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Arkansas lefthander Nick Schmidt became the first first-round pick from the 2007 draft to receive an above-slot bonus, signing for $1.29 million with the Padres. His bonus represented a whopping $7,500 over MLB’s recommendation, making him the first of the 12 first-rounders who have signed to get more than slot money. The other 11 players all received at least 10 percent less than the 2006 recommendation for their slot as well.

(Update: Schmidt’s bonus was incorrectly reported. He signed for $1.26 million, which came in slightly below slot.) 

    A number of the best prospects from BA’s Top 100 Prospects list will lose their rookie/prospect status this season. I find myself beginning to wonder who will be the top five players on next year’s Top 100. Considering only players who have yet to appear in a major league game, who are the top five prospects? It seems to me the most logical candidates are Diamondbacks outfielder Justin Upton, Tigers outfielder Cameron Maybin, Devil Rays third baseman Evan Longoria and Reds outfielder Jay Bruce. Who else? Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen, Devil Rays shortstop Reid Brignac and Diamondbacks outfielder Carlos Gonzalez are the other three who were in BA’s preseason top 20, but they’re not playing well. Feel free to discuss those who have yet to sign a contract with a major league club, such as No. 1 overall pick David Price or Japanese outfielder Kosuke Fukudome.

    Stephen Shelby
    Davis, Calif.

My top four guys are the same as Stephen’s, though I’d put them in a slightly different order. Upton is No. 1 for me, as he apparently has stopped coasting and is making the most of his abundant talent. I’d put Bruce No. 2. I ranked him atop our Midwest League Top 20 a year ago, ahead of Maybin and Upton, and I really believe in his bat. After those two, I’d list Maybin and Longoria.

If we eliminate everyone who already has appeared in the majors, there’s no obvious No. 5 guy. The next guys that I ranked on my personal Top 50 in the 2007 Prospect Handbook‘"McCutchen, Brignac and Gonzalez’"are having mediocre seasons.

After looking at this for a few minutes, I decided Dodgers lefthander Clayton Kershaw would rank No. 5 on my list. That also answers the question of who my top pitching prospect is, with Kershaw getting the nod over Devil Rays lefty Jake McGee, Red Sox righty Clay Buchholz and Indians righty Adam Miller. Position players who will rank higher than I might have thought they would entering 2007 include Cardinals outfielder Colby Rasmus and Blue Jays outfielder Travis Snider.

I thought about Price and Fukudome, but I wouldn’t put either of them in my top five. Price would rank in the 6-15 range, and Fukudome in the 11-25 range.

In the issue that we’ll start working on next week, we’ll take a midseason look at the Top 100 list and release an updated Top 25.

    What is the hitting streak record for the entire minors? I know Nationals outfielder Brandon Watson just broke the Triple-A International League mark with 43, but didn’t Joe DiMaggio have a 61-game hit streak in 1933? Is that the real record, or is there a longer streak?

    Steve Haws
    Las Vegas

Before Watson set the IL record with 43 and Yankees third baseman Mitch Hilligoss broke the low Class A South Atlantic League mark with a 38-game skein this spring, we hadn’t had a long minor league hitting streak in years. Joey Cora had a 37-game streak in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League in 1989, and the last guy to top 40 was Howie Bedell at 43 games in the Triple-A American Association in 1961.

DiMaggio did have a PCL-record 61-game streak in 1933, his first full year in pro ball after he made a three-game debut the season before. DiMaggio batted .340 for the San Francisco Seals and led the league with 169 RBIs in 187 games. But his skein’"”skein” is one of those great Sporting News words that doesn’t get used often enough by baseball writers these days.’"is only the second-longest in minor league history.

In 1919, Joe Wilhoit put together a 69-game streak for Wichita in the Class A Western League. He batted .505 (151-for-299) during his run, and won the league batting title at .422. His performance earned him another shot in the majors, and he went 6-for-18 with the Red Sox to improve his career big league stats to .257/.323/.321 with three homers and 73 RBIs in 283 games. He never played in the majors again.

The longest hitting streaks in minor league history:

Longest Minor League Hitting Streaks
Streak Player Team (League) Year
69 Joe Wilhoit Wichita (Western) 1919
61 Joe DiMaggio San Francisco (Pacific Coast) 1933
55 Roman Mejias Waco (Big State) 1954
50 Otto Pahlman Danville (Three-I) 1922
49 Jack Ness Oakland (Pacific Coast) 1915
49 Harry Chozen Mobile (Southern Association) 1945
46 Johnny Bates Nashville (Southern Association) 1925
43 Eddie Marshall Milwaukee (American Association) 1935
43 Orlando Moreno Big Spring (Longhorn) 1947
43 Howie Bedell Louisville (American Association) 1961
43 Brandon Watson Columbus (International) 2007

    What can you tell us about Brett Smith, a Yankees righthander at Double-A Trenton? Is he a real prospect or not?

    Greg Yaris
    Los Angeles

He’s a prospect, but he’s not worthy of the hype generated by his early-season numbers. He has been cuffed around in his last three outings, increasing his ERA by more than a run, though he’s still 6-4, 2.77 after 14 starts. He has been tough to hit with a .195 opponent average and seven homers allowed in 81 innings, while his K-BB ratio is solid but not spectacular at 69-31.

The same is true of Smith’s stuff. He has an average fastball and succeeds by using it to set up his curveball, slider and changeup. On any given day, one of his offerings will stand out more than the others, but none of them is an out pitch. He’s more of a back-of-the-rotation guy, a complementary piece rather than a building block, but he’s not in the same class as a Joba Chamberlain and I like other Yankees mound prospects such as Tyler Clippard more than Smith.

" June 15 Ask BA