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September 15, 2020 at 12:30 PM

2017 Draft Retrospective: The picks

We welcome you to the 2017 edition of the SoxProspects.com Draft Retrospective series. Over the next several weeks, we will revisit each Red Sox draft going back to the start of the SoxProspects.com era. Each retrospective will come in two parts: The first will be a pick-by-pick recap of each selection with very brief comments, including their peak rank on the SoxProspects.com Top 60, as well as some of the notable players the team passed on to make those picks. Players who signed are in bold, those who did not are in italics. Bonus numbers are included where available.

The 2017 Draft was the first completely under Dave Dombrowski's control, as General Manager Mike Hazen departed after the 2016 season to take the same position with Arizona. The major league club had just won the first of three consecutive AL East titles, but would be swept in the ALDS by Cleveland, ending the David Ortiz era in Boston. Dombrowski responded by bringing in pitchers Chris Sale and Tyler Thornburg in exchange for prospects and when combined with Andrew Benintendi and Rafael Devers' graduations, the system was as bare as it has been in a long time by the time the draft came around. This crop of prospects has not replenished as hoped to date, but as these players have had only two full seasons, it's early to truly judge the body of work put together by this group. The 2020 season would have been a crucial one for most of the players in this draft, as those that were 19 years old when selected are eligible for the Rule 5 Draft this year and must be added to the 40-man roster or remain exposed to selection by other teams.

For a quick list and links to player pages, check out our Draft History page.

1 (24). Tanner Houck, RHP, Missouri
Bonus: $2,614,500; Slot: $2,614,500
Houck (pictured, above) starred in the Missouri rotation for three years after choosing to attend the school rather than sign with Toronto as a 14th-round pick in 2014. The Illinois native pitched for the collegiate national team and features a strong 6-foot-5, 220-pound frame, throwing from a low three-quarters arm slot. The Red Sox attempted to overhaul his repertoire and mechanics in his first full professional season, having him focus on throwing a four-seam fastball up in the zone rather than the two-seam fastball he used low in the zone during college as well as altering the grips on both his breaking ball and changeup. However, these changes lasted merely half a season, as the vertical break on his breaking ball and four-seam grip proved less effective than the 10-to-4, sweeping slider and two-seam fastball mix, though the four-seam fastball has remained as a less prominent offering.  After an uneven start to the 2019 campaign with Portland, Houck straightened out in late May. Through a six-start stretch, he posted a 1.95 ERA, struck out 36, and waked 14 without allowing a homer in 37 innings. With the bullpen at the major league level in shambles, the team moved Houck to the pen in early July and then promoted him to the PawSox after a pair of outings to see if he could help fill that role down the stretch. He held up his end with a 3.26 ERA in International League play, but the team fell out of contention and thought better of using a 40-man spot on him a full year before he was Rule 5 eligible. Houck successfully slid back into a starting role in the Arizona Fall League, and that is the role he will occupy in his major league debut this evening. 
SoxProspects.com Peak Rank: No. 3
Notable Players Passed On: Nate Pearson (28), Jeter Downs (32)

2 (63). Cole Brannen, OF, Westfield HS (Ga.)
Bonus: $1,300,000; Slot: $990,000
The Georgia native was well-regarded on the showcase circuit, enough so that the Red Sox offered him an above-slot bonus to sign him away from his commitment to Georgia Southern. Brannen showed gap power in high school, registering 31 extra-base hits in 82 at-bats during his senior season, along with speed and ability in the field, making him a consensus top-70 player in the draft. Unfortunately, those tools have yet to translate at the professional level. After being drafted, Brannen registered an OPS of .630 in the Gulf Coast League. Assigned to Greenville in 2018 out of spring training, Brannen slumped to a .157/.246/.205 line in 127 at-bats and was reassigned to Lowell to get his bat and confidence back on track. A return spin with the Drive in 2019 was only marginally better. Perhaps worse, his top tool—his speed—has proven to be more of an above-average tool rather than the potential plus-or-better weapon some of his showcase numbers suggested. Brannen can cover some ground in center field, but he will need to hit more if he hopes to make it to the high minors.
SoxProspects.com Peak Rank: No. 8
Notable Players Passed On: Daulton Varsho (68), Tyler Freeman (71)

3 (101). Brett Netzer, 2B, UNC Charlotte
Bonus: $475,000; Slot $532,800
Netzer took a below-slot bonus to sign with the Red Sox, one of three college juniors selected in the top 10 rounds to do so. The South Carolinian has the distinction of earning the highest signing bonus ever awarded to a UNC Charlotte player and was the school's fourth-highest draft pick out of 52 former 49ers selected. Netzer showed gap power in college and after playing left field his freshman year, shifted to second base for his final two years. The 6-foot, 195-pound infielder was given an aggressive assignment to Salem for his first full professional season and hit .270 with 31 doubles, but a lack of home run power limited his slugging percentage. Netzer has been working on swing adjustments to increase his power and he hit eight home runs in Portland during 2019, but his batting average fell to .247 and his slugging percentage stayed the same. He also got work in left field during Fall Instructs in 2019 to gain more defensive versatility. Netzer also played in the Arizona Fall League last year.
SoxProspects.com Peak Rank: No. 20

4. Jake Thompson, RHP, Oregon State
Bonus: $350,000; Slot: $397,000
Another below-slot bonus junior, Thompson had already completed four years at Oregon State after redshirting in 2015 due to a back issue. The native Oregonian anchored the rotation on a Beavers team that would make the College World Series in 2017, when he was named an All-American by a litany of outlets, including the NCBWA and the ABCA. Throwing from a high three-quarters arm slot, Thompson tops out at 96 mph with his fastball, though it typically sits 90-92 mph during his starts. The right-hander threw just 11 1/3 innings in Lowell after completing his run to the semifinals in Omaha, then was given an aggressive assignment to Salem in 2018, which he finished with a 5.30 ERA and 1.55 WHIP in 125 2/3 innings over 26 starts. Thompson repeated Salem in 2019, but was part of the bullpen, where his stuff plays better, instead of the starting rotation. He was only able to get in four relief appearances at Salem before an elbow strain required Tommy John surgery. If he comes back strong, Thompson profiles as an up-and-down relief option with a three-pitch mix that also features a slider and a splitter.
SoxProspects.com Peak Rank: No. 15

5. Alex Scherff, RHP, Coleyville Heritage HS (Tex.)
Bonus: $700,000; Slot: $296,500
The first prep pitcher selected by the Red Sox, the team was able to sign the Texan away from his Texas A&M commitment as a consensus top-60 prospect with a well-above-slot bonus. Raw developmentally, Scherff (pictured, left) stands at 6-foot-3, 205 pounds and owns a starter's frame. He did not pitch after being drafted in 2017 and was assigned to Greenville to begin 2018, where he altered his mechanics to become more fluid in his delivery. After hitting as high at 98 mph with his fastball early on, he now throws slightly slower but is more able to utilize his lower body. Scherff repeated Greenville in 2019, but did earn a start in Salem to finish off the year, where he likely would have returned had the 2020 season not been lost to COVID-19. After a couple of years struggling as a starter, he is a candidate to be moved to the bullpen to see if his stuff will play up in that role.
SoxProspects.com Peak Rank: No. 8

6. Zach Schellenger, RHP, Seton Hall
Bonus: $175,000; Slot: $230,000
The Seton Hall product took a below-slot bonus to turn pro instead of returning to South Orange for his senior year. Used as a spot starter or in relief, Schellenger pitched only 83 innings during his collegiate career and has been used exclusively in shorter stints as a professional. Schellenger has been unable to stay on the field as a professional, as back and shoulder issues limited him to only 16 1/3 innings in 2018, with another appearance on the injured list in 2019. When healthy, his stuff has been tantalizing, sitting in the mid-90s with a potential plus slider, the type of arm that could move quickly through the minors. It was that arsenal that led the organization to skip him over High A entirely, straight to Portland to start the 2019 season, but he struggled and was demoted in May to Salem, where he struck out 51 in just 38 innings but walked another 23 batters. Something of a Jekyll-and-Hyde reliever, he needs to stay healthy and harness his control to continue moving up.
SoxProspects.com Peak Rank: No. 20

7. Tyler Esplin, OF, IMG Academy (Fla.)
Bonus: $250,000; Slot: $180,700
Committed to UNC Charlotte, Esplin took a slightly above-slot bonus to head to Fort Myers instead of North Carolina. The Illinois native is a big body, listed at 6-foot-4, 225 pounds, and he uses that frame to hit for power and has a plus arm as well. Esplin hit well in the GCL after being drafted, slashing .271/.340/.388 in 85 at-bats, earning an assignment north to Lowell in 2018. The left-handed hitter got his first taste of full-season ball in 2019, playing in 100 games for Greenville, with a late promotion to Salem on September 1. Esplin knocked 26 doubles with three triples and five home runs for the Drive, slashing .252/.326/.375 across 387 plate appearances. Still very raw, Esplin's future will swing on whether he improves his hit tool enough to tap into his plus raw power.
SoxProspects.com Peak Rank: No. 37

8. Zach Sterry, 1B, Oakland
Bonus: $5,000; Slot: $150,900
The first of three senior signs, the big 5-foot-11, 230-pound Sterry had 25 at-bats between Lowell and the GCL after being drafted before joining Greenville for the 2018 season. He slashed .291/.370/.424 in 203 plate appearances during his only full professional season. He was released in 2019.

9. Tanner Nishioka, SS, Pomona-Pitzer
Bonus: 5,000; Slot: $138,600
Nishioka led Division III in home runs in his draft year with 18 and was the eighth player ever selected from Pomona-Pitzer in California. He was reportedly recruited by Division I programs, including Harvard and Notre Dame, but opted to stay west for his school's pre-med program. Nishioka is a solid organizational player and has bounced around defensively, playing second base, third base and left field, though he also featured as a designated hitter through most of 2019. His best season came in 2018 with Greenville, where he slashed .322/.401/.512 in 301 at-bats, but he was old for the level. More recently, he hit .250/.316/.347 in Salem across 248 at-bats in 2019. 
SoxProspects.com Peak Rank: No. 56

10. Jordan Wren, OF, Georgia Southern
Bonus: $5,000; Slot: $131,400
The son of then-Senior Vice President of Baseball Operations Frank Wren, Jordan was a senior sign who the club had drafted and not signed the previous year. He was released following the 2019 season, making it as high as Salem, where he got a short stint in May 2018. He spent most of the rest of his time in the organization with Greenville, recording 617 at-bats across two seasons. His brother, Kyle, spent the second half of 2018 in Pawtucket as well as a minor league free agent signee.

11. Andre Colon, SS, Washburn (P.R.)
Bonus: $125,000
Committed to Jefferson College, a junior college in Missouri, Colon instead decided on a professional career with the Red Sox. The Puerto Rico native never appeared in full-season ball and was released in May, when the freeze on transactions amid COVID-19 was lifted. 
SoxProspects.com Peak Rank: No. 46

12. Beau Hanna, C, Winder-Barrow HS (Ga.)
Bonus: $125,000
An interesting story, Hanna only took seven professional at-bats across three games, striking out in four of them. He broke his hand in one of those contests and retired in May 2018, as he was homesick. He enrolled at Augusta University, a Division II school, and was set to complete his sophomore season on the baseball team when it was canceled 20 games in due to COVID-19. The school's magazine, JagWire, profiled Hanna in March 2019.

13. Garrett Benge, 3B, Oklahoma State
Bonus: $125,000
A bat-first player, Benge was also selected in the draft after his freshman year at Cowley College, a junior college in Kansas. Benge repeated Lowell in 2018 and seized the opportunity to make up for a lackluster debut, slashing .351/.400/.486 in 10 games, earning a promotion to Greenville, where the hits kept coming, with a slash line of .327/.466/.452 in 104 at-bats with the Drive. The Oklahoman missed time in 2019 with left knee inflammation and a concussion but still hit .253/.335/.366 in Salem last season across 336 at-bats. A poor defender, Benge profiles best as a designated hitter, and he has a long way to go to show he has the bat to succeed with that profile.

14. Aaron Perry, RHP, Hurricane HS (W.V.)
Bonus: $172,500 ($47,500 against bonus cap)
Perry has gotten off to a slow start in the Red Sox organization due to injuries, as the former Kentucky commit did not throw after being drafted because of a stress fracture in his throwing elbow, then missed the entire 2018 season after having Tommy John surgery in May. He made his professional debut on June 26, 2019, more than two years after he was selected. He threw in nine games for the GCL Red Sox in 2019, recording 21 innings. He struggled with control, walking 19 batters to 18 strikeouts, a likely consequence of not having pitched in a game in more than two years. Still, he has a tantalizing arm, so the question remains whether his extended amount of time off, including the canceled 2020 season, will be too much to overcome. 
SoxProspects.com Peak Rank: No. 54

15. Marcus Ragan, CF, East Mississippi JC
The first draftee to not sign with the Red Sox, Ragan instead opted to honor his commitment to Arkansas-Little Rock. He played one year with the Trojans before spending his senior year with Faulkner, an NAIA school in Alabama. He was not re-drafted.

16. Kutter Crawford, RHP, Florida Gulf Coast
Bonus: $125,000
The 2018 SoxProspects.com Breakout Pitcher of the Year, Crawford is arguably the second-most successful Class of '17 draftee to date behind Houck. Crawford (pictured, right) spent the lion's share of 2018 with Greenville, pitching to a 2.96 ERA with 120 strikeouts against 34 walks in 112 1/3 innings, with a short stint in Salem at the end of the year. He was expected to miss the 2020 season anyway as he underwent Tommy John surgery in late 2019, cutting a season short that was not as good as his 2018, but saw him reach Portland for five starts. Crawford has profiled as a likely reliever as a result of his high-stress delivery and lack of consistent third offering behind his fastball and his best pitch (appropriately), a cutter, but his continued success has kept him pitching in the rotation. 
SoxProspects.com Peak Rank: No. 21

17. Frankie Rios, SS, USC
Bonus: $100,000
A slick-fielding shortstop, Rios appeared in 123 games across two seasons. After his 2019 release, he took a position as a minor league coach with the Red Sox and was set to spend 2020 with the Portland Sea Dogs. He is also completing his MBA at Grand Canyon University.

18. Dominic LoBrutto, LHP, Florida International
Bonus: $100,000
A long and lanky left-hander, LoBrutto tops out at 91 mph and uses deception and a unique motion to get hitters out. He had the ability to strike hitters out in the low minors, with a rate of 10.4 strikeouts per nine innings during his pro career. He reached Double-A Portland in 2019 where he punched out nine against six walks in 10 1/3 frames during 2019. The Floridian has been used exclusively in a relief role since being drafted and despite a career 1.31 WHIP and .251 batting average against, he owns an ERA of 3.49 in 123 2/3 innings.

19. Angel Gonzalez, CF, Colegio Urdaneta (P.R.)
Bonus: $75,000
Committed to Alabama State, Gonzalez instead chose to turn pro and spent two years in the DSL, one of two players from this class to do so as a result of the Red Sox being prohibited from signing international amateurs during the 2016-17 signing period, thus leaving the DSL program under-manned. During the 2018 season, he slashed .286/.388/.369 in 84 at-bats.

20. David Durden, CF, Emanuel County HS (Ga.)
Bonus: $125,000
Durden was committed to play wide receiver at Mercer, but instead tried his hand at baseball for a summer. He struck out 33 times in 91 at-bats and retired in advance of the 2018 season. He would attend Mercer and was first-team all-Southern Conference in 2019 as a return specialist.

21. Lukas Young, RHP, University of Mobile
Bonus: $40,000
Young pitched for Mobile, an NAIA school, for three years before signing with the Red Sox. Used exclusively in relief across his two seasons in the system, he was unable to keep runs from scoring in Greenville during 2018 and was released in January 2019. Young caught on with Minnesota and split 49 1/3 innings between Low-A and High-A last season, allowing batters to hit just .205 against him.

22. Hunter Haworth, RHP, Cal State Chico
Bonus: $85,000
Haworth (pictured, right) threw for three seasons at Division II Cal State Chico before signing with Boston. The right-hander has been used as a swingman through his time in the system, using his four-pitch mix effectively against right-handed hitters, but has struggled against those on the other side of the plate. He spent all of 2019 in Greenville, striking out 124 hitters in 103 innings, but he made a striking improvement during that campaign. In his 15th appearance of the season, Haworth surrendered five runs without retiring a batter, as his ERA rose to 6.19 and his WHIP to 1.729. From that point on, he tallied a 3.44 ERA and surrendered less than a baserunner per inning to close the 2019 calendar. He enters next year as a potential off-the-radar sleeper.

23. Donny Diaz, RHP, San Jacinto College North
Diaz honored his commitment to Texas and missed the 2018 season after having Tommy John surgery. He made 17 relief appearances across 2019 and the shortened 2020 season for the Longhorns, making five saves. He was not drafted or signed by an MLB team in the 2020 Draft.

24. Charlie Madden, C, Mercer
Bonus: $5,000
Madden has been a steady organizational catcher since being drafted, bouncing between levels as needed to fill holes, reaching as high as Double-A. He has a career slash line of .220/.291/.344, but he has shown ability behind the plate.

25. Kory Behenna, LHP, Wingate (N.C.)
Bonus: $50,000
Behenna struggled with control while in the system, walking 17 batters in 21 innings across two seasons in the GCL, hitting two more batters. He was released in July 2018 and was picked up by Detroit. He made it to High-A but was released in July.

26. Trenton Denholm, RHP, Oak Ridge HS (Calif.)
Denholm opted to attend UC Irvine instead of signing with the Red Sox and was named to the Golden Spikes Award watchlist in 2020 for the nation's best amateur player. He was also the Big West pitcher of the year in 2019. Despite his status as a top-200 draft prospect, Denholm went unselected in the shortened, five-round draft in June and will return to Irvine for his senior campaign.

27. Xavier LeGrant, 2B, Spartanburg Methodist (S.C.)
Bonus: $75,000
A junior college signee, LeGrant was committed to attend NC State in the fall. He started his professional career with a 3-for-26 performance in the GCL after being drafted. He was better in Lowell in 2018, hitting .260/.319/.385 in 50 games, but was released in July 2019.

28. Oraj Anu, RF, Home School
Anu, an intriguing player with raw power, attended Wallace Community College instead of signing with the Red Sox and was selected by the team again in 2019, this time in the 16th round. However, he would again say no to Boston and headed to Kentucky instead. He was not selected in the 2020 draft, meaning there is still time for the Red Sox to select him and sign him again.

29. Tyler Dearden, CF, Rancocas HS (N.J.)
Bonus: $140,000 ($15,000 against bonus cap)
Originally committed to Penn State, Dearden (pictured, right) signed a slightly-above-slot bonus to the professional ranks. The South Jersey native was assigned to the GCL after being drafted and had 74 at-bats, slashing .257/.409/.405. He improved on that the following season in Lowell, with a .306/.364/.459 line. However, his development has been slowed by injuries, as he missed the final three weeks of the 2018 season with a back issue, in addition to the first half of 2019, when he struggled at Greenville, hitting .202/.269/.318 in 208 at-bats.
SoxProspects.com Peak Rank: No. 27

30. Andrew Carber, RHP, Chipola JC
Bonus: $5,000
A very large right-hander, standing at 6-foot-9, 232 pounds, Carber was already 22 when he was selected out of junior college. He struggled in that year, allowing five earned runs in two innings, across four appearances. Carber was released at the end of the 2018 season.

31. Michael Osinski, 3B, Longwood
Bonus: $25,000
The organization's second Division II draftee in the class, Osinski played in the Cape Cod League with the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox. The only position player from this draft to reach Triple-A and the second other than Houck to suit up for Pawtucket, he has primarily played corner infield during his time with the system. The New York native has provided depth at all levels where it's needed, as he has not played more than 50 career games with any team other than Salem, where he has 83 appearances. He has proven valuable with his ability to hit in the low minors and play both corner infield spots.

32. Taylor Ahearn, RHP, Cal State San Marcos
Bonus: $5,000
Sporting a fastball in the low 90s, Ahearn was able to throw all four of his pitches for strikes, but he lacked an above-average offering and was released before the 2019 season. He made it as high as Salem and threw 89 2/3 career innings. Ahearn is currently a pitching instructor in California.

33. Tanner Raiburn, LHP, Grambling State
Bonus: $5,000
The left-hander was released during 2019 Spring Training. He did not make it out of short-season ball, compiling 46 career innings between the GCL and Lowell. The Undefeated profiled Raiburn in July 2017 as one of eight draftees that year from a Historically Black College/University.

34. Luis Torres, CF, Colon (P.R.)
Bonus: $50,000
Originally from Venezuela, Torres was assigned to the DSL after being selected to help shore up the depth. He slashed .342/.432/.474 in 38 at-bats as an 18-year-old in the league and was released in July 2018.

35. Trey Ganns, 1B, Northern Kentucky
Bonus: $25,000
A big first baseman, Ganns was released prior to the 2019 season. He compiled 173 career at-bats between the GCL and Lowell, slashing .214/.301/.277. He caught on with the Southern Illinois Miners of the Frontier League last season after being cut.

36. Rio Gomez, LHP, Arizona
Bonus: $10,000
The final draftee to put pen to paper on a professional contract with the Red Sox, Gomez is the son of Pedro Gomez of ESPN. He spent 2019 split between Greenville and Salem, pitching to a 2.20 ERA across 69 2/3 innings. The left-hander features three pitches: a fastball that sits between 88-90 mph, a slurvy breaking ball and a changeup that he throws with good deception. With the ceiling of a left-handed specialist, Gomez throws lots of strikes and mixes his pitches well, though hitters in the high minors will provide a tough test of his stuff.
SoxProspects.com Peak Rank: No. 58

37. Carson Teel, LHP, Oklahoma State
Benge's teammate on the Cowboys opted to head back to Stillwater for his junior year as a draft-eligible sophomore. The following season, he would be selected in the 16th round by Washington and joined the Nationals. He spent almost the entire year at High-A Potomac in a swingman role in 2019, pitching in 25 games, 16 of which were starts, recording 104 innings. He earned a 3.12 ERA and allowed batters to hit .232 against him. He also started one of Double-A Harrisburg's playoff games, allowing seven runs on 10 hits in five innings of work.

38. Jose Garcia, C, Doral Academy (Fla.)
Garcia spurned the Red Sox for Florida International. He completed his junior year in 2020 and started all but one of the Panthers' 15 games before canceling the season due to COVID-19, slashing .311/.475/.489 in 45 at-bats as a designated hitter. He has a career slash line of .278/.388/.531 in 388 at-bats for FIU. He eventually did wind up joining the Red Sox organization, however, signing this summer as an undrafted free agent.

39. Ridge Chapman, RHP, Spartanburg Methodist
The Red Sox were unable to sign Chapman as they had his teammate, Xavier LeGrant. The right-hander went on to NC State and was selected again in the 17th round by Washington in 2018, but returned to the Gamecocks in 2019. The Angels selected him in the 34th round after his senior year, but he threw just three innings in the Arizona League after being drafted before he was cut loose in June.

40. Cody Masters, CF, Coppell HS (Tex.)
Masters opted to attend Texas Tech and was an important part of a Red Raider team that made it to the College World Series for the second consecutive year in 2019 after playing more sparingly as a freshman. He played in 56 of the squad's 65 contests, starting 40 of them. He slashed .290/.371/.455 and added five home runs for the Red Raiders, who earned the No. 8 seed in the NCAA Tournament. He was not selected in the 2020 draft.

Raw totals: 
Players drafted: 40
Players signed: 32
Baseball America/MLB Top 100 prospects: 0
Signed players who have reached majors: 0... for the next few hours

Photo Credit: Tanner Houck, Alex Scherff, Kutter Crawford and Tyler Dearden by Kelly O'Connor