carlos Zambrano.

Let the e-mails begin.

    Going back to some past drafts, if you could have one pick from each round, what would your current major league team look like? For instance, in 2001, you could have Joe Mauer in the first round, David Wright in the supplemental first round, Dan Haren in the second, etc.

    Travis Welsch
    Coralville, Iowa

I love this question, and we’ll revisit it some more in the future. I want to start with 2000, which is considered the worst draft of this decade. I’m only considering players who signed. Here we go . . .

Starting Lineup
C: Shawn Riggans, Devil Rays (24th round)
1B: Adam LaRoche, Braves (29th round)
2B: Chase Utley, Phillies (first round)
3B: Garrett Atkins, Rockies (fifth round)
SS: Freddie Sanchez, Red Sox (11th round)
LF: Jason Kubel, Twins (12th round)
CF: Grady Sizemore, Expos (third round)
RF: Jason Bay, Expos (22nd round)
C: Ryan Jorgensen, Cubs (seventh round)
1B: Carlos Rivera, Phillies (13th round)
2B: Jose Bautista, Pirates (20th round)
3B: Edwin Encarnacion, Rangers (ninth round)
SS: Clint Barmes, Rockies (10th round)
OF: Nate McLouth, Pirates (25th round)
OF: Ryan Church, Indians (14th round)
SP: Rich Harden, Athletics (17th round)
SP: Brandon Webb, Diamondbacks (eighth round)
SP: Ian Snell, Pirates (26th round)
SP: Cliff Lee, Expos (fourth round)
SP: James Shields, Devil Rays (16th round)
RP: Scott Dohmann, Rockies (sixth round)
RP: Tyler Johnson, Cardinals (34th round)
RP: Kurt Birkins, Orioles (33rd round)
RP: Dustin McGowan, Blue Jays (supplemental first round)
CL: Chad Qualls, Astros (second round)

Among the guys who couldn’t make the cut because there were better players in their round were: Rocco Baldelli and Adrian Gonzalez (both first round), Chris Young (third), Bobby Jenks (fifth), Dontrelle Willis (eighth), Brad Hawpe (11th), and Josh Willingham and Mike Napoli (both 17th). Napoli would be easily the best catcher on this club, but I couldn’™t pass on Harden.

The Rockies’ 2000 draft has received a lot of notoriety for the imbroglio with unsigned first-rounder Matt Harrington and the wasting of the $2.75 million given to second-rounder Jason Young. But they found eight big leaguers, including Atkins, Barmes and Hawpe. They also took some guy named Michael Vick in the 30th round, but weren’t able to sign him.

The Expos grabbed Grady Sizemore and Cliff Lee with consecutive picks in the third and fourth rounds, only to include them both in the Bartolo Colon trade with the Indians. They also stole Jason Bay in the 22nd round, but they gave him away for far less (for Lou Collier from the Mets).

The Pirates had a nice run in the late rounds, getting Bautista (20th), McLouth (25th) and Snell (26th). That’s more than most clubs got out of the entire draft.

The above team is hurting at catcher and in the bullpen, but it’s otherwise strong and would be a contender. A lot of scouts believe that there’s usually a similar amount of talent from draft to draft, just that it’s less obvious in some years compared to others. The 2000 draft would back that up. It has been panned, in part because the first two rounds are very weak, but there were plenty of talented players in later rounds.

    Who would you say are the top three or four defensive infielders, in order, in college baseball?

    Dan Jensen
    Claremore, Okla.

It’s not a good year for middle infielders in the draft, so most of the best defenders are guys whom major league teams won’t be able to get their hands on for another year or two. I talked to BA college guru Aaron Fitt, and we came up with this top four, all shortstops, in this order: UCLA’s Brandon Crawford, Miami’s Ryan Jackson, Long Beach State’s Danny Espinosa and Mississippi’s Zack Cozart. Cozart is the only junior among the group, with Crawford and Espinosa sophomores and Jackson a freshman.

We came up with a few other shortstops as well. Among the draft-eligible crop are three juniors: Tulane’s Cat Everett, Clemson’s Stan Widmann (likely out for the year with a neck injury) and Oregon State’s Darwin Barney. Others to watch over the next couple of years are Baylor sophomore Beemer Weems, Southern California freshman Grant Green and Texas freshman Josh Prince.

Going around the infield positions, other defenders of note include Virginia junior Sean Doolittle and South Carolina sophomore Justin Smoak at first base; Miami sophomore Jemile Weeks and Clemson junior Taylor Harbin at second (Harbin is playing shortstop in Widmann’s absence); and Cal State Fullerton senior Evan McArthur and Pepperdine sophomore Chase d’Arnaud at third.

" March 23 Ask BA