Take just a quarter of the pomp of the NFL Draft, add 33 rounds over the same number of days, and remove the incessant highlight reels and desk pundits trying to fill endless air time with opinion and you have the Major League Baseball Draft.
Over the next three days, General Manager Ben Cherington, Scouting Director Amiel Sawdaye, and the rest of the Red Sox brass will be on lockdown as they look to secure the future of the organization, one pick at a time.
“Our goal is to be a team that is capable of playing in October every year,” said Cherington. “In order to do that, year in and year out, you have to have a reservoir of talent.”
Their current reservoir of talent is flowing quite nicely, and has recently been put on full display at the top levels of the organization as some of the club’s brightest prospects continue to float toward the waterline.
Now Boston will look to replenish things on the lower ends of the farm, starting with pick No. 26 of the first round.
Notables at 26
Here are some notable players taken with the 26th overall pick in the draft, a slot where 44 percent of players chosen have made it to the majors:
2011 – Blake Swihart: Currently the Red Sox top catching prospect, hitting .289 with six home runs for Double-A Portland
2005 – Craig Hansen: The Red Sox “closer of the future” was a bust and four years later was part of the Manny Ramirez-Jason Bay blockbuster trade of ‘08
1983 – Dan Plesac: Compiled 65 wins and 158 saves over 18 major league seasons
1977 – Dave Henderson: One of the heroes of 1986’s ALCS for Boston
1976 – Alan Trammell: Six-time All-Star and 1984 World Series MVP for Detroit
In order to keep the process on track, the Red Sox front office knows that they need to keep an open mind on what the board is offering when it’s time for the defending World Series champions to make their selection.
“We’re going to line the board up with the best players out there,” said Sawdaye, the team’s director of amateur scouting. “If the next best player on the board is a college player, that’s who we take. If the next best player on the board is a high school player or pitcher, that’s who we’re going to take.”
As far as pinpointing a certain need for the organization, Sawdaye was quick to note that there isn’t a specific position that the Red Sox are focusing on, but that they do have a number of players they are looking at in the vicinity of where their picks occur.
Based on Cherington’s first two drafts as the Sox GM, you can probably expect some pitchers to be snatched up early.
Last season, Boston made off with pitchers in nine of their first 13 picks and in 2012 they drafted eight straight hurlers after taking shortstop Deven Marrero with their first pick, No. 24 overall.
Outfield is possibly the thinnest position up-and-down the system currently, so that could turn into an early focus for the Sox depending on who is on the board. But ultimately, the team will need to balance the available players with their value at that spot in the draft.
“There are teams that have a clear advantage as to how much they can spend in the draft and those team’s tend to be the one’s picking up top,” said Cherington. “We don’t want to be in that situation at all, or too often. It gets back to really having the best process possible.”
The process begins tomorrow night when Boston will get their first two picks out of the way (they also hold pick No. 33 as compensation for the Yankees signing Jacoby Ellsbury) before selecting second-to-last in each ensuing round over in the two days following.
MLB Network will air the first round festivities on Thursday beginning at 7 p.m.
Here are a few names that could be in play for the Red Sox come pick No. 26:
OF Monte Harrison, Lee’s Summit (Mo.) West H.S. – Baseball America calls him “the best prep athlete.” Lean and smooth, has full arsenal of tools that continue to trend upward.
RHP Nick Howard, Virginia – The Cavaliers closer has been sensational since moving out of the infield and into the starting rotation. Has 19 saves for third-ranked Virginia
OF Derek Hill, Elk Grove (Calif.) H.S. - Has blazing speed with solid contact at the plate and range for days in the outfield
RHP Nick Burdi, Louisville – Throws harder than anyone else at the collegiate level, topping off in the triple digits with his heat
1B Casey Gillaspie, Wichita State – Prototypical slugging first baseman checking in at 6-foot-4, 240-pounds. Had 15 long balls for the Shockers this season
RHP Jacob Bukauskas, Stone Bridge H.S. (Ashburn, Va.) – The high schooler did not lose a game or allow a run in his senior season, striking out 105 while touching 98 m.p.h. with his fastball