Diamond the star of Rangers' DVD
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A lot of Ask BA readers have wondered why certain players didn't make the Futures Game, which is scheduled for Sunday afternoon in Detroit. Much like the All-Star Game doesn't include all of the 64 best players in the majors, the Futures Game won't have the 25 best U.S. prospects and the 25 best international prospects in the minors. Even the best efforts of Baseball America can't ensure that.
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We start by submitting a list of six candidates, three for the U.S. team and three for the World team, to the major league clubs, who have the right to make changes. When we put together the two 25-man rosters, we have to take at least one but no more than two prospects from each of the 30 farm systems. And those rosters are subject to change at the whim of Major League Baseball and the 30 big league clubs, as well as if any of the selected players are promoted to the majors.
Though we don't get the 50 absolute top prospects, it's still a star-studded event with the likes of Jeff Francoeur and Delmon Young facing off against Kendry Morales and Hanley Ramirez. It may not carry the same high profile, but the Futures Game is much more enjoyable to watch than the Home Run Derby or the All-Star Game.
Question: There's a lot of buzz about what's known as the DVD (Thomas Diamond, Edison Volquez, John Danks) among Rangers fans. What do you think of these three promising pitchers and where might they rank if the Top 100 Prospects list was redone at the All-Star break?
-- David Houten
Lake Forest, Calif.
The Rangers have needed some quality starting pitching for a while, and they're on the verge of getting some in former first-round picks Diamond and Danks and Dominican signee Volquez. You truly can make a case for ranking them in any order, but I'd still stick with the way we lined them up before the season: Diamond, Danks, Volquez.
Among the trio, Diamond has the best 1-2 combination of pitchers with a low-90s fastball and a plus changeup, and his breaking ball gets the job done. He has the best body (6-foot-3, 230 pounds) and has been the most dominant (112-36 strikeout-walk ratio in 102 innings, with opponents batting .197 with four homers). Danks, the lone lefty of the group and the youngest at 20, has the best breaking ball (one of the top curves in the minors) and room for projection on his solid-average fastball. Volquez lights up the radar gun more regularly, pitching at 93-95 mph and peaking in the high 90s, and has made good progress with his slider and changeup.
Diamond ranked No. 52 on our 2005 Top 100 Prospects list, while Danks was No. 59 and Volquez missed the cut. All three of them are very good pitching prospects but not quite yet elite in my book. If we were redoing the Top 100 at this point, they'd all factor in the 26-50 range.
Question: Before this season, Rockies third baseman Ian Stewart was considered one of the top three hitters in the minors. Where does he rank now after a first half of very disappointing numbers? Is there a reason for his drop in performance?
-- John Eder
Stewart ranked fourth in our last edition of the Top 100, behind only Joe Mauer, Felix Hernandez and Delmon Young. He was coming off a .319/.398/.594 season in low Class A, and he was a 19-year-old in his first full pro season to boot. He hasn't approached those numbers in 2005, however, batting .256/.344/.447 at high Class A Modesto in the hitter-friendly California League.
There's a simple explanation for this, however. Stewart missed the first month of the season with hamstring problems, and it took him a while to get his timing back. In May, he batted just .211/.276/.342 while drawing 10 walks and striking out 39 times in 114 at-bats. Since then, he's looked like his old self, hitting .307/.415/.564 with 19 walks and 15 whiffs in 101 at-bats. His overall numbers look disappointing, but he's back to destroying minor league pitching. He's still one of the game's top hitting prospects.
Question: I'm curious what you think of the Pirates' early selections in the draft. Not so much Andrew McCutchen, but Brad Corley (second round), James Boone (third) and Jeff Sues (fifth). They all seem to have been overdrafted. Would I be wrong in thinking that signability played a role here?
Silver Spring, Md.
In the baseball draft, worthiness is in the eye of the beholder. It's so hit and miss, especially after the first round, that teams aren't afraid to buck the consensus to take a player they really want. Based on what we heard before the draft, we projected all three players as sixth- to 10th-rounders. The Pirates obviously liked them more than the consensus, but rest assured that none of the three were signability picks. Corley ($605,000), Boone ($420,000) and Sues ($171,000) all received bonuses commensurate with their slots.
Corley, a Mississippi State outfielder, was projected as a possible first-round pick before going through a power dropoff during the spring. Boone, a Missouri outfielder, has a lot of tools like Corley but will need time to adjust to wood bats. Sues, a Vanderbilt right-hander, has good stuff with a 92-93 mph fastball, hard slider and average curveball, but runs into trouble with his command. All three players have high ceilings, though they will have to answer those question marks.
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