With two first round picks and four of the first forty, the Red Sox are poised to make a splash in the 2011 MLB Draft. With the Pittsburgh Pirates set to make the first pick in less than a month, it's time to start looking at some of the top MLB draft prospects.
While the Sox' system has taken some hits recently with top prospect Ryan Westmoreland undergoing brain surgery in early 2010 and Casey Kelly and Anthony Rizzo being sent to San Diego for Adrian Gonzalez, the organization has taken full advantage of its opportunities to rebuild. In 2010, they made full use of their financial weight, spending big to lure top talents to the team when other clubs were forced to shy away due to high bonus demands. Now, faced with one of the deepest talent pools in recent memory, Boston will again have an opportunity to take another leap forward.
So who might the Red Sox target? Generally speaking, MLB teams do not draft for need due to the delay between the actual draft and when a player is likely to finally reach the majors. But that doesn't mean the Sox are blind to their needs or the trends emerging throughout the league. With that in mind, we turn to top college catcher Andrew Susac.
Usually the best collegiate catcher would be gone by the time the Red Sox' first pick at no. 19. But as has been the case in recent years, there just aren't that many impressive catching prospects to go around.
Andrew Susac is one of the few. A sophomore at Oregon State (Jacoby Ellsbury's alma mater), Susac was drafted in the sixteenth round of the 2009 draft by the Phillies, but could not be talked out of his commitment to the Beavers. After taking some time to adjust to the challenges of hitting in college in his freshman year, Susac raked in the Cape Cod League putting up big power numbers that carried over to the beginning of his Sophomore year. Susac has also shown far more advanced plate discipline in his second year at Oregon State, walking in about 20% of his plate appearances. Through 29 games, Susac has a line of .357/.492/.633.
There are questions surrounding Susac, however, starting with his defense. While he is physically capable as any other catching prospect to handle the rigors behind the plate, he's going to need some instruction in the finer aspects of the position to actually put them to use. He also won't be playing much more before the draft, as a broken bone in his left hand sent him to surgery in April. It shouldn't be a long term issue-he throws and bats with his right hand-but it could prevent other teams from making a major investment in a player they haven't seen in a while.
With catching being the commodity it is, Susac will likely be holding out for some big money. And with two years of eligility left, the Sox shouldn't take that lightly. However, with the possibility that the draft system could go through some major changes soon that would take the Sox' pocketbook out of the equation, Theo Epstein could well be looking to go all-in on 2011. And with the Red Sox in desparate need of a solution behind the plate, Andrew Susac could be too perfect a fit to pass up.