Ask BA

You can check my ESPN chat from WednesdayPremium to confirm that I made my College World Series prediction before the games started today. I picked Rice to win it all, and the Owls rallied from an early 5-0 deficit to beat Louisville 15-10 in the opener.

I’ve got Rice over North Carolina in the finals of the Friday bracket, and Cal State Fullerton over Oregon State in the finals of the Saturday bracket. Considering all the talent both teams lost, it’s quite an accomplishment that the Tar Heels and Beavers are poised for another deep CWS run after meeting in the championship series last year.

I’ll be there to see most of it, as I’m taking my two sons to see the back half of the CWS. I can’t recommend the tournament enough to anyone who’s a baseball fan, and Omaha is a family-friendly city to boot. There won’t be an Ask BA next week, but I’ll return to answer your questions at the end of the month.

    With the 2007 draft just behind us, some of us already are looking to 2008. Vanderbilt third baseman Pedro Alvarez is generally regarded by most folks as the No. 1 prospect for next year. Can you tell me about some other college players that will be eligible next year, namely Miami first baseman Yonder Alfonso, UCLA shortstop Brandon Crawford and Texas outfielder Jordan Danks?

    Al Huang
    Port Chester, N.Y.

Alan Matthews already has worked up an early Top 20 for the 2008 draft, which runs in the issue of the magazine that just went to press. No. 1 on the list indeed was Alvarez, followed in order by San Diego lefthander Brian Matusz, South Carolina first baseman Justin Smoak, Florida high school first baseman Eric Hosmer and California prep outfielder Isaac Galloway.

Next on the Top 20 was Crawford, who would have been the first shortstop taken in the 2007 draft had he been eligible. He’s a legitimate five-tool player who hit .335/.405/.504 with seven homers and 11 steals this spring, and he also can make spectacular plays at shortstop. He does strike out a lot (58 times in 248 at-bats), but Crawford is immensely talented.

Alonso ranked 17th on the list. He’s coming off a .379/.523/.714 season in which he led the Atlantic Coast Conference in homers (18) and RBIs (74). While his calling card is his power, he’s a good athlete for a first baseman and stole 13 bases as a sophomore. He does have some experience as a catcher’"though not with the Hurricanes’"and would be even more attractive if he could move behind the plate.

Danks would have been a first-round or sandwich pick coming out of high school had he not told teams he was intent on attending Texas. Power was his ticket as well, though he hasn’t shown as much as expected with the Longhorns. He went deep just four times this year, serving as Texas’ leadoff man and hitting .332/.440/.479 while going a perfect 19-for-19 in steals. He’d be more of a sandwich or second-round choice at this point.

    I was thinking about the Ben Revere pick and is it possible the Twins took him 28th overall so they could save money to go after a guy like Evan Danieli, a tough sign they took in the 33rd round? Do teams take signability guys early with the intention of going over slot later on guys who are falling?

    Kyle Anstey

No one but the Twins saw Revere as a first-round pick, but Minnesota took him that high because they believed that much in his ability, plain and simple. The Twins hoped to get a shot at Oklahoma high school shortstop Pete Kozma, who went 18th overall to the Phillies, or Arkansas lefthander Nick Schmidt, who went 23rd to the Padres. When the first round unfolded like it did, Minnesota went for Revere, who played very well for its upper-level scouts.

A high school outfielder from Kentucky, Revere was the fastest player in the 2007 draft. He’s a dynamic baserunner and center-field defender, and the Twins think he’ll hit enough to be a weapon. He’s not big at 5-foot-9 and 175 pounds, but he has a good approach and can turn on fastballs. Minnesota wasn’t sure he’d last until its next pick at No. 92 and didn’t want to take the chance that another club would pop him.

Because they took Revere higher than he expected to go, the Twins were able to sign him for $750,000, the lowest amount given to a healthy first-rounder since 2000 and a savings of roughly $300,000 over MLB’s recommendation for the No. 28 slot. But MLB doesn’t give credit to teams who save money early and endorse them spending it elsewhere in the draft. Minnesota didn’t take Revere with that thinking in mind, and I’m not aware of any teams using that draft strategy.

Danieli, a prep righthander from New Jersey, probably will wind up at Notre Dame. He ranked No. 157 on our overall Top 200 Prospects listPremium, just 22 spots behind Revere, but Danieli wasn’t considered very signable away from a Notre Dame scholarship.

    The Reds selected five players from Canada this year: righthanders Kyle Lotzkar (sandwich round) and Evan Hildenbrandt (sixth), Michael Henry (48th) and Cam Gray (49th), plus catcher Jordan Wideman (11th). Is Cincinnati making a more concerted effort north of the border? What’s your take on the five players?

    Tim Stephens

I think it was less of a case of the Reds targeting Canada as much as it was their scouting department has a very good feel for Canada. Scouting director Chris Buckley spent 17 years working with the Blue Jays and knows Canada better than his predecessors with Cincinnati. Buckley hired Bill Byckowski, who oversaw Toronto’s Canadian scouting operations, to do the same for the Reds.

Cincinnati would have been very tempted has the prize of the Canadian crop this year, Quebec prep righthander Phillippe Aumont, fallen to its No. 15 pick, but the Mariners grabbed Aumont at No. 11. The Reds got the second-best Canadian prospect in Lotzkar, a projectable 6-foot-3, 180-pounder who already touches 94 mph but is still very raw on the mound.

Hildebrandt needs some polish as well, but he’ll flash a plus fastball and a tight curveball. A converted catcher, Henry touches the low 90s with his fastball and still has plenty of projection remaining at 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds. Gray is a what-you-see, what-you-get prospect, though he repeats his delivery well and has good life on a mid-80s fastball.

Wideman’s brother A.J. is a lefthander who’s pitching at high Class A Dunedin in the Blue Jays system. Jordan has good catch-and-throw skills but a lot of questions about his bat at this point.

" June 13 Ask BA