With four of the top 57 picks, the Red Sox will be very active early on in Monday’s MLB first-year player draft. And given the makeup of the talent pool, one which the organization sees as remarkably even after the first five picks or so, the club feels as if it is in a great position to add quality talent to an already well-stocked minor league system.
The Sox pick at Nos. 20, 36, 39 and 57 in the draft, which will again span three days, with only the first and supplemental rounds taking place on Monday’s first day. That’s when the organization will go to work on a trio of highly coveted picks.
"I’ve had a lot of people who are picking in the top 10 picks tell me this is the year we would love to trade a pick with you guys," said first-year director of amateur scouting Amiel Sawdaye. "I think we’re at a pretty good spot. Late part of the first round through the sandwich [round] you’re in a pretty good spot to get some players that are just as good as players you may have taken in the top 10."
Of course, there are no trades allowed in the draft, but prior moves among major leaguers have set the Sox up well. The 36th and 39th picks are compensation for the losses of Jason Bay and Billy Wagner via free agency.
The last two times the Sox had three picks before the end of the supplemental round was in 2006, when Daniel Bard was one of their first four selections. The year before, they used their compensatory picks to complement a first-round prize, nabbing Clay Buchholz, Jed Lowrie and Michael Bowden after taking Jacoby Ellsbury in the opening round.
Perhaps, in a year that sees an even plane through the first day of action, the club will have ample opportunity to land such a haul.
"It’s not one of those drafts where there are clear elite players in the top half of the first round," said general manager Theo Epstein. "It’s more spread out through the middle to the bottom and into the sandwich."
Epstein said the strength of the draft may lie in high school right-handed pitching. The organization went that route with a sixth-rounder last year, but Branden Kline, a righty out of Maryland, chose to attend the University of Virginia.
With the club’s lot of picks a bit more front-loaded this time around, players who present signability issues such as Kline are a bit easier to take. It’s not as if the Sox will enter the selection process prepared to be riverboat gamblers, but they do have multiple shots at making a splashy choice.
"It can make you feel a bit better about taking a risk, whether it’s a signability risk or a high-risk, high-reward type of player, knowing that you have the chance to diversify your portfolio a little bit," Epstein said.
The GM ended that comment by insisting that the main goal is, was and will always be to take the best player on the board.
As for who that will be when the Sox are up at No. 20 remains to be seen.
A handful of mock drafts have tabbed Louisiana State right-hander Anthony Ranaudo for the team’s first pick. Ranaudo has struggled mightily this year amid a reported bout of elbow problems, but he is big (6-foot-7, 235 pounds) and has past success that figures to keep him in the first round.
Another option could be Kaleb Cowart, a third baseman/right-hander out of Cook County High School in Georgia. The Sox have experience allowing such versatile performers determine what position is best, as evidenced by Casey Kelly’s transition from shortstop to starter during the 2009 season.
Kelly, a first-round pick in 2008 who is currently nestled at Double-A Portland, is considered by many to be the organization’s top prospect.
How players like Kelly and others at his level develop has little bearing on the direction the Sox go starting Monday.
"We try to stay away from drafting for need," Epstein said. "Bad mistakes can come when you try to draft for need. This draft will have an impact on the big league club in 2014 or so. … We’re mindful of what the strengths and weaknesses are for the organization but we’re not going to let that be a factor."