The last time the Red Sox picked as highly in the first round of the amateur draft as they will this year on June 6, Boston selected Trot Nixon seventh overall in 1993.

That fact is useful for two reasons: one, because it illustrates how long its been since the Red Sox have picked this highly, and two, because Nixon is a good example of what a successful selection can do to a franchise. Was he a superstar? Perhaps not. But when a player puts up more than 20 fWAR over an eight-year period, that player is an example of solid drafting and development.

I do not know what the state of the Red Sox farm system was in 1993, and several players selected after Nixon went on to have better careers. Billy Wagner, Derrek Lee, Chris Carpenter, Torii Hunter and Jason Varitek were all taken later in the first, and
Scott Rolen was selected in the second, to name some of the more prominent stars.

But what I can tell you is that if Nixon was viewed as the best player available at the time the Red Sox selected him, he was the best choice. And that’s a strategy the Sox should follow for this upcoming draft as well.

Deven Marrero was somewhat of a surprise pick by the Sox in 2012. Photo by Kelly O'Connor, sittingstill.net.

Deven Marrero was somewhat of a surprise pick by the Sox in 2012. Photo by Kelly O’Connor, sittingstill.net.

Those who are even mildly invested in the draft will know that Mark Appel and Jonathan Gray are far and away the best prospects in the 2013 crop. They are potential rotation anchors, and they will most likely be off the board within the first two picks. Should one of the Astros or Cubs buck conventional wisdom and take someone else with one of the first two selections, there’s really no chance the two pitchers make it past Colorado at three.

We can assume that Kris Bryant, arguably the best and most MLB ready bat in the draft, will have heard his name called before pick No. 7 too.

Other than that, there’s not much we know about this draft. Players in the mix for the three-through-10 spots include college arms like Sean Manaea, Braden Shipley and Ryne Stanek, prep bats like Austin Meadows and Clint Frazier, college hitters like Colin Moran and Austin Wilson (unlikely) and really just two prep arms in Kohl Stewart and Trey Ball (who some see as an outfielder).

With the Red Sox close to seeing their next nucleus of strong young players reach the major leagues, it’s tempting to suggest they should take a college bat or arm. Having another Top 100-type prospect reach the majors around the same time as Xander
Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley, Allen Webster, Anthony Ranaudo and Matt Barnes is enticing, and in many ways it makes sense. If the Sox believe that Moran is really a future No. 5 hitter or that Manaea or Stanek are really No. 2/3 starter types, than their selections are warranted.

But despite the new draft rules that provide somewhat of an incentive for teams to cut deals with lesser players early, the Red Sox should be targeting the player who they believe has the best mix of upside and probability who’s left on the board. If that happens to be Moran, who is a third baseman and could contribute to the dreaded/largely mythical “logjam” at that position for the Red Sox, so be it. If that player is Stewart, who’s likely four years away from the majors but has real TOR potential, that’s who they should go with.

I can’t remember exactly where I saw it – I think it may have been in a BP chat or a Minor League Ball forum – but while talking about the draft, a commenter said, “no team in the history of baseball has ever suffered from having too many talented players.”

It’s sort of a self-evident statement at first glance, but when you think about many of the suggestions some make when it comes to draft time, it’s a sentiment that needs to be repeated. You take the best talent because the best talent wins, or can be traded for
other elite talent. The MLB draft is different from its NBA and NFL counterparts: you cannot draft for immediate need. And given the bust rate of even the most highly regarded prospects, you can’t draft for projected need, either.

I’ve written about this before, so I’ll spare you the long-winded reasoning here, but you don’t have to look very far into the past in Boston’s own system to understand that this is the case. Future No. 3 starter Michael Bowden, shutdown closer Craig Hansen, right field star Ryan Kalish and cleanup hitter Andy Marte are just a few recent examples that come to mind.

Boston went college-heavy in the draft a year ago, taking collegiate players with the first three and four out of their first five selections. It was a draft largely light on upside and high on probability.

Whether that’s just how the board fell or whether it’s indicative of how Ben Cherington plans to conduct his drafts is something we’ll likely have a better idea of within the next three weeks.

Categories: Allen Webster Anthony Ranaudo Ben Cherington Billy Wagner Chris Carpenter Craig Hansen Jackie Bradley Matt Barnes Michael Bowden Ryan Kalish Scott Rolen Trot Nixon Xander Bogaerts

Ben is a graduate of Boston University with a degree in journalism and a love of all things Red Sox and minor league baseball. He has experience writing for Baseball Prospectus, NESN, RotoExperts, BU Today and other sites, and typically serves as an in-house MiLB writer. An editor for a business website by day, Ben likes to grill, sample IPAs and re-read Faulkner novels by night. He is an unabashed J.D. Drew apologist with a deep-seated fear of middle relievers. Follow Ben on Twitter here.

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