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The June questions begin

4/25/2010

We told you last week that couple of clubs drafting in the Top 10 were strongly considering players that won't rank in that range when the latest Top 100 is released on Monday evening, which leads us to our first mid-season question.

1. Why would the Kansas City Royals take Chris Sale or Yasmani Grandal at No. 4 if neither player is ranked in the Top 5?

It's likely a combination of factors. KC could actually have both players ranked within or very near the Top 5 -- and they have a pretty good idea those two, and any others they strongly consider at that spot would sign for a better price than players that may be ranked higher on their board that may still be available.

Maybe it comes down to Sale or Grandal at $2.5 million or Karsten Whitson at what they believe will cost them closer to $4 million, just for example. It isn't any different in theory than choosing Jason Bay for $65 million over Matt Holiday for $120 million. But just like that scenario, passing on the better player is rarely the right move.

But if you are a Royals fan, don't freak out, especially not right now. A lot can change between now and June, and if they went with Grandal, at least they'd be spending the pick on a tough position to fill.

2. If Grandal doesn't go No. 4 to Kansas City, what team is the next in the draft order that might jump on the draft's second-best catcher?

If Grandal gets past the Royals he probably gets to at least six, and perhaps beyond the Top 10. Cleveland is in on Michael Choice at No. 5 and neither the Indians nor the Arizona Diamondbacks have an immediate need at catcher, and if you're going to take a player a little higher than his talent suggests, it seems to make more sense to draft more for need in that scenario -- or at least avoid selecting a player that may be blocked at the big league level.

I haven't heard the New York Mets, who pick No. 7, connected to Grandal, and the Houston Astros (No. 8) have two young catchers in J.R. Towles and 2008 first-round pick Jason Castro. The Mets, however, are an interesting team to think about when it comes to the catchers in this draft. They don't exactly have a clear future at the position, and Grandal isn't a big over draft at No. 7.

It's difficult to imagine the Miami star falling past the Cincinnati Reds at No. 12 or Milwaukee Brewers at No. 14. But if he does, he'll be a good value to anyone selecting in the second half of the first round.

3. What's the value in drafting a college reliever in the first round? Washington did it a year ago with Drew Storen and three clubs did it in 2008 -- Detroit, Seattle and Arizona.

Sometimes a club just doesn't want to pay for the best player on the board at that stage of the first round; remember, the slot bonuses set by Major League Baseball don't adjust for how good the class may or may not be. The 20th best player in the class one year might be worth the slot recommendation. But the player in that slot the following year may not be, according to the clubs drafting in that range.

Washington's pick last year was not protected. That means that since they received the pick for failing to sign RHP Aaron Crow the previous summer, they needed to make sure they signed whomever they selected or they would have lost the pick altogether.

It does make some sense, on occasion, for a club to take a reliever later in round 1. If a contending team sees an arm that they are convinced can help them win in September and October, it may be worth drafting him and getting him signed quickly so he can do just that.

There aren't any such arms in this draft, unless a club inks a starter and works him into the big leagues right away as a reliever, but in that scenario workload becomes a concern.

4. Do teams draft for need in the later rounds?

Yes, they do. It's not the goal, per se, but late on day two and on the final day of the draft, clubs will draft players that they can project to fill a hole at a certain level of the minor league system. But they aren't necessarily passing on better players, since those left after the first dozen rounds are often graded very similarly in terms of talent.

5. If trading draft picks was legal in baseball, would the Washington National keep the No. 1 pick? And which team is best equipped to make such a trade with them?

That's a loaded question, especially since the trading of picks is not allowed and this is pure speculation.

I would have to think GM Mike Rizzo would be open to dealing the pick, saving the money and getting a player or two, an extra pick or two, or a combination of picks and players in exchange for the No. 1 overall choice.

Money would still be a concern, however, because if they were to move 1-1 to the Los Angeles Angels for picks No. 29, 30 and 40, for example, the Nationals would then have to pay three players in the top 40 instead of just one. It could still benefit them, but there are a number of variables to consider should draft picks become tradable commodities down the road.

Teams with deep pockets and/or multiple picks would likely be the best equipped to make such offers, but that dynamic could change, too, should MLB do the right things and abolish draft-pick compensation for signing free agents.

The trading of picks, however, if regulated properly, could be a way to help clubs such as Washington, Kansas City, Pittsburgh and Florida improve their rosters a lot quicker and even stay competitive for longer.

But this subject is for later, because we're at least two or three years away from the possibility.

Around The Diamond

• We were all hoping for an epic battle between Anthony Ranaudo and Drew Pomeranz Friday night, but rain washed away the game. It was re-scheduled for Saturday, but the showdown never happened. Yes, both pitchers took the mound Saturday afternoon, but neither was effective by any stretch of the imagination.

Ranaudo served up nine earned runs on nine hits in just 1 2/3 innings -- easily his worst start of his career at LSU. He walked one and struck out two, but hit a batter and tossed a wild pitch, too.

"They were both all over the place," said an AL club's crosschecker. "Ranaudo just didn't have it. The velocity was OK, he's never been a guy to overpower, but everything was up and over the plate."

Pomeranz wasn't much better, lasting just three innings and yielding four earned runs. The left-hander issued nine walks -- a career worst --and struck out three. He walked the first two batters of the fourth inning with a 9-4 lead, prompting his removal.

"It was forgettable," the crosschecker said. "Honestly, I didn't see anything useful from either pitcher. Both will bounce back next week, this one just goes in the book as a mulligan."

• Grandal singled, doubled and walked twice at Florida State, improving to .468/.543/.823 in conference play, and .425/.536/.733 with nine homers and 16 doubles overall.

• Right-hander Cole Cook fanned nine and allowed two earned runs on eight hits versus Portland Saturday. Cook wasn't sharp but has had a strong season and figures into the draft sometime between round two and four. Of course, he's a sophomore-eligible, so he could also return to Pepperdine next season and try to improve his stock.