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All baseball writers are mandated by federal law to offer their postseason predictions, so here are mine: The Red Sox will beat the Cubs in a six-game World Series, with the Rays (regardless of their first-round opponent) and Phillies advancing to the league championship series.

Very good question. Lost in all the controversy and rhetoric over when Alvarez signed and whether there was a conspiracy against him was the rule itself, which clearly states that the signing deadline comes when the clock strikes midnight and the calendar turns to Aug. 16. After initially claiming they originally signed Alvarez a couple of minutes before deadline, the Pirates since have admitted the deal got done at 12:02 a.m.

I'm not an arbitrator, nor do I play one on television, but how the grievance should have played out looks pretty obvious to me. There's a rule that clearly expresses a deadline, and the signing came after the deadline. The rule was collectively bargained, and one side unilaterally altered its enforcement. It seems to me that had the grievance been heard, the arbitrator should have voided the signing.

Alvarez would have re-entered the 2009 draft, and barring a catastrophic injury between now and then, he would have gotten a similar deal to the $6 million bonus he originally agreed to or the $6.355 million major league contract he wound up with. The big losers would have been the Pirates, who would have missed out on an elite hitter. While they would have wound up with the third overall choice in the next year's draft as compensation, that pick wouldn't have been protected if they couldn't consummate a deal, giving that player and his agent a ton of leverage.

To get back to Robert's original question, no, Crow shouldn't be allowed to reopen talks with Washington. A rule is a rule, and neither Crow's agents, the Hendricks brothers, nor the Nationals would compromise before the deadline struck. They reportedly were $500,000 apart at the end.

    If Giants slugger Pablo Sandoval exceeds his rookie eligibility, will you please publish his scouting report? He hasn't been included in your Prospect Handbook the past two years.

    Eric Salahutdin
    Hillsborough, Calif.

Sandoval last made the 2006 edition of the Prospect Handbook, checking in at No. 15 on our Giants Top 30, right between outfielder Clay Timpner and righthander Dan Griffin. (Sandoval also ranked No. 27 on our San Francisco list the previous year after his U.S. debut.) He flew under the radar the last two seasons before exploding in 2008 by hitting .350/.394/.578 with 20 homers and 96 RBIs in 112 games between Double-A and Triple-A.

Sandoval, 22, was nearly as effective with the Giants, concluding his season with an RBI pinch-single on Sunday to boost his final totals to .345/.357/.490 with three homers and 24 RBIs in 41 games. Because he totaled 145 at-bats in the majors—15 more than the rookie limit—he no longer is eligible for our prospect rankings.

While Sandoval won't make it into the 2009 Prospect Handbook, he did make two of our minor league Top 20 Prospects lists. He ranked No. 7 in the high Class A California League and No. 19 in the Double-A Eastern League (which won't be posted on our website until Tuesday). Here are those two scouting reports:

No. 7, California League

No player in the Cal League this year raised his profile more than Sandoval. He dominated in a return to the league, then was selected for the Futures Game before earning a promotion to Double-A and eventually San Francisco.

Sandoval is equally adept from either side of the plate, and he can pull the ball to hit for power or take pitches the other way. He shows a willingness to take what pitchers give him, and though he swings hard he shows good plate discipline.

He looks considerably less comfortable on defense. Though he has arm strength and threw out 46 percent of basestealers with San Jose, his hands and lack of agility work against him at catcher. San Francisco also played him at both infield corners, but his squat body and limited athleticism don't profile well there either.

No. 19, Eastern League

The Giants have liked Sandoval's swing for years, but until 2008, he never had gotten past Class A. After tearing up the California League for three months, he arrived in the EL in late June and left for the majors in mid-August. With a strong, compact frame and a powerful, short stroke from both sides of the plate, he produced at all three stops.

"He can really, really hit," an AL scout said. "I saw him again at the Futures Game, and he fit right in with the better hitters there."

He has a strong arm, but the scouts contacted for this list who had seen Sandoval catch didn't believe he could play there regularly in the major leagues. Two managers said Sandoval had problems just physically squatting behind the plate, while two AL scouts both used the same cliché: "He can't catch a cold."

Interestingly, Sandoval is an ambidextrous thrower with nearly as much arm strength throwing lefthanded as he has righthanded. He would profile better defensively at first base if he moved there and focused on throwing with his left hand. He has seen time at both corner infield positions.

    I saw your reponse to the Clay Zavada question in the last Ask BA, and thought that it was an interesting exchange that sent Zavada to the Diamondbacks and Brad Miller to the independent Frontier League's Southern Illinois Miners. I'm just wondering what was in it for Miller, who was "traded" from a major league organization to an indy team. How on earth did Arizona compel him to go to Southern Illinois team? Did they offer him a good severance package if he would sign with the Miners?

    Justin Riddick

The trade that wasn't quite a trade worked out because Miller was on the verge of drawing his release from the Diamondbacks. He opened the season by batting .178/.199/.305 with five homers and 22 RBIs in 59 games at high Class A Visalia, and those numbers just don't cut it for a first baseman, especially an almost-25-year-old first baseman in the hitter's haven that is the Cal League.

But Miller, who bashed 22 homers in low Class A in 2007, fit the Miners' need for a power-hitting first baseman nicely. They fit his impending need for employment.

Southern Illinois put Miller in the No. 3 spot in its lineup and watched him hit .310 with five homers and 32 RBIs in 47 games. He hurt his right shoulder in early August, however, and the Miners placed him on the retired list at the end of the month.

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