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If you have a question, send it to Please include your full name and hometown if you'd like your letter to be considered for use in an upcoming column. Also, please understand that we can't respond to every question.

By Jim Callis

Oct. 27, 2004

Why do I think the most popular Halloween costume in New England will be Red Sox uniform No. 38, complete with a bloody right sock?

    I always look forward to your Baseball For The Ages feature. How about an update on previous players selected? It would be interested to see who panned out, who is still dominating in high school, and maybe some who don't play baseball any longer.

    Scott Lindsey
    Mesa, Ariz.

Almost all of the players 18 and older already were in pro ball when they were honored in our Baseball For The Ages package, so let's take a look at the younger players. Here's a complete list of all our winners from ages 12 to 17:

Baseball For The Ages, 12- to 17-Year-Olds
YearPlayer, Pos., HometownDraft Status
1998John Peabody, rhp/ss, San DiegoPirates (10), 2003
1999Austin Jackson, rhp/of, Denton, TexasNo. 14 HS prospect for 2005
2000Sean O'Sullivan, rhp/1b, San DiegoNo. 6 HS prospect for 2005
2001Ryan Still, ss/rhp, Houston 
2002Zach Osborne, ss/rhp, Louisville 
2003Ryan Klem, rhp/of, Chandler, Ariz. 
2004Cody Polk, lhp/1b, North Richland Hills, Texas 
YearPlayer, Pos., HometownDraft Status
1998Ashton White, of, South Mission Viejo, Calif.Football at Southern California
1999Delmon Young, rhp/of, Camarillo, Calif.Devil Rays (1/1st overall), 2003
2000Jordan Schafer, lhp, TampaNo. 202 HS prospect for 2005
2001Ryan Mitchell, rhp, HoustonNo. 65 HS prospect for 2005
2002Ryan Still, ss/rhp, Houston 
2003Robert Stock, c/rhp, Agoura, Calif.No. 12 HS prospect for 2007
2004Zak Sinclair, rhp/ss, McDonald, Pa. 
YearPlayer, Pos., HometownDraft Status
1998Kyle Davies, rhp/1b, Stockbridge, Ga.Braves (4), 2001
1999Chuck Tiffany, lhp, Covina, Calif.Dodgers (2), 2003
2000 Delmon Young, rhp/of, Camarillo, Calif.Devil Rays (1/1st overall), 2003
2001Trevor Bell, 3b/rhp, Crescenta Valley, Calif.No. 37 HS prospect for 2005
2002Justin Upton, ss, Chesapeake, Va.No. 1 HS prospect for 2005
2003John Tolisano, 3b, Sanibel, Fla.No. 6 HS prospect for 2007
2004Robert Stock, rhp, Westlake Village, Calif.No. 12 HS prospect for 2007
YearPlayer, Pos., HometownDraft Status
1998Carlos Quentin, of, San DiegoDiamondbacks (1/29th overall), 2003
1999Kyle Davies, rhp/1b, Stockbridge, Ga.Braves (4), 2001
2000Ryan Sweeney, lhp/1b, Cedar Rapids, IowaWhite Sox (2), 2003
2001Andrew Beal, rhp, Palos Verdes Estates, Calif.Freshman at Loyola Marymount
2002Austin Jackson, of, Denton, TexasNo. 14 HS prospect for 2005
2003Justin Upton, ss, Chesapeake, Va.No. 1 HS prospect for 2005
2004Michael Main, rhp/of, Deltona, Fla.No. 1 HS prospect for 2007
YearPlayer, Pos., HometownDraft Status
1998Tony Richie, c, Jacksonville, Fla.Cubs (4), 2003
1999Joe Torres, lhp, Kissimmee, Fla.Angels (1/10th overall), 2000
2000Paul Oseguera, lhp, Encinitas, Calif.Redshirt sophomore at UCLA
2001Lastings Milledge, of, St. Petersburg, Fla.Mets (1/12th overall), 2003
2002Delmon Young, of/rhp, Camarillo, Calif.Devil Rays (1/1st overall), 2003
2003Nick Adenhart, rhp, Hagerstown, Md.Angels (14), 2004
2004Justin Upton, ss, Chesapeake, Va.No. 1 HS prospect for 2005
YearPlayer, Pos., HometownDraft Status
1998Sean Burroughs, 3b, PadresPadres (1/9th overall), 1998
1999Jason Stokes, 1b, Coppell, TexasMarlins (2), 2000
2000Joe Mauer, c, St. Paul, Minn.Twins (1/1st overall), 2001
2001Scott Kazmir, lhp, HoustonMets (1/15th overall), 2002
2002B.J. Upton, ss, Devil RaysDevil Rays (1/2nd overall), 2002
2003Felix Hernandez, rhp, MarinersMariners (NDFA), 2002
2004Cameron Maybin, Arden, N.C.No. 2 HS prospect for 2005

Editor in chief Allan Simpson's picks have held up over time. Eight of the choices have become first-round picks, including No. 1 overall picks Joe Mauer and Delmon Young, and that number will continue to swell. Justin Upton, a candidate to be the top selection in 2005, has led his age group for three years running.

Several of the non-first-round picks have emerged as top prospects in pro ball: Kyle Davies, Jason Stokes, Ryan Sweeney and Chuck Tiffany. And as you can see, many of the players who have yet to turn pro are top-rated prospects for upcoming drafts (rankings from the latest edition of The Scouting Report, part of our premium Prospects Plus service).

Almost all of these players have continued to enjoy baseball success, with just a few exceptions. John Peabody was a 10th-round pick in 2003 and hit .220/.351/.271 as a first baseman in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League this year. Ashton White, the son of former Heisman Trophy winner Charles White, is going to follow in his father's footsteps and play college football at Southern California. Paul Oseguera has yet to throw a pitch in three years at UCLA because of injuries, but hopes to get back on the mound in 2005. Ryan Still may have peaked early, but he's still playing at Westside High in Houston.

    How serious is the knee injury suffered by Twins outfielder Jason Kubel in Arizona? How much does this diminish his status as a prospect, and will it affect Minnesota's decision on whether to retain Jacque Jones?

    Joon Pahk
    Stanford, Calif.

Kubel suffered major ligament damage in his left knee, including a torn anterior cruciate ligament, in an outfield collision while playing in the Arizona Fall League. The Twins expect that he'll miss most if not all of the 2005 season.

I don't think this diminishes his prospect status at all, however. His below-average speed was his worst tool to begin with. There's no reason he can't come back and be the hitting machine with developing power he was this year, when he hit .352/.414/.590 with 22 homers and 100 RBIs in the minors. And even if he is sidelined for all of next season, he'll still be just 23.

As talented as Kubel is, this shouldn't affect Minnesota's right-field plans much either. If the ever-cost-conscious Twins decide they can't afford to offer Jones arbitration—he'll get a raise from the $4.35 million he made in 2004—they still can turn to Lew Ford. If they decide not to use Michael Cuddyer in the infield, he'd be another option. Triple-A outfielder Michael Restovich would be another possible solution, though he'd be more of a longshot.

    Is it possible that the Diamondbacks won't sign Stephen Drew and instead will renounce his rights, then draft him No. 1 overall in 2005 so that they receive an extra compensation pick? That way they won't have to pay top dollar for two elite prospects and they get an extra first-round pick in a more cost-effective draft slot.

    Kevin Ross
    Warren, Pa.

If Arizona doesn't sign Drew, the top-rated hitter and the No. 15 overall pick in the 2004 draft, they'll be disappointed. They want to sign the Florida State shortstop and as I've predicted a few times, I expect them to do so, though it may not happen until sometime early next year.

The strategy that Kevin proposes wouldn't work, because any time a player is drafted but doesn't sign, he must give his written consent for the club that picked him to be able to choose him again. If the Diamondbacks don't deliver the megadollar big league contract that Drew is looking for before the 2005 draft, don't look for his family and adviser Scott Boras to give them a second chance.

While Kevin's suggestion would be a cheaper solution for Arizona, it would come at the cost of talent. Instead of getting the best position player in 2004 and whomever they deem to be the best prospect in 2005, the Diamondbacks essentially would be trading down from the No. 1 slot to about No. 40 in next year's draft. Teams coming off 51-111 seasons need to look to improve rather than getting cute.

Oct. 22, 2004

The Astros just missed on delivering my preseason pick for the World Series matchup. But I'll keep my faith in my original call and stay with the Red Sox as the World Series champion. I'll give the Cardinals an edge defensively, especially when David Ortiz has to play first base in St. Louis, but Boston has a slightly deeper lineup, a stronger pitching staff and a better bench.

Boston vs. St. Louis: Red Sox in six.

Oct. 20, 2004

I guess everyone has figured out the reference in the last Ask BA to the team that was getting frustrated with negotiating with its first-round pick and was considering pulling its offer from the table. The next day, I got confirmation that the Tigers had concluded negotiations, at least for the time being, with No. 2 overall pick Justin Verlander. And that led to several questions.

    Is there any hope the Tigers will sign Justin Verlander now that they have withdrawn the offer? If they don't sign him, will they get any type of draft-pick compensation next year?

    Brian VanderBeek

    What's the deal with Justin Verlander? Is there any chance the Tigers will reopen negotiations? Did Verlander simply just not want to play in the Tigers organization? What the heck happened here?

    Dustin Wood
    Kalamazoo, Mich.

    Where does Justin Verlander rate among 2005 prospects now that he appears to be headed back into the draft?

    Pete Duffy
    New York

    Now that the Tigers have withdrawn their offer to Justin Verlander, and the rest of the unsigned first-rounders are college players, could we see a trend where college players become tougher signs than high school picks?

    Richard Castro

Let's try to answer all of these in order.

Though the Tigers have publicly stated that they no longer have any plans to sign Verlander, they won't officially lose his rights until he returns to classes at Old Dominion or a week before the 2005 draft. It doesn't sound like Detroit would make the first move, but I can't imagine that they wouldn't at least listen if Verlander and his adviser, Mike Milchin of SFX, came to them with a proposal.

If they don't sign Verlander, the Tigers will receive a compensation pick at the end of the supplemental first round. But getting roughly the No. 40 pick in 2005 would be small solace for failing to sign the No. 2 overall choice.

Neither side has released details of the negotiations, except for the Tigers revealing that they had offered Verlander a major league contract worth significantly more than the $3.35 million bonus they gave Kyle Sleeth as the third overall pick in 2003. Detroit reportedly became frustrated when it offered the big league deal, which accelerates a player's earning power, only to find that Verlander wouldn't come down from his unknown asking price.

I don't believe this is a matter of Verlander not wanting to play for the Tigers. While Major League Baseball has clamped down on bonuses this decade, there has been a concurrent increase in major league deals. Such contacts allow teams to give the player more money without exceeding MLB's slot recommendation. Bo Jackson was the first draftee to get a big league package, in 1986. The 1980s saw three such contracts, the 1990s had eight, and through five years of the 2000s that number has leaped to 12.

If Verlander and the other still-negotiating first-rounders (the Mets' Philip Humber, the Devil Rays' Jeff Niemann, the Angels' Jered Weaver and the Diamondbacks' Stephen Drew) come to terms, the decade total likely will become 17. All five of those players want big league contracts, and they're all jockeying to be the last to sign because that usually means the most money. This has created a stalemate that probably won't be resolved until right before spring training.

If Verlander re-enters the 2005 draft, it's hard to say where he'll go. Teams would be leery of his signability, and he'd have to showcase his electric stuff again. Would he do so at Old Dominion? In an independent league? Or in just a tryout situation? Would he look as good after a long layoff, or would he start to decline like Matt Harrington did when he didn't sign as the No. 7 overall pick in 2000? Assuming that Verlander's stuff remains the same and that his signability wasn't a factor—two leaps of faith—he'd go in the top five or 10 picks.

I don't think college players are going to be tougher to sign than high school players. They may take longer to negotiate, but a college junior who turns down the pros will lose a great deal of his bargaining power if he re-enters the draft as a senior. I'm not surprised the last five unsigned first-rounders are college players (and that doesn't include Wade Townsend, who can't negotiate with the Orioles after miscalculating and returning to Rice to attend classes). But I suspect they'll all sign, with the possible exception of Verlander.

    Has Edwin Jackson's ineffectiveness this season diminished your assessment of his potential? What role, if any, do you see Jackson having with the Dodgers in 2005? Similarly, has Greg Miller's injury and subsequent lack of pitching this season affected your thoughts on him?

    Jake Freehling
    Bartlett, Ill.

I ranked Jackson as the best pitching prospect in the game entering 2004, and while I won't do that again after this season, I still believe in him. Even after he went 6-4, 5.86 in Triple-A with a 70-55 K-BB ratio in 91 innings, he still has the upside of a No. 1 starter. When he wasn't bothered by a strained forearm, an injury that was nagging but doesn't carry long-term implications, he showed a 93-97 mph fastball and a filthy slider.

Looking back, expecting Jackson to make a major league impact at age 20 was asking too much. He's still learning to pitch, maintain consistency and improve his command. It's much easier to dominate Double-A hitters sheerly on stuff than it is to pull off that feat in the majors. Jackson still needs to improve his feel for pitching, and to do so he should return to Triple-A to begin 2005.

I ranked Miller as the second-best pitching prospect in baseball before this season, and I'm more worried about him. The good news is that exploratory arthroscopic shoulder surgery revealed his shoulder problems to be bursitis, a relatively comforting diagnosis. He had some setbacks in his rehab and never got into a regular-season game, but he has looked good in instructional league. The Dodgers expect him to be fine and say they've been cautious because of his youth (he's still just 19) and his immense potential.

Still, missing an entire season does give me pause. I want to see Miller throwing his low-90s fastball, power curveball and tough slider in games before I fully believe in him again.

    I was wondering how much age affects a player's prospect status? For instance, Matt Tolbert played second base for Rookie-level Elizabethton and he got no press despite hitting .308/.376/.500. Shortstop Trevor Plouffe, on the other hand, was less productive (.283/.340/.380) but earned the No. 6 ranking on BA's Appalachian League Top 20 Prospects list. What gives? Does the fact that Plouffe is fresh out of high school and is four years younger than Tolbert make that much of a difference, or is it just because he's a bonus baby?

    Will Allen
    Brookhaven, Miss.

We do weigh performance heavily when we evaluate prospects, but statistics are worthless if not taken in their proper context. In this case, age makes a huge difference.

In an advanced Rookie league like the Appy, the ideal prospect age would be 19. So while Plouffe was young for the league at 18, Tolbert was quite old for it at 22. Furthermore, Tolbert spent four years at Mississippi playing in the Southeastern Conference—the top league in college baseball. While not every player in the SEC is a legitimate pro prospect, the overall level of competition is better than in the Appy League. So Tolbert should have been expected to do nothing less than perform well. It's more impressive that Plouffe was able to hold his own against more experienced competition in his pro debut.

Of course, there's more to ranking prospects than just looking at the numbers in a vacuum. Physical tools and baseball skills also must be considered. The Red Sox are widely known to rely heavily on statistical analysis, but consider this quote from Boston general manager Theo Epstein in a chat on the Sons of Sam Horn message board:

"For players in the rookie leagues and the lower levels, we focus more on traditional scouting and tools. As the player rises through the minors, we shift our emphasis towards performance and statistical evaluation. When a player reaches AA, we balance these two schools of evaluation 50-50 . . . and it more or less remains that way."

Tolbert is notable for his quick hands, but Plouffe beats him in every other physical category. Plouffe has more speed, more range and more arm strength, and he has far more potential to hit and hit for power. Look at it this way: If Plouffe were to play in the Appy League at age 22, four years down the road, wouldn't you expect him to hit a lot better than .308/.376/.500?

Oct. 13, 2004

I realized yesterday that not one of the four teams remaining in the playoffs has a lefthander in its rotation. It would be interesting, and I'm sure on some corner of the Internet it may already have been done, to see which offenses this might affect the most. A lot of righthanded hitters fatten their stats by pummeling lefty pitchers, and they aren't going to see very many from here on out.

Can't wait for the FOX baseball contract to expire. If the network doesn't want to show two Championship Series games in one day, don't bid on the contract. Instead of enjoying both games separately today, we have to flip back and forth between them this evening. Why can't we have a Houston-St. Louis game in the afternoon? Because all the FOX stations have to show syndicated repeats of "The Simpsons"? What an outrage.

    With Wade Townsend (No. 8, Orioles) now seemingly back in the draft for next year, what are the situations with the other unsigned first-round picks: Justin Verlander (No. 2, Tigers), Philip Humber (No. 3, Mets), Jeff Niemann (No. 4, Devil Rays), Jered Weaver (No. 12, Angels) and Stephen Drew (No. 15, Diamondbacks)?

    Brett Johnson

They're all in a holding pattern right now. You can divide the unsigned first-rounders into two groups.

Verlander, Humber and Niemann all appear to be waiting to see which of the three can be the last to sign a contract. Industry sources say that the Devil Rays promised Niemann a major league contract before the draft, and Verlander and Humber (Niemann's teammate at Rice, along with Townsend) apparently want one too.

Weaver and Drew, Baseball America's top-rated pitcher and hitter in the draft, fell because they had the biggest asking prices. Weaver reportedly is seeking an eight-figure deal similar to the record $10.5 million guarantee Mark Prior got from the Cubs as the No. 2 choice in 2001, while Drew is believed to want a package close to the $9.5 million Mark Teixeira got from the Rangers as the No. 5 pick in the same draft. Both Weaver and Drew are advised by Scott Boras, who's also is Teixeira's agent, and they always figured to be the last two first-rounders to come to terms.

One of the scouting directors still trying to complete a deal with his first-rounder said this week that he expected all five players eventually would sign, but likely not before spring training. "I think they'll all get done but it's going to take some more time," the scouting director said. "There's really no hurry to do it until spring training for either side now. They're not going to go to instructional league or the Arizona League at this point."

I'm also starting to hear rumblings that one frustrated club may pull its offer from the table and threaten to spend its budgeted bonus money elsewhere, but that hasn't officially happened yet.

    What's the status of righthander Maels Rodriguez and slugger Kendry Morales? Both players defected from Cuba and neither has signed with any team.

    Mitchell Cohen
    East Brunswick, N.J.

    Is there any updated news on Maels Rodriguez or Kendry Morales? Is either of them getting any looks now? Is Yobal Duenas going to stick with the Yankees organization?

    Tim Marino

    What's the latest on Maels Rodriguez and Kendry Morales? We heard a lot about both when they first defected, and since then it has been really quiet.

    Shawn Carey
    Batavia, Ill.

I've been getting Ask BA questions about Rodriguez and Morales all summer. These three just arrived in the last couple of days, and finally there's some news to report. Well, at least with Morales.

Morales has begun working out for teams in the Dominican Republic. His agent, David Valdes, says he hopes to have Morales signed by the end of the month. Though most of the Cubans who have signed in recent years have been disappointments, he doesn't lack for suitors.

Several teams have sent scouts to evaluate Morales, billed as possibly the best position player to come out of Cuba in decades. He's a 21-year-old switch-hitter with big-time power and no questions about his age. A possible corner infielder or outfielder, he was the first teenager to star for Cuba's national team since third baseman Omar Linares in the 1980s. Linares never defected but long was considered the top amateur player on the world market.

As for Rodriguez, little has been heard from since his disappointing January showcase in El Salvador. In front of a bevy of scouts, the 24-year-old did little to dispel rumors that he had arm and back problems as he labored to throw 87 mph. That was a far cry from the 100-mph fastball he showed against Team USA at the 2000 Olympics.

I suspect that if Rodriguez' fastball had rebounded, he would have held another workout in hopes of getting signed. But all has been very quiet on that front.

Duenas, a 32-year-old infielder who defected with Rodriguez in October 2003, signed with the Yankees in February for $60,000. Visa issues delayed his entry into the United States and he appeared in just four games in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League. Though he's with the Arizona Fall League's Grand Canyon rafters to get some more playing time, Duenas is really just an organizational player and not a prospect.

    I was just looking at BA's searchable draft database and saw that the Cubs signed just 24 players. Is this common? I would think that with their financial backing, the Cubs would have signed more players. Are any of these players potential draft-and-follows? How would you rate their draft?

    Cody Gerling
    San Antonio

Signing 24 players put the Cubs just a few behind the industry standard. To date, 839 draftees have signed, an average of 28 per club. The Cardinals led the way with 42 signees (out of 47 picks), while the Brewers landed the fewest with 19 (out of 50 choices).

The vast majority of draftees get assigned to Rookie-level or short-season clubs, which also feature players from previous drafts and foreign players newly arrived in the United States. Most organizations wouldn't have enough spots for everyone to play if they signed most of their picks. The Cubs have a fairly strong farm system, so they weren't trying to fill as many holes as other clubs.

The Cubs wanted to sign fifth-rounder Adrian Ortiz, a Puerto Rican high school outfielder, but lost him to Pepperdine. Most of the other players they've lost the rights to were late-round gambles who slipped in the draft because of signability and/or disappointing performances in the spring. This group includes Massachusetts prep righthander Ryan Moore (13th round, now at Maryland), Georgia Tech righty Micah Owings (19th, now at Tulane), Baylor lefty Trey Taylor (20th), Miami high school shortstop Walter Diaz (22nd, now at Miami), Gonzaga outfielder Jeff Culpepper (24th), Texas prep righty Kenn Kasparek (41st, now at Texas) and Eastern Oklahoma State JC lefty Adam Daniels (43rd, now at Oklahoma State).

Pursuing these types of prospects with later picks is a low-risk, high-reward proposition. The Cubs just didn't get any of those players signed, though they did get deals done with Florida high school righty Sean Gallagher (12th) and Pennsylvania prep third baseman Russ Canzler (30th), both of whom show promise.

By my count—I might be missing a stray fifth-year senior—the Cubs control the rights to nine draft-and-follows. The best of the group may be a pair of athletic, projectable Illinois high school righthanders. Casey Erickson (25th), whose uncle Roger pitched in the major and whose brother Corey is a minor league infielder, was the state's top high school prospect. He originally committed to Illinois but Chicago kept his rights when he opted for Springfield (Ill.) CC. Drew O'Connell (35th) is now at John A. Logan (Ill.) CC.

As for the Cubs' draft as a whole, my first impression is that it's another solid effort. Notre Dame righthander Grant Johnson had first-round stuff before hurting his shoulder, but he's almost all of the way back and Chicago got him late in the second round with its top pick. Third-rounder Mark Reed, a California high school product, is an offensive-minded catcher whose hitting skills are reminiscent of those of his older brother Jeremy, who's with the Mariners. I'll have in-depth analysis of all 30 teams' drafts with our annual Draft Report Cards. They're part of the issue we're currently working on and should make it online before the end of the month.

Oct. 12, 2004

I'm checking in a day early again this week, this time to get my predictions on record before the Championship Series begin.

I picked the correct winners in all four Division Series, which is probably a first for me. And I tabbed the Red Sox to beat the Astros in the World Series back in April, so maybe this is my lucky year.

You can probably guess where I'm going with my Championship Series picks:

Boston vs. New York: Red Sox in six. Curt Schilling, bad ankle and all, is the surest thing among starters remaining in the playoffs. After he beats Mike Mussina tonight, the Yankees rotation goes all downhill from there.

Houston vs. St. Louis: Astros in seven. I'd feel better about the Astros if Roger Clemens and Roy Oswalt could start before Games Three and Four, but I still like their pitching better than that of the Cardinals.

I'll be back tomorrow to answer more of your questions.

Oct. 6, 2004

Point of clarification: I noticed that we listed Matt Tuiasosopo's record third-round bonus as $2.29 million in our searchable draft database and $2.1 million most everywhere else. The reason for the confusion, it turns out, is that the $2.29 million is the contract amount of his bonus, while the $2.1 million is the net present value because the money is spread over five years under draft rules governing two-sport athletes. Our policy is to refer to the contract amount, so I've gone back and fixed the chart of bonus records by draft round that ran in the July 27 Ask BA.

We're only one day into the playoffs, but I'm feeling good about my Division Series predictions. I'm not surprised Johan Santana beat the Yankees, but the Twins scored just two runs and I don't think they'll be able to take advantage of New York's depleted pitching.

    What's the draft order for 2005? How are ties broken between teams with identical records? Who are the top prospects right now?

    Kurt LaMont
    Manchester, Conn.

The draft order in 2005 will be slightly different in years past because the two leagues no longer are alternating picks. Teams will pick in reverse order of their 2004 records, and in the case of ties the club with the worst record in 2003 will choose first. Here's the draft order before any free-agent adjustments, along with where the teams would have chosen under the old system:

2005 Draft Order
TeamOld OrderChangeTeamOld OrderChange
1. Diamondbacks2nd+116. Marlins16thsame
2. Royals1st-117. Phillies18th+1
3. Mariners3rdsame18. Padres20th+2
4. Expos4thsame19. Rangers17th-2
5. Brewers6th+120. Cubs22nd+2
6. Blue Jays5th-121. Athletics19th-2
7. Rockies8th+122. Giants24th+2
8. Devil Rays7th-123. Angels21st-2
9. Mets10th+124. Astros26th+2
10. Tigers9th-125. Twins23rd-2
11. Pirates12th+126. Dodgers28th+2
12. Reds14th+227. Braves29th+2
13. Orioles11th-228. Red Sox25th-3
14. Indians13th-129. Yankees27th-2
15. White Sox15thsame30. Cardinals30thsame

Editor in chief Allan Simpson will unveil his projected 2005 first-round picks in our next issue. For a quick taste, I'll give you his top 10:

Top 10 Prospects, 2005 Draft
1. Justin UptonssGreat Bridge HS, Chesapeake, Va.
2. Cameron MaybinofT.C. Roberson HS, Asheville, N.C.
3. Alex Gordon3bNebraska
4. Jeff ClementcSouthern California
5. Tyler GreenessGeorgia Tech
6. Wade TownsendrhpRice
7. Luke HochevarrhpTennessee
8. Mike PelfreyrhpWichita State
9. Stephen Head1b/lhpMississippi
10. Troy TulowitzkissLong Beach State

    How high would you rate righthander Huston Street on the 2005 Top 100 Prospects list? He was lights out at three levels after signing as a supplemental first-round pick, finishing in Triple-A, and looks like he might be the closer in Oakland very shortly. He didn't pitch enough to qualify, but if he had, where would he have ranked on the Top 20 Prospects lists in the low Class A Midwest and Double-A Texas leagues?

    Michael Stern
    Rochester, N.Y.

This question provoked an interesting response. I've seen Street at the College World Series and did our Midwest League Top 20. Assistant managing editor John Manuel covered Street when he had our college and Team USA beats, and he put our Texas League Top 20 together. So you'll get two opinions for the price of one.

I'm more conservative with Street. The guy was money in college at Texas, and he's a winner. But I'm not convinced he's a closer rather than a setup guy. Bothered by a strained groin this spring, he showed average velocity and lacked his customary sink on his fastball. And while his slider is a plus pitch and he locates it and his fastball well, neither is a devastating pitch you'd expect from a closer. I'm also not certain he can lock down big league lefties with either pitch.

I'm quibbling a bit there, and I really do like Street. While he should be the first 2004 draftee to reach the majors, I don't think I'd put him on my Top 100 Prospects list at this point. I just can't do it without envisioning him as a dominant closer. I think he'll be a very good setup man, a valuable commodity. Had he qualified in the MWL, I would have ranked him 11th, between Twins righthander Adam Harben and Mariners slugger Wladimir Balentien.

John, on the other hand, firmly believes that Street can close on a championship-caliber club and can do so in the very near future. When Street was at his best, with Team USA in the summer of 2003, he showed 80 command (on the 20-80 scouting scale) of a 90-94 mph fastball, and 70 command of a 65 slider. John would put Street in the 51-75 range on his own Top 100, and he would have put him at No. 8 on his TL list, between Diamondbacks outfielder Carlos Quentin and Astros righthander Ezequiel Astacio.

    Kudos for recognizing the dominance of Felix Hernandez in the overmatched high Class A California League through the first half of 2004. However, I was surprised not to see any of Inland Empire's breakout prospects on the California League Top 20 Prospects list. Was there a case to be made for lefthanders Bobby Livingston and Ryan Rowland-Smith, righty Jon Huber, third baseman Jesus Guzman and outfielders Carlos Arroyo and Jeff Nelson?

    David Heckendorn
    Andover, Mass. general manager Kevin Goldstein wrote our Cal League Top 20, so I'll turn this question over to him:

The two players David listed who got the most attention were Livingston and Nelson. Livingston doesn't have overwhelming stuff, but he makes up for it with excellent command and gamesmanship. His fastball sits in the upper 80s, but he can sink and cut it, and he works it well low in the zone. He complements it with an above-average curveball that he'll throw at any point in the count. Most observers thought Livingston would make it to the majors, with projections ranging between reliever and No. 4 or 5 starter.

Nelson has an interesting combination of power (19 homers) and speed (26 steals), but his control of the strike zone (154 strikeouts, 25 walks) is pretty miserable. He's also still raw at age 24 because he spent two years away from the game on a Mormon mission.

One 66er David didn't mention is catcher Rene Rivera. He's one of the best defensive catchers in the minors, with the ability to absolutely shut down the running game. He led the Cal League by nabbing 41 percent of basestealers. Unfortunately, Rivera is still way behind with the bat (.235/.300/.346), but shows occasional pop and should be at least a valuable reserve.

Oct. 5, 2004

The next installment of Ask BA isn't due until Wednesday, but the playoffs start today, so it's time to get my predictions on record.

Before the season, I chose the Red Sox to beat the Astros in the World Series. Even if I hadn't forecast that matchup back in April, I'd pick it now as well because those are the most balanced teams in each league. (Before I get too full of myself, let me note that I picked, ahem, the Diamondbacks to win the National League West.)

If the eight playoff teams were seeded, the American League would grab the top four slots. Outside of Houston with Roy Oswalt and Roger Clemens, none of the NL clubs has a starting pitcher who's going to make the opposition quake in a must-win game. Johan Santana and Brad Radke (Twins), Curt Schilling and Pedro Martinez (Red Sox), and the recently rejuvenated Mike Mussina (Yankees) and Bartolo Colon (Angels) are better than any of the starters on the Braves, Cardinals and Dodgers.

Here's how I see the Division Series playing out:

Anaheim vs. Boston: Red Sox in four. The Angels are hot, but the Red Sox have a better all-around club.

Minnesota vs. New York: Yankees in five. The Twins have much better pitching, but the Yankees have a superior lineup and they'll find a way to beat Santana at least once. I have less conviction about this pick than the others.

Atlanta vs. Houston: Astros in four. Though the Astros didn't clinch a playoff berth until the final day of the season, they still have their pitching lined up just like they want. And they're the hottest team in baseball.

Los Angeles vs St. Louis: Cardinals in three. The Cardinals have the best record in baseball, but their pitching is ordinary (yes, I know they gave up the fewest runs in the NL) and they haven't played a meaningful game in weeks. Though they're ripe for a first-round upset, they match up very well with the Dodgers and should dismiss them easily.

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