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With just a month to go until spring training kicks off, the free agent market is still pretty stagnant. Part of the reason, of course, is the reluctance that teams have in parting with first-round draft picks as compensation for signing certain players, who come with that price tag attached. That made me wonder how valuable first-round picks really actually are. I took a look at three teams, one top dog, the New York Yankees, one middle-of-the-road club in the Toronto Blue Jays and one team generally at the back of the pack, the Chicago Cubs. Since the amateur draft began in 1965, the Yankees have chosen 51 players in the first-round, including supplemental picks. Twenty-seven of those spent some time in the Bigs and 24 didnt make it. The success rate is 52 per cent and this is a team that usually picks in the back end of the first round. The Yankees best first-rounder, without question, is Derek Jeter, taken at number six overall in 1992. The Yankees have done alright with compensation picks for losing free agents, as well. In 1996, they got a quality lefty in Eric Milton for losing infielder Randy Velarde. In 2004, they chose right-hander Phil Hughes when Andy Petitte jumped ship to the Astros before ultimately returning to the Yankees where he finished his career. In 2006, they chose righties Ian Kennedy and Joba Chamberlain upon losing curveball specialist Tom "Flash" Gordon. You might think the Cubs would have far great success with firsts than the Yanks because they miss the playoffs so often. However, the gap is only five per cent on the success scale. The Cubs have drafted 61 players in the first round since 1965 with 35 making it to the Majors. In other words, a percentage of 57 versus the Yankees 52 per cent. The Cubs top picks over the years have included Joe Carter in 1981, Rafael Palmeiro in 1985 and the flame-throwing Kerry Wood in 1995. In 2007, the Cubs used a supplemental first-round pick to take Josh Donaldson, who has since blossomed into a very good player with the Oakland Athletics. The only other supplemental pick of note made by the Cubs was Palmeiro, whom they were able to select for losing reliever Tim Stoddard to free agency. The Cubs made, without a doubt, the worst decision in the history of free agency when they allowed Hall of Famer Greg Maddux to walk away to the Atlanta Braves after the 1992 season. The Cubbies got two draft picks in return, which they used the following June to take pitcher Jon Ratliff and infielder Kevin Orie. In the following three seasons, Maddux won three Cy Young Awards and helped the Braves to a World Series title in 1995. Ratliff and Orie quickly faded into obscurity. Where do the Blue Jays fit in? Well, since they came in the American League in 1977, they have made 64 first-round picks and 36 have seen time in the Majors, good for a 56 per cent success rate. The Blue Jays have had pretty good success with first-rounders over the years, including  Lloyd Moseby (1978,) Ed Sprague (1988,) Shawn Green (1991,) Shannon Stewart (1992,) Chris Carpenter (1993,) Roy Halladay (1995,) Billy Koch (1996,) Ricky Romero (2005,) Brett Cecil (2007) and J.P Arencibia in 2007...oh, well on that one.  Righty Dustin McGowan (2000,) whos battled through a myriad of injuries, is still around as well. The Blue Jays have greatly utilized their supplemental picks and, well, you really couldnt do much better than they have. When lefty Bud Black, now the manager of the San Diego Padres, signed with the San Francisco Giants, the Jays used the pick they received to take Green. When knuckleballer Tom Candiotti left for the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Jays wound up with Stewart and when the "Terminator" Tom Henke returned to the Texas Rangers after the 92 World Series triumph, the Blue Jays used their pick to select future Cy Young winner, Carpenter. Of course, there a few in the not-so-good category, too. When Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar left for the Baltimore Orioles, the payback was Joe Lawrence. I guess the bottom line is that there are no sure things, but if you have a top-notch scouting staff and good development staff, you can risk losing those good, but not great free agents. But the ones you target as stars, you can never let walk away. - ESPN came out with its annual top 100 list of All-time Major League greats. Roy Halladay and Dave Winfield fell within the top 125 and received honorable mentions. Five players, though, who wore the Blue Jays uniform (albeit, briefly in some cases) cracked the top 100.  Knuckleballer Phil Niekro was number 100, Paul Molitor came in at 78, Roberto Alomar at 74, "The Big Hurt" Frank Thomas at 70 and Rickey Henderson at number 14. Of the seven in total, Halladay was the only one drafted and developed by the Jays. Does that make him the greatest Blue Jay of all-time? Its a great argument, but my vote is still with Alomar, even though he only spent five seasons in Toronto, and my top Blue Jays pitcher, though just by a hair, is Dave Stieb. - Its great to see former Blue Jays fan favourite John McDonald  signing a minor league deal with the Los Angeles Angels with an invitation to spring training, but sad to see Vernon Wells get released by the Yankees after being designated for assignment. Bill Kirchiro Jersey Retro . Hamels threw seven sharp innings to earn his 100th career victory, Domonic Brown had a career-best five RBIs and the Philadelphia Phillies beat the Cincinnati Reds 12-1 on Saturday night to end a four-game losing streak. Bryce Callahan Jersey Retro . Ontario Superior Court Case Management Master Ronald Dash released the decision on Monday, saying John McCaw Jr. must testify in front of a jury by live video conference. Moores lawyer, Tim Danson, asked the court to compel McCaw - who is based in Seattle - to testify in the case back on February 27. https://www.cheapjerseyslines.com/robert...sey-retro/ . Charlottetown scored four times in the third period en route to a 5-2 win over the defending champion Halifax Mooseheads on Friday. Matt Szymanski Jersey Retro .com) - The Toronto Blue Jays will look to snap a three-game skid Friday night when they continue their road trip in the opener of a three-game set against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park. Blake Countess Jersey Retro . Ramirez is still hitting behind Puig, only now they are in the third and fourth spots, and the change is starting to generate positive results for manager Don Mattingly.NEWARK, N.J. -- Matt Prater was at home in bed late last week, trying to recover from a nasty illness, when he flipped on his TV. There at the bottom of the screen was a line that made him feel even more queasy: "It said, Matt Prater questionable for Super Bowl," the Denver Broncos kicker said with a laugh during media day Tuesday. "I was like, Where is that coming from? It was definitely strange, but I guess for the Super Bowl, everythings a big deal." Prater found that out firsthand after he missed practices from last Thursday through Saturday when he was sent home by the team so he could recover in time for this week -- and not get any of his teammates sick. "Im feeling a lot better and I should be fine Sunday," Prater said, showing no signs of sniffles from the flu bug that he couldnt kick for a few days. "I mean, I wasnt dying. I was definitely really sick and I was basically useless for four days. I felt like a truck hit me, but I wouldve still tried to play in the Super Bowl even if I was sick." The big-legged kicker who set an NFL record with a 64-yarder on Dec. 8 in Denver wasnt concerned about the chances of not being at full strength for the big game against Seattle. Prater kicked Monday at practice for the first time since the AFC championship game against New England. "I didnt feel too rusty," Prater said. Prater is 30 of 31 on field-goal attempts this season, including 5-for-5 in the playoffs. The only miss was a 52-yarder that was barely wide left on Dec. 1 at Kansas City. The next week at Denver, he booted the record-breaker in icy conditions. "I remember the first time he kicked a ball in front of me and it jumped off his foot, I was amazed how hard he kicked it," said second-year long snapper Aaron Brewer. "Its comforting to know he can kick it from anywhere." Prater also led the NFL with 81 touchbacks and was 12 of 12 in kickoff touchbacks in the Broncos two home playoff games. It will have been five weeks by the time the Super Bowl rolls around since the Broncos special teams unit covered a kickoff.dddddddddddd So, Praters leg strength could be a factor if hes not ready to boom kicks out of the end zone. The site and conditions could also play a role. In the Broncos game against the Giants at MetLife Stadium on Sept. 15, five of Praters eight kickoffs were returned, his season-low touchback rate -- and that was in 70-degree, sunny conditions with minimal wind. The temperatures are expected to be in the 30s around kickoff Sunday. "I feel pretty good," Prater said. "I just need to get my bearings back a little bit. Maybe it was good to have a few days off. Im just hoping to get completely healthy and be ready for Sunday." Prater plans to line up from about 65 yards out before the game, just to gauge his range. The fact MetLife Stadium has FieldTurf is a plus, too, because it provides what he called "perfect conditions" no matter the weather. With the Broncos top-ranked offence going up against the Seahawks No. 1 defence, theres a chance it could be a tight game that comes down to a field-goal attempt. "Weve done it so many times and Matts so good that I almost feel like theres no pressure on me and all the pressures on him," said punter Britton Colquitt, whos also the holder on field goals. "He even says, I dont care about the laces or anything. Just put it down, and Ill kick it. Hes very confident." And for good reason. Prater, in his seventh season with the Broncos, has converted 47 of 50 career field goals in the fourth quarter, and is 4 for 4 in overtime. He also has the best field-goal percentage from 50-plus yards (.778, 21 of 27) in league history among players with 20 or more attempts who began their careers after 1970. Despite all those gaudy stats and clutch kicks, Prater would rather Peyton Manning and the Broncos offence make it a rout Sunday. "It would be an awesome game if Im just kicking extra points," he said, laughing. "Ill take a three-touchdown win." ' ' '
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