Ask BA

I get asked a lot in chats and on radio shows (but not yet in Ask BA) if I’m worried about Alex Gordon. I’m not. He got off to a bad start and I think he’s pressing more than anything. I thought he’d contend for the American League rookie of the year award rather than hit .194/.309/.310 with three homers and eight RBIs in his first 45 big league games, but he’s going to be fine in the long run.

Gordon is the best position prospect produced by the Royals since George Brett, and he’s going to be a star. And just for a point of comparison, in the first 45 games of Brett’s career, he didn’t look like anything close to a Hall of Famer. Brett performed even worse than Gordon has, batting .203/.234/.293 with one homer and 10 RBIs.

A tip of the cap to the always useful for the Brett breakdown. That site keeps getting better and better.

    Who do you see the new Aug. 15 signing date for drafted players affecting more: the players (being forced to sign for slot money) or the teams (panicking and exceeding slot money)?

    Aaron Bailey
    Kansas City, Mo.

With new draft rules such as the signing deadline, improved compensation for unsigned first-round choices and the introduction of compensation for unsigned sandwich- through third-rounders, MLB believes it has given teams more leverage. As a result, MLB is hoping to tighten slotting even more with the 2007 draft, reducing its bonus recommendations by roughly 10 percent.

In the end, I don’t think the rules are going to change much or give an advantage to either side. With the signing deadline, almost every draft pick who comes to terms does so before Aug. 15 to begin with. The guys who are going to exceed slot and get huge bonuses still will do so at the last minute, just like they do now. To an agent like Scott Boras, it’s not going to matter when the deadline is. He just needs a deadline to back a team up against.

As for the better compensation for unsigned picks, that’s more of a nice consolation prize than an inspiration to take a hard line and try to force a player to take slot money. For one, there will be teams out there willing to exceed MLB’s recommendations and the slotting system makes it easier for agents to push high-priced players to those clubs. The Red Sox, Yankees and Cubs broke slot a lot a year ago, and more teams may follow their lead’"or risk losing top talent to them. And because few scouting directors hold their positions for more than a few years, they’re not looking to defer their premium picks.

“We need to sign our first-round picks,” an American League scouting director said. “It might appear that we possess more leverage, but in the end I don’t know that we do.”

The bottom line is that the clubs want to sign the elite players, and the elite players want to sign, and in the end both sides almost always will find a way to make that happen. This year, the end just comes on Aug. 15.

    The San Diego Union-Tribune has reported that Padres draft-and-follow Matt Latos is asking for $3.5 million. If that’s not a misprint or misquote, isn’t it crazy? I’m all for a player maximizing his earnings, but by my reckoning that tops all but three pitchers from last year, and those three pitchers were Luke Hochevar, Andrew Miller and Jeff Samardzija. Does he really think he has a shot at that kind of payday? If not, does it serve any purpose to set your opening figure that high? Maybe he just doesn’t want to go to the Padres, who sure could use a high-upside arm in the system.

    Jeff Nold

Latos is the top-rated junior college prospect this spring, as we discussed in the April 27 Ask BA. You can check out his complete scouting report on our Top 200 Prospects listPremium, where he ranks No. 32 overall.

Latos’ adviser priced him out of the sandwich and second rounds of last year’s draft, which is where his talent would have landed him. Instead, he fell to the Padres in the 11th round and opted to attend Broward (Fla.) CC. He’s a power pitcher and he’s attractive to pro teams. But on talent alone, if Latos re-enters the 2007 draft, he’s not going to be more than a late or supplemental first-rounder. His bonus slot would be roughly $1 million, which is what San Diego has offered him.

I don’t think Latos is trying to avoid the Padres. I think he and his adviser have just terribly misgauged the market, like they did a year ago. San Diego can walk away, because as much as it would like to add Latos’ arm to its farm system, it also owns six of the first 64 picks in the draft. Maybe there’s a team lying in the weeds, having promised Latos more than what the Padres have offered. If not, Latos will drop precipitously in the draft for the second straight year.

    It has been well documented on the football recruiting websites that Kyle Long, son of football great Howie Long, will be attending Florida State University . . . on a baseball scholarship. What is the 411 on Kyle, and what are his draft chances for 2008?

    J.V. Siegel
    Sherman Oaks, Calif.

Long, whose father Howie is an NFL Hall of Famer and whose brother Chris is a standout defensive lineman at the University of Virginia, also has a lot of football potential. Currently at St. Anne’s-Belfield School in Charlottesville, Va., Kyle is a 6-foot-7, 280-pound lineman who’s being recruited by many major college football programs.

But Long reportedly made a verbal commitment to Florida State’s baseball program after a visit in May. There’s still a lot of time for him to change his mind and return to football, but those close to him believe baseball is his first love. His size and strength obviously give him a lot of power, and he shows good athleticism for his size at first base. He’s also a lefthanded pitcher who can reach the low 90s with his fastball.

Because the assumption was that Long would follow his father and brother and play football, he hadn’t generated much baseball buzz before committing to the Seminoles. From a pro standpoint, the physical comparisons as a pitcher would be Jeff Juden and Andrew Sisco, and as a position player they’d be Calvin Pickering and Big Walter Young. There have been precious few major leaguers with his kind of build. Long’s high school competition isn’t the strongest, and he may be so big that his size works against him. But it’s possible some team might really love his arm or his power and could pop him in the fifth round or so next year.

" May 11 Ask BA