It’s that time of year again for prospect-followers, as Major League Baseball’s first-year player draft is set to get underway Monday night at 7 p.m. ET. The draft will take place over the course of three days again this year, with Monday night’s phase covering the first round and the supplemental compensation round. Day Two will start at noon Tuesday, covering rounds 2 through 30, and Day Three will kick off at noon on Wednesday, covering rounds 31 through 50.
From Boston’s perspective, this will be the second draft with Director of Amateur Scouting Amiel Sawdaye at the helm, after taking over for former director Jason McLeod. By almost all accounts, Sawdaye came away with an outstanding draft haul in his first year in 2010, but for obvious reasons, the final results have yet to play out. He'll have plenty of ammunition to go after more top talent this draft -- which is regarded as a very deep one -- as the Red Sox have four selections in the first 40 picks, starting with the number 19 pick overall and five picks in the top 81. One other special consideration with this draft in particular is the pending expiration of the CBA following the 2011 season. There are rumors that a hard-slotting system could be instituted for draft signings in the next CBA, which would take away a lot of the advantages currently enjoyed by the large market clubs. Boston (and the other big market clubs) may take advantage of its last opportunity to spend freely on any and all high-ceiling players, regardless of which round that player is drafted.
Here is a summary of Boston’s selections in this week’s draft:
19. First-round compensation pick for Victor Martinez, from Detroit
26. First-round compensation pick for Adrian Beltre, from Texas
36. Supplemental-round compensation pick for Victor Martinez
40. Supplemental-round compensation pick for Adrian Beltre
81. Second-round pick
111. Third-round pick
142. Fourth-round pick
172. Fifth-round pick
21st selection in rounds 6-30
21st selection in rounds 31-50
24. Compensation sent from Boston to Tampa Bay for signing Carl Crawford
Recent draft history & strategy
When the Red Sox have had multiple picks at the top of the draft in recent years, the primary strategy has been portfolio diversification -- combining a few high-risk, high ceiling players with a few safe-bet, but impact low-floor players.
Last year’s draft continued another trend of the team -- targeting a high-ceiling pick with signability concerns with the club’s last pick on Day One. The break between the first and second day allows teams to speak with these types of players and re-negotiate bonus demands, taking them off the board before Boston gets another shot on Day Two. Because of this, the Red Sox tend to select them before anyone else has the chance to even get to that re-negotiation phase. Last year, that final first-day pick was LSU pitcher Anthony Ranaudo, a consensus top-five pick entering the season who fell to pick number 39 due to mechanical concerns and bonus demands. Ranaudo ultimately signed for $2.55 million following a stellar stint in the Cape Cod League that reestablished his status as a potential top prospect. Previous picks in this vein include Mississippi high school infielder David Renfroe (3rd round, 2009), Rhode Island high school outfielder Ryan Westmoreland (5th round, 2008), Texas high school infielder Will Middlebrooks (5th round, 2007) and California high school first baseman Lars Anderson(18th round, 2006).
While Sawdaye seemed to follow these trends in 2010, he also bucked a few trends from the McLeod era in his first draft at the helm. In years past, the team had picked a high school and a college player with its first two picks. Last year, the team’s top four picks, Ball State infielder Kolbrin Vitek (No. 20 overall), Middle Tennessee State outfielder Bryce Brentz (No. 36 overall), Ranaudo, and Texas right-hander Brandon Workman (2nd round), were all college players. The team didn’t select a high school player until the third round, its fifth overall selection. Last year’s draft was the first since 2005, when Jacoby Ellsbury and Craig Hansen were the top two selections, that Boston opened the draft with even two college players, and first since 2004, when the club picked 10 college players in rounds 2 through 11, when they went deeper than that.
That being said, the Red Sox typically end up selecting a lot more high school players in later rounds, meaning more prep players get drafted overall. Over the past six years, Boston has selected 149 high school players (48.4%), 126 college players (40.9%), and 33 from junior colleges (10.7%).
In addition to players with high bonus demands, Boston has other favorite player types to target in the draft. The team has notably drafted several well-rounded athletes, be they two-way baseball players or two-sport prep athletes. 2008 first-round pick Casey Kelly, Renfroe, Middlebrooks, Ryan Kalish (9th round, 2006), and Brandon Jacobs (10th round, 2010) all could have played college football in addition to or instead of baseball, and Westmoreland was all-state in soccer and basketball. Among last year’s picks, fifth-round selection Henry Ramos was a highly-regarded soccer player in Puerto Rico, and 6-foot-2, 225 pound outfielder Kendrick Perkins was selected in the sixth round and signed away from Texas A&M, where he planned to play both football and baseball. In the cases of at least Renfroe, Kelly, Westmoreland, and Perkins, Boston was permitted to spread the players’ signing bonuses over several years to sign them away from scholarships in other sports.
In the McLeod era, Boston also tended to target college pitchers the club considers “low-mileage” arms in the supplemental through fifth rounds. This includes pitchers who they view as starters that were used in bullpen roles in college. Alex Wilson (2nd round, 2009, Texas A&M), Bryan Price (Supp. 1st round, No. 45 overall, 2008, Rice), Stephen Fife (3rd round, 2008, Utah), Kyle Weiland (4th round, 2008, Notre Dame), Nick Hagadone (Supp. 1st round, No. 55 overall, 2007, Washington), Chris Province (4th round, 2007, Southeast Louisiana), and Dustin Richardson (5th round, 2006, Texas Tech) are among the pitchers that qualify. Sawdaye did not follow this trend in 2011.
Taking these patterns into consideration, here are some players that the Sox could target this year:
LHP, Georgia Tech
College left-hander with a strong frame. Mixes in a mid-to-low 90s fastball, a plus low-80s slider, and a decent low-80s changeup. Great mound presence. Considered a top-fifteen talent, Bradley could slip to Boston at #19 due to some recent lackluster performances.
OF, Dallas Jesuit (TX).
Another top fifteen prospect, Bell is an outfielder with a high power ceiling represented by Scott Boras. Bell has reportedly informed the Major League Scouting Bureau that he intends to honor his commitment to the University of Texas this fall, and thus he has asked teams not to draft him. We’ve seen players hold true to these statements in the past, but we’ve also seen some players use these types of representations as posturing so they’ll fall to bigger market teams with deeper pockets. It’s unclear which is the case with Bell here, but he’s been tabbed as a possible target for the Red Sox at either #19 or #26 overall.
RHP, Kentucky (Junior)
Another Boras advisee, Meyer turned down a $2 million offer from the Red Sox after the club selected him in the 20th round out of high school in 2008. An extreme high-ceiling arm who has flashed triple-digit velocity with his fastball, he will likely be looking for a similar payday this year. He will likely go in the 10-25 range in the first round.
Tall, strong frame with a smooth delivery. Mixes a 93-97 mph fastball with a cutter and a potential plus curveball. Ace potential. May not last to No. 19, probably more like to go in the early teens.
Barnes’ teammate, Springer, could also go in the early teens. Springer offers five-tool potential at the premium position of center field. Some question whether he will need to adjust his hitting mechanics at the professional level.
LHP, Science Hill (TN)
One of the top prep left-handers in the country. His arsenal includes a projectable 90-93 mph fastball, a curveball, and a changeup, all of which have plus potential. Smooth mechanics with solid fundamentals. High ceiling.
C/3B, Cleveland HS (NM)
Question marks remain as to whether Swihart can stick at catcher, but he’s also athletic enough with a strong enough bat to play third base. He has a strong commitment to Texas, and will be a tough sign because he'd be a draft eligible sophomore in 2013, meaning he would only need to go to college for two years before he’s re-eligible. He’s been linked to Boston via several reports.
C, Oregon State
While Susac has not blown scouts away with any elite tools, all of his tools project as average or slightly-above average. As a draft-eligible sophomore, he’ll have a lot of leverage during the signing period, which could increase his bonus demands and cause him to slip out of the first round.
LHP, Texas Christian
Now a draft-eligible sophomore, Purke turned down $6-million from Texas following his senior year of high school in 2009. Coming into this season, he was considered a top five overall prospect, but his 2010 season has been riddled with injury or mechanical problems that have significantly decreased his velocity. Some team may take a flyer on him in the late first round or later and follow him during summer ball, but Purke may be best served returning to TCU for his junior season to re-establish his value. If he’s going to sign this year, he’ll still be expecting a large bonus, although probably not the $6 million figure he previously rejected.
RHP, Lawrence Academy (MA)
Beede has a strong commitment to Vanderbilt and likely has substantial bonus demands. He could go in the early 20s, but I’m betting the Red Sox would love it if Beede fell to them at 36. The club may even consider scooping him up at 26.
OF, East HS (WY)
Nimmo is an athletic center fielder with a lot of helium entering the stretch run. A bonus demand of $2 to $3 million has been floated in recent days. He could go anywhere from the mid-first round to the late supplemental round, as the reports are that teams have not been to scared off by those demands. As a prep player from Wyoming, many scouts consider him a high-risk, unproven commodity.
OF, Cedar Crest (PA)
Northeast product makes good contact with above-average power. A solid defensive player with decent speed, Fisher will likely will end up in left field. Rumors are that he is strongly inclined to head to UVA this fall. Without the signability concerns, he projects to go in the supplemental to the second round. Due to his likely bonus demands, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Fisher fall to the third round, where Boston might snatch him up like they did with another Pennsylvania prep player, Sean Coyle, in 2010.
RHP, Sherman (TX)
94-97 mph fastball with a curveball that has plus potential. Max effort pitcher with some command concerns.
C, Hagerty (FL)
Athletic catcher with high power potential, very good arm strength, and solid intangibles.
OF, New Trier (IL)
Speedy center fielder who makes excellent contact and shows decent plate discipline. Potential lead-off hitter.
SS, Warsaw (MO)
Impressive power and speed combination. Raw approach, likely better suited for a move to center field.
LHP, Findlay Prep (NV)
Elite basketball player committed to St. John’s, but has shown 96 mph velocity in recent weeks, as well as some developing secondary offerings. A large offer could pry him away from basketball.
OF, Lake City (SC)
Two-sport athlete also excels in football. Switch hitter with outstanding speed, a strong arm, and good power potential. Major sleeper.
Mike Andrews is the Executive Editor of SoxProspects.com and a special contributor to ESPNBoston.com.