Ask BA

Just three days until Opening Day? Unbelievable, but not a moment too soon.

Not only do we have real major league games that count right around the corner, but we’re also seeing some resolution with the 12 players selected in the major league phase of the Rule 5 draft at the Winter Meetings. Rule 5 mandates that those players remain on a big league roster all year, or else they have to clear waivers and be offered back to their original club for half the $50,000 draft price before going to the minors.

As of this morning, six of the Rule 5 draftees were still in big league camps, including righthander Steven Andrade, who was claimed off waivers by the Royals from the Padres. A seventh, righthander Chris Booker, has gone on the Phillies’ 15-day disabled list with inflammation in his left knee. Here’s the current status of all 12 players:

Rule 5 Draftees, 2005
Player, Pos Old Org New Org Status
Fabio Castro, lhp CWS Tex via KC Still in big league camp
Luis Gonzalez, lhp LAD Sea via Col Still in big league camp
Steve Andrade, rhp Tor SD via TB Claimed off waivers by KC
Victor Santos, rhp KC Pit Still in big league camp
Chris Booker, rhp Was Phi via Det On 15-day DL (left knee)
Seth Etherton, rhp KC SD Cleared waivers, sent to minors
Mitch Wylie, rhp SF NYM Cleared waivers, became free agent
Dan Uggla, 2b Ari Fla Still in big league camp
Jason Pridie, rhp TB Min Returned to TB
Jamie Vermilyea, rhp Tor Bos Returned to Tor
Juan Mateo, rhp ChC StL Returned to ChC
Mike Megrew, lhp LAD Fla Still in big league camp

    Howie Kendrick and Rickie Weeks seem like very similar players, with Weeks having more speed and Kendrick having better bat control. Will either of them really stick at second base? Who do you think will have the better major league career?

    Erik Lewis
    Monmouth, Maine

Tough, tough question. Let’s compare them in a few areas.

Hitting For Average: Weeks set an NCAA career record with a .473 average at Southern, hit .284 while rushing through the minors and batted .237 in his first 103 big league games (mostly as a 22-year-old; he’s 10 months older than Kendrick). He has one strikeout for every 4.1 at-bats as a pro. A career .359 hitter in pro ball, Kendrick finished second in the minors (.367) and in the Arizona Fall League (.380) last year. He has fanned just once per 8.3 at-bats as a pro. Edge: Kendrick.

On-Base Ability: Kendrick’s innate ability to make hard contact actually inhibits his ability to draw walks. He has averaged one free pass for every 20.3 plate appearances, compared to Weeks’ rate of one per 9.6. Even while he was getting acclimated to the majors last year, Weeks took 40 walks in 414 plate appearances. He’s also a magnet for pitches, getting plunked 61 times in 312 pro games. Kendrick may hit for a higher average, but Weeks should come out ahead in OBP. Edge: Weeks.

Hitting For Power: Both players have amazing bat speed and have shown similar isolated power (slugging percentage minus batting average) in the minors, .203 for Weeks and .196 for Kendrick. Weeks’ mark in the majors last year was .153, not bad at all considering his age and that he was playing through a torn ligament in his left thumb. Both will collect their share of doubles, but Kendrick likely will max out at 15-20 homers per year while Weeks could hit 25-30. Edge: Weeks.

Speed: Kendrick has fringe-average speed and good instincts, making him an average baserunner. Weeks has plus speed and took a step forward as a basestealer after his big league promotion last year, stealing 15 bases in 17 tries. Edge: Weeks.

Defense: This isn’t a strength for either player, but I think they’ll both stay put at second base. If they had to move, Weeks’ superior athleticism would make center field a possibility. Kendrick probably would have to look at becoming an adequate corner outfielder. Edge: Weeks.

Bottom Line: Both should become all-stars, with Weeks’ broader base of skills making him more valuable than Kendrick.

    The Pirates are still undecided about moving Neil Walker from catcher to third base or elsewhere. I understand that he’ll remain at catcher this year, but he’ll take grounders at third regularly should they decide to move him later. On one hand, he could be a switch-hitting catcher with power. On the other hand, Walker is a good athlete and should be a solid third baseman, and he could play more often and be more productive without the demands of catching. Pittsburgh also has Ryan Doumit and Ronny Paulino ahead of him. Walker isn’t exceptional behind the plate. Would you move him, and do you think the Pirates ultimately will?

    Ian Leyda

For now, I’d do what the Pirates are going to: let him catch. In almost every case, it behooves a team to try a player at a more difficult defensive position until he proves he can’t handle it. He has the tools to catch and he’s more athletic than most backstops, but he can get sloppy with his throwing mechanics and his blocking skills. If he can smooth out that part of the game and make it as a catcher, Walker will be more valuable than he would be at third base.

However, my gut feel is that when we hear that a young player may have to shift positions, that usually comes true. If defensive shortcomings are evident against inferior competition, they’re going to be more glaring in the major leagues. Also, as Ian notes, catching would take away from Walker’s bat. Some scouts project him as a .300 hitter with 25-30 homers annually, and that would make him a star at third base.

My guess is in the long run, he winds up moving from behind the plate. The Pirates have high hopes for third baseman Jose Bautista, so it’s possible that Walker could end up in the outfield.

Incidentally, Walker will miss the start of the season. After offseason surgery to fix a torn ligament in his left wrist, he won’t join high Class A Lynchburg until mid-April at the earliest.

    What’s your take on White Sox lefthander Boone Logan? He has looked pretty good in spring training, coming out of nowhere to make the team.

    Scott Vales
    Chicago Ridge, Ill.

Logan has gone from not even being listed among the 66 names on our White Sox depth chart in the the 2006 Prospect Handbook to making the defending World Series champions out of spring training. Unbelievable.

A 20th-round pick out of a Texas high school in 2002, Logan signed the next spring as a draft-and-follow after a season at Temple (Texas) JC. In his first three years as a pro, he went 7-11, 5.49 in 59 games (23 starts), spending almost all of that time at Rookie-level Great Falls. The exception was five innings at high Class A Winston-Salem last August.

Logan’s career turned around when two things changed for him last year. He moved full-time to the bullpen and changed his arm angle from over the top to a low-three-quarters slot. Most pitchers lose some velocity when they drop down, but Logan’s fastball jumped into the low 90s. He went 1-1, 3.31 with a 29-4 K-BB ratio at Great Falls last year, by far the best performance of his pro career.

Still, he wasn’t on the White Sox’ radar coming into the year. Why would he be? But most of Chicago’s lefty relievers pitched poorly this spring, so the Sox used Logan in an intrasquad game on March 5. He struck out Jim Thome and Rob Mackowiak, and soon thereafter Chicago brought him over to big league camp. He has allowed just one run in 12 innings, giving up five hits and two walks while striking out six.

Logan is the third lefty in the White Sox bullpen and has little track record of success, so his stay in the majors may not last long. But he’s one of baseball’s best stories this spring.

<< Previous Ask BA