The Sox had four picks between the first and supplemental rounds of the 2011 Amateur Draft; two in the first and two in the supplemental round. As the signing deadline crept close last night, reports indicated that the Sox were able to sign all four of these picks, dishing out $6.55M in the process and injecting their farm system with some terrific new talent.
Back in June, a day after the first and supplemental rounds were complete, I wrote an article about the four picks made by the Sox, supplying MLB.com’s scouting reports as well as giving my own take on the picks. Long story short, the Sox were able to capitalize on the depth of the 2011 draft in a big way. Now, with all four picks ready to join the farm system, let’s see what Sox fans have to look forward to…
Round 1/Pick 19: 6’4″, 205 lb, RHP Matt Barnes (Connecticut)
Signed for $1.5M
What I wrote in June: If teams were drafting on frame alone, Barnes may have been a top-ten pick. His 6’4″, 205 frame has room to get even stronger, which may lead to a small up-tick in velocity. I really like his smooth mechanics and good arm-action. Given his three-quarters delivery, his already plus fastball could develop even more movement and or sink if he perfects a two-seam grip. The work on his off-speed pitches will be the key to his development, but I see plus-potential in his curve for sure. Based on projection and already smooth mechanics, I really like the value of this pick.
The price: What Barnes signed for was in line with what one would expect for a college arm of his talent level. The 2011 draft was deep with pitching and if this were a year before or a year later, Barnes probably would have been a higher pick. The money it took to sign him may seem like a bargain in the long run if he develops as expected.
Round 1/Pick 26: 6’1″, 175 lb, C Blake Swihart (V Sue Cleveland HS, NM)
Signed for $2.5M
What I wrote in June: Apparently the Sox think they have what it takes to sign Swihart away from the University of Texas. His tough signability is probably what allowed him to drop to the Sox at 26, but his upside with the bat may be worth the money. There’s a lot to like about Swihart’s swing, as it is simple yet powerful from both sides of the plate. Some may think he’s too small to stick at catcher, but should he sign and get into an organization-based strength and conditioning program, he could certainly add body strength to his already good arm strength. If catcher isn’t the answer, his bat should still play well at a corner outfield spot. If the Sox can get him signed — and I think they can or will at lest try their best — the upside of this pick could pay off big-time down the road.
The price: As I wrote back in June, it was clear that the Sox would have to open their checkbooks to sway Swihart from the heart of Texas. Considering the fact that his signing demands were a part of what allowed him to drop to the Sox at pick 26, the $2.5M price tag is in line with what was expected. There is a lot of development left in his game as a catcher, but the Sox obviously believe that his bat will play well in the big leagues no matter what the position.
Round 1A/Pick 36: 6’6″, 190 lb, LHP Henry Owens (Edison HS, CA)
Signed for $1.55M
What I wrote in June: Owens has the pitching frame that scouts salivate over…and he’s left-handed! While his fastball sits in the low-90′s now, it has a chance to gain velocity as his body fills out. Like Barnes, his delivery is smooth and his arm-action is clean. The fact that he already has a group of effective breaking pitches is definitely a plus. The fact that he gets high grade for his command is an even bigger plus. He’s the type of pitcher that could thrive development-wise in the controlled environment of a minor league system, but like Swilhart, the Sox will have to open the checkbook to get him signed, as he has committed to the University of Miami.
The price: High upside high school arms cost a lot. That’s just how it is. The Sox figured they could take a gamble on drafting Owens despite the fact that he had the opportunity to increase his draft stock while pitching for the University of Miami. Personally, I think this is a win-win for both sides. Owens gets a very significant chuck of change to put in his picket and he has the opportunity to develop his craft under the careful guidance of the Red Sox minor league development program. On the other side, the Sox get a high upside lefty who has a chance to thrive in their system.
Round 1A/Pick 40: 5’10″ , 180 lb, OF Jackie Bradley (South Carolina)
Signed for $1.1M
What I wrote in June: Bradley is the third pick that seems to have “fallen” into the lap of the Sox. While both Swilhart and Owens probably fell due to signability issues, Bradley fell due to a complete lack of production his junior year at South Carolina. However, combine his wrist injury with the adjustment to the new college bats and you can easily look past his tough season. Even with all of his offensive struggles, he still posted a .361 OBP and only struck out in about 14 percent of his at-bats. Bradley had posted OBPs of .430 (2009) and .473 (2010) his previous two seasons at South Carolina. This draft pick could certainly echo the Anthony Ranaudo situation from a year ago. Ranaudo signed, got healthy and is putting up impressive numbers in the minors this season.
The price: Obviously, the Sox agreed that Bradley Jr.’s 2011 season was an exception rather than the rule. While there is an obvious concern regarding his junior season at South Carolina, the upside of adding a player of his caliber in the supplemental round is worth the risk. The Sox were sold enough on Bradley Jr. to offer up $1.1M and persuade him from returning for his senior year, where he would have had the chance to boost his draft stock with a bounce-back campaign. Bradley Jr. has always shown a plus on-base skill and could be a 20-plus home run threat at the big league level while playing plus defense in the outfield.
There is tremendous upside in these four draft picks. The Sox found themselves in the advantagious position of being able to spend money on players who dropped on draft day due to a combination of talent depth and signability concerns. Having dealt away some of their top-end prospects this past offseason, the Sox needed a boost like the one will be getting from these four players. Barnes and Bradley Jr. could move quickly through the system, should all go according to plan, while Swilhart and Owens are going to need several years of seasoning and progression in the minor leagues.
Prosepcts are the great unknown, but at least the Sox did their fans proud by going out and spending the money to sign their top four 2011 draft picks.
As good as this season has been at the big-league level, it just got better from an organizational standpoint.