Ask BA

A week ago, my educated guess for the first three picks in the 2007 draft was Vanderbilt lefthander David Price to the Devil Rays at No. 1, Missouri State lefthander Ross Detwiler to the Royals at No. 2 and Georgia Tech catcher Matt Wieters to the Cubs at No. 3. I still have Price going to Tampa Bay, but now I see Kansas City taking New Jersey high school righthander Rick Porcello and Chicago taking California high school third baseman Josh Vitters.

Get used to a constant state of flux, as there’s little certainty in this draft behind Price.

    If you could place everyone in this draft in the same organization’"taking everything into account like development, potential, ability to stay healthy, probability of reaching ceiling, etc.’"what would the starting lineup and rotation look like? Kind of like what you do in the 2007 Prospect Handbook for every team’s projected 2010 lineup.

    Eric Heckman
    Northampton, Pa.

Surprisingly, I’ve never thought about the draft in these terms. Here’s the team I’d put together, using future positions rather than current ones and shoehorning a couple of guys in as needed:

Starting Lineup
C: Matt Wieters, Georgia Tech
1B: Matt LaPorta, Florida
2B: Nick Noonan, Parker HS, San Diego
3B: Josh Vitters, Cypress (Calif.) HS
SS: Peter Kozma, Owasso (Okla.) HS
LF: Mike Moustakas, Cypress (Calif.) HS
CF: Julio Borbon, Tennessee
RF: Jason Heyward, of, Henry County HS (McDonough, Ga.)
DH: Beau Mills, Lewis-Clark State (Idaho)
Pitching Staff
LHSP: David Price, Vanderbilt
RHSP: Rick Porcello, Seton Hall Prep (West Orange, N.J.)
LHSP: Ross Detwiler, Missouri State
LHSP: Madison Bumgarner, lhp, South Caldwell HS (Hudson, N.C.)
RHSP: Matt Harvey, rhp, Fitch County HS (Groton, Conn.)
LHRP: Daniel Moskos, Clemson
RHRP: Jarrod Parker, rhp, Norwell (Ind.) HS
CL: Andrew Brackman, North Carolina State

Wieters at catcher and LaPorta at first base were painless decisions. A high school shortstop, Noonan is going to be a good offensive second baseman, and I like him more there than North Carolina shortstop Josh Horton. Vitters is the best pure hitter in the draft and universally beloved by scouts, which makes him my third baseman in a draft with a lot of promising third basemen. It’s a weak year for shortstops, but Kozma has helium right now.

Moustakas currently plays shortstop and projects as a third baseman or maybe a catcher, but I had to get his bat in my lineup. I considered Rutgers shortstop Todd Frazier (he’ll move) and Texas outfielder Kyle Russell in left, but couldn’t leave Moustakas off. Borbon and Heyward in the other two outfield spots were much easier choices.

There were so many pitching options that I bought myself a little slack by including lefty and righty setup men, and I still regret not finding spots for high school righthanders Phillipe Aumont (Ecole Du Versant, Gatineau, Quebec) and Blake Beavan (Irving, Texas, HS). All eight of my pitchers are presently starters. The best current reliever is Vanderbilt righty Casey Weathers.

    There are rumors that the Padres are ready to offer Matt Latos, their 11th-round pick from last year, at least $1 million to sign. I don’t recall any buzz about him last year. Can you give me details about this guy and why the Padres are desperate to sign him now?

    Amy Gayita
    Reno, Nev.

    The Padres are seemingly making a very strong effort to sign Matt Latos. Would he be a first-rounder if he went back into the draft?

    John Fielding
    Weymouth, England

Oh, there was plenty of buzz around Latos last year. We ranked the Florida high school righty at No. 44 on our Top 200 Draft Prospects listPremium, as he was 6-foot-5, regularly touched 97 mph with his fastball and showed the potential for a plus curveball. His command and feel were inconsistent, though, and questions abounded about his flakiness and signability. Originally committed to Oklahoma, he switched to Broward (Fla.) CC, which allowed the Padres to retain his rights.

This spring at Broward, Latos has shown more maturity as a person and as a pitcher. Last weekend, he pitched at 94-98 mph for seven shutout innings in front of San Diego general manager Kevin Towers. Latos ranks as the best junior college prospect in the 2007 draft, just ahead of Grayson County (Texas) CC righty Jordan Walden, another hard-throwing high school righty who didn’t realize his first-round aspirations in the 2006 draft. The Angels took Walden in the 12th round last June.

If Latos re-entered the 2007 draft, he’d probably go late in the first round of in the upper half of the sandwich round. The Padres figure to pay accordingly so that won’t happen, however.

    Is there any chance the owners and player could collectively bargain for strict slotting bonuses for draft picks in the future? Neither side seems to receive much advantage from Scott Boras and other agents forcing up the value of unproven players. Why not have a dollar value for every pick, with adjustments for high school vs. college players, college seniors, two-sport athletes, etc.? The worst teams get the best talent each round as signability is a limited factor and are forced to spend some of their revenue-sharing money on the best way to get talent. Unproven non-union members don’t get huge bonuses that could be thrown at veteran union members. Every one is happy except guys who should have to prove their value before they get ridiculous amounts of money.

    Ray Huxen

Because free-agent compensation is tied to draft picks, the union must sign off on changes to the draft rules. Thus though draftees aren’t union members, the union would have to agree to strict slotting, rather than the informal arrangement of MLB recommendations that currently exists and can be ignored by clubs if they so choose.

Theoretically, less money for draftees could mean more money for big leaguers. But from a philosophical standpoint, it would look hypocritical for a union that has insisted on a mostly free market and never has stomached any suggestion of a salary cap to sell out non-union members by mandating what they could earn. There was a lot of speculation that strict slotting would be a part of the new CBA, but MLPBA general counsel Mike Weiner told Alan SchwarzPremium that negotiations to that end didn’t last long.

SCHWARZ: How close did actual slotting’"prescribed bonuses for every top pick’"get?

WEINER: From the union’™s side, it didn’™t get very far. The players made clear that whatever potential impact that might have on (the market) for major league players, that wasn’™t something the union was interested in.

The union wants to keep its hand in the changing of draft rules and I don’t think we’ll see strict slotting anytime soon. I’m a free-market guy myself, and I have no problem with players trying to get what they believe they’re worth, even if their demands might seem outlandish. However, I wouldn’t mind strict slotting so the draft would become totally about ability without the intrusion of signability.

" April 20 Ask BA