The 2007 MLB First Year Player Draft will go down in history as a banner year for the event. For the first time since its inception, the draft will be televised. ESPN2 will be running coverage and most of the avid baseball fans on the planet are rejoicing that this day has finally come. Unfortunately, however, the Red Sox are without the benefit of a first round pick (sent to the Dodgers as compensation for Julio Lugo signing) for the first time since 2004, when they were also shut out from the supplemental first round. Fast forward to present day and Sox Nation can look back on that draft favorably as the club secured Dustin “Good Things Come In Small Packages” Pedroia with their first selection, a second rounder.
The organization has proved over the course of the last two drafts that they are willing to spend for premium talent, and have conversely have enjoyed very fruitful returns on the 2005 and 2006 drafts to date. Under scouting director Jason McLeod the club has proven to be extremely aggressive. When a club takes that approach you can usually count on getting great value even late in to drafts. There is a lot of premium talent that slips due to signability concerns (see: Lars Anderson). In addition, this year’s draft pool is abnormally deep and teams are forecasting that there will be all-star caliber talent running deep in to round two. That alone should be enough reason for Sox Nation to be tuned in to the 2007 draft, even if the club won’t pick until #55 overall (1s).
With the new regime, the Red Sox have been much more efficient not only in the draft, but also developing and holding on to that talent. To better understand my point, let’s look at’s top 10 prospects in the Red Sox organization. The number in parentheses next to each player is the year in which they were drafted:
1. Clay Buchholz (2005)
2. Jacoby Ellsbury (2005)
3. Michael Bowden (2005)
4. Lars Andersron (2006)
5. Brandon Moss (2002)
6. Justin Masterson (2006)
7. David Murphy (2003)
8. Aaron Bates (2006)
9. Kris Johnson (2006)
10. Daniel Bard (2006)
Yes, for those of you scoring at home, 8 of the Sox top 10 prospects have been drafted in the last two years. Clearly things are heading in the right direction. Here is a breakdown of some organizational needs I expect the Sox to address. Remember, though, this is not the NFL draft. Teams do not draft based on need alone.
Third Base – There is a real scarcity of power hitting third base prospects in the Sox system. The team did take Zach Daeges out of Creighton in the 6th round last year, and he is enjoying a nice debut in full season ball. He may not have enough pop to stick at third despite what his Cal league inflated stats may say. Mike Lowell is a free agent after the season, so the draft could dictate whether the team turns to a stop gap solution on the free agent market or look to acquire a long term solution via free agency or trade.
Short Stop – There is time to develop the answer after Lugo at short but there are some intriguing options available in the 2007 draft. There are no true short stops in the system, although Jed Lowrie (1st round 2005) currently calls the position home. He is more of a middle infield hybrid and probably profiles as a long term utility man.
LHP – You can never have enough lefties coming up in your system. Teams put so much stock in left-handed starting pitching these days, you can’t go wrong. The Red Sox did grab a couple of good looking lefties in the 2006 draft by taking Kris Johnson and Dustin Richardson, but beyond them, there isn’t too much upside for any of the other southpaws in the Sox system.
Here are some options of players that could be available to fill these needs when the Sox pick at #’s 55 and 62:
3B- Brad Suttle, Texas – A draft eligible sophomore with legit signability concerns, Suttle could easily slip to #55. He would be tremendous value there as he is a polished hitter with solid power potential and projects as an above average defender who will have no trouble sticking at the hot corner.
2B / SS – Nick Noonan, Parker HS San Diego – A fluid hitter who has established himself as a top middle IF talent. Noonan regularly draws comparisons to Chase Utley.
SS / 2B – Ryan Dent, Wilson HS Long Beach, CA – One of the fastest runners in the draft and a tremendous athlete. Questions about his range at short.
SS – Justin Jackson, Roberson HS Asheville, NC – The Sox would be hard pressed to find better value at #55 overall than Jackson. There’s a good chance he falls to them despite being one of the more hyped players for much of his prep career. Very toolsy player
3B – Matt Mangini, Oklahoma State – Mangini was considered a top 20 prospect before an uninspiring 2006 campaign. I could see him being an option if the Sox opt to take a close to the majors third basemen who could be ready by 2009.
Whichever direction McLeod and co. end up going, Sox fans should keep the faith and take an active interest in the draft process as the team’s talent evaluators and decision makers have never been more adept at coming away from the draft winners.