You probably won't notice anything different about how the Red Sox draft in the 2010 MLB Amateur Draft -- but you might.
That's because this year the team features a new Scouting Director, Amiel Sawdaye. Sawdaye was the Assistant Scouting Director the last five years while Jason McLeod ran this show. But when Red Sox Assistant GM Jed Hoyer left to become the GM in San Diego, he brought McLeod with him and Sawdaye earned a promotion.
Will we see a change in philosophy? It's possible, but then again: What exactly is the Red Sox's drafting philosophy?
One factor that separates the Red Sox from other teams is the size of their wallet. Some players demand large signing bonuses. While that may scare off some smaller market teams, that will never scare off the Red Sox. In fact, that tends to help the Red Sox quite a bit; if there's a top five-talent that falls in the round because of "signability" issues, the Red Sox aren't worried -- they can usually make a deal happen.
When it comes to the Sox's preference to drafting college or high school players, they really don't have one. In the seven drafts that Theo Epstein has been the team's GM, their first choice in the draft has been a high school player three times and a college player four times. While the college players have the edge, it's aided in Epstein's first three years, in which he drafted college players David Murphy (2003), Dustin Pedroia (2004) and Jacoby Ellsbury (2005). Since then he has drafted high school ballplayers Jason Place (2006), Casey Kelly (2008) and Raymond Fuentes (2009).
If you're looking for a trend, you won't find one.
Here is how the Red Sox's early picks break down:
Round 1 - Pick No. 20 (Billy Wagner compensation)
Round 1s - No. 36 (Jason Bay compensation)
Round 1s - No. 39 (Wagner compensation)
Round 2 - No. 57 (Bay compensation)
The Red Sox forfeited the 29th pick overall for signing John Lackey over the offseason. They also lost pick No. 80 (second round) when they signed Marco Scutaro.
Examining The Red Sox Farm System, And The Strengths And Weaknesses Within
It is generally accepted that drafting for need is not the best idea. Draft picks are a valuable commodity and for many teams the best way to fill out their rosters is with cheap talent. But when it comes right down to it, talent levels simply aren't evenly distributed in any given class. If you're picking fifth with an abundance of middle infielders but no lefty starters in your system, and are presented with a top-five talent shortstop and a lefty projected toward the end of the round, you have to go with the shortstop every time.
That being said, though, things are not always so clear cut. Scouting draft picks, who will mostly spend at least two or three years in the minors, is not an exact science. And while talent is value in the world of prospects, it's usually better to hold onto and keep your own guys rather than trade away a blocked prospect for a similarly talented one at another position. It's just too much of a question mark. So when confronted with the choice between the No. 5 prospect on your board at a crowded position, and the No. 6 at a weak one, the choice becomes a lot less obvious.
So where are the Red Sox weak? Where are they strong? If you've been following along with the minors, you may have a pretty good idea. But if not, here's a quick primer, position-by-position, brought to you by Over The Monster's Ben Buchanan:
We start with perhaps the hardest category to judge, highlighted by three interesting players. The system is definitely filled with prospects in this category, but none of them have particularly stood out. Certainly Luis Exposito has had his fair share of hype, but he's not exactly lighting the world on fire in Portland (AA).
Otherwise, there are fringe prospects -- but prospects nevertheless -- and three confusing players. The first one is Adalberto Ibarra, the 23-year-old Cuban backstop whom the Sox signed to a big $4.3 million contract. The money on the deal alone should make anyone take notice, but this guy is definitely a masher, putting up lines of .363/.464/.525 and .341/.470/.481 in two seasons in Cuba. The question is, how will he do in the minors? We haven't even seen Ibarra yet, as he's been in extended spring training to start his career. Can he keep hitting in America? Will his catching skills get up to par (he only started playing behind the plate last year)? Until we see more, it's hard to say where he fits into the system.
This is a problem shared with Ryan Lavarnway. He, too, can hit the cover off the ball -- but can he catch? Splitting time with the more offensively-challenged Tim Federowicz behind the plate, Lavarnway seems to be more of a DH in catcher's clothing, with over 58 combined passed balls and wild pitches last year.
Finally -- and this is one some might pass off -- there's Oscar Perez, another fairly big-money signing. Last year, Perez, known for advanced defense with the possibility more than promise of a bat in the future, did not adjust well to professional ball, managing only a line of .210/.289/.292 in the DSL. Still, Perez was all of 17 years old, so it would be foolish to judge him on the basis of that year alone. With a good season, Perez could prove a talent in the otherwise empty lower levels. (Daniel Butler has been on fire, but as a former non-prospect sort of player at 23 years old in Greenville, we're going to need more than 150 at bats to "buy" this breakout.)
Verdict: It will be hard to arrange playing time for more advanced college level players, but there's some good space too be filled in A-ball.
First Base/Designated Hitter:
A very top-heavy group here, with obvious headliners in Lars Anderson and Anthony Rizzo. Depending on your opinion of Ryan Lavarnway, he too could fit here - his bat is certainly ready for Portland. In the lower levels, Chris McGuiness has been destroying SAL pitching with regularity, and is probably due for a promotion too, while Boss Moanaroa is something of a fringe prospect whose strong on base skills need to be backed up by the power he has the potential to show.
Verdict: There's certainly lots of room here at all levels, but this is far from a "need."
A relatively empty position marked by two big international free agents from last year. Jose Iglesias has come on strong in his initial time in Portland, showing a surprisingly good contact bat so far to go with his obvious defensive prowess. Jose Vinicio, all of 16-years-old, is more of an all-around type, but we have yet to actually see him play outside of spring training.
Otherwise, Derrik Gibson had a lot of hype coming into the season, but has been performing very poorly in Greenville. Oscar Tejeda, on the other hand, had little-to-no hype after a couple of down years, but has come on strong in his first 200 at bats. Given a ridiculous BABIP and non-existent plate discipline, though, I wouldn't necessarily count on him as a long-term prospect.
Verdict: Though Dustin Pedroia will be around for a long time, second base is probably the emptiest position in the farm system.
The Sox have some new-found life at third base in 2010, thanks to the emergence of Will Middlebrooks in April with a .362/.436/.565 line. While his numbers have definitely come down to Earth with a prolonged slump, a lot of the good signs remain. He will have to break out of his funk sometime to avoid a return to semi-obscurity, but I expect that it's only a matter of time before he does so.
The other big name is last year's third-round pick, David Renfroe. While we still haven't seen him play in the season (Lowell's season starts June 18), he received good reviews during spring training, and has all the tools necessary to be a big-name prospect at the hot corner. Also drafted in 2010, 19-year-old Miles Head has a very big bat which we should see in the GCL this year.
Finally, there's Yamaico Navarro, who has mostly shifted to third from shortstop since Iglesias' arrival, though he could wind up at either position. Navarro has been turning his season around of late, showing some of the offensive promise he did in his 2008 Lancaster and 2009 Salem stints. His season, and career, could really go either way from here.
Verdict: No high-level talent at a position where we could really use some. Without a top-15 pick, however, the Sox aren't likely to find a guy who has a chance at stepping in very soon like Zack Cox.
Here there is talent. And lots of it. At pretty much all levels.
Let's start with the big names in AAA: Josh Reddick and Ryan Kalish. While Reddick hasn't had the best year, he could be turning his season around, and he looked good in his first game back in the majors on Saturday. Ryan Kalish, on the other hand, has done nothing but solidify his position as one of the premier prospects in the system. Both are above-average corner outfielders with the ability to play in center.
The middle levels are perhaps the most devoid of talent, though Portland's Che-Hsuan Lin and Salem's Pete Hissey are both center fielders who can get on base and have the potential to add some power. Hissey is probably about average in center, while Lin borders on the absurd between his range, arm, and glove.
The lower minors are more of a toss up, but with plenty of names worth mentioning. Last year's first rounder, Reymond Fuentes, has the potential to be Jacoby Ellsbury with some pop. Jeremy Hazelbaker has some great offensive tools, but is hampered by some really bad reads. Shannon Wilkerson is a project with some potential, and when Brandon Jacobs makes his debut in Lowell, we can hopefully look forward to some monster bombs off his big bat.
Verdict: There's almost always room in the outfield, but there's not really any big need. The Sox have mashers, dirt dogs, speedsters, and toolsy wonders aplenty. To say nothing of what would be a huge boost if Ryan Westmoreland gets back to the field.
It seems like there are too many names here to really mention them all, but there is a definite standout at every level but AAA (sorry, Michael Bowden).
In Portland, the obvious pick is Casey Kelly. Top off-speed stuff, an improving fastball, and 20 years old at the Double-A level. What more can you ask for?
In Salem, there are actually two of significant note. Stolmy Pimentel has turned around a slow start in Salem, and while his strikeout numbers are still down and his walks up a little, he's had a strong showing so far. Alex Wilson, last year's second round pick, has been something of a model of consistency-almost every game, 1-2 walks, 5-6 strikeouts, 5-6 innings, 0-2 earned runs -- probably ready for Portland.
Greenville has one of the more intriguing names in Kendal Volz, who can hang his hat on a ridiculous 43:3 strikeout-to-walk ratio through his first 11 games. Volz was a risky pick after three mediocre years at Baylor, but I like what I have seen so far.
In Rookie ball, all eyes will be on Madison Younginer, who has some of the best potential in the system. He might need a lot of work, but he's got a very live arm (fastball topping out at 97) and could rocket up the charts with a good start.
There's also a very solid second tier of starters who all deserve mention, but it would take too much time to do anything more than list them, so here you go: Michael Bowden, Junichi Tazawa, Stephen Fife, Kyle Weiland, Caleb Clay, Yeiper Castillo and Roman Mendez.
Verdict: No great lack of pitching at any level, but you can never have enough starting pitching.
As can be expected, there's not nearly as much talent here. But there's still some. Felix Doubront started the year off with an exceptional performance in spring training against major league opposition, and has carried that over into what has been a dominant season so far. After shutting down competition in AA, Doubront earned a promotion to Pawtucket (AAA), and actually has performed arguably better there through 12 innings. As a result, Doubront's stock has risen from a possible back-end/replacement type of starter to a very legitimate major league starting prospect.
Meanwhile, in Greenville, Drake Britton is attempting to make a comeback after Tommy John Surgery. He's been rusty, but effective so far, though he again saw over a month on the disabled list after just two starts. Still, Britton has big time potential should he find his form.
Also worth noting is Manny Rivera, who had a strong start in Greenville. Some recent trouble and an inability to keep the ball on the ground makes me wonder if he's for real, though.
Verdict: As before, you can never have enough pitching. But the Sox are a lot closer to having enough right handed pitching than left handed pitching.
Always a difficult position to judge, simply because a lot of relievers are just converted minor league starters. Currently the Sox have a couple guys in the high minors in Dustin Richardson and Robert Manuel who could make an impact in the majors, and in the lower levels, Cesar Cabral has been phenomenal in Greenville (now in Salem). But it's hard to say there's any guy like Daniel Bard who really demands attention as a reliever.
Verdict: No big names at a position where the Sox are very needy, but are you really looking to draft guys as relievers?
For more Red Sox draft coverage, visit SB Nation's Over the Monster.