BOSTON — You can swing for the fences in any draft. But the chances of hitting a home run are greater the higher you pick.
There’s nothing particularly groundbreaking about that logic, but it encapsulates the position that the Red Sox are in this year, as opposed to previous years. The Sox enter the 2013 MLB draft, which kicks off on Thursday, with the seventh overall pick — their highest selection since 1993, when they scooped up Trot Nixon No. 7 overall.
It’s obviously a position the Red Sox don’t want to be in from year to year, as it signifies a down year the season prior. When the opportunity presents itself, though, the Red Sox need to try and make the most of it. In previous years, players like Matt Harvey (2010), Clayton Kershaw (2006), Troy Tulowitzki (2005) and Prince Fielder (2002) have gone seventh overall. That’s a good indication of just how impactful a player the organization could add with such a high draft pick.
Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington was quick to point out on Wednesday that there are no guarantees in the draft. He did acknowledge, however, that the Red Sox are now able to dive into a pool of players they’re not accustomed to diving into, even if that doesn’t entail a huge change in the overall drafting process.
“I think in any year, but particularly this year, we’re going to take the player that we think impacts the organization the most,” Cherington said. “The organizational needs or the player’s position or anything like that won’t come into play. We’re looking for the best — as we always would, but especially this year — the best combination of upside and probability of reaching that upside — the best talent.”
Going after the best available player, rather than drafting on organizational need, makes sense in baseball more than any other sport. While some high draft picks nowadays reach the majors fairly quickly, the development process in baseball typically is longer than in other sports, where rookies often burst onto the scene in Year 1 of their professional careers.
When it comes to assessing the best available player, the Red Sox expect to do so based on the overall package. Some tools, such as power, may hold more value in the minds of many, but Cherington doesn’t want to hone in one particular area.
“We’d much rather get the best player than look for a particular strength or tool,” Cherington said. “Power does tend to go quickly in the draft — every year, not just this year. By virtue of the fact that we can look at a different pool of players, we don’t know who’s going to be there at seven, but we can look at a different pool of players, maybe that’s a tool or a strength that we might have access to that we might not in a normal year.
“But we can’t allow that to sort of overwhelm the rest of the conversation, we still have to line it all up and look at every aspect of each player, the strengths and weakness, whether they be a pitcher, a position player, high school, college. Weigh the upside and the risk and try to get it in right the order. There’s no one particular tool or strength that carries the conversation.”
The Red Sox have placed even more of an emphasis on player development since experiencing some free-agent failures. That development starts with the draft, and it’s even more important now given the number of homegrown players who are signing long-term deals with their drafting club.
Will this season net the Red Sox a Clay Buchholz, Jon Lester or Dustin Pedroia? We won’t know that exact answer for a few years, but the probability of adding a future All-Star is higher this year than it’s been in 20 years.