The annual baseball draft of high school and college amateurs begins next Thursday June 5 through June 7. The opening night will be broadcast on MLB Network at 7 pm. We will take a look at the draft from the Red Sox perspective. They have two first round picks at 26 and 33 ( the 33rd pick is compensation for losing Jacoby Ellsbury, some consider picks 28-34, the free agent comp picks, first rounders some do not). Their second round pick is #67 and the third rounder is at 103.
Because the Red Sox are picking at 26 and 33 instead of 2013's first rounder at number 7 overall, it of course is harder to guess who may still be available. We have chosen to break down some of the potential first rounders into four groups, all or nearly all of these names will not be in the Red Sox range of picks. Not a lot of detail until we get to the Sox territory, but here some names to look for on Thursday's opening hour or so.
6 Top Ten Pick Locks:
Brady Aiken Cal HS LHP
Carlos Rodon NC State LHP
Tyler Kolek Texas HS RHP
Alex Jackson Colorado HS C/OF
Nick Gordon Florida HS SS--son of Tom and brother of Dee
Aaron Nola LSU RHP
Not only are these players locks for the top ten, they are likely the top six picks in some order.
Teams with first six picks:
1. Houston ( record third straight year at #1)
3. White Sox
The next group of players are:
Six players likely picked from 7 to 15 (at least)
Kyle Freeland Evansville LHP
Sean Newcomb Hartford LHP (yes, a possible top ten pick from America East)
Trea Turner, NC State SS
Michael Conforto Oregon State OF ( one mock had him as high as 4 to Cubs)
Touki Toussaint Florida HS RHP
Max Pentecost Kennesaw State C (early mocks had him in the Red Sox range, but he is shooting up the charts, again a possible #4 for Cubs--either way higher than 26 for sure.)
Teams picking from 7 to 15 are
11. Toronto ( comp pick for not signing 311 pick in '13)
13. San Diego
14. San Francisco
We have eliminated 12 players for the Red Sox and here six more names likely to go before Boston picks. This list is in order of likelihood to go, so the last name or two could make it to 26.
Grant Holmes South Carolina HS RHP
Bradley Zimmer Univ. San Francisco OF
Sean Reid-Foley Florida HS RHP
Kyle Schwarber Indiana Univ. C/1B
Jacob Gatewood California HS SS
Michael Chavis Georgia HS SS
If any of these six do get to 26, the Red Sox could pick them, and if anyone from the previous six slides by some fluke they could be in play as well. But likely, we taken 18 names off the board before Boston picks.
Teams picking 16-19:
17. Kansas City
Now we will discuss four names that could very well be gone by 26, but there are scenarios which could have any one or all available at 26.
Four Guys with Issues
Jeff Hoffman East Carolina RHP
Erick Fedde UNLV RHP
Brandon Finnegan TCU LHP
Tyler Beede Vanderbilt RHP
Without their issues all of these pitchers could have been top ten picks. In reverse order, let's start with Beede. Tyler, a Massachusetts kid, was the Blue Jays first round pick in 2011. He did not sign, and as so many New England kids have done recently, he went to Vanderbilt. The power pitcher has had a strong career in the SEC, until recently. Beede had slumped in recent starts, and for one, ESPN's Keith Law has proclaimed that due to this slump and "makeup" issues, Beede could slide all the way out of the first round. But last night in a NCAA regional game, Beede struck out 14 batters with a 93-97 mph fastball that touched 99 at times. I still find it hard to believe Beede gets out of top 20, with makeup his only issue.
Finnegan, a 5'11' lefty from TCU issue is he missed several starts this season with left shoulder soreness. But he returned after those missed starts, and pitched effectively. But the scouts all ready had questions about height and now the shoulder questions. He could drop to the Sox range, but several mocks done after the injury, have Finnegan going to Arizona at 16.
Hoffman, who was a top five lock, and Fedde, a very likely top ten pick share the same issue. Both have had or are about to have Tommy John surgery. So whoever picks either hurler needs to wait until some time in 2015 to have them begin their minor league career. Nearly every( but not all) mock done since Fedde's injury has him available to Boston, not only at 26 but some at 33. Jim Callis of MLB.com, who during his many years at Baseball America seemed to have a strong insight into the Boston drafts and farm system, did a mock draft on May 23 in which he had Boston taking Erick Fedde at 26. Fedde is a slender 6'4' 165 pound righty who the scouts say has an above average fastball and slider. He is the first name mentioned so far to watch for at #26. Hoffman, with the same injury, may be a different story. Hoffman is considered such a strong prospect, he is unlikely to get to Boston. Several options mentioned for Hoffman are Toronto at 11, due to the Jays having two high picks. Brewers at 12 and Giants at 14 are candidates and at 18 is Washington who grabbed high schooler Lucas Giolito in 2012 under identical circumstances. There is one theory being floated that Hoffman could still demand top five slot money, and this could drive him down the board to a big market team, like Boston at 26??
So we have looked at 22 names likely to be gone by 26. Who are the teams drafting closer to Boston at 20-25?
20. Tampa Bay
Before we look at a baker's dozen of Sox draft possibilities at 26 and 33, we should mention that four teams in this group have been linked to several of the soon to be mentioned Sox candidates: Rays ( it figures), Indians, Tigers, and Pirates. The Dodgers mostly linked to high school pitchers that are not linked to Sox and Oakland seems to be locked on Mississippi HS SS Ti'quan Forbes, who is rated in the 40's by most lists.
Reportedly, the Red Sox are looking to draft one hitter and one pitcher with the two choices at 26 and 33. Very likely, the Sox are leaning to a college hitter and high school pitcher, but other combinations are of course possible. Under the draft system started two years ago, each draft pick in the first ten rounds has a slotted value. The total value of all of these picks is that's teams budget. If your total budget is $10 million, for example, you can use any part of that budget on any player. Several teams, including Boston, have taken players in the first or second rounds who will accept a deal under that pick's slot value. This gives a team more to spend on the players in later rounds.
Here are 13 players who have been mentioned as possible Red Sox targets.
Derek Hill California HS OF: A very athletic, plus runner and defender. His dad is a Dodger scout, so this may be one player the Dodgers could grab ahead of Boston. His cousin is Daryl Strawberry. Some early mocks had Hill the pick at 26, but lately most having him gone earlier, often at 17 to the Royals.
Derek Fisher Univ. of Virginia OF: One of the most athletic college position player in the draft. Plus runner with some power, as well. He projects as a left fielder. He is the player most often projected to Boston at 26 in mocks, however it is by no means a lock. Fisher predicted slot ranges from KC at 17 to Cleveland at 31( the Tribe at 21 also could grab Fisher before Boston picks).
Casey Gillaspie Wichita State 1B: This is my personal favorite and hope for this pick at 26. Some mock drafts, including the most recent by Keith Law of ESPN, have Gillaspie as the Sox pick. The brother of White Sox third sacker, Connor Gillaspie, projects to be only a first baseman, but he is considered a quality defender at first. The Sox have a history of drafting more middle of the defensive spectrum players. But Keith Law in his mock said he is hearing more and more the Red Sox want a college bat at 26. Gillaspie, a switch hitter, is known for patience at the plate, a Red Sox trait, and power that projects to around a 20 HR per year guy. The scouts who like him best compare him to Lance Berkman. Casey is one of the players the Rays, Indians, Tigers, and Pirates from 20 to 24 are said to be in on. If he gets to 26 I think the Sox will pounce.
Monte Harrison Missouri HS OF: Considered by many to be the most tremendous athlete in the draft, who can also hit for power. The early consensus seemed to be if he got to 26, the Sox were very interested. But the spot he is mocked to the most is the Rays at 20, and he is the other player besides Gillaspie (and to some degree Hill and Fisher), that would need to get through the four teams from 20 to 24. However in an ESPN chat yesterday, Keith Law in response to a question said he thought both Jacob Gatewood (mentioned up above) and Harrison could very well get to 26, but he had heard Boston would go in another direction. We'll see on Thursday.
Nick Howard, Univ. of Virginia, RHP: Howard has raced up the boards on the strength of his 2014 performance as closer for the Virginia Cavaliers. Just two weeks ago, he was ranked at around 60 to 75. But his stock keeps rising and a week ago, Baseball America had Howard as the pick at 26. Since then some other more recent mocks have him going as high as 22. A number of scouts feel Howard could pitch in a major league bullpen this year. But he has started before and pitched especially well last summer in the Cape Cod League as a starter. Chris Sale of the White Sox joined their bullpen the year he was drafted and then become an outstanding starter the next year. Some feel that is the path Howard could follow.
Possible picks at 26 OR 33
Luis Ortiz California HS RHP: His stock dipped earlier this year when he missed some games with a "forearm strain", often code for oncoming Tommy John surgery. But Ortiz has returned to the hill, and has pitched well, hitting 95 on the guns. In various mocks, Ortiz has been projected as the Sox pick at either 26 or 33. The feeling seems to be with his injury scare behind him ( hopefully), and his stock rising he may not be there at 33, and if Boston wants him it may need to be at 26.
Marcus Wilson California HS OF: Another projectable, athletic player with blazing speed and above average arm. Early reports had him as the 26 pick, but more and more it seems like he would be very available at 33.
Luke Weaver Florida State RHP: One or two mocks mentioned Weaver as a backup plan at 26, if another college arm was no longer available on the Sox draft list. Weaver is usually ranked around 36 to mid 40's and if the Red Sox take him, I think it would be more likely at 33.
AJ Reed Kentucky 1B: The 2014 NCAA home run leader. Reed has plus power, which should translate to the pro game, despite some concerns over his bat speed. Reed is also a LHP and until this year was considered more of a pitching prospect, but this year's home run surge has changed that. He projects as a 1B only ( but with a strong pitching arm, one wonders if he could handle a corner OF role). AJ has been mocked as the 26 pick and he has also lasted into the 40's in other mock drafts. If the Sox miss out on Fisher or especially Gillaspie at 26 and if AJ Reed is there at 33, I bet the Sox take him.
All of the other projections at 33 are high school pitchers. If the Sox get their hitter, especially a college bat at 26, most observers expect them to go for a HS pitcher at 33, maybe even a reach down to the board for an under slot deal. Here are some names:
Justus Sheffield Tennessee HS pitcher: a nephew of Gary, the Sox drafted his brother Jordan last year, but he went to Vandy. Does not have overpowering fastball, but scouts like everything else.
Alex Verdugo Arizona HS LHP/OF: Sox seem to like him as a pitcher, other clubs as a OF.
Joey Gatto New Jersey HS RHP: His stock is rising, not uncommon for a Northeast high school pitcher. May be a reach at 33, but likely will be gone at 67, when Sox pick again.
Michael Kopech Texas HS RHP: His name showed yesterday for the first time in a MLB.com mock draft as a possible 33 pick for Boston. The 6'4' righty hits 97 on the gun. A stereotypical Texas HS fireballer.
And just one more beyond our bakers dozen:
Mac Marshall Georgia HS LHP Marshall again may be a reach at 33, but if the Sox are looking at this list of HS arms, none are likely to be there at 67.
St. Louis ends the official first round picking at 27, then the first round free agent comp pick order is:
28. Kansas City
34 St. Louis
If any late rumors concerning the Sox picks arise, or as the last minute mock drafts appear, we will add those names to the comment section.