The Boston Red Sox could add impact players over the next three days. Just don’t expect to see them knocking on Fenway Park’s door until a few years from now.
The Major League Baseball first-year player draft begins Thursday. It’s an event that carries far less hype than, say, the NFL draft or the NBA draft, but it’s still a critical period for the future of MLB franchises.
“Our goal is to be a team that’s capable of playing in October every year,” Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington said during a conference call Tuesday. “And in order to do that year in and year out, you have to have reservoir of talent, as much talent — depth of talent — as possible, at the upper and lower end of the system.”
The Red Sox own the No. 26 and No. 33 picks in this year’s draft. They have four selections in the top 103 picks. While there might not be the buzz in Boston that there was before last year’s draft, when the Red Sox owned their highest pick since 1993 (No. 7), the club can roll the dice if it chooses because of the slot money that comes with having multiple selections near the top of the draft.
“We like to make sure our pick begins with a 2 or a 3 because that means our major league team’s winning,” Red Sox director of amateur scouting Amiel Sawdaye said Tuesday. “But it’s not something we haven’t had experience with. We’ve picked in the 20s before, and it’s harder to actually pinpoint the person you think you’re going to get.”
Sawdaye insists the Red Sox aren’t honing in on one area in their draft preparation. Boston’s mindset, according to Sawdaye, typically is to line up the draft board and select the best available player, which could mean anyone with this year’s class.
“This draft is pretty deep. There’s not necessarily one area that sticks out,” Sawdaye said. “I think it’s probably one of the more balanced drafts. You’re going to see some college position players, you’ll see some college pitchers. Especially up top, you’re going to see a little bit more balance than you have maybe in previous years. It’s hard to say that there’s one clear strength in the draft.”
The Red Sox have drafted well in recent years. Jackie Bradley Jr., Matt Barnes, Garin Cecchini, Anthony Ranaudo, Henry Owens, Bryce Brentz, Blake Swihart, Brandon Workman and Mookie Betts are among the players drafted under Sawdaye, who took over his current position in January 2010. Obviously, there’s no guarantee any of those players will become major league stars — just as there’s no guarantee whoever joins the organization this week will pan out — but the early reviews have been positive.
Draft day mistakes often fly under the radar in baseball because it’s so difficult to pinpoint which players, especially those in high school, have the potential to become legitimate major leaguers. In other words, don’t expect any Greg Oden or Sam Bowie-type second-guessing, even if there are lessons to be learned from botched picks.
“Everybody always says that the day after the draft is like Christmas morning, everybody’s high-fiving and you have all these new presents,” Sawdaye said. “And then three or four years down the road, you take a look at your draft and it allows you to be a little bit more critical and maybe analyze your draft and some of the things you do well and some of the things you don’t do well. I think we’re always looking to improve and we learn from our mistakes.”
World Series titles won’t be won or lost Thursday when teams begin to make their 2014 draft selections. But at a time when fewer and fewer players are hitting the open market — thus making free agency a flawed means of acquiring premium talent — a good draft can improve the overall state of an organization, even if it takes a few years.