Red Sox Draft 2017 Preview: What positions to target

Jun 17, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; A general view of Fenway Park prior to batting practice before a game between the Boston Red Sox and Seattle Mariners. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 17, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; A general view of Fenway Park prior to batting practice before a game between the Boston Red Sox and Seattle Mariners. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports /

This is the first in a series that will profile the draft coverage for the Boston Red Sox. To start, here are some positions that Boston might target.

The MLB Draft is clearly the least popular draft of the “Big 4” professional sports. The reason why the NFL and NBA Drafts are a very big deal is exactly why MLB’s is not. That would be timing. You see rookies making an impact in other sports, while most MLB 1st round picks still need years to develop.

Over the past six drafts, the Boston Red Sox have been one of the most turbulent organizations. They have had three different GM’s during that time, all of whom have been regarded as successful. Theo Epstein, the man who broke baseball’s two most infamous curses, was the ringleader of the 2011 draft.

After he left, Ben Cherington took over, and was in charge until he was relieved of his duties in August of 2015. Seeing how the draft is always in June, last year was the first time Red Sox fans got to see how Dave Dombrowski likes to draft. With a farm system that has seen better days, this is a very important time to build the future of the Boston Red Sox.

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While the farm system isn’t the best, Boston might have the best young core of players in the league. The young outfield consists of Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley, and Mookie Betts. Add Christian Vazquez, Xander Bogaerts, and Eduardo Rodriguez and you have a bright future. Also, it doesn’t hurt to have a top-15 prospect in all of baseball, at the position on your team that needs the most help.

With that being said, the Red Sox need a plan for their draft. Their first pick is 24th overall, so the guys with the highest ceilings should be gone by then. But, there is still a lot of talent available. While taking the best available should be at the forefront, taking a position in need is always helpful.

First of all, I would be shocked to see the Red Sox take an outfielder early. Their outfield is full of young, skilled players who could have long careers in Boston. Plus, they have multiple players who could fill in in the outfield if an injury happens. The lack of skilled outfielders in this draft past the top 15 also strengthens the case of not selecting one.

Next, taking a catcher seems highly unlikely. The Red Sox have a very interesting “problem” behind the plate. Vazquez seems poised to be the catcher of the future in Boston. He has played very well this season on both sides of the ball. Blake Swihart, a former 1st-round pick, seems to be stuck in Pawtucket due to one man: Sandy Leon. The emergence of his bat has effectively blocked Swihart, and thus no catcher should be taken early.

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So who will the Red Sox take? Personally, I think there are two positions of need. Second base is the glaring one. Dustin Pedroia is only getting older, even though his production has not suffered. But, let’s assume that the Sox take a middle infielder in the first round. Even if he is a college player, he will probably need at least 2-3 years to make the major league roster.

With Pedey entering his age 33 season, he is currently under contract until after the 2021 season. If the Red Sox decide to find the man who will take over second base in the draft, this would be the perfect time to do so. Selecting him now would ensure that he has four full seasons to develop his game.

The other position of note would be a pitcher. Over the past six drafts, the first three selections by Boston have been a mixed bag. The 2014 draft had top-10 prospect Michael Chavis, Michael Kopech (dealt to Chicago for Chris Sale), and Sam Travis. Clearly there is a lot of value there. The year before? Trey Ball, Teddy Stankiewicz, and Jon Denney. If you haven’t heard of them, there is a good reason for that. Ball and Stankiewicz are just now in Portland, and last year Denney was playing independent ball.

Pitching is very hit or miss in the draft, especially drafting kids out of high school. But, every team needs pitching, and it has become more of a need than ever. Currently, bullpens have become an integral part of the game. If you don’t believe me, just ask the 2016 Red Sox. Andrew Miller, Cody Allen, and Brian Shaw gave Boston fits in the ALDS last year.

Next: Red Sox Prospect Watch

Honestly, the jury is out on who the Red Sox will take with their first pick. Do they go for a college bat in hopes of getting a JBJ or Benintendi? Do they take another high school arm in the hopes that Jason Groome and Roniel Raudes also develop accordingly? Time will tell, but as with any discussion about prospects, always remember to temper your expectations.