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There can’t be any question that Oregon is aiming to do more than just reinstate its baseball program after a 28-year hiatus in 2009. The Ducks are aiming to win big. After pursuing star coaches in Vanderbilt’s Tim Corbin and UC Irvine’s Dave Serrano, Oregon bagged a big name in Cal State Fullerton’s George Horton. Horton was Baseball America’s College Coach of the Year in 2003 and won a national championship in 2004, and look for him to make the Ducks a meaningful program quickly.

    In the last Ask BA, I know you were addressing the specific comparison between the 23-or-under pitchers on the Giants and Yankees, Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum vs. Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes. But wouldn’t the fabulous pair of Felix Hernandez and Brandon Morrow enter the equation if talking about the best 23-or-younger duos in baseball? Morrow has been lights out in the second half and has been clocked at 98-99 mph lately. Couple him with Hernandez, whom I assume you would take over any pitcher in that Giants-Yankees discussion, and I would think Seattle may have the best pair of 23-or-under pitchers in baseball.

    Brian Snelson
    Lynnwood, Wash.

I still would take Hernandez over any young pitcher in baseball, but I can’t put the Mariners duo at the top of my list. Morrow has a quality arm, but command never has been his strong suit, and he has a far greater chance of being a reliever rather than a starter than any of the other pitchers in this discussion.

I’ve ranked the 10 best 23-and-younger pitching tandems in the majors (counting anyone who has been in the big leagues at some point this year), and Hernandez and Morrow will have to settle for third place:

1. Tim Lincecum/Matt Cain, Giants
They get the slightest of edges over the Yankees pair below.
2. Joba Chamberlain/Phil Hughes, Yankees
Ian Kennedy will join the discussion after his callup tomorrow.
3. Felix Hernandez/Brandon Morrow, Mariners
The King is still the best pitcher on this list.
4. Chad Billingsley/Jonathan Broxton, Dodgers
They’ll be Los Angeles’ No. 1 starter and closer in the near future.
5. Andrew Miller/Joel Zumaya, Tigers
These guys will be deadly once they refine their command.
6. Clay Buchholz/Jon Lester, Red Sox
The best is yet to come for both of them.
7. Scott Olsen/Josh Johnson, Marlins
Would rank higher if Johnson or Anibal Sanchez was healthy.
8. Franklin Morales/Ubaldo Jimenez, Rockies
They receive less hype than any combo on this list and deserve more.
9. Cole Hamels/Kyle Kendrick, Phillies
Hamels pulls most of the weight in this pairing.
10. Adam Loewen/Garrett Olson, Orioles
Ditto for Loewen, who’s out with a stress fracture in his elbow.

I couldn’t quite put the Royals’ Zack Greinke and Joakim Soria on there. If I counted minor leaguers, the Devil Rays could have made it with a pairing of Scott Kazmir and David Price (or Wade Davis or Jacob McGee).

    As a rabid Yankees fan, I watched them draft what seemed to me quality prospects. I pose three questions to you: How do you interpret the haul? Where does Brad Suttle fit in the overall plan? Is giving Andrew Brackman a major league deal the big mistake I think it is?

    Tom Molinari
    New York

Let’s tackle those questions in reverse order. I don’t think giving Brackman a major league deal or a $4.55 million guarantee or a potential $13 million payoff was a mistake. The Yankees can afford all of those things, and he ranked as one of the very best prospects in the draft before he injured his elbow. The recovery rate from Tommy John surgery is very encouraging, and there’s no reason to think Brackman won’t be back to full strength by 2009.

Suttle, who went in the fourth round, was a supplemental first-round talent. He immediately becomes New York’s best infield prospect, a switch-hitter with pure hitting ability, though there’s some question as to whether he’ll have more than average power. He can play a solid third base and has a strong, though he’s a below-average runner and his range is limited.

I liked the Yankees’ draft. Assuming he returns to health and reaches his potential, Brackman was a steal with the 30th overall pick. So was Suttle in the fourth round. Second-round catcher Austin Romine, ninth-round outfielder Austin Krum and 10th-round shortstop Carmine Angelini made our predraft Top 200 Prospects listPremium. It was a deep draft.

At the same time, New York’s signees aren’t as good as their price tags might indicate, if that makes any sense. The Yankees spent $8,632,500 in guaranteed money on the players it took in the first 10 rounds of the draft. Based on our predraft rankings, which reflect a consensus of what we heard from all teams, those players had a market value of about $4.1 million.

Money doesn’t matter to the Yankees, as they have a seemingly endless supply. At the same time, though, giving Brackman a huge contract when he had little leverage’"he wouldn’t have been able to pitch before re-entering the 2008 draft’"doesn’t make him more of a prospect. Paying Suttle $1.3 million, slightly more than slot money for the No. 22 overall pick, doesn’t make him the 22nd-best player in the draft. Paying Angelini (regarded as a fifth-round talent by most teams) $1 million doesn’t make him a first-round talent.

As recently as 2004, New York took a conservative approach to the draft and didn’t wield its financial muscle. Now it’s almost as if the Yankees just identify the players they want and don’t worry about what it will cost to sign them. They can afford to do so, and their new philosophy has had a pronounced affect on their farm system. New York’s two most expensive draftees from 2006, Ian Kennedy and Joba Chamberlain, already are playing key roles on its big league pitching staff.

    I’m looking at the early struggles of some 2007 high school draft picks and wondering if it’s a cause for concern. Some horrible starts, such as those by third basemen Josh Vitters (Cubs) and Matt Dominguez (Marlins), can be downplayed to an extent because they’ve had just a small number of at-bats. But some of the others, like Reds catcher Devin Mesoraco or Blue Jays infielders Kevin Ahrens and Justin Jackson, have struggled over a larger stretch. Is this normal, or are they not as talented as projected?

    Grant Driedger

I can’t quote you exact stats as to how first-round high school picks normally perform in their first pro summer, but I can tell you not to worry about their performances. Scouts considered Vitters one of the elite hitters in the draft, based on a lot more at-bats than the 34 he has had in pro ball, which have resulted in just three singles and 11 strikeouts. It’s not uncommon for prepsters to struggle in their pro debuts. They’re facing better pitching on a more consistent basis than they’ve ever seen, and they’re playing on a daily basis for a more extended period than they ever have before.

In 1990, the Braves passed on the consensus top prospect, Todd Van Poppel, and instead used the No. 1 overall pick on a Florida high school shortstop who went out and hit .229/.321/.271 in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League. Atlanta was knocked for missing on the obvious choice, but Chipper Jones did pretty well for himself.

Two years later, the Yankees took a Michigan high school shortstop with the sixth overall choice. He batted .202/.296/.312 in the GCL and fared little better in an 11-game stint in low Class A. When he returned to the South Atlantic League in 1993, it quickly became evident that Derek Jeter would be a star.

Some players, like Manny Ramirez (who hit .326/.426/.679 with 19 homers in 59 games in the Rookie-level Appalachian League), become immediate stars after becoming high school first-round picks. Others take some time to get going. I wouldn’t worry about any of this year’s crop unless they struggle in a similar fashion over the course of a full season in 2008. All rights reserved. | Site Map | Frequently Asked Questions/Site Troubleshooting.

" August 26 Ask BA