May 30, 2012 at 10:10 AM
For years, Boston has used its considerable financial resources in the MLB Draft to accumulate the kind of talent that should be off the board before the perennial contenders make their first selection. Players like Anthony Ranaudo, Garin Cecchini, Will Middlebrooks, and Blake Swihart all received far larger bonuses than their draft position would have commanded. Boston took a chance in selecting each and has a trove of high-ceiling talent to show for it.
But all of that changes this year. With the new rules negotiated under the collective bargaining agreement, Boston will be allotted a bonus pool of $6,884,800 for its 12 picks in the first 10 rounds, according to Baseball America. In 2011, the Red Sox paid $6.65 million to its first four picks alone. After the first 10 rounds, any bonus over $100,000 will count against that number.
In years past, this preview has centered on Boston’s willingness to pay over-slot for talent. But with the rule changes, it's hard to tell what trends will carry over. The front office’s ability to pay a premium for talent may have changed, but the new rules won't affect the ability of Director of Amateur Scouting Amiel Sawdaye and his staff to identify talent. So instead of focusing on who Boston will be able to afford, here’s a sampling of archetypes they’ll probably be able to find in their price range.
The Signability Pick
The new draft rules don’t prevent Boston from taking a chance on players who slide because of bonus demands or signability concerns—they just prevent the team from paying as much for them. But this year, more than any other, is one in which teams who are adaptive can hit the jackpot. Teams atop the draft have higher bonus pools, but could go with safer first-round selections and pocket the allotted cash for that pick to use in later rounds. Expect a player to be available at No. 24—Boston’s first pick—who mock drafts had off the board way sooner, and expect Boston to take a chance—and ultimately sign them.
The Sophomore Sensation
Closely related to the signability pick, this is a college player whose performance in his junior season failed to live up to the standards he had set for himself the year before. It could be because the ceiling is too high—Bryce Brentz’ 15 home runs and 1.076 OPS as a junior only looks bad next to his 28 homers and 1.471 OPS from the year before—or injury, which caused Anthony Ranaudo and Jackie Bradley, Jr. to fall in each of the last two seasons. If a college player has been in a free-fall since the first set of mock drafts came out this spring, that fall could end when Boston’s pick comes up.
The High School Athlete
Over the last five years, Boston has drafted some incredibly athletic players for whom they hoped the hitting tool would develop. The jury is still out on players like Henry Ramos, Williams Jerez, and Brandon Jacobs, while Peter Hissey, Derrik Gibson, and Ryan Dent are all, to some extent, have not lived up to draft expectations. Prep players are rarely the finished product, but Boston typically targets those who have the things you can’t teach—fielding instincts, bat speed, and foot speed—and hope the rest of the package fills out with professional coaching.
The Low-Risk College Pitcher
The first day of the draft, when Boston owns picks 24, 31, and 37, will almost assuredly include a college pitcher. While last year's seleection, Matt Barnes, appears to be the ideal in that vein, the team has successfully taken a different path to identifying college arms early in the draft.
Alex Wilson, Bryan Price, Stephen Fife, Kyle Weiland, and Nick Hagadone were all low-mileage college arms that Boston developed as starters. All but Wilson, who is currently in Triple-A Pawtucket, grew into valuable trade chips for the club.
The Team USA Star
As Mike Andrews detailed in a column last year, Boston has a long history of selecting players who represented the United States in international competitions as amateurs. Of course, this represents the best players at their level, but don’t be surprised if one or two of these talents listed in the above linked article wind up getting selected by Boston this year.
While it’s hard to predict exactly how the Red Sox will adapt to the new system, that may not change a strong trend they’ve developed in years past. In Sawdaye’s first two drafts at the helm, Boston saw a sharp rise in the amount of high school players selected in comparison to the Jason McLeod era (2005-2009). Under McLeod, Boston selected 256 players—116 out of high school (45.3 percent), 110 out of college (43 percent), and 30 from junior college (11.7 percent). In the last two years, 62 players were selected out of high school (59 percent), with 37 college players (35.2 percent) and six junior college picks (5.7 percent). However, just eight high school players signed last year, and nine the year before.
Jon Meoli is a Senior Columnist for SoxProspects.com. Follow him on Twitter @JonMeoli