Ask BA

Great pitching matchup in San Francisco tonight. Tim Lincecum, who fascinates me, makes his major league debut 11 months after the Giants stole him with the 10th overall pick of the 2006 draft. He’s not big and his mechanics aren’t orthodox, but good luck hitting him. In five Triple-A starts this year, he went 4-0, 0.29 with a .119 opponent average and no homers allowed, plus a 46-11 K-BB ratio in 31 innings. My prediction for his line tonight: 6-4-2-2-4-9.

Lincecum faces the Phillies and Cole Hamels, who can make a case for a) having the best changeup in baseball and b) being the game’s best young lefthander. Forget about “The Sopranos.” Lincecum vs. Hamels is the Must See TV for tonight.

Sorry about the Sunday rather than Friday edition of Ask BA, but it’s that time of year (draft time).

    It’s generally understood that David Price is the best college pitcher available in the upcoming draft, and Rick Porcello is arguably the best high school pitcher. What’s the main difference that separates them, who has the higher ceiling and who will have the better major league career?

    Brian Welch
    Boylston, Mass.

If the draft were held today, my best guess would be that the Devil Rays would take Price out of Vanderbilt with the No. 1 overall selection and the Royals would follow by selecting Porcello out of Seton Hall Prep (West Orange, N.J.) with the No. 2 pick.

The biggest distinction is that Price is a lefty and Porcello is a righty. Price is also three years older and more experienced, so there’s more of a track record and less projection involved with him. In terms of stuff, there’s not much difference. Both guys pitch around 93-94 mph with their fastball and can reach the mid-90s, and both have hard breaking balls. Price has a little more life on his fastball. Though Porcello doesn’t need it much in high school, he has an effective changeup, as does Price.

Being lefthanded gives Price a higher ceiling. Given that he has proven himself against tougher competition and stayed healthier for a longer period of time, I’d give him the edge for having a better future. But there’s not much difference between them.

    It looks like Matt Wieters and Josh Vitters are establishing themselves as the top college and high school position players in the 2007 draft class, and it looks like the Cubs may have their choice between the two at No. 3. What, besides experience, separates these two and might make the difference between taking one over the other? What weaknesses do they have?

    Justin Riddick

More comparing and contrasting. The biggest difference between these two is their position. Wieters is a catcher at Georgia Tech, while Vitters is a third baseman at Cypress (Calif.) High. That gives Wieters more positional value than Vitters, though it’s not easy to find third basemen either.

Vitters is the best pure hitter in this draft and projects to hit for a higher average. Wieters has more present power than Vitters, and he’s a switch-hitter to boot. Not that it will play into his draft status, but Wieters also has shown a 94-98 mph fastball off the mound.

Vitters doesn’t have a glaring weakness. He’s not a stud athlete or a plus runner, but he’s not a slug either. He’ll need to add some strength to his 6-foot-3, 195-pound frame, but he’s not even 18 yet and there’s no reason he shouldn’t. As you can tell, I’m nitpicking here.

As for Wieters, his detractors think his size (6-foot-4, 225 pounds) hampers his agility and receiving. One scouting director, who also isn’t enamored of his hitting ability, compared him to Ben Davis, who was a bust as the No. 2 overall pick in 1995. But that’s not the consensus.

One other consideration to keep in mind is that Wieters’ advisor is Scott Boras. He’ll likely seek a major league contract for Wieters, while Vitters is more likely to sign for slot money.

Cost won’t be the consideration for the Cubs, but I keep hearing that they love Vitters. Right now, he’d be my projection for the No. 3 overall pick.

    In your May 2 chat at ESPN.comPremium, a reader asked if ever Baseball America considered posting the past scouting reports of current big leaguers. You said that would make a good Ask BA question and asked someone to send it in. How about scouting reports on Moises Alou, Ray Durham and Vernon Wells?

    Charlie Hyde

Let’s take a look at the first appearance of each player on our organization Top 10 Prospects lists, starting with Alou, who came in at No. 3 on our Pirates rankings entering 1989, behind outfielder Mark Merchant and righthander Keith Richardson. At the time, Alou projected more as a gap-hitting center fielder than the run-producing corner outfielder he turned into:

He is the son of former major league outfielder Felipe Alou, but had a sparse background in baseball when the Pirates drafted him from a California junior college in January 1986. Alou has caught up quickly, improving from a .214 hitter in 1987 to .313 last season.

Built long and willowy, he plays center field better than anyone else in the organization, has above-average arm strength and is a basestealer. Scouts say Alou has the wrist quickness to generate some power as he gains strength, although he is primarily a line-drive hitter.

Alou was benched last season for failing to run out a ground ball. The incident prompted the firing of his manager, Jeff Cox. If Alou failed to hustle, the Pirates say it was an isolated incident and not typical of Alou’s approach to the game.

Durham ranked seventh on our 1994 White Sox Top 10, which we unveiled in an issue featuring Michael Jordan on the cover. The first four spots on that list were occupied by pitchers James Baldwin, Scott Ruffcorn, Robert Ellis and Scott Christman, and Durham obviously surpassed them all. The report foreshadowed the player he became:

Background: The White Sox challenged Durham last year by assigning him to [Double-A] Birmingham, and he responded. He had played only 142 games in three previous seasons, spending two years in short-season ball and missing time in 1992 because of injury and family problems.

Strengths: Managers named Durham the best and fastest baserunner in the Southern League. He’s a leadoff candidate with 40-steal potential and some pop in his bat. He has a strong arm and good instincts.

Weaknesses: Durham needs to smooth out his game. He led the Southern League in times caught stealing (25) and errors by a second baseman (30). His arm is erratic, and he has problems turning double plays. To be a leadoff man, he must make more contact.

Future: [Triple-A] Nashville is the logical progression in 1994 for Durham, who could start for the White Sox next season.

It’s hard to believe now, but the Blue Jays were criticized in some corners for going cheap when they made Wells the fifth overall pick in the 1997 draft. He debuted at No. 2 on our 1998 Blue Jays Top 10, right behind Roy Halladay. His scouting report also held up well:

Background: Wells was considered by some scouts the best high school outfielder to come out of Texas in recent memory. He disappointed no one playing against mostly college players in the [short-season] New York-Penn League. Wells’ father Vernon Sr. is a former Canadian Football League wide receiver-turned-artist.

Strengths: Wells has a live bat and shows good patience at the plate. He has the speed found in natural center fielders and the arm strength and accuracy for right field.

Weaknesses: His speed is an asset, but Wells must learn the intricacies of running the bases to become a basestealing threat. He needs to get better reads on pitches.

The Future: Wells probably would have held his own at Class A Hagerstown last year. He’ll get a chance to prove that in 1998.

" April 27 Ask BA