Draft Chat With John Manuel

    Brandon (Charleston, WV): Who do you think the Reds will take at #8? Any chance Kyle Gibson or Grant Green falls to the Reds?

John Manuel: We do see Gibson and Green both being available there, but are the Reds going to spend the money to sign Green? Just doesn't seem likely. Gibson makes more sense and we're hearing that both Gibson and Alex White, the two college arms we've consistently ranked ahead of the quintet of top prep arms, need to come down our list. Gibson has been steadier and we think he'll be there at 8.

    Kyle (Middletown): Where do you see Stephen Perez getting drafted, and how high is his ceiling?

John Manuel: Hard read on his signability; teams that believe he could play SS down the line might run him up pretty high, but the consensus is that he's a 2B as a pro and may not go high enough to keep him from going to Miami.

    Steve (Detroit,Mi): Will the Tigers take one of the big H.S. arms? Who are they favoring?

John Manuel: We've had them tied to Jacob Turner for some time, and it would be hard not to take Porcello II (if that's what an organization thinks Turner is) considering the success they've had with the Porcello pick at this point. Shelby Miller and Zach Wheeler (unlikely to be there at 9) are considered the two most signable prep pitchers. However, there are also some Garrett Gould rumors there with Detroit, though that seems high.

    Kyle (Middletown): BA had JR Murphy ranked 95 in your top 100, which would put him in the 3rd round range, but said he hit his way into supplemental consideration. Where do you think he ultimately falls, and how do you like his odds of making it as an above average regular?

John Manuel: Very split camp on Murphy. Teams that like him as a C could take him as high as the supp-to-2nd. If you don't believe in him as a C, then his value is much lower, he's maybe at 3B or a OF, and the bat is more of a hit bat than a power bat. So much talent in FL this spring, I have gotten a lot of mixed reports on a lot of players and frankly I haven't detected a strong consensus. Just depends on how a guy was seen. I've talked to four people at length on Murphy and they're split on the C.

    Kyle (Middletown): Are you hearing any buzz on where Robert Stock is going to end up? I am interested in seeing how high he goes and if he becomes a starter or reliever. Teams have to love his age.

John Manuel: Stock's one of the draft's most fascinating players. He's been up to 97 out of the pen, up to 95 as a starter, he's performed very well as a starter thanks to a legit, average-to-plus changeup. It also sounds like he'd like to go back to college and try to catch and hit one more time. My gut tells me he gave up a shot at first-round money out of HS and won't settle for less three years later, and if he doesn't get first-round money, I think he'll go back to college.

    John (Marietta,GA): What are the ceilings of the two best high schoolers in GA: Donavan Tate and Zach Wheeler? And who are the sleepers in the High school ranks in GA who are creeping up draft boards?

John Manuel: Tate's stock is falling. Some teams have him No. 2 or No. 3 on their board, but that number seems to be dwindling. Football scholarship + some questions on the bat + $6 million price tag has equaled a softer Donavan Tate market. Sounds like there are two or three or maybe more landing spots, but we're hearing even some big-market, big-spending teams aren't on him. Lot of smoke out there on Tate. I've gotten Francoeur with better feel for hitting as one comparison, and Andruw Jones with less power and more feel for hit as another. As for Wheeler, we are a bit low on him, still. We were early, and we are now. Early reports on his breaking ball were not as good, but he's signable, projectable and has now stuff. He's not getting out of the first 10 picks. He's really my kind of pitcher is the crazy thing, he pitches off the fastball, commands it (relatively speaking) and it has both life and velocity. He's the kind of guy I usually over-rate, and here I under-rated him. I'm not sure any GA preps can be called sleepers but Auburn football signee Brandon Jacobs is a toolbox if he wants to play baseball, and Miles Head is the state's top prep hitter. Scouts aren't sure where Head would play is the problem.

    JAYPERS (IL): Do you see any teams in the 1st round taking fliers on either Jacob Stewart or Trayce Thompson, based on a high-risk, high-reward rationale (i.e. Anthony Hewitt)?

John Manuel: Sorry, just a few calls . . . I could see if, but Thompson has a UCLA commitment and hit around .330 this spring. Stewart is one of my favorite prospects and might be more likely to sign because he has more present bat, but he also is a Stanford commitment. Hewitt is different from those guys because he was an infielder, that's a big difference for me. Teams that take those kinds of guys have to have extra picks (as the Phillies did last year) in order to take a high-risk guy, and it would take top-round type money for Stewart and Thompson to give up college.

    Mike (San Diego): Thanks John. We've heard rumors of Crow, Gibson, Leake, and even (gulp) Minor going to the Padres at #3. Any insider rumblings as to which way they might be leaning, assuming Strasburg & Ackley are gone?

John Manuel: If Dustin Ackley is at 3, San Diego's taking him. You never know, but I doubt he's there. The Padres are one of the teams on Tate, despite the fact that he's nothing like the kinds of guys they have drafted in the past. We've heard that for a long time; we've also heard the Padres on Grant Green. Both of those guys have big price tags; I could see either one happening and if it were up to me (thankfully for Padres fans it isn't), I'd take Tate. Minor is the classic Grady Fuson LHP; I think it would be an overdraft but I could see it. The three college RHPs also frankly make some sense to me; they all hit the mitt. That's what Grady wants in a pitcher.

    Jaff Decker (Fort Wayne, Ind.): Hey John, When can I expect to arrive in Petco?

John Manuel: Soon, I hope! I love Jaff Decker, despite the fact he can't spell his own name. But he hasn't played two months in low A. He's having a good year, maybe even a great year, but let's let it play out a bit, shall we? My ETA for him is 2011.

    Dave (Deerfield): Thanks for considering this 2-parter, John. How does the draft rumor mill work? Scouts talking about where other teams' scouts are? Or is it inside information from teams themselves? And, at this point, 2 weeks from the draft, is BA's info on who wants who about as good as it will get, or are the substantive rumors more late breaking?

John Manuel: Interesting question. I guess the way to put it is, scouts higher in the draft will let the teams behind them know, at least in a general sense, who they are focusing on the closer it gets to draft day. Teams do track (maybe "note" is a better word) what opposing scouts were at what games, and so do we, as much as we can. When you hear, "Oh, Billy Beane went to see so and so," you have to think the A's have that player high on their board. The teams don't usually tell us who they like; they will at times tell us who they don't like. I definitely think this draft is a workout draft, and lots of teams have workouts scheduled that weekend before the draft. There's going to be a lot of late-breaking news in this draft. One more minute here . . . sorry . . .

    Noah (Durham, NC): What players from the '06 high school class made the worst decision (baseball-wise at least) to go to college? Has anyone gone from prospect to non-prospect?

John Manuel: great question. Well, Carmine Giardina was No. 14 on our early draft preview top 100 HS list. Now he's at D-II Tampa and frankly his name hasn't come up in my draft calls. He also started a Facebook group for people who BA supposedly doesn't like; it's funny, there are some college All-Americans and even big leaguers on that list, all guys we've ranked (I'm talking to you Brett Anderson!). Baylor's Shawn Tolleson has had arm trouble in college and his stock has dropped considerably; same for Brandon Belt, now at Texas, who's been solid, not spectacular. Another to throw out there is Nate Karns at Texas Tech.

    Bryan (San Francisco): I know he doesn't have the greatest size, but do you think LHP Robbie Erlin from Scotts Valley has a chance to go in the top 3 rounds? Thanks!

John Manuel: Sounds like he does, spins a breaking ball very well, if he were bigger he'd be a first-rounder but we're hearing 2-to-4 on him.

    Jon (Camarillo, CA): How has Joe Gardner's late season injury affected his draft status? Is he still a 3-5 round guy? Thanks!

John Manuel: We'll see, but it sure doesn't help. He was a 4-to-6 round guy previously as a low-slot sinker-slider guy; the upside there is somewhat limited. He's got some polish but how many guys with that arm angle start? I think people liked Wes Littleton better out of college and he was a 7th-rounder (makeup was an issue unfortunately for Wes) and has had an up-and-down big league career. That's a comp for Gardner.

    Carl (Gainesville): Who are the guys that Florida is most likely to lose from their recruiting class? A lot of them seem like there will be signability issues.

John Manuel: Man, that's a great recruiting class. I think they'll get Brian Johnson and Patrick Schuster for sure; I think they'll get a C and if I had to be on one I'd bet Maddox. Heller and Holmberg are question marks; I think they could lose both, better chance on Heller because he has more present velo; the big Q is Levon Washington, who I think could be the best hitter in the state despite his shoulder injury. I don't see him getting to campus, Boras Corp. price tag and all.

    Jon (Camarrillo): I was looking at some of the various regional teams and one player really stood out to me for his stats and the fact that I hadn't heard much about him. What do you know about Adam Buschini at Cal Poly? Prospect? Thank you.

John Manuel: I'm a Buschini fan, ranked him in our 2006 Central Illinois Collegiate League top 10 (he was No. 8, FWIW, and that league is now called the Prospect League). He's a good runner, if he could stick at 2B that would be an asset because he may not have the profile power for 3b. To me he's more of a utility guy than anything but he's a good college player who might surprise some people as a pro.

    Timmy L. (San Francisco, CA): Is the theory of "upside" being taken too seriously with Mike Leake? What does he have to do to get some more respect? Seems like he is as safe a pick as anyone.

John Manuel: Timmy, I think Leake gets a TON of respect. Other people his size don't sniff the first 15 picks. Scouts absolutely love him, but it's not like he has Lincecum stuff. He has polish, pitchability, good stuff with life and obvoiusly he commands it. Best deal might be the makeup. He's the reason I picked Arizona State to win the national title in our podcast, so is that enough respect for ya?

    Adam (Miami): Where do you see a guy like Adam Warren going? He has shown his ability in the classroom and on the mound. He seems to be a serious senior prospect.

John Manuel: I probably under-rated him, but what he does in the classroom is meaningless for the draft. It might help him in terms of makeup, but what has helped him is improved, steady 90-92 mph velocity, plus a good curve and feel for pitching. He's a good senior value in the 6-to-8 round range, for me.

    Adam (Miami): Could Mike Trout fall to the Yankees?

John Manuel: Sure but not for signability. I believe he'll be gone by then, Yanks pick at 29, but we thought Gerrit Cole would be gone by 28 last year too.

    Kevin (Seattle, WA): What are the chances of the Pirates taking Crow, Tate or Green with the fourth pick?

John Manuel: Pretty decent for Crow,in fact I think that's who we'd project right now. We're not hearing them in on Tate or Green, more on other players who might not be consensus No. 4 guys. The reports they might go lower in the draft and make a splash internationally are persistent, so Crow fits that as a player motivated to sign and get started.

    Tom Ace (Staten Island, NY): There seems to be a dearth of mid-major pitching talent out there, especially in the Northeast Conference where Ryan Buch (Monmouth), James Jones (LIU) and Kyle Morrison (Wagner) have all gotten a lot of attention from scouts. How high do you see these pitchers going?

John Manuel: Tom, I'd disagree, just a dearth of mid-major Northeast guys maybe. Look at our top 30 — Lipscomb, Kennesaw State, Indiana (Big Ten is mid-major for baseball) all represented, and in our top 200 you've also got Jacksonville State, Kansas State (hardly a baseball power), Dallas Baptist . . . Jones may go as a hitter, too, he's pitched poorly. Buch has been all over the board and could go high to a team that saw him throw well, but we've heard he backed up as the season wound down. Morrison doesn't have the same up side as those guys.

    Mick (Chicago, IL): How good is the high school crop of shortstops? Might you elaborate on more than a few of the lesser talked about, Nick Franklin, Reed Gragnani, Jason Thompson, and Alex Yarbrough?

John Manuel: I'd say it's fringy to below average. Franklin is the best of that group, he's got a chance to be a supplemental guy because he has a good shot to stay at SS and he has offensive upside. Gragnani is part of a disappointing year in Virginia, he's not a real big draft factor. Thompson in Tennessee is the state's top prep but scouts are pretty mixed on him, 4-to-6 talent at his best but I haven't talked to anyone who's seen him there of late, and he had a late hammy injury. He may be headed to Louisville. Yarbrough's bat is too light to buy him out of Ole Miss.

    Scott (Baltimore): If you're the O's picking at #5, do you take a college pitcher who may be more advanced and able to help the team right away or a high school kid who may have a higher ceiling and time to develop at the minor league level?

John Manuel: In this draft, I'd take the P unless I was sold on Tate's bat or Green's bat and one of (or both) fell to me. Those are the only bats other than Ackley I'd feel comfortable taking (and paying) at 5, but they want a lot of money. So a pitcher is very likely.

    Kevin (San Diego): Aside from Strasburg, does Donovan Tate have the highest ceiling in this years draft? What are the chances of him reaching that ceiling?

John Manuel: I've talked to at least one national guy who says yes, and several crosscheckers in the East who say the same, who have his ceiling above Ackley's. I'm not sure if I'm in that camp, because I believe in Ackley's bat quite a bit, as well as the athleticism. For me, Ackley would be 2 on the board, but I think there are plenty of clubs with Tate 2. Chances of reaching? Well, Frenchy and Andruw Jones were better comps to get in 2005 than they are in 2010. I wouldnt'want to be comped to Frenchy right now.

    Aaron (Wyoming): What teams do you think would be interested in marc Krauss, and what round do you think he'll end up going?

John Manuel: Marc Krauss has helium. He's going to go a lot higher than we have him on our board because the power has come on and he can hit. He hit in the Great Lakes League in 2007, when he was the No. 7 prospect, and in the Cape, when he ranked 27th. He's going to go around 27 this year, actually, because he's a college bat with track record.

    Kevin (San Diego): What's Brooks Raley's ceiling and how high should he go in this draft?

John Manuel: Don't tell Aaron Fitt, but I like Raley better as a hitter, where his speed would seem to play up. As a pitcher, he's got some Casey Fawesome in him (sorry, Fossum). His speed as a hitter seems like his best tool, but I haven't talked to anyone about his bat myself but Aaron is a believer. He's the first player on Aaron's all-Fitt team.

    Ryan (PA): Do you think Jake Locker gets taken and signs?

John Manuel: Yes, and No. Someone will take a flier, but he wants to play football. Next year, maybe, but he wants to play football, or else he would have played baseball by now for more than two weeks.

    Fred (Ohio): Who is a good comparison for North Carolina HS catcher Wil Myers?

John Manuel: Well, I've gotten two or three Dale Murphy comps as a big guy who will try to play C but may end up in CF or RF. He's an average or 55 runner even, and people believe in the bat. If he's signable for slot I could see him going much higher than 31, like top 20 picks.

    Ryan (PA): I know it is hard to project the first 10 picks, let alone the 75th, but who do you think the Phillies target there?

John Manuel: Yeah, it's too hard for me to throw out a name. I honestly think it would be just throwing darts to say, "Hey, they like power arms, David Hale at Princeton is close by, they'll take him." Of course if they take Hale now, I'm taking credit.

    Kevin (San Diego): Rank these lefties: Mike Minor, James Paxton, Matt Bashore, and Zack Von Rosenberg.

John Manuel: Von Rosenberg is an RHP, so I won't be ranking him, though I love that dude as a prospect. I'll go Minor-Paxton-Bashore. I've gotten a Jeremy Affeldt comp on Paxton; he's about as split a camp as there is in the draft. I'd take Rex Brothers over any of them.

    Richard (Boston): Would you care to take a stab at a longshot tough sign that might fall to the Redsox?

John Manuel: Bruce Fields' son, Daniel, a prep SS in Detroit, is the kind of guy who has big tools and a big price tag. He would't be a first-round guy, mor ein the Kalish-Hissey-Westmoreland mold. I think Boston would take some of the prep P's who could fall, like Jacob Turner, but we're not hearing them on Tate or Grant Green.

    Tom (Anaheim, CA): John, thanks for taking my question. Im hearing a lot of buzz about Trent Stevenson and his velocity being 92-94 in recent bull pens. On a 6'6 180lb kid, thats very exciting Are the Angels in the mix for him with one of their picks?

John Manuel: He's very, very raw and very hit or miss. You've put 15 pounds on his frame according to what we've heard. He's just gorwing into his body, late growth spurt kind of kid. So he won't go with one of their really high picks, I would imagine they could wait longer, but the Angels scout Arizona well and I could see him as a guy who goes to a team with extra picks. WE have him lower, 5th-6th round range.

    Fred (Ohio): How difficult will it be to sign Jeff Malm away from USC? Do you think he will sign if he is chosen in the first two rounds?

John Manuel: This is hard for me to say . . . I don't think it should be that hard. It's USC. This is a baseball program that has gone to regionals twice, I believe, since Mark Prior left school. TWO! Jeff Malm won four state titles in Vegas and is a winner, but can he get the team off that schneid? Hard to say, especially if Stock leaves. I think Chad Krueter was put in a very difficult position of trying to revive a program that had grown a bit stale and that hadn't recruited as well as it needed to, but now USC is kind of drifting as a program. They've broken free of their tradition when they fired Gillespie, and Krueter is learning how hard it is for pro guys to make it work in college ball. Ask Tony Gwynn, or Vance Law, or Ed Sprague, any of the other ex-big leaguers in college ball now. It took the best college pitcher of all time to get Tony into regionals, and SDSU is still a 3 seed. It's just hard, and a guy with no college baseball experience taking over a program like USC would be like giving Matt Doherty the keys to North Carolina basketball . .. wait, that already happened. I'm not sure who USC's Roy Williams will be. Wouldn't be fair for me to speculate.

    Alex (Gainsville, FL): I hear Riley Cooper has decided to play baseball and give up football. Whats his ceiling? and do you see a team taking a chance on him this year? I hear he will be in the cape.

John Manuel: Cooper has had knee problems this year (got it drained) and also has had trouble making contact. He has huge upside though, and I think he will be a summer follow for someone. I hadn't heard the give up football part yet but his upside in baseball is considerable, power-speed guy, was No. 30 on our initial HS list in '06.

    Timmy L. (San Francisco, CA): Crow or Scheppers?

John Manuel: I'll take Crow as Mr. Fastball Command guy.

    Timmy L. (San Francisco, CA): Give me a sleeper second rounder who I can hope the Giants select while I watch the draft.

John Manuel: Nick Franklin there would be awesome as a middle infielder; wouldn't be shocked if SF went to FLA this year a lot, they have good scouts there and Florida is full o' guys this year. I'll throw out other Floridians for you for them in the 2nd round — Mychal Givens, Billy Bullock (fla. closer, hard thrower), maybe they like David Holmberg more than most. He's kind of a Noah Lowry type.

    Nora (Georgetown PA): When does BA's Mock Draft V. 2 come out?

John Manuel: JIm Callis is efforting it now and will have it for you tomorrow. We're completely in insane draft and college content mode now, to be followed by insane July 2 mode, with periods of insane prospect stuff daily.

    JAYPERS (IL): 2006 was considered to be a pitching heavy draft. If you had to stack that year's crop vs. this year's, which one would win, in your mind?

John Manuel: I'd take this year because of Strasburg. Andrew Miller, sadly, has been a disappointment to this point, and Luke Hochevar at No. 1 that year is no Stras. This year also has more LHPs. I like this draft class better on the pitching side Joba C and all. That said, that year had Longoria. As much as I like Ackley, he's no Longoria, and neither is Grant Green.

John Manuel: Now we're 90 minutes in and I just have too much other stuff to do, such as (a) draft states to write, (b) college regional previews to edit, (c) college podcast to edit, and (d) food. So I will have to sign off. Hope you enjoyed it.