The biggest problem the Boston Red Sox have faced when it comes to player development basically forever is the inability to develop starting pitching.
Hiring Chaim Bloom as chief baseball officer was supposed to help reverse that course. As he approaches his first draft in charge of the club’s baseball operations, that task looms larger than ever before.
The unprecedented situation brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic puts Bloom, the Red Sox and all of baseball in a tough spot. The draft begins Wednesday and will be just five rounds this year. Making it even more difficult for Bloom and the Red Sox is they don’t have a second-round pick as punishment stemming from sign-stealing allegations during the 2018 season.
Starting pitching should be a focus for the Red Sox as early as their first pick at No. 17 of the first round.
Here are some of their potential options should they go with a pitcher at No. 17.
RHP Mick Abel, Jesuit High School (Ore. — Oregon State commit)
ESPN.com’s Kiley McDaniel and MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo — two of the most respected prospect writers in baseball — both have Abel going to the Red Sox at No. 17 in their latest mock drafts. Of course, that’s assuming Abel lasts that long; The Athletic’s Keith Law has him at No. 7 to the Pirates, who reportedly have “spent a lot of time” reviewing Abel. And why wouldn’t they?
The progression will come at a slower rate than a college kid, and high school arms are always a gamble. But Bloom comes from Tampa Bay where those sorts of gambles were taken with relative frequency. The Rays drafted high schoolers in the first round five times since 2011, two of those being pitchers.
Mayo says Abel has the upside that could make him the best pitcher in the class when it’s all said and done, and Fangraphs tabs him as the prototypical high school pitcher. The Oregon State commit has easy velocity (see below), sitting in the mid-90s, but obviously didn’t get a chance to show off this spring with COVID shutting out high school sports.
LHP Garrett Crotchet, Tennessee
If hard-throwing lefties are your thing, Crotchet is your guy. He’s a big boy, standing 6-foot-5 and uses every bit of that leverage and wingspan to pop the radar gun in the high-90s, touching 99 mph at times. The numbers at Tennessee, though, were just kind of meh. He primarily was used as a reliever as a freshman and sophomore with an ERA of 4.64, which is average at best. Opponents hit .265 against him with 21 home runs 132 innings. Again, not great.
But the stuff is undeniable, and maybe some professional seasoning helps him start to put it all together. Mock drafts have him all over the place, but he’s definitely a guy who could be around at 17.
RHP Cade Cavalli, Oklahoma
Baseball scouting parlance is funny. In its scouting report fro Cavalli, Fangraphs describes the right-hander as “body-beautiful.” Weird? Maybe. Accurate? No doubt. Cavalli stands 6-foot-4 and weighs in at 225 pounds, so he’s built like a brick, uh, house.
McDaniel has Cavalli as his 13th-best player in the draft. There might be some concern about his injury history, but one scout described Cavalli’s delivery as “clean as a whistle,” which should bode well regarding injury concerns. Like just about every pitcher at the top of the draft, the velocity is through the roof, topping out at 98 mph.
RHP Nick Bitsko, Central Bucks East HS (Pa. — Virginia commit)
Will Bitsko fall? It’s hard to find any mocks that have him lasting beyond No. 16, and he could go even higher than that. McDaniel reported the Red Sox might actually be leaning toward high-upside players (i.e. high schoolers) rather than a quick mover (most likely a college player). Bitsko reclassified from the 2021 class to 2020, so he’s one of the younger players in the entire draft. You couldn’t tell by looking at him, though. The right-hander is a horse, at 6-foot-3, 220 pounds.
Baseball Prospect Journal says he has the potential to one day be a No. 1 starter. It doesn’t get more upside than that, but it might be a stretch to think he’ll be hanging around when the Red Sox select at No. 17.