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August 16, 2008 at 5:08 PM

The 2004 Draft: 4 Years Later

Four years have passed since the 2004 draft, the second in the Theo Epstein regime. In the previous year, the Sox had sought to fill in the higher levels of the organization, only selecting one high school player in the first ten rounds. In 2004, with the farm system still not as strong as Epstein wanted it, Boston once again focused heavily on college players. Without a first-round pick due to the free agent signing of reliever Keith Foulke, the Red Sox went into the draft a bit behind the eight-ball. Following the pattern of the previous draft, thirteen of the first fourteen selections were college players, and the team signed just one high-school player in the draft class.

The Red Sox first pick did not come until late in the second round, when they selected Arizona State All-American shortstop Dustin Pedroia. Boston signed Pedroia in July of that year for a $575,000 bonus, and he was sent to the Class-A Augusta Green Jackets. Pedroia batted .400 in twelve games in August and was quickly promoted to High Class-A Sarasota. He continued to hit there, batting .336 over 107 at bats. That fall he played in the Arizona Fall League, where he posted a .745 OPS. In 2005, he began the season in AA Portland where he hit .324 before earning a mid-season promotion to Pawtucket. He cooled off a bit in AAA, due in no small part to a wrist injury that sidelined him for some time and continued to bother him, posting a .255 average and a .738 OPS in 204 at bats. Pedroia returned to Pawtucket to begin the 2006 season, returning to form with a .305 batting average. Another injury in August prevented his call up to the majors until September, where his hit .191 in 89 at bats. That winter, the Red Sox let incumbent 2B Mark Loretta leave for free agency, as they were intent on having Pedroia as the everyday second baseman despite his struggles in limited big league time in 2006. After struggling for about six weeks to begin 2007, Pedroia dominated for the remainder of the season, ultimately hitting .317 with 8 home runs and 50 RBI on the way to winning the American League Rookie of Year Award. In 2008, he has followed up his impressive rookie season by earning a starting spot on the AL All Star team and competing for the AL batting title.

In the third and fourth rounds, the Red Sox drafted a pair of college left-handed pitchers, both based largely on performance over potential. Andrew Dobies (3rd Round, Virginia) and Tommy Hottovy (4th Round, Wichita St.) both had early success in 2004 with the Lowell Spinners. Dobies posted a 2.03 ERA with 36 strikeouts in 26 2/3 innings, while Hottovy had a 0.89 era with 39 strikeouts in 30 1/3 innings. Dobies was solid in 2005 and 2006 between Greenville, Wilmington and Portland before being converted to a reliever in 2007. Dobies has been out the entire 2008 season due to an arm injury and it is unknown if he will return this season. Hottovy struggled in Wilmington during the 2005 season, and had a solid-but-unspectacular 2006 campaign between Wilmington and Portland. In 2007, he took a step back, going 4-10 with a 5.61 ERA. This season, he has only pitched in two games, and has spent much of the season on the disabled list with a shoulder injury. At this point, it seems unlikely that Dobies or Hottovy will beak into the majors with Boston, but if either of these lefties could overcome their injury problems, they could get a shot to prove themselves somewhere.

In rounds five through eleven, the Red Sox drafted seven college players and ultimately signed six of them. Reliever Ryan Schroyer (5th Round, San Diego St.) pitched three years in the system, only making it past High Class A for a four-game stint with Pawtucket as a roster fill-in in 2006. Relief pitcher Cla Meredith (6th Round, VCU) was a nice find, and got off to a great start in 2004 and 2005. Meredith shot up through the system and within a year of being drafted was in the big leagues, where in his first game he gave up a grand slam to Richie Sexson of the Seattle Mariners. He was sent back to Pawtucket before being traded with catcher Josh Bard to San Diego in the deal that brought Doug Mirabelli back to Boston, and he has become a regular contributor for the Padres in relief. Catcher Patrick Perry (7th Round, N. Colorado), RHP Kyle Bono (8th Round, Central Florida), and OF Matt Van Der Bosch (9th Round, Oral Roberts) were all out of the organization by 2006, with Bono being used in a trade for Jose Cruz, Jr. Tenth round pick Steve Pearce out of South Carolina did not sign, but was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates the following season, and reached the majors in 2007. Pearce has spent much of the 2008 season in AAA. Ryan Phillips (11th Round, Barton County CC) showed some promise as a left hander in 2005 and 2006 before injuries derailed his career. He retired in March of 2008.

The only high school player the Red Sox signed was twelfth round pick Michael Rozier, a left-handed pitcher out Henry County High School in Georgia. Seen as having great potential at the time, Rozier was signed away from a football scholarship to North Carolina, where was to play quarterback for the Tar Heels. He received a signing bonus of $1,575,000, which was the highest bonus ever given to a Red Sox draftee until 2008. He showed some progress in 2005 and 2006, but still struggled a bit with his control. In 2007, he showed up to spring training out of shape, and had a brutal season with Lancaster, going 4-9 with a 7.74era. At the end of the 2007 season, Rozier was struck in the head by batted balls on two occasions. He again appeared overweight at camp in 2008, and was unable to break spring training with a full season affiliate. Moved to the bullpen, he’s toiled between a rehab stint in the Gulf Coast League and a July assignment to Greenville, and currently has a cumulative ERA of 10.53 for the season.

Outside of LHP Randy Beam (18th Round, Florida Atlantic, one time a top-twenty prospect), who was released after struggling with injuries for two seasons, and 1B Mike Jones (25th Round, Arizona Western), the draft produced no other significant prospects. Only four players selected outside of the top 12 rounds remain in the organization: RHP Matt Goodson (23rd Round, Texas), Jones, RHP Mike James (28th Round, Connecticut), and C/3B Zak Farkes (39th round, Harvard). Goodson and James are repeating AA with the Sea Dogs in 2008, and Jones is still trying to tap into his potential with the Lancaster JetHawks. Also, then-3B Zak Farkes of Harvard was selected in the 39th Round, but did not sign. He signed with the Red Sox as an undrafted free agent the following season, was converted to catcher, and is currently with Lancaster. Undrafted free agents John Otness and Bryan Pritz also both remain with the organization in Portland.

The one other player of note taken by the Sox in this draft was soft-tossing left-hander RJ Swindle (14th Round, Charleston Southern). Despite finishing with 56 strikeouts to just four walks in 51 innings with Lowell, he was released before the 2005 season. Swindle’s fastball sits in the low-to-mid 80s and a curveball in the low 50s, which is the likely reason he is with his third organization in spite of lights-out numbers at nearly every minor league stop. He made his Major League debut earlier this season with the Philadelphia Phillies. Swindle currently has a 2.17 ERA and 40 strikeouts to just 6 walks in 29 innings for the Triple-A Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs.

Much like the 2003 draft was limited in terms of eventually providing Major League talent, the same can be said with the 2004 draft. The majority of the players the Red Sox selected had limited upside to begin with. Even though most of the players in this particular draft did not pan out, it still has to be considered a success if solely due to Pedroia’s development. Ultimately, the Red Sox also accomplished one goal of building minor league depth at the upper levels of the system. With that accomplished, the Sox began to focus more heavily on developmental prospects in the subsequent drafts, a philosophy that has paid huge dividends.