It would be hard to say that everything went according to plan for the Boston Red Sox on the first day of the 2011 MLB Draft, but that’s far from being a negative.
After all, they likely did not plan to draft Matt Barnes with pick no. 19. He was expected to have been gone by most in the top-15, if not the top 10. Some had him pegged to go as high as Washington at sixth overall, but somehow Rendon dropped, and things fell into place for the Sox to get a top college arm. Not according to plan, but certainly a more-than-acceptable result.
A team with both deep pockets and a deep farm system, the Sox are rarely in dire need of cheap-but-average talent, allowing them to use the draft to aim high. They did exactly that in Day One this year. Barnes represents a potential front-line starter with a strong fastball – curveball combination that just needs an improved changeup to complement it.
Grade: A | A top-10 talent at number 19 isn’t a hard pick to evaluate. But their first pick might not be quite as exciting as their second.
Coming in at just six-foot-one and 175 pounds, Swihart doesn’t have a prototypcial catcher’s build. But behind the plate is where he plays right now, and with Theo Epstein calling him an “up-the-middle” player, it seems likely that’s where he will stay. If that’s the case, than it seems entirely likely that Sox fans have finally found their catcher of the future given Swihart’s big bat and powerful arm. Despite having been almost forced into taking Barnes on the basis of his availability, the Sox were still able to nab essentially the perfect pick for them.
Grade: A | The only question is whether or not he can stay behind the plate—many think he’s quite likely to—but he has the bat to play at third or the outfield even if he doesn’t.
The supplementary picks were a bit less unanimously praise-worthy at the time, but based on the way the rest of the supplementary round fell, look much better in retrospect. Henry Owens, a lanky high-school lefty, could have top-of-the-line stuff if he can meet his projections and fill out, while Jackie Bradley Jr. once represented one of the top talents in the draft before an injury-hampered 2011 season brought him down.
Owens Grade: B+ | Far from a surefire thing, but if the Sox put in the time and he puts in the effort, Owens should be looking like a smart grab in a few years.
Bradley Grade: B- | Bradley has plenty of potential to be a good player, but the injury issues hold him down.
At the time these picks were made, it seemed that the Sox had missed out by drafting these two. Not because they were bad, but because players like Josh Bell (one of the top talents with huge power, but a tremendously difficult sign), Daniel Norris (LHP expected to be drafted top-15 by many) and Andrew Susac (top college catcher) still available. But with all three of these players still waiting for their name to be called, it’s hard to fault the Sox for passing on guys who they (along with the rest of the teams) either have reason to shy away from, or expect to be around for picks no. 81 or 111.
In many ways, 2010 set the bar for Red Sox drafts, as the team came away with a remarkable stockpile of high-ceiling talents. While Owens and Bradley may not have the same excitement to their names a Ranaudo-like pick of Josh Bell would, it’s also worth noting just how much more impressive the first two picks were this time around. While Kolbrin Vitek and Bryce Brentz both came as solid picks, Matt Barnes and Blake Swihart seem the more impressive duo. All-in-all, it’s a good start to what will hopefully be the new benchmark.