June 18, 2012; Omaha, NE, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks pitcher Ryne Stanek (55) throws against the South Carolina Gamecocks during the second inning of game eight of the 2012 College World Series at TD Ameritrade Park. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

The Red Sox and the Upcoming First-Year Player Draft.

With just under a month until the Major League Baseball draft, I thought it was time to look at who the Red Sox could, would and should take with their pick. The MLB Draft is different in that the players taken aren’t expected to make an immediate impact, in fact, only a very small handful of players have jumped directly into the Majors. With the seventh overall pick in the 2013 draft, the Boston Red Sox will have their first top ten pick in 20 seasons, and there is plenty of talent to choose from.

June 3, 2011; Fullerton, CA, USA; Stanford Cardinal pitcher Mark Appel (26) pitches against the Kansas State Wildcats during the second inning of the Fullerton regional of the 2011 NCAA baseball tournament at Goodwin Field. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Who the Red Sox pick has a lot to do with who is taken off the board before the Sox get their shot. In order the teams ahead of Boston are: Houston, Chicago (NL), Colorado, Minnesota, Cleveland and Miami. That means six guys are going to be selected ahead of Boston’s pick, and consequently off their draft board. Mark Appel and Jonathan Gray are the consensus number one and number two prospects coming into June, and it is incredibly likely that Houston and Chicago take them in one order or another. Yet, Houston could, like last year, opt for a cheaper, more “signable” option and allocate more of their draft pool money to later talent. In an ideal world, every team ahead of the Sox would pull that move, and Appel or Gray would fall right into their lap (much like how Appel plummeted to the Pirates at number 8 last year).

Jun 5, 2011; Chapel Hill, NC, USA; North Carolina third baseman Colin Moran (18) during the the Chapel Hill regional of the 2011 NCAA baseball tournament at Boshamer Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Obviously that is in an ideal world, and there is no probable way the Red Sox get one of those guys. In the latest version of their mock draft, the guys at Bleacher Report have the Sox grabbing either of a pair of college third basemen, in Kris Bryant and Colin Moran. Both of these guys are juniors at San Diego and North Carolina respectively. Bryant has a plus power tool, but tends to swing and miss at a lot of pitches. He is ranked fifth amongst all draft prospects by MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo. Moran, on the flip side, has incredible plate discipline and a great hit tool, and is ranked 6th by Mayo. Unfortunately, neither one of these guys fills a need for the Red Sox at either the major league level, or in the minors as they have a plethora of skilled player at third or with the potential to slide over (Garin Cecchini and Xander Bogaerts I’m looking at you).

It is very hard to draft for need in the MLB, as these guys can be anywhere from Major League ready to five to seven years away. There have been calls for the Red Sox to address their catching woes by way of the draft. The Sox currently lack star power in the Majors and in the Minors at backstop, with Saltalamacchia giving little, Ryan Lavarnway still floundering at the plate, and Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart are still relatively unfinished and their potential unknown. The Sox could then shore up this position by selecting a guy like Jon Denney with the seventh pick. Denney has high offensive upside and is a good defender behind the plate. His pop times are hovering around 1.9, which is average/above-average at the MLB level. The one risk with Denney is that he is a high school catcher, therefore, unfinished and a potential high risk selection. Personally I subscribe to  the Billy Beane school of drafting, and would always steer away from high risk, high reward high schoolers, in favor of a more polished college athlete. If the Sox did select Denney, they would have to sign him to a big money deal to pull him away from his commitment, Arkansas.

My pick for the Sox is one of three players, all of whom are pitchers. Pitching is always an area of need, and a surplus of high quality guys is never a bad thing. If I had the pick, I would pick one of Sean Manaea, Ryne Stanek or Braden Shipley. The latter two offer more polish than Manaea, but I am unsure of Stanek’s ability to stick to starting, and Shipley isn’t quite the same caliber as the other pitchers high on draft boards, though he isn’t far behind. Since any one of them could be off the board by the time their pick rolls around, the Sox will have to rank the three college juniors. Given the choice, I would pick Manaea followed by Stanek and then Shipley.

The Sox have historically done well in their drafts, and their upper minor leagues are stacked with home-grown talent. 11 of the team’s top 20 prospects, as ranked by Soxprospects.com, were selected in the last three years. I trust Ben Cherington to do what is best for the team, and grab some high ceiling youngsters. Let’s not forget that with the team’s last top 10 pick, they selected Trot Nixon, who will forever live on as an integral part of the curse breaking club of 2004.

Tags: Boston Red Sox

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