A few years removed from bottoming out, the Boston Red Sox farm system is rebounding. No, Boston’s prospect pool isn’t the embarrassment of riches it once was, but there are plenty of players whom fans should be excited about.
Over the next few weeks, NESN.com will profile some of the more noteworthy prospects in the Red Sox system, utilizing insight and analysis from industry experts who know the players best. First up: 2020 fifth-round draft pick Shane Drohan.
The Red Sox doubled down on college southpaws in the back half of the 2020 Major League Baseball Draft.
Boston, which turned its attention to pitching in the fourth round by selecting Hawaii left-hander Jeremy Wu-Yelland at No. 118 overall, landed another lefty in the fifth round, drafting Florida State’s Shane Drohan at No. 148.
(This year’s draft was condensed to five rounds due to the coronavirus pandemic, and the Red Sox didn’t own a second-round pick as punishment stemming from the league’s investigation into allegations they illegally stole signs in 2018.)
So, who exactly is Drohan? Well, here’s everything you need to know.
Drohan wasn’t new to the draft process, having been selected by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 23rd round (683rd overall) in 2017. He opted to honor his commitment to Florida State the first time around, though, and the Red Sox are hoping the Phillies’ loss is their gain.
Drohan, listed at 6-foot-3, 195 pounds, made just 26 appearances (15 starts) for FSU, as he didn’t pitch much his freshman year and his junior year was abbreviated due to the COVID-19 outbreak. He posted a 4.06 ERA with 99 strikeouts and 69 walks across 73 2/3 college innings. MLB.com ranked him at No. 147 on its list of the top 200 prospects ahead of the 2020 draft.
There’s baseball in Drohan’s blood, as his father, Bill, was a pitcher in the Kansas City Royals organization for four years from 1987 to 1990. But he also took to football growing up, playing three seasons as a quarterback at Cardinal Newman High School in West Palm Beach, Fla., and didn’t fully commit to baseball until college.
Drohan’s numbers don’t jump off the page, although his strikeout potential is evident. He’ll need to improve his control, above all else, to reach his ceiling, but there’s definitely upside, especially when you consider he’s still evolving as a pitcher after years of playing two sports.
“Drohan is more raw than you’d expect for a college pitcher, as he didn’t concentrate fully on baseball until he got to Florida State, having been his high school’s starting quarterback, as well,” Ian Cundall, director of scouting for SoxProspects.com, recently told NESN.com. “He’s athletic and has some physical projection remaining. He can run his fastball up to 95 mph, sitting in the low-90s, and a power curveball that had the third-highest spin in the 2020 draft class and a changeup. His athleticism gives you hope that he can improve his fastball command, and he fits the mold of the type of pitcher the Red Sox have had success developing in the past.”
Why did the Red Sox draft him?
The Red Sox really needed to restock their farm system with quality arms, as they’ve struggled in recent years to develop pitchers, a problem that’s now being felt at the major league level.
There’s some redundancy with the selections of Wu-Yelland in the fourth round and Drohan in the fifth round, but going the college route seemingly is a safer play for the Red Sox based on the pitchers’ proximity to the majors and the amount of additional development required.
“We were really, really excited to get Shane in the fifth round,” Red Sox director of amateur scouting Paul Toboni said after the draft, via MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith. “Quite frankly, we didn’t think he was going to be there even in the fourth, really. And then we took Wu-Yelland (in the fourth round), we were like, ‘OK, there’s no way he’s going to be there in the fifth.’ But we were happy to be able to consider him there.”
The Red Sox targeted offensive upside with their first two picks, selecting infielder Yorke at No. 17 in the first round and popular power prospect Jordan at No. 89 in the third round. After that, it was all about pitching, and it’s hard to fault Boston for taking a flier on two hurlers who could carve out meaningful roles in the not-too-distant future.
“I think that they’re looking at it and saying, ‘OK, we got a couple good arms here … and if one of these guys ends up being an up-and-downer, that’s not a bad pick,’ ” JJ Cooper, executive editor for Baseball America, recently told NESN.com.
Where he fits
Drohan, like Wu-Yelland, could wind up in the bullpen despite experience as both a starter and a reliever in college. It could hinge on the improvement of Drohan’s control and the progression of his secondary pitches. Right now, he doesn’t have a huge fastball to fall back on like some other pitchers who transition to the ‘pen.
“I think these are both guys who have a shot to be solid relievers, more likely than starters,” Cooper said of Drohan and Wu-Yelland. “There are very few one-out lefties anymore; that’s not what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about guys who have a chance to pitch sixth, seventh innings. Maybe I’m selling them short, but if either of them turns out to be that player, then (the Red Sox) did pretty well with those picks.”
Of course, it’s worth noting Bloom had a solid track record of maximizing his resources with the Tampa Bay Rays, largely because of the organization’s success in drafting and developing pitchers.