The curious case of Red Sox 11th round pick Karsten Whitson


Jun 1, 2014; Boston, MA, USA; A general view of Fenway Park during the eighth inning of the game between the Boston Red Sox and the Tampa Bays Rays. The Boston Red Sox won 4-0. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Even among those who watch and follow the MLB Draft, it generally gets pretty boring after the first night and only the most diehard fans watch beyond then. By that point, many significant draft prospects are gone and those who aren’t gone are unlikely to forgo their commitments to top colleges.

So imagine the third day of the draft.

By the third day, nearly every significant draft prospect is off the board and hardly any players selected on the third day go on to have legitimate Major League careers anyway. Most of these players are simply not exciting prospects– players with the ceilings of middle relievers or backup catchers, for instance– or have major flaws which will prevent them from ever even approaching their ceilings. While both of those tags may potentially apply to Red Sox’ 11th round draftee Karsten Whitson, however, that doesn’t mean that he isn’t an interesting story.

Baseball America ranked Whitson the 15th best prospect in the 2010 draft class and he was selected even above that, going 9th overall to the San Diego Padres. However, Whitson elected to turn down the Padres’ $2.1MM offer in hopes of receiving an even bigger payday after three years at a top baseball program at the University of Florida.

And that payday seemed likely in spring of 2013, Whitson’s junior year at Florida, as he was once again ranked highly by Baseball America. However, injury struck the 21-year old and a torn labrum and rotator cuff forced him to sit out the season and sit out that big payday which he had anticipated three years before.

The injuries continued to affect Whitson and he never threw a pitch for the Gators in the 2014 season. And so the Red Sox, in classic fashion, have picked up on Whitson in his last season of eligibility. It seems that he’s a near-lock to sign with the team and, in doing so, the Red Sox have potentially procured a true value pick.

The hard-throwing right-hander, when healthy, has electric stuff and has the potential to grow into an excellent pitcher one day. Injuries have clouded his future, and he may never even come close to that, but the Red Sox are taking on minimal risk with this 11th round selection. At a time in the draft from which few notable players ever appear, it makes sense to take a risk on a player with as high a ceiling as Whitson. We may never hear about his name again, but if he becomes anything at all, then be prepared to hail Ben Cherington for this pick.