Ask BA

I hope everyone enjoyed their Thanksgiving. Five compensation free agents have changed teams, so we have our first alterations to the 2008 draft order. The highest pick to change hands so far is No. 18, which goes from the Braves to the Mets after Atlanta signed Type A free agent Tom Glavine.

The team that has added the most choices is the Brewers, who have two Type A free agents who have stuck deals pending physicals (Francisco Cordero with the Reds, Scott Linebrink with the White Sox). Because both Cincinnati and Chicago have picks that fall in the first half of the first round, Milwaukee will have to settle for two second-rounders and two supplemental first-rounders.

We’ll continue to update the order in Ask BA throughout the offseason. Here’s where we stand now:

First-Round Picks
1. Devil Rays
2. Pirates
3. Royals
4. Orioles
5. Giants
6. Marlins
7. Reds
8. White Sox
9. Nationals
10. Astros
11. Rangers
12. Athletics
13. Cardinals
14. Twins
15. Dodgers
16. Brewers
17. Blue Jays
18. Mets (Tom Glavine, A, to Atl)
19. Cubs
20. Mariners
21. Tigers
22. Mets
23. Padres
24. Phillies
25. Rockies
26. Diamondbacks
27. Twins (Torii Hunter, A, to LAA)
28. Yankees
29. Indians
30. Red Sox
Supplemental First-Round Picks
31. Twins (Hunter)
32. Brewers (Franciso Cordero, A, to Cin)
33. Mets (Glavine)
34. Brewers (Scott Linebrink, A, to CWS)
35. Cubs (Jason Kendall, B, to Mil)
Second-Round Changes
42. Brewers (Cordero to Cin)
43. Brewers (Linebrink to CWS)
69a. Braves (for failure to sign 2007 second-rounder Joshua Fields)
84a. Red Sox (for failure to sign 2007 second-rounder Hunter Morris)
Supplemental Third-Round Picks
98. Phillies (for failure to sign 2007 third-rounder Brandon Workman)
99. Astros (for failure to sign 2007 third-rounder Derek Dietrich)
100. Padres (for failure to sign 2007 third-rounder Tommy Toledo)
101. Angels (for failure to sign 2007 third-rounder Matt Harvey)
Remaining Possible Compensation Free Agents (must be offered arbitration)
Atl: OF Andruw Jones (B), LHP Ron Mahay (B).
Bos: RHP Eric Gagne (B), RHP Mike Timlin (B).
Cle: OF Kenny Lofton (B).
Col: RHP Jorge Julio (B), C Yorvit Torrealba (B).
Det: LHP Kenny Rogers (B).
Hou: INF Mark Loretta (B), RHP Trever Miller (B).
KC: RHP David Riske (B).
LAD: OF Luis Gonzalez (B).
Mil: 2B/3B Tony Graffanino (B).
NYM: OF Shawn Green (B), C Paul LoDuca (B).
NYY: LHP Andy Pettitte (A), 3B Alex Rodriguez (A), RHP Luis Vizcaino (B).
Oak: C Mike Piazza (B), OF Shannon Stewart (B).
Phi: RHP Freddy Garcia (B), OF Aaron Rowand (A).
StL: SS David Eckstein (B), RHP Troy Percival (B).
SD: C Michael Barrett (A), OF Milton Bradley (A), RHP Doug Brocail (B), OF Mike Cameron (B).
SF: OF Barry Bonds (A), 3B Pedro Feliz (B).
Sea: OF Jose Guillen (B).
    What is your gut reaction as to who will be the best long-term hitter coming out of high school in the 2007 draft: Mike Moustakas, Josh Vitters or Jason Heyward?

    Mike Russell
    Ixonia, Wis.

Those are three very special bats, which is why Moustakas went second overall to the Royals, Vitters third overall to the Cubs and Heyward 14th overall to the Braves. Heyward would have gone higher had clubs gotten a better look at him this spring, but he was pitched around so much that evaluating him became difficult.

I think all three will become stars, but my gut feel is that Moustakas will have the most devastating bat. His agent, Scott Boras, called him the best high school hitter since Alex Rodriguez, and while I’m not ready to buy into that much hyperbole, it’s impossible not to be excited about Moustakas’ potential. He has so much bat speed and strength, not to mention a sweet lefthanded swing, that it’s easy to project him winning batting titles and home run crowns in the major leagues once he hits his prime.

He set California state records for homers in a season (24) and a career (52) this spring, and the only real question about Moustakas is what position he’ll eventually play. The Royals have agreed to let him try shortstop, but few scouts believe he’ll stick there. Alex Gordon is already at third base in Kansas City, so Moustakas may end up in right field. Some clubs were intrigued by the possibility of making him a catcher, though the demands of working behind the plate would take a toll on his bat.

    I'd like to get your opinion on a couple of Tigers pitching prospects. What level do you think Rick Porcello will begin his career at and what is his ceiling? Is Duane Below a real prospect or an older player beating up on younger hitters?

    Marc Decker
    Adrian, Mich.

Porcello definitely has No. 1 starter’s stuff. The only reason he fell to the Tigers with the 27th pick in the 2007 draft was his price tag, as he was considered the best high school pitching prospect since Josh Beckett. Porcello, who matched Beckett’s record for prep pitchers by signing a $7 million contract, has a mid-90s fastball and a pair of plus breaking balls in his curveball and slider. He’ll probably make his pro debut at low Class A West Michigan.

Below spent 2007 there, leading the Midwest League in wins (13-5, 2.97) and strikeouts (160 in 146 innings). He’s a decent prospect, but nowhere near in the class of Porcello. Lefthanders who throw strikes and locate a breaking ball often dominate low Class A, and Below fits that profile. He has fringy velocity at 89-90 mph on his fastball and he can change speeds and get inexperienced hitters to swing and miss at his curveball.

How well that works at higher levels remains to be seen, because Below doesn’t have much of a changeup or margin for error. He was 21 during the season, not young for the MWL but not ancient either.

    Bryce Cox ranked No. 8 on your Red Sox list in the 2007 Prospect Handbook, yet struggled this year in Double-A and then low Class A. How does he project going forward, and can he still become a dominant setup man in the future?

    Kevin Morrison

It’s funny to think that a year ago at this time there was some thought that Cox might even emerge as Boston’s closer in the second half of 2007. Jonathan Papelbon’s shoulder issues seemed to have him destined for the rotation, and Cox was that spectacular.

I’ve never seen a slider break as much as Cox’ did at the 2006 College World Series. He had command issues for much of his two years with Rice, then found a shorter delivery and an arm slot that worked for him and he became untouchable. He posted a 0.32 ERA with a 36-4 K-BB ratio over his final 28 college innings, and Owls coach Wayne Graham said Cox pitched as well as any pitcher he has ever coached—a group that includes Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte and five top-10-overall draft picks. In his pro debut, most of which came in high Class A, Cox had a 0.90 ERA and a 28-11 K-BB ratio in 30 innings.

But Cox regressed this season. He missed time at both Double-A Portland and low Class A Greenville with a strained hamstring, and he lost the mechanics and arm slot that worked so well for him in 2006. He started to put the pieces back together by the end of the year, when he started pitching at 92-94 again, but he didn’t have the same ride and sink on his fastball, or his previous wipeout slider.

Cox is an enigma. He still has huge upside but the fact remains that in five years of college and pro ball, he has dominated for just four months.

" Nov. 16 Ask BA