In 2002, six of the first seven players selected in the Draft were high school players (although with guys like B.J. Upton, Zack Greinke and Prince Fielder it was quite a crop), and that number was three of seven in '03 and '04. But by '05, only one of the first nine picks (Justin Upton, first overall) was a high school player.
Before the Dodgers grabbed Kershaw with the seventh pick in 2006, college players Luke Hochevar, Greg Reynolds, Evan Longoria, Brad Lincoln, Brandon Morrow and Andrew Miller had come off the board.
The Tigers turned Miller into Miguel Cabrera, so they're not complaining. But were the Pirates (Lincoln) or Mariners (Morrow) influenced by "Moneyball?"
Pittsburgh got it right with high school players, Neil Walker and Andrew McCutchen, in '04 and '05, but then took "safer'' college picks for four years in a row. Seattle had used its top pick on high school guys from 2001 through '03, but fell for USC catcher Jeff Clement in '05 and Morrow in '06. The Dodgers are thrilled that those teams (along with the Royals, Rockies, Rays and Tigers) found players they liked better than the left-hander from Highland Park, Texas
Now on to your questions:
Is it safe to say the Dodgers are out on Tanaka after the Kershaw deal? Can they go near $300 million for their payroll?
-- Rob. E, Villa Park, Ill.
Don't count these guys out on anything. Including estimates for arbitration-eligible players A.J. Ellis and Kenley Jansen, they've got about $237 million committed to 24 players, so Tanaka wouldn't push them that high. Also, at some point this year they're likely to offload a big contract in Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier or Carl Crawford. I don't think the four-man outfield rotation with Yasiel Puig will prove desirable if all four are ever healthy at the same time.
If the White Sox had about an 80-win season, can you see them spending big next year on guys like Justin Masterson, Max Scherzer, James Shields, etc.?
-- Mike D, Chicago
With Adam Dunn's the biggest expiring salary, the Sox could clear more than $20 million in payroll after 2014 -- and more than $30 million if they eliminate Alexei Ramirez and Alejandro De Aza. I can definitely see them adding a free-agent starter, but the one shift that would help them at least as much is to get 190-plus solid innings from John Danks, who they still owe $47.25 million. He showed signs of getting past his shoulder surgery at times last year, but wore down in the second half. He'll be a huge focus for manager Robin Ventura and pitching coach Don Cooper this year.
What would you rather have -- 600 plate appearances of Nelson Cruz in Wrigley or 700 PAs from a platoon of Nate Schierholtz and Justin Ruggiano? Factor in economics.
-- James F., New York
Easy one. The Cubs are much better off with the Schierholtz/Ruggiano platoon because to get Cruz they'd have to give up a second-round Draft choice. That's not going to happen. I'm not sure how great of a fit Cruz would be for Wrigley Field anyway.
Can the White Sox unload Adam Dunn's contract before the season? Will they add another power guy or are they done dealing?
-- Luis F., Chicago
Nothing's impossible, especially not with a player who has hit 75 home runs the last two seasons, but the people I talk to around MLB don't see a market. One referred to Dunn's body language at the end of 2013 as "pathetic." General manager Rick Hahn does have one more trade to make -- for a catcher, and most likely dealing left fielder Dayan Viciedo or a middle infielder.
Are the Pirates a World Series team?
-- Elijah B., Belle Vernon, Pa.
They pushed the Cardinals harder than some might remember last October, so the Bucs could be. But first they have to get past the Cards and Pittsburgh doesn't have an Adam Wainwright to mentor its young pitchers. The Pirates will miss A.J. Burnett, and Francisco Liriano is only one season away from a 2012 season when he had a 5.34 ERA. That's worrisome.
If, and big if, the Cubs get Masahiro Tanaka, is it the right move? Does it make the Cubs more likely to keep Samardzija?
-- Steve V., Chicago
You bet it is. Tanaka makes total sense for the Cubs because he would appear to have just moved into his prime and he's available for money alone. He's only a year older than Fergie Jenkins was when Leo Durocher moved him into the rotation and while Tanaka's staying power is an unknown, he could have that kind of career in the National League. Tanaka offers a side benefit in taking some heat off Tom Ricketts' ownership, which needs to stop the negative trend at the gate. Oddly, Tanaka might make it more likely that Jeff Samardzija would stay. President of baseball operations Theo Epstein would not want to break up a 1-2-3 of Tanaka-Samardzija-Travis Wood if they were pitching well.