Ask BA

Two playoff games today, two walkoff wins. The postseason is starting to become as dramatic as the end of the regular season. We may be in for a few off days, however, as all four Division Series could end in sweeps. That would mean no baseball Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday.

    Is the official 2008 draft order set yet? If so, could you please list it?

    Jason Debney
    Burbank, Calif.

The draft order is based on the regular-season standings, so it is set. If two teams tie with the same record, then the club that finished worse in the previous season gets the earliest pick. Here’s the order:

1. Devil Rays (66-96) 16. Brewers (83-79)
2. Pirates (68-94) 17. Blue Jays (83-79)
3. Royals (69-93) 18. Braves (84-78)
4. Orioles (69-93) 19. Cubs (85-77)
5. Giants (71-91) 20. Mariners (88-74)
6. Marlins (71-91) 21. Tigers (88-74)
7. Reds (72-90) 22. Mets (88-74)
8. White Sox (72-90) 23. Padres (89-74)
9. Nationals (73-89) 24. Phillies (89-73)
10. Astros (73-89) 25. Rockies (90-73)
11. Rangers (75-87) 26. Diamondbacks (90-72)
12. Athletics (76-86) 27. Angels (94-68)
13. Cardinals (78-84) 28. Yankees (94-68)
14. Twins (79-83) 29. Indians (96-66)
15. Dodgers (82-80) 30. Red Sox (96-66)

The Devil Rays are the first team ever to get the No. 1 overall pick in back-to-back drafts. The two leagues alternated the top choice from year to year until 2005, when a rules change based the order strictly on won-loss record without regard for league affiliation. Tampa Bay also has a top-10 pick for the 10th consecutive year, matching a record shared by the 1970-79 Expos and the 1978-87 Mariners. All three of those streaks coincided with the inception of those franchises.

The first 15 picks in the draft are protected, but choices in the bottom half of the first round and later can change hands as free-agent compensation. We’ll update the draft order in Ask BA throughout the offseason.

    After his first year or two of pro ball, how did Josh Hamilton compare to the top outfield prospects of today? Was he considered as good as Jay Bruce, Cameron Maybin and Justin Upton?

    Andrew Diekmann
    Los Angeles

The No. 1 overall pick in the 1999 draft, Hamilton claimed the top spot in our annual Top 100 Prospects list after his first full season in pro ball. He was every bit as good as the amazing young outfielders of today, and he might have ranked ahead of Bruce, Maybin and Upton.

Hamilton was a better athlete than Bruce and a better pure hitter than Maybin. He was most directly comparable to Upton, and he was a superior center fielder at the same stage. Of course, Upton played shortstop in high school and doesn’t have as much outfield experience. As a bonus, Hamilton also had first-round potential as a pitcher. He was a 6-foot-4 lefthander who flashed a 95-mph fastball in high school.

Hamilton’s comeback this season after years of injuries and drug abuse was nothing short of amazing. It also was a testament to his natural ability.

    There’s always mention of whether a pitching prospect has a third pitch. Usually this is a changeup. Almost invariably, we hear that the pitcher is beginning to develop a changeup and/or that it’s raw. It also seems that pitchers with great stuff don’t work on the third pitch until later in their career. What is the rationale for waiting to develop the third pitch?

    Chris Leyda
    Ann Arbor, Mich.

It’s usually a case of a pitcher not coming up with a third pitch until he needs it. At the high school level, most of the dominant pitchers don’t need a changeup, and they’re doing a hitter a favor by throwing one because all they’re doing is speeding up his bat. It’s true, to a lesser extent, in college. A top starter is going to be able to put batters away with the combination of his fastball and breaking ball most of the time, so there’s little point in risking getting hurt with his third pitch.

But there are very few pro pitchers who can succeed with just two pitches. They usually need a changeup to combat batters who have the platoon advantage, as their breaking ball won’t be as effective. If they can’t come up with a third pitch, they’re often destined for the bullpen.

" Sept. 28 Ask BA