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August 24, 2008 at 9:43 PM

Q&A with Baseball America's Jim Callis

Baseball America's Jim Callis recently had time to share his thoughts on the Red Sox 2008 draft with Soxprospects.com's Jonathan Singer. Jim Callis is the Executive Editor at Baseball America who also was a contributor towards the 2008 Prospect Handbook and ESPN's 2008 Draft Coverage.

Jonathan Singer: Who were some of the prospects other than Casey Kelly that Boston liked with the #30 pick?

Jim Callis: They chose so low in the first round that you don't usually hear a lot of names associated with that pick. Like everyone else, I thought the Red Sox had some interest in Reese Havens, but he went before them. Before the draft, I had heard them mentioned with Bryan Price, whom they took with their sandwich pick. I heard after the fact that they had some interest in Lonnie Chisenhall, who went one pick in front of them to the Indians. They were very high on Kelly, though, and I don't think they would have popped Chisenhall over him.

JS: Do the Red Sox have a draft budget or do they evaluate each prospect on their own merits, assign a value, and spend as much as they need to within their parameters?

JC: Every team has a budget, but the Red Sox must have as much flexibility as anyone. Obviously, they're as financially well off as any club this side of the Yankees. My impression is that if they think there's a player they want to make a run at, they can. They went well over slot to get Kelly in the first round, Pete Hissey and Ryan Westmoreland in the fourth and fifth rounds, and as far as we can tell, became the first team to crack the $10 million barrier in bonuses for a single draft. (The Royals became the second after signing Hosmer.) And even after doing all that, they offered $2 million for first-round talent Alex Meyer, their 20th-round pick.

JS: So far Casey Kelly has struggled at the plate in the GCL. How long before the Red Sox get him on the mound where many have said he is even a better prospect?

JC: The Red Sox thought Kelly was advanced as any high school pitcher in the draft. They also had some scouts who thought he had a brighter future as a shortstop. He wants to play shortstop right now, and because he had more options than the average draftee (not only could he have attended college, he also could have played quarterback at Tennessee), allowing him to play shortstop was a key part of signing him. He'll pitch in instructional league, and I think there's a good chance that he'll open 2009 as a pitcher/DH, and once he hits an innings limit, spend the rest of the season as a shortstop.

JS: Reports had the Red Sox offering $2 million to Alex Meyer. Did the Red Sox feel they could sign him for that offer?

JC: I think they had their doubts, but I also think they felt like that was a worthy offer for a pitcher considered a first-round talent. Only a handful of high school pitchers ever have gotten a $2 million bonus, and no player drafted after the fifth round ever has gotten such a bonus. They never said this, but if a player doesn't want $2 million dollars, maybe he just doesn't want to sign at this point.

JS: In 3 years who will look more foolish. Alex Meyer for turning down $2 million or the Red Sox not offering more money for a top high school pitching talent?

JC: I think there's a good chance that Meyer will be an early-first-round pick after three years at Kentucky. But I don't see how anyone could call the Red Sox foolish for not offering more than $2 million. As I said, very few high school pitchers ever have been offered that much. They sent a plane to Indiana to bring him to Boston for a physical on deadline day. They pulled out all the stops to try to sign him. I think Meyer has risked more by not signing for $2 million than the Red Sox did by not offering more money. But if he wants to go to college, that's his choice.

JS: The Red Sox paid $3 million for a pair of outfielders in Peter Hissey and Ryan Westmoreland. Give us your take on both and which of them has the higher upside?

JC: Westmoreland has more upside, but they're both similar in they're very athletic outfielders with good speed and hitting ability. The power is probably going to be the last tool to develop for each of them. If you project them out, Westmoreland may profile best as a center fielder and Hissey as a right fielder. Westmoreland has been compared to fellow Rhode Islander Rocco Baldelli, and Hissey has been likened to Paul O'Neil.

JS: It seems like Westmoreland was committed to the $2 million number. How many teams were scared off because of that or was it because of his Vanderbilt commitment?

JC: I think both those things scared teams off. We saw a lot of players sign for over-slot money, but most of those fell lower in the draft than where their talent alone would have dictated. Westmoreland's asking price was the equivalent of the 11th overall pick in the draft, and he wasn't going to go that high, so he fell. Another factor in him sliding to the fifth round is that it's harder to evaluate players in the Northeast because of the lack of competition and the weather. I have had other teams tell me that given better exposure, Westmoreland would have drawn much more attention. We fell into the same trap too, as he ranked No. 113 on our Top 200 Prospects list.

JS: The Red Sox took a trio of college pitchers in the first 3 rounds in Bryan Price, Stephen Fife and Kyle Weiland. All three of them so far are having success in Lowell. What are your thoughts on each of them?

JC: They all have good points and bad points. Price has a tremendous sinker and a hard slider, but Rice didn't trust him enough to pitch him much in 2006 and 2007. Fife also didn't have a lot of success before 2008, but he has an interesting array of pitches. Weiland has a good arm and a deeper repertoire than most relievers, but he also got hit hard much harder than he should have at Notre Dame in the spring. While Price and Weiland were relievers in college this year, the Red Sox may try them as starters.

JS: The Red Sox signed a couple of late round players at the deadline. Which of Hunter Cervenka, Carson Blair or Kyle Stroup has the most upside?

JC: He probably has the lowest profile of the three, but I wouldn't be surprised if Blair becomes the best of the bunch. He's an athletic kid who's probably going to move from shortstop to third base because of his size, but he really profiles well at the hot corner. Cervenka and Stroup do have strong arms.

JS: The Red Sox spent a draft record $10 million plus this year and did not sign any big names in the international free agent market. Do you think that the Red Sox felt like the international free agent market was weaker than in previous years and thus put more money towards the draft?

JC: I'll have to admit that I don't follow the international market as much as the draft. The draft keeps me plenty busy and Ben Badler is all over the international stuff for Baseball America. So I don't know the answer to this question, but my impression is that if the Red Sox liked some international talent, they would have pursued that just like they did in the draft, and I don't know that they would have cut back on the draft. They're sparing no expense to find talent.

JS: Did the Red Sox come away with any impact players in this draft?

JC: The two obvious ones are Kelly and Westmoreland. There aren't many players in the draft with higher ceilings. Hissey and second-round shortstop Derrek Gibson also have a lot of upside. Price could move through the minors very quickly.

JS: Give us your assessment of the Red Sox draft as a whole and will spending all this money prove to be beneficial to the Red Sox 4-5 years down the road?

JC: It's too early to know much for certain, but right now it looks as good as anyone's 2008 draft. If Kelly and Westmoreland pay off like the Red Sox think they will, what look like huge bonuses right now will be bargains.

JS: Which player or players the Red Sox drafted that could end up being steals?

JC: I mentioned Blair earlier, and I think he's a real sleeper. I thought the Red Sox got a pair of nice catching values in sixth-rounder Ryan Lavarnaway and seventh-rounder Tim Federowicz. Righthander Mike Lee (eighth round) and outfielder Bryan Peterson (11th) are two more interesting guys.