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SoxProspects News

July 8, 2021 at 9:30 AM

2021 Red Sox Draft Preview

It’s that time of year again! The MLB Draft gets underway Sunday evening at 7:00 pm ET. Day One will include the first and supplemental rounds. Day Two will be Monday, July 12, at 1:00 pm, covering rounds two through 10, and Day Three will be Wednesday, July 13 at noon, covering rounds 11 through 20.

This year, the Red Sox will have its pick of one of a handful of elite draft prospects at the #4 overall pick. Our predictions for that pick are below. The club will also have the fourth pick in each subsequent round, adding some more draft excitement than usual for the Boston fan base. Additionally, Boston’s bonus pool cap is $11,359,60 this year, which is more than double what the team had for last year's cap, and is the sixth-highest pool in the league.

At SoxProspects, we’ve been covering the draft in-depth since 2005. During that time, the team’s best selections have included Jacoby Ellsbury (2005, 1st round), Clay Buchholz (2005, 1st), Justin Masterson (2006, 2nd), Daniel Bard (2006, 1st), Josh Reddick (2006, 17th), Anthony Rizzo (2007, 6th), Christian Vazquez (2008, 9th), Jackie Bradley, Jr. (2011, supplemental 1st), Matt Barnes (2011, 1st), Mookie Betts (2011, 5th), Travis Shaw (2011, 9th), Michael Kopech (2014, supplemental 1st), Andrew Benintendi (2015, 1st), and Bobby Dalbec (2016, 4th). They have also successfully selected several relievers, part-time contributors, and trade chips over that period. 

On the downside, some of the misses include Jonathan Egan (2005, 2nd), Jason Place (2006, 1st), Ryan Dent (2007, supplemental 1st), Kolbrin Vitek (2010, 1st), Trey Ball (2013, 1st, 7th overall), and Teddy Stankiewicz (2013, 2nd). 

Some of the most successful players selected at #4 overall over the last 40 years include Corey Snyder (1984), Barry Larkin (1985), Kevin Brown (1986), Gregg Olson (1988), Alex Fernandez (1990), Kerry Wood (1995), Gavin Floyd (2001), Ryan Zimmerman (2005), Kevin Gausman (2012), Kyle Schwarber (2014), and Nick Madrigal (2018). So the bar is relatively high here.

You can follow the Red Sox draft with us at SoxProspects.com as the picks come in, as we’ll have live coverage of Boston’s selections on SoxProspects News, the 2021 Draft page, and the @SoxProspects Twitter account. For now, here's a preview of potential picks to whet your palette.

Possible Draft Selections
While we typically cast a wide net by listing a handful of potential targets at each early slot, I still like to think that our draft preview has been somewhat prophetic over the past 11 seasons. This is the part of the preview where we historically have taken 3-4 paragraphs to brag about just how prophetic we have been. But we whiffed in 2018, then we whiffed again in 2020. We’ll take the mulligan on that one given that the Sox only had 4 picks in the 2020 draft, but we’ll cut down the bragging to the short version this year. We projected Matthew Lugo and Sebastian Keane in 2019, Tanner Houck in 2017, four picks in 2016 including Bobby Dalbec, three picks in 2015 including Andrew Benintendi, Michael Chavis in 2014, two picks in 2013 including Trey Ball, three picks in 2012 including three of the team’s first four picks, both Matt Barnes and Blake Swihart in 2011, five picks in 2010 including the team’s first three picks, and a whopping 13 picks in 2009. With that preface, here’s a list of players that we think could be possible targets for the Red Sox this year. Scouting reports are compiled from our review of video, college baseball games, and ongoing scouting reports from sites such as Perfect Game, Baseball America, and mlb.com.

First Round (#4 overall)

It seems likely that California high school shortstop Marcelo Mayer will be off the board by the time Boston’s pick rolls around at #4. The team will certainly have him high on its board should he slip, but we won’t highlight him here. 

Jack Leiter, RHP, Vanderbilt. Son of 18-year MLB veteran Al Leiter. Draft eligible sophomore. Dominant over two seasons for the Commodores. Fastball sits in the mid-90s and tops out at 98 mph with solid movement. Plus curveball, above-average slider and changeup. Great pitchability. At 6-foot-1, 205 pounds, he’s a touch smaller than ideal for an ace pitcher. He'll have high bonus demands, and rightfully so. Has been rumored to want to land with the Red Sox. There is a school of thought out there that it’s dangerous to take a pitcher with the #4 overall pick given injury risk and the unpredictability of any pitching prospect. I get it. Regardless, for me personally, Leiter is my ideal pick. He has an ace ceiling, but his 50th percentile projection is probably still a #3 starter for an extended period. He could be in the majors as early as 2023. Sign me up if he’s still on the board at #4, I’m willing to roll the dice.

Henry Davis, C, Louisville. Undrafted out of high school, showed significant development with the Cardinals. Plus hit tool with above-average power. Solid plate discipline with a smart approach. Should be able to adapt to advanced pitching. Can get pull happy. Plus-plus arm, fringe-average defensive skills behind the plate. Has the bat to move off of catcher to corner outfield, or possibly third base, if the need arises. Seems to be the most commonly projected player at #4 if Leiter is off the board.

Jordan Lawlar, SS, Jesuit Prep (Tex.). I have Lawlar going off the board at #2, but if he’s around the Red Sox will certainly give him strong consideration. 6-foot-2, 195 pounds. Vanderbilt commit. Quick twitch athlete. Plus bat, solid-average power, plus speed, plus defense, solid arm. Should stick at shortstop. Consistent track record. High baseball-IQ gamer. Franchise player ceiling. 

Kahlil Watson, SS, Wake Forest HS (N.C.). Committed to NC State. Small but athletic and strong for his size. Potential five-tool talent with plus speed. Left-handed bat grades out as above-average with flashes of plus potential. Has the ability to stick at shortstop but would have the range to excel in center field. 

Kumar Rocker, RHP, Vanderbilt. Ideal pitcher’s frame. Son of former Auburn and NFL football player Tracy Rocker. Dominated his freshman year at Vandy, earning Freshman of the Year honors. Was projected as the consensus number 1 pick heading into the 2021 season. Historically his fastball has sat in the mid-90s but this season more often sat in the 89-93 mph range. Pitch has plus potential if he can get back to previous form, but the drop in velocity is a concern and possible red flag. Also mixes in a plus-plus slider and an above-average changeup. Has been working on a high-80s cutter as well. Inconsistent command. Elite ceiling if he can get back his velocity and hone his command, but those concerns still present some reliever risk. Which might be too much risk to take at #4 overall? I have the above players on my board before Rocker because of those risks. But if a team has reviewed his medicals and is convinced that is not a long-term concern, an early pick would not be unreasonable. 

Second Round (#40 overall)

If the club goes with a player with big bonus expectations like Jack Leiter in the first round, the team may very well have to offset those bonus demands with a lower bonus player in the second round. On the other hand, a selection of Henry Davis at #4 overall may allow some room for a high bonus prep player in the second round. Something to think about.

Joshua Baez, OF, Dexter Southfield (Mass.). Best prep prospect out of Massachusetts in a long time, and he just turned 18 on June 28. 6’4”, 220 center fielder committed to Vanderbilt. Could very well be off the board at #40. Average bat with quick wrists. Explosive plus raw power with plus-plus potential as he develops. Average runner. Has a chance to stick in center field but physical development could move him to right. Plus to better arm. 

Cody Morissette, SS, Boston College. Am I a sucker for drafting local talent? Probably. But Morissette is a potential good fit here because his bonus demands may be relatively low compared to other prep players ranked in this draft slot range. Average left-handed bat with below-average power. Reliable and consistent. Average speed. Capable of playing second, short, and third competently. Average arm. Could develop into a Brock Holt type of player. 

Matheu Nelson, C, Florida State. Third-year starter for the Seminoles. Fringe-average hit tool, solid approach, above-average power, below-average speed. Tied for most home runs in the NCAA this year with 23. Plus arm. Mixed reviews on defense. 

Matt Mikulski, LHP, Fordham. Will be an attractive player in the second round as the highest-ranked senior in the draft class. Went undrafted last year. Tweaked his delivery coming into the 2021 season, now tops out at 98 mph with his fastball. Changeup, curveball, and slider have all flashed the potential to be major league pitches. Unorthodox delivery. History of command issues, but showed improvement in 2021.  

Steven Hajjar, LHP, Michigan. Hajjar would be a bit of a reach at 40, but like I said there's a chance the club goes in that direction to try to get an under-slot bonus player. He’s a native of Andover, Mass. and went to high school at Central Catholic, so he might be intrigued by a second-round call from the Red Sox. However, he is also a redshirt sophomore who will have some bonus leverage. Solid frame, fastball gets up to 94 mph with good movement. Above-average control. Best secondary pitch is a solid-average changeup. Curveball and slider are works in progress. 

Third Round (#75 overall)

Sean Burke, RHP, Maryland. 6-foot-6 right-hander with a plus fastball. Had Tommy John surgery in 2019. Curveball and slider both have potential. Reliever risk, but could project as a high leverage arm.   

Carter Jensen, C, Park Hill HS (Kan.). Offensive-minded backstop committed to LSU. Lefty bat. Defense needs work. Big frame. 

Isaiah Thomas, OF, Vanderbilt. Toolsy right fielder who may also be able to handle center field. Cousin of Tim Duncan. Fringe-average hit tool, all other tools could prove to be a tick above-average.

Fourth Round (#105 overall)

Roc Riggio, OF, Thousand Oaks (Calif.). Above-average left-handed bat with average power potential. Fringe-average defense, unclear what position he lands at defensively. Committed to Oklahoma State. 

Niko Kavadas, 1B, Notre Dame. Left-handed first baseman with plus in-game power and plus-plus raw power. Led Cape Cod League in home runs in 2019. Third-most home runs in the NCAA in 2021. Below-average defensive skills.

Dylan Ross, RHP, Northwest Florida. Highly-regarded JuCo arm. Large frame with a high-90s fastball and a high-velocity slider. Committed to Georgia. Could slip into subsequent rounds. 

Later Rounds

Senior signs. Boston will likely target some college seniors to create some bonus pool space to allocate elsewhere. Some potential senior signs this year include West Virginia LHP Jackson Wolf, Cal Poly C Myles Emmerson, Stanford IF Nick Brueser, Southern Miss. RHP Hunter Stanley, and Mississippi State OF Tanner Allen.

Local products. The Red Sox haven’t shown a particular penchant for selecting local players in the draft over the past few years, although historically there have often been a couple New Englanders picked each year, or sometimes signed as undrafted free agents. Nonetheless, as you might have noticed above, I like to give some attention to New England products who could garner interest. This year that list includes Virginia RHP Mike Vasil (Wellesley, Mass.), UConn RHP Ben Casparius (Westport, Conn.), UConn C Pat Winkel (Orange, Conn.), Vanderbilt UT Dominic Keegan (Methuen, Mass.), Phillips Academy OF Jonathan Santucci (Leominster, Mass.), Boston College RHP Emmet Sheehan (Darien, Conn.), North Attleboro (Mass.) RHP Dennis Colleran (committed to Northeastern), Maine RHP Nick Sinacola (North Attleboro, Mass.), Bryant RHP Tyler Mattison, and Prout RHP Henry Hersum (Saunderstown, R.I.).

Former Red Sox picks. Former Boston draft picks who are eligible for selection in 2021 include Kentucky OF Oraj Anu (whom Boston drafted twice in 2017 and 2019), Bentley 1B Ryan Berardino, Auburn SS Ryan Bliss, UC-Irvine RHP Trenton Denholm, and Oregon State 2B Jake Dukart.

Other possible targets. Some other draft prospects to watch include Vanderbilt LHP Hugh Fisher, American Heritage LHP/1B Devin Futrell, Cincinnati LHP Evan Shawver, Arecibo Baseball Academy SS Edwin Arroyo, Florida Southwestern RHP Antonio Knowles, Dartmouth C Ben Rice, Kent St. RHP Luke Albright, Bishop England (S.C.) RHP Daniel Brooks, Tampa Prep (Fla.) RHP Jose Pena, Lakeland Christian (FL) OF Ty Evans and SS Jake Fox, South Dade Sr. (Fla.) C Juan Aracena, Dutch Fork (S.C.) OF Will Taylor, UNC-Asheville 3B Brandon Lankford, Weatherford RHP Adrian Siravo, Washington RHP Nathan Deschcryver, and Yale LHP Rohan Handa

Mike Andrews is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of SoxProspects.com. Follow him on Twitter at @MikeAndrewsSP.