Ask BA

A couple of updates from the last edition of Ask BA:

Of the 12 major league Rule 5 draftees at the Winter Meetings, just three made big league Opening Day rosters: Rangers lefthander Fabio Castro, Pirates righty Victor Santos and Marlins second baseman Dan Uggla. Four returned to their original organizations, two went on the 15-day disabled list, two remained with their selecting team after clearing waivers and one was looking for a home after being claimed on waivers and then getting designated for assignment. Here’s where everyone wound up:

Rule 5 Draftees, 2005
Player, Pos Old Org New Org Status
Fabio Castro, lhp CWS Tex via KC Made the Rangers
Luis Gonzalez, lhp LAD Sea via Col Returned to LAD
Steve Andrade, rhp Tor SD via TB Claimed off waivers by KC,
designated for assignment
Victor Santos, rhp KC Pit Made the Pirates
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,
re-signed with Mets
Dan Uggla, 2b Ari Fla Made the Marlins
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 On 15-day DL (shoulder)

White Sox rookie lefthander Boone Logan, who had just five innings of experience above Rookie ball yet made the defending World Series champions, may have left his magic in spring training. I’ve seen him pitch twice on television and he hasn’t shown much, slinging high-80s fastballs from a low arm slot. Indians hitters haven’t been impressed either, as Aaron Boone tagged him for a two-run double on Tuesday and Travis Hafner hit a game-tying homer off him Wednesday.

There were plenty of young players who stood out in positive fashion yesterday, however. Orioles outfielder Nick Markakis and Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, two blue-chip prospects who raced to the majors even quicker than expected, hit their first major league homers. And after much speculation about what role the Red Sox would use righty Jonathan Papelbon in, he closed out a one-run win over the Rangers by using vicious 95-mph heat to pitch a perfect nine inning.

    Are there any surprise college arms who are solidifying themselves as first-rounders this June?

    Steven Morrissey
    Henderson, Nev.

The strength of this draft is college pitching, both because of the depth it offers and the lack of position players in the college and high school ranks. There may be a dozen college arms taken in the first round, and the overall record of 20 pitchers (set in 1999 and matched in 2001) could be broken.

The college pitcher who has boosted his stock the most to jump into the first round is Washington righthander Tim Lincecum. He wasn’t an unknown by any means, but he projected as more of a second- or third-rounder because scouts wondered about his lack of size (6 feet, 165 pounds) and the effort in his delivery. Those factors and seven-figure bonus demands knocked him down to the 42nd round as a sophomore-eligible a year ago.

Since then, Lincecum has dominated in both the Cape Cod League last summer (2-0, 0.69, seven saves, 68 strikeouts in 39 innings) and back at Washington this spring (6-2, 1.89, an NCAA Division I-best 97 strikeouts in 62 innings). He has toned down his delivery, consistently shown a mid-90s fastball and a plus-plus curveball, and even has unveiled a slider. Don’t be surprised if he’s pitching in the big leagues later this summer.

Notre Dame righthander Jeff Samardzija could sneak into the first round’"but only if he’s willing to give up football, which probably would be a tough sell. Samardzija is also an all-America wide receiver who set Fighting Irish records for catches (77) and touchdown receptions (15) last fall, and he has legitimate NFL aspirations. He’s more of a projection than a finished product, but he’s big (6-foot-5, 215 pounds), athletic and competitive. He touched 96 mph with his fastball in early March against Minnesota at the Dairy Queen Classic.

The biggest unknown who has jumped into the early rounds is Barton County (Kan.) CC sophomore righthander Chad Lee. He went undrafted a year ago, when he missed part of the college season with a left knee injury that required surgery. Lee offers size (6-foot-4), an above-average 90-93 mph fastball and a decent curveball.

    I know it’s very early, but have you heard anything regarding whom the Royals are considering with the No. 1 overall pick in the draft? Are they going to take the best player available or someone who would be less expensive, as they’ve been known to do with the exception of Alex Gordon last year. Who do you see as a good fit for what the Royals need at this point?

    Brett McConnell
    Kansas City, Mo.

Teams with the No. 1 overall choice have that pick because they were awful the previous season, and they can’t afford to draft for need. They simply have to take the best player available. In the Royals’ case, they have so many holes that they’re not going to fall into a trap of targeting a specific position.

North Carolina lefthander Andrew Miller was the consensus top prospect entering the season, and he has done nothing to change that. Two scouting directors I spoke to this week said Miller would be their guy if they owned the top pick. “Miller would go 1-1 today, tomorrow, June 7 or whenever you want to have the draft,” one said.

In March, Kansas City scouting director Deric Ladnier said the club was zeroing in on Miller and three college righthanders: Daniel Bard (North Carolina), Ian Kennedy (Southern California) and Max Scherzer (Missouri). But Scherzer has missed time with a finger injury and shoulder tendinitis, while Bard and Kennedy haven’t totally lived up to their hype. Miller’s delivery and command are less than polished, and some scouts believe he projects better as a closer than as a frontline starter. Given those developments, Ladnier told BA’s John Manuel today that Kansas City is expanding its search.

If the Royals have a number of candidates and no prospect who stands clearly above the rest, then signability could play a factor in their choice. If they consider several players equally worthy, why wouldn’t they take the cheapest? Before they spent a club-record $4 million bonus on Gordon, the No. 2 overall pick last year, they saved money on their first-round picks in the previous two drafts.

For more on the draft, check out our college midseason update.

    Now that the Diamondbacks have announced Justin Upton officially is moving to center field, what are they most likely to do with their outfield? They now have Upton to go along with Carlos Quentin, Chris Young and Carlos Gonzales. That’s four outfielders, all with immense potential, for three spots. How will this play out?

    Mike Besser
    Las Vegas

    With Justin Upton moving to center field, what does this mean for Chris Young? He seems like a prospect with nice upside, but will the Diamondbacks shift him over to left or right field? It seems that Arizona has one too many outfield prospects.

    Jesse Morgan-Young
    Salem, Ore.

I addressed a similar question in the March 2 Ask BA, when a reader wondered how Seattle would deploy promising catchers Kenji Johjima and Jeff Clement once Clement is ready for the majors. My reply was that the Mariners would worry about figuring that out when they had to. The Diamondbacks likely will take the same approach.

What’s interesting is that all four outfielders’"none of whom ranks lower than No. 32 on our Top 100 Prospects list‘"could handle center field, though Quentin and Gonzales are better suited for right. I think Quentin could out-produce any of Arizona’s big league outfielders right now, but he’ll open the season at Triple-A Tucson. Young, who’s recovering from a broken bone in his right hand, is close to being ready for the majors. He’ll stay in center for now.

Upton, currently sidelined by a shoulder injury, and Gonzales won’t reach Arizona before late 2007 at the earliest, so the Diamondbacks have plenty of time to sort this out. These situations often resolve themselves, with someone getting hurt or traded or failing to meet expectations.

If that’s not the case with Arizona’s outfielders, Young could be the odd man out. I’m bullish on Young, but he’s more valuable in center field than he would be in left (similar to Coco Crisp’s value to the Indians before he was traded to the Red Sox). My best guess is that the Diamondbacks would go with Quentin in left, Upton in center and Gonzales in right and use Young as very attractive trade bait if all four players live up to their hype.

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