Ask BA

We posted our first mock first round of 2010 Premium on Friday, and I’m already getting out the eraser. That’s just the volatile nature of mock first rounds, especially this far in advance of the draft.

Three days later, I still think the Nationals are zeroed in on CC of Southern Nevada catcher Bryce Harper with the No. 1 pick, but I’d change my guess for the Pirates at No. 2. Mississippi lefthander Drew Pomeranz had been bothered by a strained pectoral muscle, which has diminished his velocity and command. He walked seven in five innings against Alabama on Friday night, and today I’d guess that Pittsburgh would take Miami high school shortstop Manny Machado over Pomeranz with the second choice.

    After coming into the year as BA's No. 2-rated prospect for the 2010 draft, Louisiana State righthander Anthony Ranaudo has been less than stellar since returning from a stress reaction in his elbow. What are you hearing about his stuff? I'm somewhat hoping he's available at No. 13 for the White Sox to take.

    Nate Rittenberry

Ranaudo is the biggest enigma in the draft. He won the final game of the 2009 College World Series and was NCAA Division I’s returning leader in wins (12) and strikeouts (159 in 124 innings). Scouts lauded his arsenal of three pitches that all graded as plus at times (91-94 mph fastball, curveball, changeup), as well as his command and size (6-foot-7). But after he came down with a stress reaction in his elbow after his first start in February and missed a month, he hasn’t been nearly the same pitcher he was a year ago.

Ranaudo gave up seven runs and didn’t make it out of the fifth inning against Kentucky on Friday, dropping his record to 2-2, 9.09. In 33 innings, he has given up 44 hits and 16 walks while striking out 31. He’s still pitching in the low 90s, but his delivery has regressed. His arm action has flattened out and he’s not staying on top of his pitches, which have lost life and often sit tantalizingly up in the strike zone.

Teams have to figure out if the 2009 Ranaudo is still in there somewhere. They have to determine how much his medical history bothers them, because he also missed two months as a freshman with elbow tendinitis. They also have to wonder what Ranaudo might cost them, because he’ll be advised by the Boras Corp.

I believe Ranaudo will be available at No. 13, but I’d be stunned if the White Sox took him. They usually avoid Boras advisees, and his performance and the questions surrounding Ranaudo would make taking him that early a huge leap of faith. If he doesn’t start showing some semblance of his 2009 form, there’s no telling how far he might slide in the draft.

    This draft seems to be loaded at the top with high school pitchers, such as Jameson Taillon, Karsten Whitson, Dylan Covey and A.J. Cole. How would you compare them to last year's group of Tyler Matzek, Jacob Turner, Matt Purke and Shelby Miller? Which group has the most potential, and how would you rank them if you combined them all?

    Mike Bryan
    Bethesda, Md.

Before we get started, let’s add two players to each group. Zack Wheeler was considered the equal of the other 2009 draftees you mention (and got picked ahead of all of them), and Chad James wasn’t far behind. This spring, Stetson Allie has come on to rank right behind Taillon in the pecking order of high school arms, and Kaleb Cowart is in that mix as well.

Overall, the 2009 crop was superior to the 2010 group. Collectively, last year’s top high school pitchers had better stuff and performed more consistently than the best prep arms from this spring.

I still have trouble trying to decide on Matzek vs. Taillon. I tackled that question in the March 29 Ask BA, and I’d still give Matzek the tiny edge I gave him then, but there’s no right answer there. Based on their prospect status at the time of their draft, I’d rank the 12 pitchers in this order: Matzek, Taillon, Turner, Purke, Allie, Wheeler, Covey, Cowart, Miller, James, Whitson, Cole.

    What are the draft prospects for Zach Lee, a righthander out of McKinney (Texas) High who is also a Louisiana State football/baseball recruit? Is he a legit first-round talent?

    Andrew Repass
    Los Angeles

Lee is a first-round talent who could go in the 21-30 range, but he’s not going to sign for first-round slot money. Teams are having a difficult time gauging if he’d give up the chance to play quarterback at LSU at any price, which could affect his draft status dramatically.

His ability is undeniable, however. He has an athletic 6-foot-4, 195-pound frame with plenty of projection remaining—and his present stuff is plenty good. He works at 90-93 mph with his fastball and backs it up with a sharp slider and promising changeup. He has more polish than most two-sport stars, throwing strikes with an easily repeatable delivery.

Lee passed for 2,565 yards and 31 touchdowns last fall, with 22 of those scores going to Matt Lipka. Lipka is also a top baseball prospect and one of the best shortstops available in the draft. He has plus-plus speed, a line-drive bat and the chance for average power. His hands and actions might necessitate a position change, but he also profiles well in center field. He’s more signable than Lee, as Lipka will give up football and has committed to Alabama for baseball only.

" May 10 Ask BA