The Red Sox could lean toward a position player in the draft
The Boston Red Sox will have a prime opportunity to acquire their next prized prospect with the No. 4 overall pick in this summer’s amateur draft, the highest the franchise has selected in the first round since 1967. While there will be several appealing options available when it’s their turn to pick, the latest mock draft from MLB.com throws us a bit of a curveball from what many are expecting.
Perhaps what makes this mock surprising is that the player they expect the Red Sox to select doesn’t actually throw a curveball. MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo predicts that Boston will go with a position player despite that a pair of Vanderbilt pitchers, widely considered to be the best arms in this draft, were still on the board. Mayo has Jack Leiter going to the Baltimore Orioles (No. 5) followed by Kumar Rocker to the Arizona Diamondbacks (No. 6).
Just ahead of those coveted pitchers, this mock has the Red Sox selecting high school shortstop Brady House. The 17-year-old is one of the youngest players in this draft and one of the best high school players in this class.
House has impressive raw power to all fields and has shown an ability to handle both high velocity and quality breaking balls. He struggled at times last year when he got overly aggressive in swinging for the fences, resulting in his swing getting longer and slower. House made some adjustments by shortening to swing to get back on track. He should develop enough power to leave the park without trying to hit home runs in every trip to the plate but it’s a bad habit that the team drafting him will need to watch out for.
There are questions about whether or not House can stick at shortstop. While he might have the athleticism to stay at the position, he’s more likely to move to third base. His strong throwing arm would make him a solid defender at the hot corner but the projected position change could dampen his value. Shortstops are generally considered the most valuable infielders, as evidenced by this mock draft predicting three of the top four selections being listed at that position.
It’s interesting that the mock draft has House going fourth overall despite that their list of the top 100 draft prospects ranks him sixth, behind Leiter (3) and Rocker (5). If the draft plays out as predicted in this mock for the first three picks, Boston could have their choice of Vanderbilt pitchers. Instead of selecting who they deem to be the best pitcher in this draft, the mock has the Red Sox taking the fourth-best position player.
Teams should always select the best available player rather than drafting for positional need. It could take years for these players to reach the big leagues and the major league roster could be drastically different by then. That being said, the Red Sox farm system lacks pitching with the potential to be a future ace of their staff. Either Vanderbilt starter would soon jump to the top of the list among the organization’s pitching prospects.
It wasn’t long ago that Rocker was considered the consensus No. 1 overall pick with his 19-strikeout no-hitter as a freshman in 2019 fueling his rise to the top. With an overpowering upper-90’s fastball and filthy slider, Rocker has ace potential written all over him. Leiter might have surpassed him with an even more dominant season so far this year, including a no-hitter of his own, but it’s rare to see any mock drafts that have either pitcher falling out of the top-five.
It’s been a long time since the Red Sox have developed a legitimate ace that they acquired through the draft. You have to go back to 2002 when they selected Jon Lester but he was a second-round pick. The pitchers the Red Sox have selected in the first round since then have been far more misses than hits.
The club’s history shouldn’t scare them away from drafting a pitcher though, especially since the current front office regime isn’t responsible for those past mistakes and Chaim Bloom had plenty of success developing pitching in Tampa Bay.
Not all of the pitchers selected in recent years have been a bust. Clay Buchholz was never an ace but he had several strong seasons in Boston when healthy. Matt Barnes has emerged as an elite closer. Michael Kopech was a key trade chip in the deal to acquire Chris Sale. The last pitcher the Red Sox have selected in the first round was Tanner Houck (2017) and we’ve had an encouraging glimpse of what he can do at the major league level.
While they had their fair share of whiffs in the first round, the Red Sox haven’t selected a pitcher as high as fourth overall in over 50 years. This is a rare opportunity to take the best pitcher in this class where the success rate is significantly higher than where they normally pick in the bottom half of the round.
House could end up being a future star as an everyday infielder if they choose to go in that direction. Position players are typically safer with less injury risk, giving House a higher floor. The upside of a potential front-line starter is awfully appealing though. Those Vanderbilt pitchers would be hard to pass up if they are both sitting there when the Red Sox are on the clock.