Ask BA

After going on the disabled list with a herniated disk in my back, forcing Ask BA into a one-week hiatus, I’m back to answer your questions.

Winning doesn’t always go hand in hand with development in the minor leagues, but it sure beats losing. The hottest team in the minors right now is the Augusta Greenjackets, the low Class A affiliate of the Giants. Augusta is 8-0 with a roster loaded with players who led Salem-Keizer to the short-season Northwest League championship last summer. The best prospect on the team is outfielder Mike McBryde, but he’s just hitting .222/.222/.259. One of my favorite sleepers, righthander Dan Griffin, has gone 2-0, 2.70.

All told, San Francisco’s affiliates have won 23 of their first 27 games in 2007. It will be interesting to see how long the four minor league clubs can combine for fewer losses than the big league Giants, who are 2-7.

    Which Rule 5 draft picks stuck with their major league clubs?

    Ron Lapping

Of the 19 major league Rule 5 selections made at the Winter Meetings, nine stuck on Opening Day rosters. No. 1 overall pick Ryan Goleski couldn’t stick with the Athletics, who paid the Devil Rays $100,000 for the choice and grabbed him without knowing that he had November surgery to remove bone chips from his right wrist.

Several of the Rule 5ers are off to good starts. Righthander Joakim Soria hasn’t allowed a run in five appearances and is now the Royals’ closer with Octavio Dotel on the disabled list. Outfielder Josh Hamilton has continued a stunning comeback from drug addiction and back problems to homer in consecutive games and push his way into the Reds’ lineup.

Four more Rule 5ers are on big league disabled lists. If they don’t accrue 90 days on an active major league roster this year, they’ll have to remain in the majors in 2008 until they get to 90 days. The other six Rule 5 picks were returned to their original organization. The Cubs released righthander Lincoln Holdzkom after getting him back from the Astros, and he subsequently signed with the Red Sox.

The chart below shows where all of the Rule 5 selections wound up:

Rule 5 Draftees, 2007
Player, Pos Old Org New Org Status
Ryan Goleski, of Cle Oak (via TB) Returned to Cle
Joakim Soria, rhp SD KC Made the Royals
Josh Hamilton, of TB Cin (via ChC) Made the Reds
Sean White, rhp Atl Sea (via Pit) Made the Mariners
Alfredo Simon, rhp Tex Phi (via Bal) Returned to Tex
Jesus Flores, c NYM Was Made the Nationals
Edward Campusano, lhp ChC Det (via Mil) On DL (Tommy John surgery)
Jared Burton, rhp Oak Cin On DL (hamstring)
Lincoln Holdzkom, rhp ChC Hou Returned to ChC, released, signed by Bos
Adam Donachie, c KC Bal (via Phi) Returned to KC
Nick DeBarr, rhp TB Bos Returned to TB
Jason Smith, ss ChC Tor Made the Blue Jays
Kevin Cameron, rhp Min SD Made the Padres
Jay Marshall, lhp CWS Oak Made the Athletics
Alejandro Machado, inf Was Min On DL (shoulder)
Josh Phelps, 1b Bal NYY Made the Yankees
Levale Speigner, rhp Min Was Made the Nationals
Jim Ed Warden, rhp Cle Phi Returned to Cle
Ryan Budde, c LAA Phi On DL (oblique)

There were 12 major league Rule 5 picks a year ago. Three of them stuck in the majors, most notably second baseman Dan Uggla with the Marlins. Two others stayed with their new teams after clearing waivers, and two opened the year on the disabled list but eventually were returned to their previous organizations.

    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

In the last Ask BA, I did this for the 2000 draft. Now let’s check out 2001, and my first three picks did correspond with Travis’:

Starting Lineup
C: Joe Mauer, Twins (first round)
1B: Ryan Howard, Phillies (fifth round)
2B: Dan Uggla, Diamondbacks (11th round)
3B: David Wright, Mets (supplemental first round)
SS: Jason Bartlett, Padres (13th round)
LF: Jonny Gomes, Devil Rays (18th round)
CF: Chris Young, White Sox (16th round)
RF: Chad Tracy, Diamondbacks (seventh round)
C: Chris Stewart, White Sox (12th round)
1B: Chris Shelton, Pirates (33rd round)
2B: Josh Barfield, Padres (fourth round)
3B: Kevin Youkilis, Red Sox (eighth round)
SS: Ryan Theriot, Cubs (third round)
OF: Luke Scott, Indians (ninth round)
OF: Joey Gathright, Devil Rays (32nd round)
SP: Dan Haren, Cardinals (second round)
SP: Zach Duke, Pirates (20th round)
SP: Matt Albers, Astros (23rd round)
SP: Edwin Jackson, Dodgers (sixth round)
SP: Humberto Sanchez, Tigers (31st round)
RP: Kevin Barry, Braves (14th round)
RP: Shane Youman, Pirates (43rd round)
RP: Charlie Haeger, White Sox (25th round)
RP: Mike Wood, Athletics (10th round)
CL: Chad Gaudin, Devil Rays (34th round)

Mauer was a no-brainer as the first-round choice, though he meant that Mark Teixeira, Chris Burke, Casey Kotchman, Aaron Heilman, Bobby Crosby and Jeremy Bonderman couldn’t be included. Other players who missed out because there was someone more talented in their round included J.J. Hardy (second round), Ricky Nolasco (fourth) and Dan Johnson (seventh).

What’s interesting is that the 2000 draft is considered the worst so far this decade and the 2001 is regarded as the best to this point’"and yet I’d rather have the 2000 team I constructed in the last Ask BA than this 2001 club. The lineups and bullpen are comparable, and the superiority of the 2000 rotation (Rich Harden, Brandon Webb, Ian Snell, Cliff Lee, James Shields) makes up for its inferior bench. The first round of the 2001 draft blows away the first round of 2000 (Chase Utley, Rocco Baldelli, Adrian Gonzalez and nothing else), but the pendulum swings back toward 2000 after that.

Which leads me to reiterate the point I made after assembling the 2000 club: Most drafts have a similar amount of talent, but it’s more obvious in some years compared to others.

    I brought up this topic a little over two years ago, and wanted to revisit it again: Should the Pirates have allowed John Van Beschoten to DH in 2005 and 2006? With the Pirates’ post-Barry Bonds lack of power, the decision to put him on the mound always seemed odd to me in the first place.

    Phil Case

When Phil first asked this question in March 2005, my answer was no, because Van Benschoten would risk further injury, either from swinging a bat or in a collision on the bases, while he was trying to recover from shoulder surgery. Since then, Van Benschoten missed all of 2005, made just five starts in 2006 and has been shelled in his first start in Triple-A this year.

I still agree with the Pirates’ decision to focus on his rehab and get him back on the mound. His low-90s velocity started to come back at the end of last season, and they still hope he can be a No. 2 or 3 starter in the majors. If they believe that, they don’t need to distract him by having him try to make it as a hitter when he hasn’t had regular at-bats since 2001, when he led NCAA Division I with 31 homers at Kent State.

Most teams preferred him as a right fielder, but Pittsburgh, led by scouting director Mickey White, thought he had more potential on the mound. Given White’s successful drafts in Pirates, plus the fact that he was the one who recommended that the Orioles make Nick Markakis a full-time outfielder when most clubs saw him as a pitcher, he deserves the benefit of the doubt. Van Benschoten made steady progress until he got hurt at the end of 2004.

I also think it would be difficult for Van Benschoten to become a regular big league outfielder when he has taken five years (and counting) off from hitting. He’s a career .246/.313/.342 hitter in 114 minor league at-bats and has gone 1-for-8 in the majors. His lone big league hit was a homer off Casey Fossum.

If it gets to the point where there’s no longer any hope for Van Benschoten on the mound, I’d let him try to make it as an outfielder. But until then, it only will detract from his pitching efforts.

" March 30 Ask BA